Artist Blog

Every week an artist whose single image was published by Der Greif is given a platform in which to blog about contemporary photography.

Something about anniversaries – Saâdane Afif

Jul 07, 2017 - Francesca Catastini

One of the latest books I added to my shelves is Fountain-1917, Fontaine-1917, Fontäne 1917 , by French conceptual artist Saâdane Afif , published by b.frank books and NMNM.

Afif put together a sort of collection of 232 postcards picturing public fountains, all dated 1917, the same year in which Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain was submitted and rejected for the inaugural exhibition of the Society of Indipendent Artists.

Although they are presented in chronological order, according to their postmarks, this reiteration of a typology, the fountain, sets a different sense of time. As a result, looking at these postcards, we find ourselves comparing what Tacita Dean in her forward of the book calls  “the teenage years” of the XX century with the adolescence of our time.

At the core of a typological examination there is usually a desire to reduce things to their essential parts. But this doesn’t necessarily end up in a bone-dry analysis. Identifying structural patterns can actually set the framework for a dialectic discourse.

The whole net of connections these fountain images spun, converges in the title of the book and the shift between Duchamp’s work name and the way we call “a structure through which a stream of water is pumped into the air and falls down again”.

Pouring fountains in 1917 had already started losing their former function, to become, in most cases, essentially ornamental. In 2017 as well, we usually cannot drink from them, nor bathe in them, but we can look at them. Or, if you want to imitate Anita Ekberg in Rome, you simply need to pay a 240€ fine.