Une seconde d'éternité (d'après une idée de Charles Baudelaire)
35mm film, black-and-white. Duration 1".
Une seconde d'éternité (d'après une idée de Charles Baudelaire) by Marcel Broodthaers is an installation, both a work and an “environment”, conceived in 1971. The Belgian poet and artist presents the world’s shortest film entitled La signature or Ma signature. In this work made by hand using the frame-by-frame animation technique, twenty-four photograms are linked together, displaying the artist's initials, “MB”. Projected in a loop, a one-second film shows Marcel Broodthaers’ signature, reduced to the two letters of his initials. From then on, the work states itself, in its most succinct form: the name of its author, which it repeats endlessly.
Through this work, Broodthaers questions the nature of film and of the so-called “artist film”. With the almost magical inscription of these initials on the film, he also questions its intrinsic and symbolic value. The film-artwork is treated as an object: its exhibition is regularly accompanied by the hanging of photograms which fix the sig-nature that constantly appears and disappears in the projection. Reducing the artist’s involvement to a signature, taking the title of an expression that Baudelaire never wrote as such, Broodthaers questions “the beginning of a system of lies”. Through this title, which is neither entirely his own nor entirely Baudelaire’s, through this image which is also a sign, through this moving image which is also fixed, Marcel Broodthaers breaks down well-established categories. Une seconde d'éternité, or La Signature, emphasizes and pushes to its limits the normative nature of the format of artist films at the time, which rarely exceeded a few minutes. The work explores the limits of the conditions of projection or display in an exhibition context and the limit of the visitor’s attention moving from one projection to the next—like Narcissus, who, in love with his own image, becomes captive to the point of never being able to turn away from it. In this regard, Broodthaers wrote: “For Narcissus, one second is already the time of eternity. Narcissus has always respected the time of 1/24th of a second. In Narcissus the retinal after-image lasts forever. Narcissus is the inventor of film.”
This work was presented by the Pinault Collection in the exhibitions Passage du Temps (2007–8)
at the Tri Postal in Lille, Dancing with Myself (2018) at the Punta della Dogana in Venice, and Une seconde d'éternité (2022) at the Bourse de Commerce in Paris.