lisa oppenheim & lisa tan

When she came looking for B’s grave a few months after he died in the Hotel de Francia in Port Bou, A found nothing. Nothing, that is, other than one of the most beautiful places she had ever seen. “It was not to be found,” she wrote S shortly afterwards, “his name was not written anywhere.” Yet according to the records provided by the town hall of Port Bou, one of B’s traveling companions, Frau G had paid out seventy-five pesetas for the rental of a “niche” for five years on September 28, 1940, two days after B died from what was diagnosed by the local doctor as cerebral apoplexy, but is generally understood to have been suicide by a massive overdose of morphine tablets.

Yet name or no name, the place was overwhelming.

“The cemetery faces a small bay directly looking over the Mediterranean,” wrote A. “It is carved in stone in terraces; the coffins are also pushed into such stone walls. It is by far one of the most fantastic and most beautiful spots I have ever seen in my life.”

S was not impressed. Years later he seemed downright dismissive, bringing his book-length memoir of B to an end with these words: “Certainly the spot is beautiful, but the grave is apocryphal.” It was an abrupt and sour note on which to end the story of a life, as if the dead man and therefore we, too, had been cheated of an ending, and what we had gotten instead was a suspension, a book whose last page was missing.


Text: Taussig, Michael. Walter Benjamin’s Grave. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Edited and altered by Lisa Oppenheim. Image: Marcel Broodthaers’s headstone, Ixelles Cemetery, Brussels. Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia

Plays of light on the plain and the sea,
in the towns and on the canals.
In this counterpoint will also feature the artist,
The cinema allows us to imagine a way
to see the light, to personalize it through
intermediaries, a blind man for instance, to make it
clear how the desire to take hold of it may arise, when we have
grasped the sadness of the world

when it is absent from it.


Image: Alexandra Leykauf, Kerman, Video still from 2min video loop, 35 mm, 2012

Text: Marcel Broodthaers, Livinus-photopeintures, first published in Marcel Broodthaers:Texte et Photos, Maria Glissen and Susanne Lange (eds.), Steidl, La Fondation Broodthaers, Die Photographische Sammlung/Sk Stiftung Kultur, Colonge, 2003, p.112