Taking Things Seriously (10)

By: Lucy Sante
December 22, 2019

One in a series of posts reprinting true stories about significant objects from the 2007 collection Taking Things Seriously (Princeton Architectural Press), edited by Joshua Glenn and designed by Carol Hayes. For contemporary reviews of the book, click here; for info on Josh Glenn and Rob Walker’s ongoing Project:Object operation, click here.


One night in 1991, just before Christmas, I was walking down St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan, heading for my tiny but charming bed-sit on Sixth Street. I’d been around the neighborhood for more than twenty years by then. I remember, for instance, when people started selling stuff on the street, circa 1980. (Earlier, when you found things, you’d either take them home or leave them for others to take; the first harbinger of Reaganomics was when people started selling what they scavenged.) Astor Place became a ’round-the-clock market, delirious and phantasmagoric. It was at once a thieves’ market, a collective yard sale, and the spillway of the collective unconscious.

That night a guy selling old movie posters caught my eye. His prices were high and the sheets were damaged — I surmised he’d fished them from a dumpster. Something made me ask him if he had any incomplete posters. He presented me with a plastic bag full of scraps for ten dollars, one sawbuck. They were rough, vivid, varied, and, because they had come apart along their creases, more or less equal in size. A light bulb appeared directly over my head.

There are pieces of four posters here. Two of them are different advertisements for a single minor horse opera, West of Pinto Pass, circa 1950, starring Crash Corrigan; another is unknown; the fourth is a three-sheet for an early (1962) picture by Elio Petri, writer-director of such 1970s radical head-scratchers as Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion.

During the 1950s, artists in Italy and France cut down layers of movie posters from walls and exhibited them, unaltered, as art. They called their work décollage. In that spirit I propose my untitled piece as the founding work of a new, revolutionary school: démontage.

TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY: William Drenttel on ARTICHOKE | Dmitri Siegel on BIG BOTTOM EXCITER | Greg Klee on SANTA | Carol Hayes on “THINGS” SAMPLER | Tom Frank on WWI HELMET | Beth Daniels on PENCIL SHARPENER | Chika Azuma on GRAMMYFOAM | John Keen on COMPUTER CABINET | Josh Glenn on BAUDELAIRE DEATH MASK | Luc Sante on POSTER FRAGMENTS | Becky Neiman on CHEESE BOX | Rosamond Purcell on BREAD | Paul Maliszewski on RUBBER STAMP.


SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS at HILOBROW: PROJECT:OBJECT homepage | PROJECT:OBJECT newsletter | PROJECT:OBJECT objects (Threadless shop — all profits donated to the ACLU) | POLITICAL OBJECTS series (1Q2017) | TALISMANIC OBJECTS series (2Q2017) | ILLICIT OBJECTS series (3Q2017) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 1 series (4Q2017) | FLAIR series (2Q2018) | FOSSIL series (4Q2018) | FETISHES series (2Q2019) | LOST OBJECTS vol. 2 series (4Q2019) | MOVIE OBJECTS series (2Q2020). ALSO SEE: SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS website | SIGNIFICANT OBJECTS collection, ed. Rob Walker and Josh Glenn (Fantagraphics, 2012) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY, ed. Josh Glenn (Princeton Architectural Press, 2007) | TAKING THINGS SERIOUSLY excerpts.