Shattuck: Now, if I can find my place...
l start again: The fur-lined teacup or the lumps of marble sugar or the corpse in the baby stroller, such items illustrate the association of two elements that cancel each other out and return us — spiritually and aesthetically — to zero. The process is essentially self-consuming, a reversion to dead level after an initial shock.
A second form of juxtaposition — and I’m just making a distinction here — brings together two components whose conflict does not cancel out, but persists. The Cubists, and more erratically, the Surrealists, contrived to achieve this condition. In the first category, the event can happen only once per customer. As in a short circuit, the desired effect blows the fuse: scandal is unique. The second form of juxtaposition, on the other hand, brings as close together as possible, without ignition, elements that create a large difference in potential. We react not to a brief, bright spark that jumps the gap and thus destroys the whole rig, but to a field of forces sustained by the association. Does this make it any clearer?
Shattuck: The permanence of art was sacrificed for the excitement of a performance that would either shatter or repulse. It is this aspect of cultural fireworks that cannot be recaptured today, and there are few new sparks to replace the old. To set side by side works which shorted out years ago and works whose tension of forces will not lessen with the years damages both the historic interest of the former and the aesthetic values of the latter. As the Smithsonian Institution houses air planes that no longer fly, we may soon need a repository for works that have lived for a day. That would be a museum without art.
The following are historical assemblage artworks that I have newfound interest in (beyond works I have looked into before, such as Oppenheim's fur teacup). →