22 May 2018

Provenance is a landscape

by Marc Masurovsky

Provenance is a landscape where every gap is like a gorge that one crosses on a bamboo bridge. Every stretch of time left unexplained is like a desert or a forest that one crosses seemingly without end.

It is the perfect post-modern expression of a history made of fragments of time, place and humanity, and we have to make sense of it.

If provenance is a legal document, it is woefully lacking.

If it is a security questionnaire, It becomes an open invitation to a tight interrogation.

Hayden White would feel right at home with a provenance because it exemplifies that tired motto: history is fiction.

Provenance is supposed to explain the history of an object. The basic components are time, place and people. Sometimes you have more people than places but no time markers.

Sometimes, a provenance will be like a ground hog poking its head up for a brief moment.

Hi, my name is John Smith and I owned a painting by Hans Holbein in 1969 and I won't tell where I bought it, so there. Sure enough, it disappears in its hole and you're left with a ground hog's view of history.