This exhibition, conceptualized and created by Christos Dikeakos, combines drawing, collage, photography, and sculpture, which unpacks Dikeakos’ 40-year interest in the work and thoughts of French-American artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). The parallel subject is smoking—as social behaviour, its cultural dimensions and implications—but the objective is neither to celebrate nor demonize. Rather, Dikeakos channels the narcotic and erotic aspects of a now socially unacceptable habit through Duchamp, metaphor, visual indiscretion and the play of words.
The organizing principle of Dikeakos’s project is drawn from the two Duchamp “boîte” editions; the so-described Green Box of 1934—a loose accumulation of notes for The Large Glass (1915-1923)—and the Boîte-en-Valise produced between 1941 and 1967. (An edition from Series F, 1967, is in the collection of the McMaster Museum of Art; the remainder of the edition was issued posthumously.) Dikeakos referenced these in two prior works of a locality-anthropological nature, Athens (1887-1996), and Vancouver: Sites and Place Names (1991-1994). As an inventory-in-miniature of his career, the replicants that constitute the boîte are sometimes interpreted as Duchamp’s “fine disregard” for the preciousness and veneration ascribed to “unique” works of art-or to distance himself from his own production as an artist. Yet he embraced every aspect of its elaborate production. Through the carefully ordered arrangements, the boîte is a work about work, and a “portrait” of the artist at work. In a wry fashion, it also takes the curator “out of the equation,” although some aspects of the display of the contents are left to the “owner of the boîte” to determine. At the same time, any attempt to display every element is thwarted because of its construction and design.
Dikeakos’ undertaking is, likewise, a total work—including smoking artifacts and ephemera that he has collected over the years, as well as works by Duchamp—that presents the model of museum within a museum, and the framework for his visual and cultural research. In doing so, it can also be described as a “theatre of the museum” in which the topic is a story of human behaviour and the human condition, yet achieved with humour and wit. Being able to laugh at ourselves is one way of learning.
Senior Curator, McMaster Museum of Art