This book portrays two voyages on the North Sea, one with photographs of an oil painting showing a square rigged vessel returning to port and the other with a photograph of a modern day sloop running before the wind under spinnaker and mainsail. It was made by Broodthaers in conjunction with a 16mm film of still images similar to those in the book and bearing the same title.
In the press release accompanying the book and film, Broodthaers explained the combined work in this way:
A book suggesting image as function. A book suggesting the text as function. More than a theory, the subject of this proposition reflects a simple image of the frustration that rules the social condition of today… Perhaps I should add that the subject shines.
His explanation in the book itself is more understandable: “It is up to the attentive reader to find out what devilish motive inspired this book’s publication.”
The oil painting of the square rigger was purchased by Broodthaers at a Paris flea market and it made several appearances in his work. In the book and in the film details of the oil painting are examined closely by the camera moving towards the painting and then withdrawing, but always in sharp focus. This mixing of media, viz., film, printing, painting, and still photography, became an underlying basis for Rosalind Krauss’ eponymous book A Voyage on the North Sea: Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition, where she argued that art in the 1970s was made without regard to the constraints of a particular medium.
This copy of the book is from the Brussels edition by Hossmann in association with the Petersburg Press in London, and is part of an edition of 1000 that does not include the 16mm film (ten additional copies of the Brussels edition were signed by the artist and included the film). The text is in French. Two other editions were published: one in English at the Petersburg Press in London (1000 copies plus 100 copies signed by the artist and accompanied by the film) and one in German at the Verlag DuMont Schaberg in Cologne (1000 copies).
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