Broodthaers Society of America
Otto Hahn

I have known him for ten or eleven years, that is to say, almost when he began to paint, or to make artworks. Before then he was a poet, and poetry didn’t suit him at all. In fact he was drawn to Pop Art, which he appreciated intellectually rather than technically. He made collages in the Pop spirit, indeed those are the works I first wrote about, calling him the Belgian Spoerri.

Marcel Broodthaers' greatness is his laziness, he is absolutely incapable of making an artwork. I believe him to be very close to Raymond Hains in this regard. All of Broodthaers’ artworks are based on his ideas, but evidently they are made by his wife. Without a doubt he would have completely disappeared from circulation had it not been for Conceptual Art, which is an art based solely on the idea of art and for which technical skill is irrelevant. On the one hand he is not lazy ... let’s say he is half lazy, but then the other half is alcohol ... he could not produce anything. This is a man who was saved by Conceptual Art, as bizarre as that sounds, a man whose work was taken up in a literary context, which made him a notable figure in the Conceptual Art landscape.

Marcel Broodthaers definitely owes something to Magritte—they were friends. He is also indebted to Schwitters, he made a film about Schwitters; He is also indebted to his time, to Conceptual Art, Nouveau Realisme, Pop Art. I think Broodthaers could very well have only ever been a derivative
nouveau realiste. In film, however, Marcel Broodthaers is a genuine innovator, such as when he projects a film onto a screen where words are written and when the film is dark, the words become illegible. There is a similarly "illegible" legibility in the work of Godard, but, on an experimental level, it was certainly Broodthaers who did it first. Always words, poetry, and the word turning into a spatial fact, that is to say, the word seen or not seen, whereas in a book one always sees the words. That is how I would characterize Broodthaers’s work.

Most artists make mistakes because they like to work and because, being young, they have a lot of enthusiasm, so they produce a lot of meaningless paintings or make variations on a theme. Broodthaers, being lazy, is always thinking for three months before deciding what to do. He achieves perfection by eliminating all that is superfluous—not only artworks but also the labor that would have been necessary to make them. Who needs a bunch of pointless artworks taking up space?

(excerpted from +-0 no. 11, 1975)