"...the work of art always conceals a dimension of masquerade, of appearance, and an "as if" essence. There is not art without this basic assumption. Duchamp's revolutionary act itself is embodied in his implied demand (of the viewer) to pretend that he sees in the urinal not the industrial product with its specific use value, but rather an art object, by virtue of the fact that it is taken out of its functional context in favor of the urinal's "masquerading" as a fountain. This demand, however, would not have been so outrageous (at the time) had not the pretense been accompanied by the awareness that this is indeed a pretense, namely – that the fountain is also a urinal-turned-fountain. Hence, one must wonder not only about the phenomenon of Vanounou who masquerades as Duchamp (who masquerades as Rrose Sélavy), but also about Vanounou-turned-Duchamp-turned-Rrose Sélavy. Who is Josyane Vanounou as her own art object?

The answer to this is equally elusive. Because the interrogation performed by Vanounou on herself as part of her artistic project clarifies, at least in part, why she inserts (her?) "I" into quotation marks. This is what she writes about the video (one of the work's components) in which "I sit alone before the camera and talk as if to myself. I try to say something and fail, and I try over and over and over again." Why "as if to myself"? First, because talking to oneself is not something performed "merely" when it is done before a camera documenting the speech, and creating new potential addressees for it. Second, because the "self" cannot be certain whether the I, who creates the consciousness of self, is in quotes. If it is "as if," all the more so the self. Elsewhere, Vanounou discusses a story-text which is "a dialogue between me and a figure that asks questions. The questions are an attempt to help reach an answer regarding those things which I try to discuss in the video. In the trilogy too, the text is distorted." The distortion of the text recurs as a leitmotif throughout all phases of Vanounou's project. Already in its first phase, comprising charcoal drawings after photographs from an art book about Duchamp's life, a story-text appears, but it is "distorted and cannot be read in full." The same is also true of the trilogy concluding the work "This time the text-story appears in full, but the black blotchiness of the charcoal makes it hard to read."

The text, which is supposed to decipher the mystery concealed in the visual image conceptually, turns out to be enigmatic in itself – it is devoid of explicit information, lacks a coherent narrative, conceals its clear enunciation, in itself being hidden. It is a dysfunctional text by its appearance. Perhaps, this very dysfunction conceals a more profound truth about the human condition, a truth which necessarily goes beyond Vanounou's specific inquisitive sensitivity regarding herself? For, Vanounou's assertion "I masquerade as a man masquerading as a woman" is not aimed at an individual idiosyncrasy of the artist, but rather at a postulate in favor of polymorphism, which strives to undermine conventional certainties of identity, and more precisely – the objectification of identity in the service of certainties which are mere appearances..."

From the catalog text of Moshe Tzuckermann 


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