In 1968, Marcel Broodthaers founded the Musée d’Art Moderne, Département des Aigle (Museum of Modern Art. Department of Eagles), an itinerant institution project in which he studied the work of a museum, taking on the jobs of curator and director, questioning the role of the artist and unfurling key questions on art’s role in society. In 1970, he brought cinema into the discussion, installing the “Cinéma Modèle” (Model Cinema), which anticipated the creation of the Section Cinéma inside his fictitious museum.
Broodthaers unveiled the cinema with a programme called “Programme La Fontaine”, comprising five of his films inspired by five artists and writers he used as models: La Fontaine, Schwitters, Magritte, Mallarmé and Baudelaire. Broodthaers started out as a poet, with poetry structurally shaping his understanding of the world. The films he made and then selected and screened in Cinéma Modèle explored different contributions to the language by the aforementioned artists and writers and were exercises in reading approached as his own poetic and social time. Formally, these expanded film works are in themselves manifestations of new poetic audiovisual structures — Broodthaers understood film as an extension of plastic languages and constantly linked it to other artistic disciplines like painting and poetry. Thus, while his film work moves beyond the traditional medium, his artistic world view can also be studied through it.
Although film played a prominent role in Broodthaers’ artistic production, he would not call himself a film-maker — nor did he define himself as a poet, painter and sculptor. A post-war artist, his work was engulfed by the constant search for new expression that extended beyond the traditional limits of his medium, and, in this respect, he attempted to engage filmic language with the issues of the time. As he put it, “I try to create work that shows the abundant nature of images that permeate through our civilisation… Here, the idea is to demonstrate the strange illegibility of information. I start with clear, solidly defined definitions. The work, if you like, is programmed from the start, but not entirely. I prepare as if I were preparing a happening; that is to say, as a context, a framework aimed to encompass anything unforeseen”.