‘Everything important that I have done can be put into a little suitcase,’ Marcel Duchamp declared in 1952. He was speaking of his Boîte en valise ('Box in a Valise'), a suitcase he had assembled and reproduced between 1935 and 1941 to house the body of work he had created up to that point; a mini retrospective exhibition that could be carried anywhere. This work, and that of four other artists, is currently on view at the Walker Arts Center as part of 'Unpacking the Box', an exhibition that explores the artistic potential of thinking inside the box.
The intimate showcase contains a range of playful objects, from the 1960s Fluxus movement to more contemporary interpretations of the box motif. Whether they are a portfolio of a single artist’s work, like the Duchamp valise, or a standalone work of art, each creation invites an active viewer to participate with the container directly, by unpacking, perusing and even shuffling around the contents inside.
Ay-O’s Finger Box Set (No. 26), for example, is a standard black suitcase filled with 15 wooden blocks arranged in a grid, each with a small, slightly-larger-than-finger-sized hole in the centre that contains a different object. The viewer’s tactile sense is heightened during their experience of the work, as they must figure out what the boxes contain only by poking around.
Other pieces include George Brecht’s Valoche / A Flux Travel Aid, a box containing an assortment of quirky artisanal children’s toys, including a jump rope, a chess piece and plastic eggs, and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Without Title (Rucksack Installation), a kit of camping essentials.
The exhibition inaugurates the Walker’s new Best Buy Aperture display case, a space that will be dedicated to highlighting materials from the museum’s extensive archives and library. Drawing especially on resources and ephemera that are not commonly available to the public, the exhibitions held in the Best Buy Aperture will pull thematic strands from the Walker’s exhibition history, and integrate the often fragile archival materials with media displays that foster a new way of experiencing the Center’s rich collections.