I viewed “Provenance, 2013” during the GI Biennial in April. I have delayed writing about it to give the many ideas it inspired time to settle. The artist is Amie Siegel (b 1974, Chicago, USA) who lives and works in NYC and Berlin, Germany. For the last 15 years or so she has worked among lens-based work, installation and performance. The exhibition at the Tramway was comprised of 3 parts. I was keen to see this as I share an interest in shining a light on economic and cultural values and how they may loop around one another.
Setting aside usage as key to authentication practice and disputes in the art world, “Provenance” can mean “where things come from” in terms of place and or history. By way of a cinematic film Siegel meticulously reverse-traces the origins of some furniture (chairs, stools, desks and settees) from high-end urban collection and display, cataloguing, auction, restoration and various trades and oceans back to ongoing use and abandonment or avoidance in schools, courts and other institutions that they were bespoken for, and further still to full stop at those places as mountainous stockpiles and or in singular neglectful discard in the city of Chandigarh, India. At source, we arrive afresh at a limpid ‘Eden as omega’ and so the back-story of this chain of provenance completes itself. Where are values located and how are they linked, exchanged or recycled? How do things inspire desire and neglect simultaneously? To gain insights on motivation we need some context.
Following India’s independence in 1947, Chandigarh was made the capital of Indian Punjab. It was a time of hope and idealism promising peace, democracy and a new harmonious social order. Swiss-French architect, Le Corbusier was called in to adapt plans with Pierre Jeanneret  following an accident that resulted in the tragic loss of the said plans first Polish author, architect Maciej Nowick. The film’s tracking shots of Chandigarh were particularly captivating – a place of fruitful entropy and deep peace. Even in decrepitude the public halls of pillars and colourful details are memorable for their grand scale and appealing proportions of height and space. An agreeable environment at one time humanised with plain, solid pieces, editioned especially to grace shared space and ordinary lives.
Perhaps that sense of elevation or maybe it could be called choreography of feeling, might be why that furniture is so desired by urban collectors and others who seek more than what they might struggle to name: personal provenance by ownership of a thing that is also an ideal of beauty and harmony. Money changes hands along the chain. Yet, in the homes and auction houses the chairs retain their dignity in the line. They are on display or placed at will of those who acquire them for often exorbitant sums in hallways and homes, often renovated “to the 9s”, neglected in somehow a different way to ruination in Chandigarh. The film lingers on these mutes, silent to the ear and yet, present and as such strangely immune to the barbarity of “taste”. These things “be” in a muteness that is deafening. Perhaps that is why, as the film also shows, workers in Chandrigarh sometimes avoid sitting on them. The values may be different but East and West seem to loop dysfunctional value orbits around these great, passive being-things. They bear the vagaries of human nature rather than judge them.
This was an artful film, rather than a documentary film. The viewer is shown something new and learns about herself. Some viewers might just find the film suavely captivating. Others might be slightly irked by the neglect of the film itself to investigate real world exploitation and art world practices and cannibalism. However, by offering the film as “Lot 248” and thus as object and as such in solidarity with now individuated (provenanced) furniture objects, both objects become more than materiality as tradeable objects. They reverse the usual exchange by becoming real as the viewer can culturally discern them. This new and higher reality reverses the expected exchange. In this way, the artist and her art transcend ephemeral visibility and the shades that come with spotlights.
I have been thinking since and in further solidarity, that our shared human destiny does amount to more than moving furniture around in the economic or other value spaces that capital exchanges or human nature allow.
 Provenance, 2013 was first shown in its entirety at the Metropolitan Museum, NYC from 23rd June 2014 to 4th January 2015. A brief extract may be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/76025359
 1. Provenance, 2013. HD Video 40m 30 sec. Ed. of 5 + 2 A.P.
- Lot 248, 2013. HD Video 5m 25 sec. Ed. of 5 + 2 A.P.
- Proof (Christie’s 19/10/2013), 2013. Inkjet print, Lucite 25.5 x 18.5in/ 48 x 44.5 cm Ed. of 5 + 2 A.P.
 See Note ii item 1.
 I use this phrasing as the film conveyed to my eyes a sort of ruined Eden (the biblical “garden of God”, described most notably in the Book of Genesis chapters 2 and 3, and also in the Book of Ezekiel chapters 28 & 36 (KJV)) and there is something architects do in holding space that evokes a sense of the spiritual as a material reality at best; yet destructive, tyrannical control at worst. Perhaps in the best work this feeling can be simultaneous and why it in fact as experience is “great”.
 http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20151211-is-this-the-perfect-city concludes: “Of all the world’s ideal cities, Chandigarh has done remarkably well, offering striking monumental architecture, a grid of self-contained neighbourhoods, more trees than perhaps any Indian city and a way of life that juggles tradition with modernity. While history tells us ideal cities are mostly best left on paper, Chandigarh – perhaps one of the least likely – appears to have succeeded.”
 The Chandigarh Capital Project Team was headed by Pierre Jeanneret, (later Dame) Jane Drew and (Jane’s husband) Maxwell Fry – together they designed and built government buildings and housing between 1951-1965).
 Nowick had worked alongside American planner, Albert Meyer.
 Such as the semi-opaque glazing of small and irregular windows to cast beautiful light and airiness while serving as a “run” for wild monkeys.
 Ideals may seem like abstracted sharing: with it but not part of them.
 Chandigarh’s items are what might be termed mid-market, with auction prices in the film reaching e.g. $12,000 for an iron city drain cap to $20,000 for a simple light stand.
 My view is that objects should have rights and new forms of protection – as yet undiscovered. I have also been thinking that perhaps the immunity might stem from the tyrannical nature of the “greatness” (see note iv above) of their lines and design.
 For local investigatory journalism see: http://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/chandigarh-godown-to-paris-auction-making-a-fortune-out-of-le-corbusier-s-junked-furniture/story-ozdqQh8FzYgLcOACVqecDP.html
 See Note ii above items 2 & 3 Siegel auctioned off the film (item 1 at Note ii) and preserves the auction record as evidence (Item 3).