I am having a love affair with the Chazen, the building that houses the Chazen Museum of Art, the Kohler Art Library, and the art history department offices and classrooms here on the UW-Madison campus. I love the overstuffed leather chairs in the library, the elegant wood panelling in the seminar rooms, and the convenience of having everything in one place. I also love that one of the stone benches out front inscribed with the name of the museum has taken a turn for the worse. It has broken into two solid pieces and tumbled to the ground, and it now sits rather forlornly and absurdly covered by an orange and white painted barricade.
I love this ruined bench because it seems like a readymade piece of public conceptual art: an allusion to the broken institution of the museum, an examination of the band-aids that bourgeois culture slaps over its wounds, perhaps even a reference to the obstacles to art making. Its twin, still whole and sound, sits proudly across the way. In contrast it appears as a smug symbol of art's snobbery and claims to the completeness of a whole work of art. It is an embodiment of modern aestheticism, whereas my beloved broken bench embodies the post-modernism all around us, a youthful energy so vital it can tear a stone in two.