September 21 – October 19, 2013
Helena Almeida, Germaine Kruip, Jochen Lempert, Alexandra Leykauf, Eva Löfdahl
An Art in General New Commission by Lisa Oppenheim & Lisa Tan
When she came looking for B’s grave a few months after he died in the Hotel de Francia in Port Bou, A found nothing. Nothing, that is, other than one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen. “It was not to be found,” she wrote S shortly afterwards, “his name was not written anywhere.” Yet according to the records provided by the town hall of Port Bou, one of B’s traveling companions, Frau G had paid out seventy-five pesetas for the rental of a “niche” for five years on September 28, 1940, two days after B died from what was diagnosed by the local doctor as cerebral apoplexy, but is generally understood to have been suicide by a massive overdose of morphine tablets.
Yet name or no name, the place was overwhelming.
“The cemetery faces a small bay directly looking over the Mediterranean,” wrote A. “It is carved in stone in terraces; the coffins are also pushed into such stone walls. It is by far one of the most fantastic and most beautiful spots I have ever seen in my life.”
S was not impressed. Years later he seemed downright dismissive, bringing his book-length memoir of B to an end with these words: “Certainly the spot is beautiful, but the grave is apocryphal.” It was an abrupt and sour note on which to end the story of a life, as if the dead man and therefore we, too, had been cheated of an ending, and what we had gotten instead was a suspension, a book whose last page was missing.
Text: Taussig, Michael. Walter Benjamin’s Grave. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Edited and altered by Lisa Oppenheim. Images: Installation view courtesy Art in General; Marcel Broodthaers’s headstone, Ixelles Cemetery, Brussels. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia
General support of Art in General is provided by General Tools & Instruments LLC; the Lambent Fund of the Tides Foundation; Abraham and Lillian Rosenberg Foundation; the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; ConEdison; The Greenwich Collection; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; Select Equity Group Foundation; and by individuals.
The New Commissions Program is made possible by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Trust for Mutual Understanding; National Endowment for the Arts; Jerome Foundation; and Affirmation Arts Fund. Support has also been provided by Commissioners’ Circle leaders Jeffery Larsen and Joseph Bolduc; Commissioners’ Circle supporters Sandra Ho and Jang Kim, and Cher Lewis, and Commissioners’ Circle members Roya Khadjavi Heidari, Sean Johnson, Mary Lapides, Richard Massey, Leslie Ruff, Steve Shane, Joyce Siegel, and Jeremy E. Steinke.