This short story is fictional and does not necessarily reflect my time spent at the RISD museum. Duchamp took the museum as a container and was able to resist its force of decontextualization by internalizing certain aspects of the museological; so I wanted to take parts of the ‘intern experience’ narrative and contain something fantastical and absurd within that structure to resist the decontextualizing force of digital museum publications and maintain my own authorial ethos :) just being me copying duchamp! —xoxo
Minnie N. Turner was not like other cats. A limber, nimble tabby at the blossoming age of three years, Minnie felt she was truly coming into herself as the dignified pet of the Head Director of the Fancy Museum of Art. Due to her adoption into the art world, Minnie had developed a taste for the finer things in life at a young age: she already could speak eloquently of culture, had read enough theory to be anti-everything, plus she was a phenomenal practitioner of contemporary jazz dance. But lately, all of that felt like it was not enough. So this summer she was doing her civic duty and actualizing latent potentialities embedded within her socioeconomic standing by doing an internship under her owner at the Fancy Museum of Art.
Minnie was to fill the position of the first ever archivonaut intern, a new position created to test out two new developing technologies that the museum had just acquired from a corporation called SpectaCo. that supplied new image database technologies to cultural and governmental institutions.
Essentially, the archivonaut was first to be affixed with the SpectaCo Mystic Hat, which would allow for the neurological integration of the museum database/archive with the brain/body of the wearer so they know all relevant known context immediately upon looking at an object. After being outfitted with the gear, the archivonaut is then shrunken down to miniature size in the SpectaCo. Degrowth Chamber. At smaller sizes art observers have more powerful, penetrative, hypodermic-needle-like gazes. Thus, smaller viewers are simply better at picking up on “vibes” + “energy” + “aura” of artworks for the tasteful and novel interpretations that the public craves. These conditions created the ultimate archivonaut capable of ‘hyper-determining’ targets of inquiry through impeccable visual analysis and infinite contextualizations. Minnie was full of gratefulness and glee at the chance to go where no intern nor cat had ever gone before, a chance to transcend mundane existence and become the very first archivonaut.
Because of her close family ties to the museum and category as a non-human animal, Minnie did not legally need to be paid, nor be involved in any pesky paperwork involving health-care benefits or OSHA standards or any of that other bureaucratic red tape that everyone hated dealing with anyway. The way Minnie saw it, the position was practically MADE for them (but not in a nepotistic way). It was a win-win: the museum would get a free test subject for their new tech, and Minnie could put this whole ordeal on her resume. She already knew how to frame the experience…
Minnie: “Oh, yeah… I was just doing fully immersive art historical research with the most cutting-edge technologies in my field… but I had been reading so much Sontag at the time that I couldn’t even begin to imagine using the technology to really ‘interpret’ anything… Rather than recapitulating that hypermasculine, neocolonial form of knowledge production in which I placed myself (the ‘subject,’ the expert) above that which I was engaging with (the ‘object,’ the specimen) by producing a dogmatic interpretive essay... I decided to use my unique, shrunken subject positionality to create ekphrastic art about the art, in a fully embodied performance that can only be described as the title which is ‘trapped in the caesura between human and animal : an intra-active queer archive of the infintesimal entangled ineffable ephemera of the relational quotidian,’ but enough about me, what’s up with you? What’ve you been working on? :)”
Yes, Minnie devilishly anticipated their summer project. She had even decided what work in the collection she desired to engage with: a miniature, portable museum Dada artist Marcel Duchamp constructed in 1963 known as the Boîte-en-valise, Series E. For background, Duchamp had the idea to create miniature replications of his personal artistic oeuvre while fleeing from France during World War I. Later, the idea developed into housing these replications in a miniature museum fit inside a suitcase or box. With the help of various sponsors, Duchamp was able to create over 300 of these boxes, which contain print reproductions of his paintings (hand-colored to be as precise as possible), as well as a few models of his famous readymades, including the inverted urinal, Fountain.
What better way to use the power of the Degrowth Chamber and Mystic Hat than an up close and personal encounter with a miniature museum? Minnie had her own thoughts about socioeconomic degrowth as applied to museums, and couldn’t wait to experience Duchamp’s own literal interpretation of a small, nomadic archive.
The first day
Minnie was sooo excited! She wore her studded Frida Kahlo collar and a small hoop earring to make a good first impression. Orientation merely consisted of Minnie and the director sitting in his office, swapping a short itinerary…
Director: So… I’m going to shrink you.
Minnie (arching back): Uh-huh.
Director: And then you’re going to… do your thing.
Minnie (playing with claws): Yep.
Director (standing up): Alright. Then let’s get to it.
Minnie padded along behind the director, until they entered the archive. It was cold and bright, clinical and sterile like a morgue.
The SpectaCo. Degrowth Chamber was standing in the corner of the room. An oblong white pod, the degrowth chamber resembled a large sensory deprivation tank, or a postmodern spray-tanning booth. Next to it, atop a white table, was the Boîte-en-valise. The Duchamp work was all set up, a mini-museum of its own beckoning Minnie inside its tiny walls.
Director: Go ahead… step inside the Degrowth Chamber. Let’s get crack-a-lackin’.
Minnie padded over to the pod, opened the door and entered. There was enough room to stand comfortably. After she shut the door, bright lights came on and a mechanical voice announced:
“Welcome to the Degrowth Chamber. Please step into the center of the pod for fitting of the Mystic Hat.”
Minnie did as commanded, and from the wall behind them, a mechanical arm precisely injected a local anaesthetic into the base of their skull. Consciousness fading, Minnie thought about, philosophically, what it meant to be shrunk. The machine fixed a small silicon microchip under the skin in the neck. From the chip, carbon nanotubes snaked into the nerve fibre of the spine, and uploaded SpectaCo’s entire database of image information. Bioware programs were installed and new neural networks carved in order to facilitate seamless integration of the software into Minnie’s mind and body. In moments, the procedure was finished.
The mechanical voice again. “Commence degrowth.”
There was a great big flash… everything just changed… Minnie’s molecules got all rearranged…
Minnie woke up to the feeling of a massive finger petting them. Due to their newly shrunken state, the finger was hardly petting and more squishing their body into the hard plastic she laid upon.
“Hey Minnie… or should I say, Mini? Hahahaha,” the director joked, his voice booming.
“I don’t get it,” Minnie tried to cajole. But Minnie was too small. Their owner’s ears could not pick up the sound of their voice, and even if he could hear, surely their voice would be but an internly squeak, hardly even worth registering.
“Well, it looks like the test worked… you’re tiny! Like a little baby! So cute. Now that you’ve been roused, I’ll leave you in here to do… whatever it is you were going to do. I need to take lunch! Mimosas are waiting on me!”
The director paused before exiting, and gave a dramatic aside:
Director : hehehehe. minnie will never know but she can’t actually be
scaled back up in size because cats are like png files
you can shrink them fine but when you try to make them
big again they get all scrambled fried blurry and vague
like an MS paint version of the self a real pity they are
truly and really never the same again in their whole lives.
Minnie: I heard that!!! You’re telling me I’m stuck like this?
The director’s illusion of solitude is shattered.
Director: yes that’s exactly what you can infer from what i just told you.
basically the museum said sorry though and that they know
they fricked up so they’re offering to let you stay in their collections
for free and keep the mystic hat and stay small forever and u
just vibe with all these cool artworks and get to ignore whatever
crises are happening outside the confines of these white walls :)
sounds pretty good right? :)
and you thought this internship was going to be unpaid!
Director: basically i just didn’t want you anymore. you’re really annoying and i kind of hate you and needed a way to get rid of you haha. by the way… don’t do anything crazy while I’m gone. This whole place is live monitored. Surveilled, got it? Tootles!!!
The museum director let the door slam on the way out.
Minnie was in shock. Abandoned, she laid there and cried and then did nothing for a while. She eventually readied herself to stand. But as soon as she was on her feet and turned around, she had the breath knocked right back out of her. For right in front of her stood the most beautiful woman in the world. The woman accessorized fashionably, yet whimsically, with a geometrically patterned bowler hat and a fur draped around her neck. Her brow stood firm and cliff-like, her royal nose protruded, her eyes, a smudge of coal-colored powder beneath them, shifted with nervous confidence.
Thanks to Mystic Hat, Minnie knew exactly who this classy broad was: Rrose Sélavy…
Rrose Sélavy and the bachelor
OK so imagine you had all recorded background information about someone latent in your brain and when you looked at them all of that information clicked into place, a wave of instantaneous recognition, glorious empathy, immense adoration through understanding, a critical empathy. Minnie felt it all at once, and felt it all for the first time. Could this be love at first sight?
Rrose spoke in a nasal French tenor, muttering snippets from the calling card she wrote for her COMPLETE LINE OF WHISKERS AND KICKS
[as translated from the French by the Mystic Hat’s beta Google Translate plugin]:
“o vary all night
lash of spring
silk stockings the thing
beds and erasures
my knees are cold
to strangle the stranger
abominable abdominal furs”
rrose you have whispered of the bachelors
the nine flatulists below that (e)/(o)mit a
Desiring-gas that causes a turbine to turn
the chocolate grindr to churn
until ohhh baby oh yeah
the bachelors shoot their shot aiming
for one of the bachelorette’s three holes OOO
but she remains above them in her own
transcendent plane untouchable by these
men. the bachelorette gets lonely then she gets over it
and laughs at the pitiful men launching their flames off
flaccid matchsticks glinting against the broken glass of the world : subtext written in fog,
you see right through me and i love you for it i love you so much i would die for you
Rrose (form flickers ; resets):
(has forgotten the pronoun ‘I’)
virtual, extant only in the fourth dimension
analogous to the reflection in a mirror
infinite multiplicitous hauntings as failed mournings
is this colic a mellon cholia a symptom
rrose you speak delicately of love
you make the crass seem like the
plumage of a peacock / arrogant
and refined in perkiest demeanor
She and Rrose needed to DTR. After her owner dumped her she knew she needed something real. Deep down she knew that Rrose Sélavy did not exist. Or, rather, she maybe existed but she was an amalgamation of imagery pulled together from archives around the world, sorted and processed by SpectaCo.’s database program. She was information plugged directly into the circuitry of Minnie’s consciousness. The intern was merely acting as a conduit for their own desires, channeling a collective understanding of the past and projecting it into the present, allowing the hyperreal Sélavy to manifest itself, spectrally, virtually.
But perhaps they could make it work…
unbalanced, whiskers askew
Minnie’s feline mind was in a frenzy …
“rrose we can be together.
we’re so small but it doesn’t matter.
the world does not need to see us
if we can look at one another and
talk to one another and maybe…”
“maybe i’ll never be satisfied.”
rrose said, then
looked away at nothing.
minnie watched her form flicker, transform into
Marcel Duchamp himself:
“maybe i’ll make reproduction after
reproduction until there are no
more trees left for paper anymore
and all the graphite in the earth’s
crust has been strip mined and
all that exists are replications of
my own beautiful dark twisted fantasies.”
rrose… my body of light…
rrose where have you gone
be with me in our ecstacy
of st. terrorisa the jouissance
of cutting a word in two it rose , rrose … dwindling
Marcel Duchamp [emerging from flames]:
rrose is DEAD was never alive was ME all along
Minnie was so heartbroken that a hologram of Mitski appeared
and performed, “Last Words of a Shooting Star” from the album
“Bury me at Makeout Creek”
You wouldn't leave till we loved in the morning
You'd learned from movies how love ought to be
And you'd say you love me and look in my eyes
But I know through mine you were
Looking in yours
And did you know the liberty bell is a replica
Silently housed in its original walls
And while its dreams played music in the night
It was told to believe
[sniffling minnie sobers up. she needs to do what she came here to do. her precious research project. if she can just throw herself into her career maybe the emotional void will eventually be filled with capital.]
[KEY - M= MINNIE D=DUCHAMP]
m: what do you have to
say for your little mu-
d: i think they did
a fine job at
being my babies
and showing ppl
how good daddy
was back when
he was alive.
m: they say we
love you daddy (●´ω｀●)
for creating us
with your nude
the fascists to
make us little
babies in secret
at night with
d: bien sûr bébé :)
i want you to al
ways remind the
world of how go
od of an artiste
daddy was. so
avant garde …
m : i will go forth
for you daddy
always as long
as i am not
i will do my civic
duty as a museum
artefact in your
image for you
d: just remember
my son that
you are different
because you mimic
them so well that
you might as well be them
but you are not them you
are arbitrarily separated
by an ironic formal distinguishment
i am moving on from painting to representation (broader schematic paradigm) particularly replication. i am concerned about the readymades. i initial bottle racks every day to legitimize them with my mark. what is the thing itself? will i ever find it? did i ever have it? probably not. but perhaps i can find an echo of the thing. and perhaps that is enough for narcissus.
i would never reproduce
not in this day and age
the temperatures are getting
too high for child rearing, most
of my sperm have finally died off
and any child that survives the famine
will only be irate and live a dismal life …
why bring any more consciousness into the world?
i am anti-reproductive
and therefore i am anti-duchamp.
it is really quite pointless (i am
gatekeeping) to have done this
when he quite perfectly could
have been helping old ladies cross
the street or becoming a messiah
for my personal ideology ? dadaism
to retort in indigo is mildly inappropriate
when mango holes and daffodils would do quite fine
i made this to deterritorialize the geospatial logic of the museum and reterritorialize it with my own authority :-) sort of a critique of the inevitable failure of the avant-garde to “subvert” any power structure that it ultimately relies on for funding
but in order to do this the museum’s hegemony
deterritorialized ur soul +
repossessed it w /
a logic of capital accumulation + artificial scarcity
it does not count as subversive if you had to completely alter yourself to conform to the standards of the structure you’re trying to live within ; angela davis reminds us that radical means ‘grasping toward the root’ and ur so concerned with appearances, so vapid … its hot but the structure needs to change, not u sweaty …
refusal infuses itself into the brickwork of the foundation of the museological
art is a background statement for the raucous cooings of the bourgeoisie
can you blame me for living in the past
for recreating what i know exactly in a
microcosm so the world made sense
to me again? i did what i had to do to
feel at home in a land that was not my
own i had to do something about it and
make money off of it as well in case the
sponsors stopped paying me i needed the cash
ok just to be straightforward (but still disorienting)
we need to turn our attention away from an assimilationist strategy in which we internalize the rules of the archive into our own histories / beings; and rather force archival structures to change to accommodate us. at least. the creation of a new system of archiving does not necessarily mean that it has to be a negation or destruction of old ways of archiving but rather an addition to it or alternative to it that might not be mutually exclusive. letting go is the hardest part.
Duchamp: All I wanted to do was keep what mattered close to me.
i will not line my own womb with cement
i will not make a graveyard for my own children
i touch the destruction in me.
i will never be ensnared again
in the chemical huffs of love
electric reamed and realmed by
someone else’s greasy map
Rrose [fast and soft]: Minnie, come with me into my metaphorical museum. ;) We can be virtual together. You are so permeable, let me put my fingers inside you, you are tiny and will expire soon anyway. Together we can slip into the stream that connects us all, we can swap liminal fluids. We can live within the database and make virtual exhibitions and analyze the politics and poetics of space together forever.
Minnie: I guess I actually have nothing better to do. I’m never going to be big again and you’re dead at best, a figment of my imagination at worst. I GUESS
home can no longer be considered as a fixed structure but
rather a contingent passageway, one that carries one else
where, the only way out is through if there is an out which
there is not but we can keep folding and folding into one
another until we cannot distinguish in from out anymore
fraying knotting flowing selfing worlding unbecoming us
apophatic eggs getting it crack-a-lacking … thots assemble
so Minnie and Rrose lived in the collections for the rest
of their short lives which were not very long because
since they were so small and were vibing so well
with the artwork they actually lost their corporeal
forms and now only exist as relationalities and ghosts
in the aporias between things and also in the database.
plan all along the intern
merged with the database
and became the most effective AI
ever in existence and the museum used
minnie’s soul to sift through the cultural detritus of
late capitalism and keep order in place by upholding a high /
low culture distinction and the logical underpinning of such an ass
umption, that some people are better than others and some things
belong some places while other things belong in other places that are not
here because there is not enough room in storage right now we are tight on space
Trevor Bashaw was a 2019 Andrew W. Mellon Summer Intern in Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. Trevor graduated from the University of Kansas in 2019 with a B.A. in English and Art History.
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