Drawing on Art: Duchamp and Company
 0816665303, 9780816665303

Table of contents :
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Drawing on Art and Artists
1. Critiques of the Ocular: Duchamp and Paris Dada
2. The Spectacle of Film: Duchamp and Dada Experiments
3. Endgame Strategies: Art, Chess, and Creativity
4. Pointing Fingers: Dali’s Homage to Duchamp
5. The Apparatus of Spectatorship: Duchamp, Matta-Clark, and Wilson
Concluding Remarks: Mirrorical Returns

Citation preview

Drawing on Art

This page intentionally left blank


Drawing on Art Duchamp and Company

Dalia Judovitz

University of Minnesota Press Minneapolis London

The University of Minnesota Press gratefully acknowledges the work of Edward Dimendberg, editorial consultant, on this project. Portions of chapter 1 were previously published in “A Certain Inopticity: Duchamp and Paris Dada,” in Crisis and the Arts: The History of Dada. Paris Dada: The Barbarians Storm the Gates, vol. 6, ed. Stephen C. Foster and Elmer Peterson (Detroit: G. K. Hall, 2001), 301–26. Portions of chapter 4 were originally published in French in “La Mise en échecs de la deixis: Dali rend hommage à Duchamp,” in “Lire Dalí,” ed. Fredérique Joseph, special issue, Revue des sciences humaines 262 (April–June 2001): 59–88. Portions of chapter 5 were previously published in “De-Assembling Vision: Conceptual Strategies in Duchamp, Matta-Clark, Wilson,” Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities 7, no. 1 (April 2002): 95–113. Copyright 2010 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. Published by the University of Minnesota Press 111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290 Minneapolis, MN 55401-2520 http://www.upress.umn.edu Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Judovitz, Dalia. Drawing on art : Duchamp and company / Dalia Judovitz. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. isbn 978-0-8166-6529-7 (hc : alk. paper) — isbn 978-0-8166-6530-3 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Duchamp, Marcel, 1887–1968—Criticism and interpretation. 2. Duchamp, Marcel, 1887–1968—Friends and associates. 3. Art— Philosophy. I. Duchamp, Marcel, 1887–1968. II. Title. III. Title: Duchamp and company. N6853.D8J82 2010 709.2—dc22 2009017774 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper The University of Minnesota is an equal-opportunity educator and employer. 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To Hugo Judovits and Hamish M. Caldwell, for their love

This page intentionally left blank


List of Illustrations




Introduction: Drawing on Art and Artists . Critiques of the Ocular: Duchamp and Paris Dada . The Spectacle of Film: Duchamp and Dada Experiments

xv  

. Endgame Strategies: Art, Chess, and Creativity


. Pointing Fingers: Dalí’s Homage to Duchamp


. The Apparatus of Spectatorship: Duchamp, Matta-Clark, and Wilson


Concluding Remarks: Mirrorical Returns






This page intentionally left blank

Illustrations page 10

Figure 1. Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q., 1919

page 17

Figure 2. Marcel Duchamp, Paris Air (50cc Air de Paris), 1919

page 21

Figure 3. Marcel Duchamp, Fresh Widow, 1920/1941–1942

page 26

Figure 4. Marcel Duchamp, The Brawl at Austerlitz (La Bagarre d’Austerlitz), 1921/1941–1942

page 32

Figure 5. Man Ray, “Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Sélavy,” 1921

page 34

Figure 6. Man Ray, “Marcel Duchamp as Belle Haleine,” 1921

page 34

Figure 7. Man Ray, “Marcel Duchamp as Belle Haleine,” 1921

page 36

Figure 8. Marcel Duchamp, Beautiful Breath, Veil Water (Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette), 1921

page 39

Figure 9. Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même), 1915–1923

page 43

Figure 10. Marcel Duchamp, Oculist Witnesses (Témoins oculistes), 1920

page 45

Figure 11. Marcel Duchamp, “Draft Piston” (“Piston de courant d’air”), 1914

page 61

Figure 12. Francis Picabia and René Clair, Entr’acte, 1924, Duchamp and Man Ray playing chess

page 68

Figure 13. Francis Picabia and René Clair, Entr’acte, 1924, “The End”



/ Illustrations

page 76

Figure 14. Man Ray, L’Étoile de mer, 1928

page 83

Figure 15. Marcel Duchamp, Anemic Cinema (Anémic cinéma), 1926, Optical Disk, no. 1

page 87

Figure 16. Marcel Duchamp, Trap (Trébuchet), 1917/1964

page 89

Figure 17. Marcel Duchamp, Anemic Cinema (Anémic cinéma), 1926, Disk Inscribed with Pun, no. 6

page 91

Figure 18. Alfred Stieglitz, “The Fountain by R. Mutt,” photograph of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, 1917

page 95

Figure 19. Marcel Duchamp, Anemic Cinema (Anémic cinéma), 1926, Disk Inscribed with Pun, no. 9

page 98

Figure 20. Marcel Duchamp, Anemic Cinema (Anémic cinéma), 1926, final shot

page 102 Figure 21. Marcel Duchamp, Three Standard Stoppages

(Trois stoppages étalon), 1913–1914 page 111

Figure 22. Marcel Duchamp and Vitaly Halberstadt, Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled (L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées), 1932, front and back covers

page 113

Figure 23. Marcel Duchamp and Vitaly Halberstadt, Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled (L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées), 1932, table of contents

page 115

Figure 24. Marcel Duchamp and Vitaly Halberstadt, Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled (L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées), 1932, page 58

page 137

Figure 25. Marcel Duchamp, Pocket Chess Set with Rubber Glove, 1944

page 139 Figure 26. Marcel Duchamp, Homage to Caïssa

(Hommage à Caïssa), 1966


page 141

/ xi

Figure 27. Marcel Duchamp, Urn with Ashes of Duchamp[’s Cigar], 1965

page 144 Figure 28. Marcel Duchamp, Marcel Duchamp Cast

Alive, 1967 page 149 Figure 29. Salvador Dalí, Chess Set, 1964–1971 page 156 Figure 30. Salvador Dalí, Portrait of My Dead Brother, 1963 page 163 Figure 31. Salvador Dalí, Venus de Milo with Drawers,

1936 page 166 Figure 32. Salvador Dalí, Metamorphosis of Narcissus,

1937 page 169 Figure 33. Marcel Duchamp, Door for Gradiva, 1937 page 175

Figure 34. Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp, Note to Leonard Lyons, 1961

page 178

Figure 35. Philippe Halsman, Dalí/Mona Lisa, 1954

page 190 Figure 36. Marcel Duchamp, Sculpture for Traveling, 1918 page 192 Figure 37. Marcel Duchamp, 1,200 Bags of Coal, 1938 page 193 Figure 38. Marcel Duchamp, Sixteen Miles of String, 1942 page 196 Figure 39. Marcel Duchamp, Given: 1. The Waterfall

2. The Illuminating Gas (Étant donnés: 1. La Chute d’eau / 2. Le Gaz d’éclairage), 1946–1966, exterior door page 200 Figure 40. Marcel Duchamp, Given: 1. The Waterfall

2. The Illuminating Gas (Étant donnés: 1. La Chute d’eau / 2. Le Gaz d’éclairage), 1946–1966, interior view page 203 Figure 41. Marcel Duchamp, Manual of Instruction for the

Assembly of “Étant donnés,” 1966 page 208 Figure 42. Gordon Matta-Clark, Conical Intersect, 1975 page 210 Figure 43. Gordon Matta-Clark, Conical Intersect, 1975,

interior view


/ Illustrations

page 215

Figure 44. Richard Wilson, 20:50, 1987

page 223 Figure 45. Marcel Duchamp, Three Mirrors, 1964 page 228 Figure 46. Enrico Baj, Homage to Marcel Duchamp, 1965 page 230 Figure 47. Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q. Shaved, 1965 page 232 Figure 48. La Fête à la Joconde (Celebration of Mona

Lisa), 1965

Acknowledgments This book was inspired by a conversation with Jacqueline Matisse Monnier at a conference organized by William Camfield at Rice University in Houston in 1997 in celebration of Marcel Duchamp’s groundbreaking presentation “The Creative Act” (1957). Her thoughtful remarks and generosity of spirit opened up for me new possibilities for engaging with Duchamp’s works in terms of questions of creativity and collaboration. This project also benefited from the encouragement and support of my late colleague, friend, and former teacher, Jean-François Lyotard, with whom I had shared some initial ideas about commodification. In various ways, exchanges with Craig Adcock, Thierry de Duve, Norman Bryson, Sheldon Nodelman, David Joselit, Marjorie Perloff, William Camfield, Elmer Peterson, Molly Nesbit, Thomas McEvilley, and Michael Schwartz helped fuel the book’s impetus and development. The institutional support of Emory University has proved invaluable in providing the time and financial resources for the book’s completion, in the form of a sabbatical leave and a grant by the University Research Council. I am also indebted to my research assistants who helped over the years to procure references, bibliographical materials, and images, along with artists’ rights and permissions: Jenny Davis, Jennifer Svienty, Joshua Backer, Gina Westbeld, and Starra Priestaff, who worked especially hard to help bring this book to completion. I also thank Suzanne Ramljak for her generous comments and editorial input on the first draft of this manuscript. Additional thanks are due those who helped in obtaining images and permissions: Holly Frisbee at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz at Artists Rights Society, Michael Shulman at Magnum Photo, Richard Wilson, the Saatchi Gallery, the David Zwirner Gallery, the Ubu Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, and Tate Modern. Special thanks are due Arturo Schwarz (whose definitive catalog of Marcel Duchamp’s work was an invaluable resource) and Roberta Baj for their kind assistance in providing information and images. xiii


/ Acknowledgments

I am especially grateful to Doug Armato and Ed Dimendberg for their recognition of the potentialities of this project and for their continued support. I thank the manuscript’s anonymous readers for critical input and suggestions. Many thanks to all at the University of Minnesota Press involved in the book’s production: Danielle Kasprzak, who generously assisted in the manuscript’s editorial preparation; Daniel Ochsner, who patiently oversaw all aspects of the book’s production; Jeenee Lee, the cover designer; and Doug Easton, the indexer. Special thanks are due Kathy Delfosse, whose talents as copy editor have enriched the text’s poetic resonance, stylistic flow, and playful humor. Finally, this book is dedicated to the two people whose love and support have nourished and sustained both the spirit and material realization of this book: to my dear father, Dr. Hugo Judovits, for the rigor, generosity, and kindness of his spirit, and to my loving husband, Hamish M. Caldwell, for his intellectual insights, joyful humor, and poetic sense of life, which have rendered this book considerably more interesting than it might otherwise have been.



Drawing on Art and Artists “You see I haven’t quit being a painter, now I’m drawing [je dessine] on chance.” t marcel duchamp, 1924

The title Drawing on Art seems at first sight a bit puzzling, given its competing literal and figurative meanings. Does it mean defacing works of art, as Marcel Duchamp did in his readymade L.H.O.O.Q. (1919) by adding a delicately drawn moustache and a goatee to a commercial reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (c. 1503–1506)? Or does the appeal to this literal gesture not preclude and indeed playfully coexist with the figurative meaning of this expression that would suggest treating art as an idea in order to draw inspiration from it?¹ The iconoclasm and Dadaist spirit of revolt implied in Duchamp’s desecration of the idea of the masterpiece appears to contradict the possibility of relying on art as a bridge toward something new. And yet, by laying claim to Leonardo’s masterpiece, Duchamp was opening up a new way of thinking about artworks, the processes of production, and the artist as producer. While Cubist artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georges Braques had incorporated, collagelike, newsprint or other nonart materials in their paintings as early as 1912 (a practice reprised by such Dadaists as Kurt Schwitters in his Merz collages after 1919), Duchamp’s daring act of appropriating objects—mass produced and commercially available— wholesale in order to eventually put them on display invited a radical reevaluation of art. Cubism and Merz expanded the component materials of painting through collage; these interventions interrogated the limits of pictorial representation, but from within the framework of the institutions of art. By the late 1920s, the Surrealists were experimenting with the appropriation of “found” objects, but they chose objects xv


/ Introduction

because of their visually evocative, poetic, or nostalgic character. Unlike the readymades, which were selected because of their “visual indifference,” “found” objects were deemed worthy of appropriation because of their visual appeal, thereby reinforcing reliance on the idea of art as visual manifestation and experience.² The readymades’ aspirations to conditions of display as art despite their lack of visual interest would put to the test the idea of art: they would serve to raise the seminal question, what may or may not be art when “looks” no longer count? And in so doing, they would open up the possibility that art may hold out a conceptual future beyond its manifestations as a purely visual medium. The idea of “drawing” on art, that is, of treating art, its conventions, and its institutions as a resource in order to challenge its definition and thus the sphere of its meanings, was a groundbreaking notion in the second decade of the twentieth century, a notion whose true significance has gone unrecognized despite its continued influence. While conventional painting persisted in its attempts to draw on nature in order to provide a semblance of the physical world, avant-garde movements such as Impressionism, Fauvism, and Cubism were turning toward abstraction, experimenting with and redefining the object of painting and its modes of representation. Noting this trend toward pictorial abstraction even in such later movements as Dada and Surrealism, Duchamp questioned its necessity and reactive nature: Painter after painter, since the beginning of the century, has tended toward abstraction. First, the Impressionists simplified the landscape in terms of color, and then the Fauves simplified it again by adding distortion, which, for some reason, is a characteristic of our century. Why are all the artists so dead-set on distorting? It seems to be a reaction against photography, but I’m not sure. Since photography gives us something very accurate from a drawing point of view . . . It’s very clear with all the painters, whether they are Fauves, Cubists, and even Dadaists or Surrealists. (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 93–94) This impulse to distortion that drives the development of abstraction is seen by Duchamp as a reaction against photography, since


/ xvii

photography’s accuracy attains more effectively painting’s mimetic aspirations—its “drawing point of view.” Duchamp’s rhetorical question “Why are all the artists so dead-set on distorting?” captures the thrust and potential strategy that he will adopt in his turn toward the readymades. Their emergence can be understood as a response to the legacy of the nullifying effects of photography, insofar as the photographic click undermined and dispensed with the virtues and labor of visual expression. This study will show that the significance of the readymades lies in the fact that they “cancel” the spectator’s look (since they are not meant to be looked at) and replace it with conceptual considerations about what may or may not be art. While commonly interpreted as the insignia of Duchamp’s abandonment of painting, their impact will lie in their holding up a mirror to it: they ironically reflect painting’s mimetic aspirations in order to nullify through that very gesture the impulse to look. The idea that the meaning of art may not be simply exhausted by its visual manifestations and the desire to look may at first seem surprising, but only if we remain ignorant of its past history.³ As Duchamp reminded us, the notion that art ought to be freed of ideas, of religious, moral, or philosophical considerations, represents a relatively recent development (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 43). This shift toward an understanding of art as pure visual expression and its isolation from other spheres of human endeavor was not endemic to art per se; rather, it represented a response to the economic pressures of the newly emergent public, of exhibition, and of the market forces of the late nineteenth century.⁴ The institutionalization of modes of display and public consumption played a decisive role in redefining the meaning of art in terms of its visual relevance alone (“the retinal shudder”; Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 43). As an object of public consumption, the work of art found itself reduced to the position of a commodity and thus compelled to face what appeared to be an inescapable destiny in terms of succumbing to the forces of commercialization. Derisively referring to the “market,” Duchamp noted early on the corrosive impact of financial considerations for judging the worth of artists and their artworks: “The feeling about the ‘market’ here is so disgusting that you never hear anymore of a thought for


/ Introduction

itself—Painters and Paintings go up and down like Wall Street stock” (letter to Alfred Stieglitz, July 2, 1928).⁵ He concluded that commercial pressures led artists to copy and repeat the same few ideas, so they “are not even producing paintings but cheques” (Ephemerides, August 6, 1945), thus decrying the reduction of artistic ideas to economic currency and financial gain. It was precisely this resistance to the forces of commercialization that were reducing the artwork to the status of a commodity that continued to drive his experimentation with the idea of art. Thus, the idea of “drawing” on art also brings into play the economic connotations of “drawing” (also defined as a formal demand for money, as in drafts from a bank). The conceptual implications of this pun would hold particular attraction for Duchamp, who noted the importance of market forces in not just eroding but ultimately trivializing the meaning of art: “The entire world of art has reached such a low level, it has been commercialized to such a degree that art and everything related to it has become one of the most trivial activities of our epoch.”⁶ This appeal to commercial considerations proves essential to this study, leading to the analysis of the impact of commodities and the art market on the meaning of art as product and the artist as producer.⁷ The questions it raises are all the more pertinent, given Duchamp’s suggestion that the readymades represented a response to commodity and market forces: “The readymades were a way of getting out of the exchangeability, the monetarization of the work of art, which was just beginning about then.”⁸ At issue in this study will be the interrogation of artworks as an acknowledgment of and response to the forces of commodification endemic to their fate as objects of visual consumption. The readymades will inaugurate and mark the shift from the idea of capitalizing on the object’s visual appearance or “look” to that of exposing and displaying its modes of public and institutional presentation.⁹ Diagnosing art’s loss of visual interest, the readymades will emerge as an intellectual form of expression produced by their engagement with the ideas and institutions that define art. But does Duchamp’s strategy for contesting and outwitting the visual aspects of art through conceptual considerations have implications that extend beyond the readymades, thus having an impact on


/ xix

the development of his later works? After all, the readymades represent his earliest forays into and challenges to the idea of art, which by the mid-1920s had already begun to shift into new types of explorations. This study will show that works ranging across his corpus built on the ironic legacy of the readymades, pursuing the modes of contestation they both triggered and made possible. In yet another ironic twist on the pitfalls of the visual, even when these later works “look” very different from the readymades, the discrepancy in their visual manifestations does not impede their ability to draw on the conceptual horizon they opened up. This will enable us to understand works as diverse in their appearance as Fresh Widow and the Oculist Witnesses from The Large Glass (which entail opposite procedures from the readymades insofar as they require painstaking hand work), his film Anemic Cinema (Anémic cinéma, 1926), his largely unexamined chess book and various chess works (1938–1958), and, lastly, his installation Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas (Étant donnés: 1. La Chute d’eau / 2. Le Gaz d’éclairage (1946–1966), which sought to dismantle the spectator’s look and expose its institutional underpinnings. Building on the legacy of the readymades, these works will be shown to share their ironic destiny insofar as they draw on the mimetic aspirations of painting, all the while outwitting it as a representational medium. Rather than enacting the negation and ultimate abandonment of painting, these works draw on the strategy of the readymades by coupling art and antiart as a mechanism activated through dynamic play. Their back-and-forth movement between art and antiart marks the impasse or “draw” with painting, alluding at once to its postponement as visual expression and its promise as intellectual exercise. Like the readymades, these later works conceptually question the meaning of art while outwitting the necessity for its physical manifestations. They continue to attest to the impossibility of defining art even as they irrevocably demonstrate the necessity of moving beyond its visual impulse. Questions regarding authorship constitute the other major focus of this study. Implicit in the idea of “drawing on art” is the question of how artists inspire and influence each other in the production of new works. Along with challenging the artwork’s originality and authenticity,


/ Introduction

Duchamp’s “drawing on” Leonardo’s Mona Lisa raises fundamental questions regarding the maker and the making of a work. Although the Dada movement emphasized collaboration through group activities and events that blurred individual identities and the contributions of the various artists, I will show that Duchamp’s appropriative gesture rendered this collaborative impulse not just operative but in fact determinative for the fate of artistic making. The appropriation of the Mona Lisa’s reproduction, the addition of the mustache and goatee, and its reissue under Duchamp’s signature transformed the passive spectator of Leonardo’s painting or the consumer who purchased the painting’s reproduction as a memento into a producer who availed him- or herself of a new way of making. Undermining the conventional artistic paradigm that isolates and privileges the act of the work’s production from its consumption, Duchamp demonstrated the productive potential inherent in the spectator’s position.¹⁰ This activation of spectatorship as a productive force was to have extraordinary implications, not just for Duchamp’s later works but for the future of art as a whole. The idea that the onlooker also “makes” the work of art overturned the myth of artistic genius and reversed the modus operandi of art as individual expression.¹¹ It suggested, in a radical reversal of conventional views regarding creativity, that all artistic production was in fact appropriative (whether consciously recognized as such or not) insofar as all artists draw on other works, other artists, and tradition in attempting to produce new works. Yet the formal recognition and critical elaboration of appropriation as a functional artistic paradigm would have to await the emergence of postmodernism in the 1980s, almost sixty years later.¹² By exploring the various functions of appropriation and its impact on redefining art, this study will show how Duchamp, along with his collaborators and future spectators (some later to become artists), both challenged and yet continued to draw on the idea of art. Duchamp’s emergence in critical literature as an “institution” in his own right has made it more difficult to recognize the extent to which his works were responding to and were thus shaped by his artistic contacts and the historical forces that were driving the rise and fall of movements such as Dada and Surrealism. Although Duchamp shied


/ xxi

away from being formally associated with artistic movements such as Cubism, Dada, or Surrealism (even as the latter two were wont to claim him, since he rejected adhesion to any artistic doctrine or dogma), he nonetheless participated in some group events and collaborated with fellow artists such as Francis Picabia and Man Ray.¹³ These collaborative endeavors emerged and gained delineation during the Paris Dada period (1919–1923), and they also include the Dada film experiments that followed it (1924–1928), which marked the movement’s transition into Surrealism.¹⁴ However, collaborations of various kinds continued throughout his life, most notably his activities with Salvador Dalí and the Surrealist group (especially as regards design of exhibition spaces and curatorial activities), and they persisted into the late 1960s, as we can see from his works with Enrico Baj, among others.¹⁵ I will argue that the full significance of such collaborations was to be found not just in the production of actual objects but, in addition, in the intellectual exchanges and influential play of ideas. Although certain ideas were “in the air,” their catalysis and discharge required the encounter of two individuals. Duchamp’s claim that his explosive exchanges with Picabia proved seminal to his own artistic development opens up the possibility of redefining the creative act as interactive play and intersubjective endeavor: “For us it was an explosion, almost like two poles each adding something and detonating the idea because there were two poles” (Ephemerides, January 6, 1961). Accordingly, the generation of new ideas required the combustive encounter of different positions. Rather than privileging invention as an individual act or treating it as a mere pastime, Duchamp contended that its creative impetus is driven by the artist’s ability to draw on and play with the ideas of another. Duchamp’s radicalized notion of intellectual exchange will be at issue in this study, which will explore the way its creative potential is derived from the space of play—the charged and explosive interval between individuals acting as catalyzing poles. However, despite the shared affinities of Duchamp, Picabia, and Man Ray as regards the exchange of ideas, the positions that emerged from their discussions were quite different, reflecting the irreconcilable differences at work in the Dada movement as a whole. In Dada: Art and Anti-art, Hans Richter noted that although Dada, unlike


/ Introduction

previous artistic styles, presented no unified formal characteristics, it was distinguished by a new artistic ethic from which new and divergent means of expression emerged: Dada was not an artistic movement in the accepted sense. . . . Dada had no unified formal characteristics as have other styles. But it did have a new artistic ethic from which, in unforeseen ways, new means of expression emerged. These took different forms in different countries and with different artists, according to the artistic temperament, antecedent, and artistic ability of the individual Dadaist. This new ethic took sometimes a positive, sometimes a negative form, often appearing as art and then again as the negation of art, at times deeply moral and at other times totally amoral.¹⁶ This new artistic ethic led either to the ultimate reaffirmation of art or to its vehement negation and call for its abdication. Whereas Picabia (along with Tristan Tzara) favored a radically iconoclastic strategy that heralded the death of art and eventually even that of the Dada movement itself, Duchamp and Man Ray took an antidialectical approach, reflecting an awareness of the perils of negation in proclaiming that antiart was the answer to the perceived crisis in art.¹⁷ Rather than falling prey to negation by assuming that Duchamp took an antiart position, as many critics and artists have contended, this study will reexamine Duchamp’s interventions and in doing so provide a radical reassessment of the meaning of the challenge that he extended to the idea of art.¹⁸ Such a critique is made possible by Duchamp’s recognition that the problem with “antiart” lies in the prefix “anti,” since its use serves to reinforce through opposition the very idea it is intended to question: “I am against the word ‘anti’ because it’s a little bit like ‘atheist’, as compared to ‘believer’. And an atheist is just as much of a religious man as the believer is.”¹⁹ And likewise, these lines suggest, denouncing art in the name of antiart might reinforce the meaning of art even while seeking to challenge the possibility of its definition in the first place. He remarked on this danger by commenting on Dada as a “movement of negation” that “by the very fact of its negation, turned


/ xxiii

itself into an appendage of the exact thing it was negating.”²⁰ Even as Duchamp sought an alternative to painting and making art that would bring about its ostensible “end,” the crucial issue was how to develop a strategy that would not simply lapse into negation, thus reaffirming through antithesis the very definition of art he sought to challenge. Questioning his position as a player in the “Art game” (Affectionately, Marcel, 169, November 5, 1928), Duchamp discovered that the forms of collaboration and exchange of ideas fostered in the Dada context with Picabia, Man Ray, and others opened up new ways of thinking about the artist and artistic making. Generalizing this trend toward collaboration understood as the productive coupling of artists and their ideas led Duchamp to conclude: “Another characteristic of this century is that artists come in pairs” (Ephemerides, July 1, 1966).²¹ However, I will argue that what is at issue is not simply the pairing up of artists in collaborative situations; rather, collaboration itself as exchange, interplay, and appropriation of ideas becomes paradigmatic of a new way of thinking about artistic production. This appeal to collective modes of production reflects the attempt to challenge and provide alternatives to the commodification of art.²² Undermining authorship as individual intervention, such a model proposes that artists in effect are always drawing on each other’s ideas and works. Collaboration is implied, if not in the actual contact among artists, then in the material conditions of production of their works that bring into play prior gestures and ideas. By privileging intellectual exchange and appropriation as processes essential to artistic making, this model radically erodes the distinctions that separate authorship and spectatorship. I will show that Duchamp’s attempts to activate spectatorship, by assigning the onlooker a role in the creative act, opened up the productive potential of his works to future play and appropriations. This can be seen in the persistent legacy of Duchamp’s mustached Mona Lisa, a legacy that continues to be felt over time. A readymade that marked and indeed opened up the horizon of appropriation, this work continued to be “drawn on,” starting with Picabia’s mistaken appropriation under his imprimatur of Duchamp’s Mona Lisa and continuing through Dalí’s collaborative appropriation with Philippe Halsman of the Mona Lisa in 1954 and other numerous attempts over


/ Introduction

the years. Those attempts would eventually include Duchamp’s own complicity in the act, by his lending his features to Enrico Baj’s version of the Mona Lisa, entitled Homage to Marcel Duchamp (1965), which incidentally coincided with Duchamp’s own restoration of the Mona Lisa to her former unhirsute condition in L.H.O.O.Q. Shaved (1965). By openly appropriating Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. and enlisting his complicity in a deliberate parody of his own work, Baj, along with Duchamp, was marking the importance, indeed the very currency, of appropriation as an operating paradigm in artistic endeavors. Such a demonstration, as it turned out, was not immune to Duchamp’s attempts to reclaim this gesture, even as it continued to circulate and create new grounds for its solicitation. Thus, the fate of appropriation proved seminal not just to the development of modernism but also to its postmodern aftermath, understood as its conceptual blossoming and legacy rather than its visual import and realization. Why did collaboration and appropriation hold such attraction for Duchamp that he saw them as a model for a new way of making art? I will show that the answer may lie in his lifelong interest and devotion to chess, an activity that later in his life would be seen as having supplanted his interest in making art.²³ As Duchamp’s interviews and writings suggest, the experience of playing chess provided an alternative model of making, since, given its highly intellectual character, it was less vulnerable to the forces of commercialization than was art. What matters in chess is play, that is, the game with its rules and moves rather than the production of objects. Facing each other across the board, with their chess pieces aligned in formation, the two players find themselves locked in mirrorlike opposition. Each player assumes a position and through the appropriation and replay of prior moves is able to counter each action with a suitable reaction. Chess provided a new interactive model for thinking about artistic making understood in the mode of play, which enabled Duchamp to redefine the creative act itself: “The aesthetic result is a phenomenon with two poles. The first is the artist who produces, and the second pole is the spectator. . . . I sincerely believe that the picture is made as much by the onlooker as by the artist” (Ephemerides, January 13, 1961). I will argue that it is precisely the activation of creativity as a space of play


/ xxv

that relies on the contribution by another, be it a fellow chess player, an artist, or a spectator, that will explain the appropriative legacy of Duchamp’s works and their continued capacity to engage posterity. Coming more than a decade after my first book on Duchamp, Unpacking Duchamp: Art in Transit (1995), this volume builds on its implications in order to elaborate new questions and ideas along two major axes of inquiry. Namely, it explores the idea of “drawing” on art by treating the idea of art as a resource for inspiration and experimentation, and it argues that such a gesture demands a reevaluation of authorship as a collaborative or appropriative gesture insofar as artists “draw” on each other and on the tradition. It elaborates the notion of “drawing” by demonstrating art’s shift from visual to conceptual premises as a reaction against the forces of commodification and the market. This will imply nullifying art’s visual manifestations in order to examine and privilege the criteria of its viewability—that is, its modes of presentation and display and its institutional contexts. As the book’s subtitle, Duchamp and Company, indicates, the focus is no longer exclusively on Duchamp, since the ideas and creative processes at issue reference and bring into play the contributions of other artists. In addition to providing some specific analyses of Duchamp’s works, I have supplemented these accounts with detailed interpretations of other figures: those who proved influential in the development of his thought and who collaborated with him during the Dada and Surrealist period (Picabia, Man Ray, and Dalí), and those who later appropriated and redeployed his legacy by playing out its implications (Baj, Gordon Matta-Clark, and Richard Wilson). The list could include many more figures than I am able to undertake in my analysis. However, the interventions of the artists mentioned above will function paradigmatically by serving as placeholders for many others not mentioned here. As regards the works in question, be they actual artifacts or verbal interventions, I have tried to focus on new works or to bring a novel perspective to the readymades and to Duchamp’s films and installations. In addition, I have brought into discussion works that have gone largely under the critical radar, such as Duchamp’s works on chess, along with certain incidental objects and lesser-known interviews and


/ Introduction

writings. Though less well recognized, many of these works represent instances of collaboration that bring into view a much-neglected aspect of his works. Moreover, I will show that these works are no less important for languishing in the margins of critical discourse. The tendency to overlook them reflects the conventional bias of focusing on more signatory works while ignoring smaller, incidental gestures that nonetheless provide a much-needed context and sphere for experimental expression. The problem of deciding what constitutes a work, as Sheldon Nodelman pointed out, is in fact endemic to the Duchampian corpus as a whole: “Uncertainty as to what constitutes a ‘work’—as opposed to other sorts of material traces of Duchamp’s activities—is of course a constitutive feature of Duchamp studies, built into the structure of the oeuvre itself.”²⁴ Rather than reinforcing a hierarchy of gestures, this study will treat these interventions like chess moves, deeming each significant for the strategic working through and elaboration of ideas. Starting with an examination of Duchamp’s notorious appropriation of the Mona Lisa and his critique of the commodity, chapter 1 analyzes Duchamp’s works and artistic positions from the Paris Dada period. This contentious period coincided with the demise of Dada and its violent transition to Surrealism. Overlapping with the years leading to the completion of The Large Glass, this period of intense artistic exploration marked Duchamp’s consolidation of his critique of the retinal ambitions of art and his shift toward conceptual considerations. Even as he seemed to move away from the idea of readymades by directing a carpenter’s production by hand of a set of miniature windows, these works were playing out a similar strategy of outwitting the visual aspirations of painting through the introduction of conceptual considerations. Rather than functioning as mere apertures to the physical world, in the way that tradition had cast them as metaphors for painting, these windows are recast as apparatuses that frame the construction of the visible. This analysis will show that by introducing the logic of mechanism into objects, Duchamp activated, through their delayed functionalism, a conceptual destiny that challenged their inertness as objects of consumption. His numerous and repeated attempts to undermine authorship and to activate spectatorship will be


/ xxvii

at issue insofar as they redefine through appropriation the nature and meaning of artistic production. In chapter 2, the question is to determine how the critique of the visual nature of art is extended into and comes to redefine cinematic expression. This is a particularly interesting endeavor, given that the techniques of mechanical reproduction and the mass appeal of cinema render its artistic condition and promise problematic. Coinciding with the much trumpeted “death” of Dada, this period witnessed a flurry of collaboration and cinematic experimentation by Picabia, Man Ray, and Duchamp. Not only did their respective ideas regarding Dada come to the fore, but so too did their strategic differences. What is of particular interest is not just that these three artists turned to filmmaking (despite their lack of professional training), but that they brought their critique of art as visual expression within the purview of film. The idea of extending these conceptual considerations from the artistic to the cinematic realm had very important consequences, for it enabled an inquiry into the cinematic medium that took to task its whole setup, the whole apparatus that defines its engagement with the visible. As these film analyses will show, no element that defines cinematic experience was left unchallenged: their engagement with cinema ranged from experiments with the camera and the film image to consideration of the film’s modes of presentation and display that construct the position of the spectator.²⁵ Thus, rather than merely functioning as a reflection on the development of avant-garde cinema, chapter 2 will enable, via film, a deeper understanding of the dilemmas that these artists faced in confronting the commodification of art. Drawing on art in order to redefine film, this analysis also relies on film in order to illuminate the necessity of moving beyond art. Given the potential significance of chess to Duchamp’s efforts to rethink the nature of art and the artist, chapter 3 will systematically examine the features of the game in order to understand how this nonart pastime and playful endeavor could help redefine the meaning of art. At issue is not so much the widely recognized fact of Duchamp’s interest in and devotion to chess as a game, first as an amateur and later as a professional, as, rather, the question of the relation of a chess game to art, insofar as it may become paradigmatic of a new way of


/ Introduction

understanding the production and the consumption of art. As noted earlier, the interactive nature of the chess game—where each player takes a position in reference to an opponent and to a field of determinations as a whole—will hold particular resonance for Duchamp. This is especially the case, given his encounter with chess metaphors in T. S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1919), a critical essay that examined the poet’s ability to create new works by making moves in reference to tradition. This analogy to chess will enable a new understanding of artistic production that will conceptually challenge conventional oppositions of work and play, determination and indeterminacy, and creative and appropriative agency. Taking place along three major axes, this analysis starts with an examination of Duchamp’s chess book (written in collaboration with Vitaly Halberstadt in 1932), which can also be seen as an art book of sorts, in order to elucidate the nature of the endgame solutions proposed. The question then arises, does this chess analysis in fact apply to art as well, insofar as the readymades represent an endgame position in reference to art? Does Duchamp play chess with art, postponing its pictorial impulses in order to elaborate its conceptual implications? And if chess may be seen as paradigmatic of his art activities, how can they be reconciled with his repeated experiments with indeterminacy and chance? Third, this analysis will turn to his redefinition of the creative act (a redefinition that draws on Eliot’s seminal essay), in which he privileges the onlooker/spectator along with the artist as makers of the work. This iconoclastic position radically breaks with both artistic and critical conventions by suggesting that the artist functions like a mediumistic being who draws on prior traditions and that the spectator’s appropriation of the work contributes to the creative act. As I will show, not only does this double-edged intervention undermine the idea of authorship, but, more importantly, it also designates appropriation as an alternative space for making that is activated through spectatorship. This analogy between art and chess, however, is intended not to impoverish art but, rather, to activate a conceptual understanding of its oppositional and strategic nature. The point is not to exclude unconscious forms of expression and intent but, rather, to elucidate the nature of tradition as a set of determinations that come


/ xxix

to inform any artistic move an artist subsequently makes. A number of Duchamp’s later chess works are examined for the way they figure and stage spectatorship, activating its productive potential. This idea of spectatorship will challenge the passivity of consumption by encouraging intervention and play, thus setting up the legacy of appropriation that characterizes his later work. Although Dalí and Duchamp were known to be longtime friends and fellow chess players (they met in 1932), until recently little critical attention has been paid to the artistic implications of their intellectual contacts and the way those contacts may have shaped their works. Despite the stark contrast in their public images—Dalí’s cultivated histrionic personality and theatrical public displays, Duchamp’s highly intellectual and reserved stance—the two artists’ attempts to inquire into the meaning of art’s visual nature had much in common; Dalí’s inquiry, like Duchamp’s, was also tied to reflections on chess. I will show that like Duchamp, Dalí sought to resist the pressures of photography on painting by developing a strategy that turned to optical experiments and that his works on chess came to figure in his own elaboration and deployment of notions of collaboration and appropriation. It suffices in this context to signal one of Dalí’s most memorable collaborative appropriations with Philippe Halsman of Duchamp’s Mona Lisa in Dalí/ Mona Lisa (1954). Starting with an analysis of Dalí’s explicit homage to Duchamp (a chess set modeled on Dalí’s and his wife Gala’s thumbs produced in 1964), chapter 4 will explore how chess captures the subversion of art making in Dalí’s works. Dalí’s privilege of the hand, as the sign of manual virtuosity and of painting understood as an art of demonstration (of showing and pointing), will be compared to Duchamp’s dismissal of the hand and his emphasis on the intellectual. Tracing a critique of the hand as instrument of artistic making as outlined in Dalí’s works, this chapter will examine how chess playing can represent a new way of thinking about art, the artist, and creative expression. Drawing on strategies and techniques associated with nonart, Dalí like Duchamp was able to turn to optics and the virtual in order to challenge the representational sphere of painting even as he continued to paint. Dalí’s comments on chess and his appropriation of Duchamp’s works mark his own figurations of the artist as multiple and his recognition, and


/ Introduction

indeed homage, to the Duchampian redefinition of authorship as an appropriative gesture. After the emphasis on Duchamp’s activation of spectatorship and Dalí’s playing out of this role in his collaborative appropriation of Duchamp’s appropriations, the question of the public comes to the fore in two important ways: first, in terms of the way the spectator’s look is commodified through overexposure, and second, in terms of the apparatuses of display (which includes the exhibition setup and the institutional space of the museum) that construct and determine the experience of art. Chapter 5 will examine these questions by starting out with some rapid reflections on Duchamp’s early installations and their impact on Given in order to show how that work put into question the experience of art as visual consumption and display. It will address the paradox of positioning Given within the museum even though the work explicitly challenges its institutional premises. Following this analysis, I consider Matta-Clark’s and Wilson’s appropriations and redeployments (in the 1970s and 1980s, respectively) of the conceptual and institutional implications at stake. Referencing and playing out gestures whose potential was outlined by Duchamp’s influential legacy, these artists took on the institution of the museum and the gallery space in order to challenge its hegemonic hold on art. Representing different strategies for challenging the consumption of art, the conceptual thrust of their installations served to activate spectatorship as a locus for production. The legacy of the various interventions presented in these chapters resonates more powerfully today than ever before, given the relentless growth in value of artworks in the market, the attendant attention lavished on the artist as unique origin and guarantor of the artwork, and the enduring space of the museum as bastion of art and cultural treasure trove.


 Critiques of the Ocular: Duchamp and Paris Dada Out of sight but not out of mind . . . t marcel duchamp, ephemerides, november 12, 1918 From a purely ethnological point of view, I was not a period-born Dada. t marcel duchamp, ephemerides, december 17, 1956

Critical discussions of the Paris Dada movement often tend to relegate it to the margins of art history, as a period of transition leading to the emergence of Surrealism. In his catalog to the seminal exhibition Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage, William S. Rubin remarked, “Paris Dada is important primarily as the formative environment of the men and ideas that would soon constitute Surrealism.” Considered as a coda to the Dada movement, despite the fact that in effect it represented Dada’s “final chapter,” Paris Dada was regarded as a period when a now “moribund” Dada was transformed into a new movement.¹ This perception is largely explained by the fact that the period witnessed no radical new developments in artistic visual style even as Dada events and performances continued to proliferate at an ever more frenzied pace. The Dada artist and writer Hans Richter observed that in the visual arts, “nobody achieved a truly characteristic Paris Dada style that might have contributed a new note of its own.”² While Paris Dada attracted many writers and painters, who returned to Paris after World War I, it produced few painters of its own, he noted, since it “belonged almost exclusively to writers.” Richter claimed that the constraints of the visual medium could not sustain the forms of revolt and experimentation that 1


/ Critiques of the Ocular

writers had at their disposition as they challenged the idea of literature and the metaphysical presuppositions of language: Painters were involved in the metaphysical revolt of the writers but the visual medium could not, by its very nature, give form to pure protest. Unless they rejected the visual altogether as a field of creation and communication (as Duchamp did) they had to achieve communication by means of an un-literary form.³ Richter’s account of the Paris Dada movement reveals an important fact about Dada as a whole: that, given their visual focus, painting and other plastic arts could not sustain the forms of metaphysical revolt and inquiry that Dada mandated. According to Richter, painters such as Jean Crotti (Duchamp’s brother-in-law), Suzanne Duchamp (Duchamp’s sister), and Serge Charchoune, as well as the writer and sometime painter Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, endorsed Dada’s call for revolt against art and were occasionally exhibited under its auspices, but their visual idioms and pictorial language remained largely unaffected by Dada ideas.⁴ In the passage quoted above, Richter singled out Marcel Duchamp as the exception to this trend, even though Duchamp participated only intermittently in the Paris Dada movement. He is described as having altogether rejected the visual as a field of artistic creation and communication. While much admired and respected by Dada activists, such as Francis Picabia, Tristan Tzara, and André Breton, Duchamp’s formal participation in the movement was sporadic, because of his periodic presences in Paris and his general disengagement from organized movements.⁵ However, Duchamp shared with Dada an interest in the interrogation of painting as a visual and artistic medium, challenging on intellectual grounds its continued artistic dominance. Recalling his conversations with Picabia regarding the cleansing effects of Dada, Duchamp commented, Dada was an extreme protest against the physical side of painting. It was a metaphysical attitude. It was intimately and

Critiques of the Ocular


consciously involved with literature. It was a sort of nihilism to which I am still very sympathetic. It was a way to get out of a state of mind—to avoid being influenced by one’s immediate environment, or by the past: to get away from clichés—to get free. . . . Dada was very serviceable as a purgative. And I think I was thoroughly conscious of this at the time and of a desire to effect purgation in myself.⁶ Duchamp’s appreciation of Dada was based on its call for revolt against the dominance of the visual medium as an autonomous domain of artistic expression. The anarchic and iconoclastic aspects of Dada reinforced his own efforts to challenge the burden of artistic traditions. However, as Duchamp also noted, Dada did not receive its due, since it was soon overshadowed by Surrealist attempts to break away from the physical aspects of painting. He attributed Surrealism’s impact in outlasting other movements, such as Cubism, to the fact that it “encompassed all sorts of activities that have nothing to do with painting or the plastic arts” (Ephemerides, December 23, 1960).⁷ This chapter will focus on Duchamp’s works from the Dada Paris period (1919–1922) in order to outline his efforts to challenge the visual bias of painting, the lapse of the artwork into commodity, and the definition of the artist as original maker. Duchamp’s critique of the ocular, marking his resistance to the retinal seduction of painting, comprised his putative Dada gesture of adding a graffiti-like moustache and goatee to a reproduction of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, L.H.O.O.Q. (1919), and his playful attempts to bottle air in Paris Air (1919). It also included Man Ray’s photographic representations of his artistic alter ego, “Rrose Sélavy” (1920–1921), produced as a label for an empty perfume bottle whose ostensible purpose was to provide a bottled version of the artist as evanescent fragrance in Beautiful Breath, Veil Water (1920–1921). Elaborated against the background of visual consumption, these works will be shown to reflect on the fate of art and the loss of its visual aura, insofar as its conditions of consumption assimilate its fate to that of the commodity. What these works bring into view is less objects per se than depictions of the spectator’s “look,” by unfolding its construction and modes of display as a system of social


/ Critiques of the Ocular

and cultural projections. They are concurrent with his explorations of windows or doors in Fresh Widow (1920) and The Brawl at Austerlitz (1921), which in turn overlap with Oculist Witnesses (1920), a study for a section of The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même), or The Large Glass (1915–1923). Considered in light of these “window” projects, which also function as freestanding installations of sorts, the question arises, is The Large Glass itself to be thought of as a window installation work rather than as an object? And would this strategy for “window dressing” prove decisive for the stripping bare of painting and of the spectator’s gaze? This effort to challenge the seduction of the “look” as an effect of visual consumption also found expression in his attempts to recast and undermine notions of visual reference in his photographic selfportraits in masquerade. Whether holding up a mirror to the idea of painting or to the image of the artist, Duchamp interrogated notions of reference and self-reflection, displacing them through an ironic strategy based on simulation and mimicry. The question arises as to how Duchamp’s recourse to windows and mirrors can function both as a metaphor for and yet also as an antidote to painting and its visual retinue. This chapter will show that Duchamp’s critique of the retinal aspects of painting and art does not lapse into negation, since it implies the introduction of optical considerations that reactivate the space of visual consumption.⁸ Whereas “ocular” pertains to the eye and is associated by Duchamp with visual consumption, “optics” refers to the mechanics of sight as a system of construction and projection whose presence and intervention is figured through the bias of the mirror. While reflecting the playful, iconoclastic, and anarchic tendencies of the Dada spirit, Duchamp’s denunciation of the ocular and his turn to optics will function as a decisive strategy for challenging the dominance of painting, along with attendant notions of artistic genius and creativity.⁹ According to Duchamp, this passage through the “looking-glass of the retina” would enable the turn toward conceptual considerations: “I am convinced that, like Alice in wonderland, he [the young artist] will be led to pass through the looking-glass of the retina, to reach a more profound expression” (Ephemerides, March 20, 1961).

Critiques of the Ocular


Interrogating the “Look” In general, I had to beware of its “look.” t marcel duchamp, dialogues with marcel duchamp If at a certain point I ceased to paint physically . . . t marcel duchamp, ephemerides, october 29, 1958 Duchamp’s return to Paris in 1919 after the end of the war coincided with the rise of the Dada movement there. Artists previously sequestered by the war in other European capitals were now congregating in Paris, where they were warmly received. Dada’s ascendance in Paris was largely driven by Picabia’s success in bringing Tzara from Zurich (where the movement had started in 1916) and Picabia’s efforts to exhibit works by Dada artists, thereby fueling a renewed public interest in their work.¹⁰ When Duchamp joined the group around Breton in Paris, his reputation already preceded him as a sympathizer and, indeed, sometime practitioner of Dada, as evidenced by his, Picabia’s, and Man Ray’s activities in New York (1915–1920).¹¹ These activities included, along with his production of readymades, his editing with Henri-Pierre Roché of two issues of the Dada journal Blind Man in 1917. In 1921, following his meeting with Dada members in Paris, he founded with Man Ray the journal New York Dada, leading Steven Foster and Rudolf Kuenzli to suggest that the “New York group attempted to found an ‘official’ Dada center that would be connected to the international Dada movement.”¹² Duchamp’s activities were largely fueled by the historical forces that marked the inception of the Dada movement and its postwar aftermath. According to Richter, the Dada antiart position represented a reaction against the bankruptcy and collapse of European cultural values that had led to the butchery of World War I.¹³ Exposing the complicity of art with the social values promoting the war, the Dadas challenged art’s autonomy and brought its norms and modes of operation under scrutiny. Duchamp’s own aversion to war and patriotism overlapped with his discontent with art and his sense of incompatibility with its endeavors. In a letter to


/ Critiques of the Ocular

Walter Pach (April 27, 1915), he noted the combined impact of war and art on his decision to leave France: “For a long time and even before the war, I have disliked this ‘artistic life’ in which I was involved.— It is the exact opposite of what I want. So I tried to somewhat escape from the artists through the library. Then during the war, I felt increasingly more incompatible with this milieu. I absolutely wanted to leave.”¹⁴ War exacerbated his rising disaffection with art and the artistic milieu, bringing it to a point of crisis. His disenchantment with art was based on its exclusive cultivation of visual aspects (what he called the “retinal”) to the detriment of intellectual expression. Trapped by professional and market pressures that forced artists to merely repeat themselves, copying and multiplying a few ideas, he actively sought to escape both the ravages of war and the damages of the art market.¹⁵ Duchamp’s recognition of the conceptual potential of readymades was not a sudden discovery; rather, it developed gradually over time. As early as 1913, Duchamp began to assemble and display in his Paris studio mass-produced objects, starting with a bicycle wheel mounted upside down on a stool. But only on his arrival in New York in 1915 did he start to designate them by the term “readymade” and to attempt to exhibit them publicly.¹⁶ His migration to New York consolidated his antiart position and enabled him to leave painting largely behind: “For I have not painted a single picture since coming over” (Ephemerides, October 24, 1915). The term “readymade” emerged as particularly suitable for these objects that were no longer crafted by hand or chosen for their visual appeal and that consequently were no longer subject to the vagaries of taste and aesthetic judgment.¹⁷ The readymades marked his supposed abandonment of both painting and conventional art, since, according to Duchamp, they were no longer works of art, nor works to which art terms could be applied (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 48). But choosing an object to be a readymade was no easy matter and required a great deal of deliberation, since even mass-produced utilitarian objects are designed with some kind of visual appeal in mind. Duchamp explained that it was difficult to “beware” of the object’s “look” and thus to defend oneself against the recoupable powers of vision and taste (ibid.). His reiterated injunction that the readymade be chosen according to “visual indifference” and in disregard of “good

Critiques of the Ocular


or bad taste” reflected his denunciation not just of conventional art but specifically of the “retinal euphoria” associated with the practices and effects of conventional painting. Queried by Philippe Collin whether the readymade represented his resistance to the “seduction of the retina,” Duchamp explained that his critique applied more generally to pictures and oil painting in general: It’s for oil painting generally which is made to please the retina, to be judged for the retinal effect of the picture. There is no more anecdote, no more religion, there is nothing else. . . . I am rather uneasy when there is nothing more than this retinal effect. I am against it, and that’s why I don’t like abstract art very much, because it only seeks to please the retina. That’s not enough in my opinion. (Ephemerides, June 21, 1967) Duchamp’s antiretinal stance reflected his reaction against developments that had led to the redefinition of meaning in modern painting as a function of its visual content alone, to the exclusion of its historical, religious, or intellectual concerns. The readymades’ antivisual bias reflected Duchamp’s critique of visual appearance and the ocular seduction associated with oil painting, a critique that he extended to the idea of art in general. Seeking to further disrupt the power of an object’s visual allure, Duchamp gave his readymades titles that lend themselves to puns in French, in English, or in both. By inscribing the readymades within a verbal horizon, the title created a new point of view that conceptually enhanced their ordinary appearance as manufactured objects.¹⁸ The readymades ironically embody or “realize,” as it were, the mimetic ambitions of conventional painting (which seeks to provide an exact semblance of things) by substituting, for an article of manual production, the thing as mechanically reproduced multiple. They allude to painting’s visual character (celebrated through a display of manual and visual virtuosity) in order to challenge it by inscribing a verbal and conceptual potential that marks the abandonment of painting as such. Expropriating art’s retinal impact through visual indifference, the readymades will bring to the fore its conceptual implications.


/ Critiques of the Ocular

Duchamp’s critique of the “seduction of the retina” is not limited simply to the visual appearance of the object but, rather, extends to its visual consumption by the public. When asked by Philippe Collin how a readymade should be looked at, Duchamp answered: It should not be looked at, in the end. It is simply there; one has the notion by the eyes that it exists. But one does not contemplate it like a picture. The idea of contemplation disappears completely. Simply take note that it’s a bottle rack, or that it’s a bottle rack that has changed its destination. . . . It’s not the visual question of the readymade that counts; it’s the fact that it exists even. (Ephemerides, June 21, 1967) According to Duchamp, the readymade is not put forward as an object to be seen or contemplated or as a pretext for a visual encounter. The readymade is no longer retinal, because its impact is derived from the idea of its mere existence. Its public consumption is intended to provoke not contemplation but, rather, reflection, the emergence of a critical act that simply notes the existence of the object along with the recognition of its changed destination. Pierre Bourdieu noted that the encounter with a work of art relies neither on “love at first sight” nor on empathy but, rather, on a decoding operation that implies the cognitive implementation of a cultural code.¹⁹ Duchamp’s explicit rejection of visual contemplation and artistic taste with the readymade does not imply that painting will be completely left behind. In changing the destination of the object by ascribing it to a new sphere that frees it from the familiarity of its ordinary context, the readymade will bring into view the conditions of its presentation and display. Commenting in this regard, Thierry de Duve noted that paintings and sculptures “do not present themselves all on their own,” since they rely on other things, such as the frames around pictures or the stands beneath sculptures.²⁰ And this paraphernalia for public presentation is itself framed by the site of display and its institutional parameters. Thus, while switching off art’s retinal destiny, the readymades strategically illuminate the institutional conventions that define its public exhibition and consumption. Duchamp’s most notorious work from the Dada Paris period is

Critiques of the Ocular


L.H.O.O.Q. (1919; Figure 1). Using a pencil, he altered a reproduction of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa through the graffiti-like gesture of adding a moustache and goatee to the picture and an enigmatic, Latin-looking inscription, “L.H.O.O.Q.,” below it. However, this was not the first time that Duchamp was in the “hairdressing” business by taking barbs at art (a pun on barbe, “beard” in French). His adding “hair” to the Mona Lisa replicated his gesture in Apolinère Enameled (1917), in which he added a reflection of the little girl’s hair in the mirror behind, thus inscribing an optical dimension into the spectator’s look. His visual and verbal play on “hair” as a way of changing the visual appearance, or “air,” of the image both pointed to the importance of puns and anticipated concerns he elaborated in Paris Air a few months later. Unlike Duchamp’s earlier readymades, such as the bicycle or the bottle rack, L.H.O.O.Q. is a copy of a masterpiece, so its appropriation presented an explicit challenge to the idea and traditions of painting. Describing this iconoclastic work, Duchamp noted: This Mona Lisa with a moustache and a goatee is a combination of readymade and iconoclastic Dadaism. The original, I mean the original readymade is a cheap chromo 8 × 5 on which I inscribed at the bottom four [sic] letters which pronounced like initials in French made a very risqué joke on the Gioconda.²¹ Duchamp’s decision to use a reproduction of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa seems at first to violate his insistence that the choice of readymades be based on visual indifference. To mock a masterpiece by defacing it is to take to task both its visual appearance and its artistic uniqueness, that is, precisely what ostensibly distinguishes it from other works of art. It is a way of demystifying the visual and institutional authority of art by demonstrating that its appearance is no more substantive than the visual illusion of a mirage in a desert. Duchamp evoked the analogy of art to a mirage in regard to Fountain (1917): “Yet I drew people’s attention to the fact that art is a mirage. . . . It’s beautiful until one dies of thirst, obviously. But one does not die of thirst in the domain of art. The mirage is substantial” (Ephemerides, July 23, 1964). The solicitation of the spectator’s attention to the mirage of art exposes its

Figure 1. Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q., Paris, 1919, replica. Collotype hand-colored with watercolor, 7⅝ × 4⁄ inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950. Photograph by Lynn Rosenthal, 1992. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 11

underpinnings as an effect substantiated by social and cultural conventions. His appropriation of Leonardo’s masterpiece redirected the indices of its visual semblance through the inscription of the commodity along with masculinity, thereby destabilizing its artistic status and its look. Their association was by no means fortuitous, reflecting, according to Jennifer Blessing, the rise in consumerism and advertising that led to the consolidation of gender through binary opposition.²² Thus, Duchamp’s revalorization of the commodity as counterpoint to the idea of art along with gender transpositions emerged as a defining strategy in challenging art’s authority and definition. Duchamp’s irreverent disfiguration of the Mona Lisa in L.H.O.O.Q. marks his critique of painting’s visual emphasis and its exhibition value as a masterpiece. His posterlike defacement unhinges the image of idealized femininity, by redrawing its referential horizon as a function of signs associated with masculinity, thus destabilizing its “look” or visual appearance. Although resembling roman numerals, “L.H.O.O.Q.” can be read in English as a homophone of “look.” Its phonetic spelling in French generates a set of puns: elle a chaud au cul (she is hot in the rear) is an erotic and anatomical joke that playfully alludes to but also demystifies Mona Lisa’s look and enigmatic smile.²³ Duchamp’s own loose translation of “L.H.O.O.Q.” was “there’s a fire down below.” The phonetic spelling in French of “O.Q.,” ocul or au cul, also embeds a playful reference to the “ocular” and hence the eye, an imperceptible verbal wink and nod at the spectator. Was Duchamp simply taking advantage of the Mona Lisa’s physical appearance, of her enigmatic and thus referentially ambiguous “look,” in order to make a crude joke at her expense? Or rather, was he taking barbs at the Mona Lisa precisely because the public circulation and consumption of the image had already eroded its hallowed status? Had its status as a masterpiece reduced its public image to a commodity, an object of cultural consumption whose “look” was already trivialized through overexposure? Duchamp’s critique of the “look” and the “ocular” demystifies vision insofar as it reveals the impact of the reification of the image on the viewing subject.²⁴ The emergence of mass reproductions of works of art, including as postcards, brought into the domain of visibility


/ Critiques of the Ocular

works hitherto inaccessible to a mass public. No longer mediated by a specific context and the requirement that the spectator be physically displaced, this visual access is no longer in the realm of contemplation; rather, it is now in that of visual consumption and in the regime of the commodity.²⁵ In taking the “ocular” to task, Duchamp was responding to the impact of visual consumption on the way the public looks at works of art. In a radio interview with Herbert Crehan for WBAI in 1961, Duchamp explained that his defacement of the Mona Lisa as a historical art icon was the expression of an act of desecration already perpetrated by the regard of the public: I had the idea that a painting cannot, must not be looked at too much. It becomes desecrated by the very act of being seen too much. It reaches a point of exhaustion. In 1919, when Dada was in full blast, and we were demolishing many things, the Mona Lisa became a prime victim. I put a moustache and a goatee on her face simply with the idea of desecrating it.²⁶ If a painting must not be looked at too much or seen too much, that is because the active interchange between the spectator and the work is minimized, indeed obstructed, by visual overexposure of the work. The Mona Lisa’s public display and the attendant publicity surrounding its status as a masterpiece undermined the experience of the viewing public, rendering its intervention moot through excessive consumption. Thus Duchamp’s supposed desecration of the Mona Lisa merely reenacts the violence endemic to the visual overexposure of a masterpiece, an overexposure that glazes over the spectator’s look, thus foreclosing any encounter between the viewer and the work.²⁷ L.H.O.O.Q. marks Duchamp’s efforts to reactivate vision as an interchange between the spectator and the work by restoring to the look its conceptual and gendered potential. In so doing, Duchamp reveals the biases of visual consumption that reduce the masterpiece to the status of a commodity, one that echoes the objectification of femininity in the history of painting and photography.²⁸ Even as Duchamp playfully, and indeed deceptively, evokes the idea of the Mona Lisa as a prime victim, it turns out that L.H.O.O.Q.’s visual violence is directed less

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 13

toward the Mona Lisa as its prime object than toward the spectator’s gaze, which is put on view and scrutinized in terms of its lubricious and consumerist impulses. Thus, despite its explicit association with Dada, this work is less an act of sacrilege against “high art” and its sacred cows than a deliberate exposure of the modes of presentation and display that subtend the spectator’s look. Instead of mirroring its model, L.H.O.O.Q. mirrors the spectator’s gaze, thus bringing him or her face-to-face with the act of consuming art. In L.H.O.O.Q., the Mona Lisa’s feminine appearance, “look,” or “air” is restaged as an optical effect or mirage, since it is also shown to accommodate the inscription of masculinity.²⁹ This work deconstructs the spectator’s “look” by demonstrating that the painting’s apparent perceptual immediacy and transparency is illusory and may be subject to manipulation. Duchamp explained to Herbert Crehan that, unlike Sigmund Freud, he was not interested in “demonstrating the homosexuality of the personality of Leonardo.” Rather, what surprised him was the ease with which the addition of masculine indices to this image inverted its gender: “The curious thing about that moustache and goatee is that when you look at it the Mona Lisa becomes a man. It is not a woman disguised as a man; it is a real man, and that was my discovery, without realizing it at the time.”³⁰ Mona Lisa’s depicted “feminine” look is reversed as if in a mirror by its inversion into its “masculine” analogue. Duchamp’s “discovery” of this reversible, mirrorlike mechanism is not altogether surprising, given Leonardo’s extensive reliance on mirror writing and his optical experiments. Duchamp’s elaboration of this mirrorlike mechanism at work in L.H.O.O.Q. destabilizes not just Mona Lisa’s femininity but sexuality itself by preempting the consolidation of sexual difference. This optical intervention serves to demystify the illusionism of the look by revealing the fact that its referential capacity can be redirected into a circuit, switching back and forth between femininity and masculinity. Countermanding the ostensible transparency of the look, he restitutes its materiality by referring to it as an “infrathin” (also a pun, for it sounds like “seen”) interval, screen, or separation. Comparing it to reflections in a mirror or glass, Duchamp defines “infrathin”: “infra thin separation—better / than screen because it indicates / interval (taken


/ Critiques of the Ocular

in one sense) and / screen (taken in another sense)—separation / has the 2 senses male and female—” (Marcel Duchamp, Notes, note 9). By situating the ocular and its gender illusionism as a function of optical reflection, so that masculinity and femininity emerge as reversible instances or “mirrorical returns,” he destabilizes the objectifying power of visual consumption. Subverting the indices of the visual appearance of femininity through the inscription of masculinity, he unhinges the equation of sexuality with forms of visual essentialism. In so doing, he redeploys visual reference into a circuit, which switches back and forth like a mirror on a hinge, thus marking the reversibility of gender. L.H.O.O.Q. redefines visual appearance and its consumption as an optical effect based on projection and reversibility. Staging its complicity with the viewer’s gaze, with painting understood in the mode of the ocular, it disassembles and reassembles the viewer’s gaze, freeing it from its retinal constraints by delaying its impact. Just as the “look” of the Mona Lisa is revealed as a function of optical and sociocultural apparatuses of projection, so too is the referential status of authorship exposed as yet another illusion perpetuated by social and cultural ideology. Not only did Duchamp’s reproduction of the Mona Lisa multiply and thus erode the notion of an original, authentic work, but it also redefined the status of the artist as an appropriator of images. When Picabia sought to publish a reproduction of L.H.O.O.Q. entitled Tableau Dada by Marcel Duchamp in his magazine 391 (March 20, 1920), having not received a copy of Duchamp’s “original” on time, he made his own copy. But though he drew in the moustache, he forgot the beard. In effect, he appropriated and reissued Duchamp’s work, while preserving, however, the attribution to Duchamp. When this image was brought to Duchamp’s attention, he added in the missing beard and re-signed the work as “moustache by Picabia, and beard by Marcel Duchamp.” Why was Duchamp so much at ease in reauthoring his own work as a collaborative enterprise? This redistribution of the artistic signature and agency attested not only to his recognition of Picabia’s role as collaborator in the remaking of L.H.O.O.Q. but also to the importance of appropriation to the redefinition of the creative act. Duchamp went on to lend his signature to Picabia’s canvas L’Oeil cacodylate (1921) with a punning inscription

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 15

that combined Picabia’s first name and his own pseudonym: “En 6 qu’habilla Rrose Sélavy” (which can be loosely translated as “Francis who dressed Rrose Sélavy).³¹ Alluding to L.H.O.O.Q. in the guise of his artistic alter ego, Duchamp scrambled the referential power of the authorial signature, conflating the identities of its makers. The gesture of appropriation that was first played out in the “making” of the readymades would emerge as a crucial device in Duchamp’s later attempts to challenge the meaning and definition of the artist. Duchamp’s insistence that the visual aspect of a readymade was unimportant marked both his abandonment of painting as retinal expression and also his critique of the art object as a commodity. This critique reflected the pressures of market forces in public consumption, circulation, and exchange, which, in Duchamp’s assessment of this modern predicament, rendered the fate of artworks like that of articles of ordinary commerce: “Through their close connection to the law of supply and demand the visual arts have become a ‘commodity’; the work of art is now a commonplace product like soap and securities” (Ephemerides, March 20, 1961). The possibility of the artwork’s lapse to the condition of a commodity and the critical questions that it raises continued to preoccupy him. A few months after L.H.O.O.Q., Duchamp produced the readymade Paris Air (50cc Air de Paris, 1919; Figure 2). Duchamp purchased a glass ampoule and instructed the pharmacist to break it, drain it of its contents (labeled as “Physiological Serum”), and “restore” it with air, as it were, by resealing it. His initial act of acquisition was compounded by his collaboration with and subsequent appropriation of the pharmacist’s hands and labor. The gesture of breaking and resealing the ampoule along with its verbal “reanointment” as “Paris Air” marked the transition of this object from a commodity item to a readymade. Having been deactivated in terms of its use value, the ampoule was reactivated in terms of its symbolic value as object of social exchange.³² Duchamp bought it as a souvenir for his patron, Walter Arensberg, envisaging it as the perfect gift for someone possessed of every monetary advantage: “I thought of it as a present for Arensberg, who had everything that money could buy. So I brought him an ampoule of Paris Air.”³³ The presumption of buying air that can be consumed for free as a gift for someone who has all


/ Critiques of the Ocular

the money in the world humors and reverses common expectations.³⁴ If air resists commodification and market forces, it is precisely because it lacks the material and objective properties that would render it subject to circulation and exchange. Thus, despite the fact that it is store-bought, Paris Air embodies art’s aspirations to escape the fate of being reduced to a commodity more effectively than does art itself. Duchamp plays on the surrogate nature of the “souvenir” that would enable one to recapture the feeling of being in Paris by taking a whiff of “Paris air” in order to mark the loss of aura in modern experience.³⁵ But what makes Paris air different from any other air? Not only is air intangible, given its immateriality, but its “Parisian” quality or aura is even harder to capture, since it suggests a particular manner of being or ambience that one soaks in without being able to define.³⁶ The souvenir embodies the “search for authentic experience,” which, as Susan Stewart remarked, becomes critical “within the development of culture under an exchange economy.”³⁷ Through its nostalgic appeal to Paris, Paris Air alludes to the search for authenticity only to mark the loss of its aura: the indefinable qualities associated with the idea of Paris are eroded through tourism, just as the idea of art is usurped by its emergence as a commodity in the public sphere. The idea of Paris Air as an antidote, a remedy to the losses suffered by art, is captured by the medical, indeed therapeutic, reference on the ampoule’s labeling. The label “Physiological Serum” refers to a yellowish, clear, watery fluid drawn from blood that has been made immune through inoculation. The word “inoculation” may have held a particular appeal for Duchamp since it has embedded in it a reference to the ocular (the letters “ocul”) and also alludes to a remedy for disease, that is, to the possibility of containing disease through immunization. This medical metaphor also held the added attraction of playfully alluding to Duchamp’s own initials, “MD.” This selfreferential allusion may have been particularly apt, given Duchamp’s attempts to “doctor” ordinary objects in order to retool and reposition them in lieu of art. The additional pun inscribed in “ocul” (as au cul, meaning “in the rear” or “in the butt” in French) may have added to the general hilarity of this reference, given Duchamp’s efforts to kick the habit of the retinal. But in what sense can Paris Air remedy the

Figure 2. Marcel Duchamp, Paris Air (50cc Air de Paris), Paris, 1919. Glass ampoule, broken and later restored, 5½ inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.


/ Critiques of the Ocular

ocular overdependence that Duchamp had diagnosed as the pervasive condition of modern art? Paris Air functions as an olfactory trace rather than as a visual remembrance of the city, thereby breaking with the traditional tourist souvenirs that trivialize the representation of the city through its visual overexposure (Paris as the city of lights and so on). Countermanding the seductive power of retinal consumption through the ostensible display of air, this work inoculates the gaze against its ocular bias by preempting its commodification as art.³⁸ Thus, Paris Air acts as an antidote to art by bringing the commodity into contact with its contrary, not in order to deny art’s existence but, rather, to preempt its manifestation. This confrontation injects the meanings attached to the commodity into art in order to preempt its lapse into commodity. This strategy avoids the pitfall of privileging the commodity over art by simply declaring antiart to be a new kind of art. Duchamp recognized that the attempt to recuperate antiart as art would only reinforce, through negation, the very idea of art.³⁹ Instead, he elaborated an alternative strategy by activating the dynamic potential of the readymades, understood not in terms of their visual appearance as objects but in terms of their function as mechanical devices. By coupling art and antiart in a circuit, the readymades ascribe and derive their energy from the movement produced through their reversibility and punlike interplay. As they continue to switch back and forth between their condition as art and nonart, the readymades demonstrate the impossibility of defining art by arresting its meanings. In so doing, they reveal their true status as conceptual gestures whose dynamic movements prevent their consolidation and thus their identification with either objects of mass consumption or art.

Windows, Mirrors, and the Erotics of Vision No obstinacy ad absurdum, of hiding coition through a glass pane . . . t marcel duchamp, à l’infinitif One can look at seeing; one can’t hear hearing. t marcel duchamp, the box 1914

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 19

In his address at a dinner held in his honor at the Tate Gallery in London, Duchamp playfully warned his fellow artists: “Beware of fresh paint” (Ephemerides, June 16, 1966). Duchamp’s playful injunction eloquently captured his efforts to resist the seduction of the retinal, embodied in the visual allure of painting and the mirage associated with the visual consumption of art. Given his critique and ultimate abandonment of painting in the 1920s, his comment serves to illuminate retrospectively another enigmatic work from the Paris Dada period, a work that has the distinction of marking the first appearance of Duchamp’s artistic alter ego, Rrose Sélavy. Fresh Widow (1920; Figure 3) is a French miniature window with a painted wood frame and eight panes of glass covered with black leather. Unlike the readymades that were commercially produced, this work was handcrafted by a carpenter according to Duchamp’s precise specifications: This small model of a French window was made by a carpenter in New York in 1920. To complete it I replaced the glass panes by panes made of leather which I insisted should be shined every day like shoes. French window was called Fresh Widow, an obvious enough pun.⁴⁰ This work reintroduced handicraft when it was no longer needed (presumably in the aftermath of the readymades), but it did so indirectly by relying on the hands of a commissioned craftsman. This miniature model of a French window represents yet another move, a strategic play on the idea of the readymade where what is appropriated or passed on is not the object but its idea as model or prototype. The title of this work, Fresh Widow, is a pun on the object’s visual appearance— it looks like a French window—reflecting Duchamp’s fascination with puns and wordplay, a fascination typical of other Dada interventions. But this obvious visual pun becomes obscure once one considers the verbal associations of the title, since the conjunction of a French window and a fresh widow seems to be both arbitrary and opaque. How are we to explain the inscription of femininity and loss implicit in the term “fresh widow,” since the object’s deadpan appearance as a French


/ Critiques of the Ocular

window with leather-covered panes blocks the viewer’s gaze and reduces it to blindness? Given Duchamp’s critique of painting’s reliance on the retinal, why did he choose to turn to windows, associated as they are with vision and visual conceits? Moreover, why did he set up this miniaturized window as a freestanding work, thereby turning it into a “hinge picture” of sorts? In Fresh Widow, the little French window neither opens nor enables visual access, for its transparency has been subverted by the opacity of the leather panes. It no longer serves as a vehicle or medium for sight; rather, it is a device that invites scrutiny of the viewer’s look as a function of specific modes of depiction. As Roland Barthes explained in “Painting as Model” in S/Z: “The window frame creates the scene,” suggesting that visual reference is a construction, generated as the projection of a particular apparatus that determines what is to be seen and how.⁴¹ Insofar as the window frames and gives access to the visible, it can be seen as an analogy for painting, which, despite its opacity as a representational medium (the result of its reliance on pigment), can project like a mirror the visual appearance and immediacy of the external world. The fact that this window is freestanding emphasizes its presentational function as a frame, thus undermining its standing as an object in its own right and by extension its artistic pretensions as sculpture. In an early note and diagram called Framing (Encadrement; 1915), Duchamp explicitly referred to the window as a framing device and an apparatus for the projection of vision (Marcel Duchamp, Notes, note 171). This note and diagram is of particular interest not only, as Arturo Schwarz observed, because it anticipated Duchamp’s work on Fresh Widow and on The Brawl at Austerlitz five years later, but also because it referred to and temporally overlapped with his beginning work on The Large Glass in 1915.⁴² In addition, Framing also references issues of installation and illumination that almost uncannily forecast developments in Duchamp’s work that will attain their final elaboration in Given.⁴³ Arching from a past that precedes Fresh Widow (and that coincides with the inception of The Large Glass) and moving forward into the distant future of Given, this note lays out issues that continued to actively occupy Duchamp throughout his life. As one would come

Figure 3. Marcel Duchamp, Fresh Widow, New York, 1920/1941–1942. Replica of original in The Box in a Valise, 1941–1942. Miniature French window with glass panes covered in black leather. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Mme Marcel Duchamp, 1994. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.


/ Critiques of the Ocular

to expect from Duchamp, the French title of this work, Encadrement, is visually broken up as En cadre ment. Playfully taking apart the word as one would the frame of a painting, Duchamp opens up the possibility of new meanings, since en cadre ment may be loosely translated as “a frame lies,” that is, as a statement denying the truth of framing. But in what sense can a frame lie, if not to suggest that the truth of a picture lies not in the visual appearance of things represented within the frame but in the frame itself as system and device for representation? Duchamp described his project as follows: “The 2 glasses (in) making a window . . . opening on a landscape of some kind (at will) / garden sea town / etc” (Marcel Duchamp, Notes, note 171). Implying the autonomy of the frame, as an apparatus that opens “at will” on any landscape, be it garden, sea, or town, his comment marks the arbitrary nature of the object of representation. Duchamp’s reference to the transposable nature of the glass also alludes to The Large Glass, when he noted that one could “concentrate on the figure” since one could “change the background” if desired “by moving the glass.”⁴⁴ More importantly, however, this expression of disregard or indifference for what is being represented redirects focus to the act of presentation itself, thereby indicating the significance of Fresh Widow as a framing device or apparatus whose function is to illuminate the setup, that is, the criteria and mechanisms governing visual representation. Jean Clair suggested that Duchamp’s windows refer to Renaissance treatises on perspective, which rely on analogies of painting to windows.⁴⁵ They are based on the famous description by Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1477) of painting "construed to resemble a window piercing a wall through which the spectator can look into an interior.”⁴⁶ In addition to these analogies, Renaissance artists and authors also developed specific devices, prototypes of windows or screens, intended to facilitate the production of perspective. Alberti made a perspective-producing device called a veil (velo), which the artist Antonio di Pietro Averlino (c. 1400–c. 1469) later described as a transparent net in a square frame through which the painter could look as through a window.⁴⁷ The veils and squared nets that functioned as perspective windows were more than just handy tools. Such technical devices were essential for both proper vision and proper representation, as Kim H.

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 23

Veltman noted, since the introduction of “new standards of accurate drawing” also brought about “new criteria for optical truth.”⁴⁸ Veils and transparent nets were perspective machines that corrected the errors of vision while ensuring the proper representation of perspective.⁴⁹ We now begin to understand Duchamp’s strategy in Fresh Widow insofar as this freestanding window invites consideration not as a static object but, rather, as an apparatus or machine for the production of a remediated vision or representation.⁵⁰ While Fresh Widow shuts off ocular vision with black leather panes, it simultaneously switches on the optical implications of the window. Just as the readymades swing back and forth between their conditions as commodity and as art objects, so too does Fresh Widow play on allusions to vision only to erode its primacy through the creation of a conceptual space of optical projections. Activated as a mechanical device rather than as a mere display object, Fresh Widow acts like a hinge mechanism that swings back and forth between its ocular and optical conditions within a space of mirrorlike reversibility (“mirrorical return,” to use Duchamp’s term). By setting up and playing on the optical as the obverse of the ocular, Duchamp disrupts the visual destiny of the work of art by redefining it as a function of conceptual considerations. On the one hand, Fresh Widow alludes to painting, as a metaphor and as an apparatus of production; on the other hand, its referential power in the modern period is subsumed by the shop window, the glass aperture or vitrine that frames the production of consumer desire and marks the commodification of the look. Duchamp’s remarks on window-shopping and consumerism can serve as the basis of an inquiry into the circuit of desire engendered through spectatorship. His comments on the consumerist impulse that underlies displays in shop windows enable an interrogation of the “look” as a form of visual consumption: The shop window proof of the existence of the outside world . . . When one undergoes the examination of the shop window, one also pronounces one’s own sentence. In fact, one’s choice is “round trip.” From the demands of the shop window, from the inevitable response to shop windows, my


/ Critiques of the Ocular choice is determined. No obstinacy ad absurdum, of hiding coition through a glass pane with one or many objects of the shop window. The penalty consists in cutting the pane and in feeling regret as soon as possession is consummated. Q.E.D. (Neuilly 1913, in Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 74)

By stating that the shop window is proof of the existence of the outside world, Duchamp referred to the fact that the vitrine acts like a mirror that reverses the direction of the spectator’s gaze. The act of looking in to see the goods displayed bounces back to reveal the presence of the onlooker. By becoming a witness of his or her own look, the onlooker is reminded of the powers of vision to substantiate a sense of external reality. However, the irony is that this proof or “demonstration” of the “existence of the external world” takes place through forms of visual consumption entailed in spectatorship and shopping that are supposedly already alienated by capital and by the logic of the commodity. By redirecting attention to the mediated nature of the look, figured through its round-trip character, Duchamp demystifies its “transparency” as a seductive trap. His analogy of the spectator’s look with “coition through a glass pane” alludes to the implicit sensual and erotic nature of visual consumption.⁵¹ It is this “retinal seduction” that Duchamp attempted to “cut through” and unhinge by making windows whose optical and erotic character short-circuits the “ocular” destiny of painting.⁵² Coming back to Fresh Widow, we can begin now to understand Duchamp’s resistance to the deceptive “transparency” of the ocular and his injunction against “fresh paint,” or the compelling seduction of painting. In this work, the insignias of the ocular, those of light and transparency, are thwarted by the opaque leather panes, which according to Duchamp’s directive were to be shined daily like shoes. Fresh Widow points a finger toward painting, to the framed window as analogy to the representational space of the pictorial canvas, only to shut down its transparency and capacity for ocular reference and retinal seduction. These concerns are reiterated in a subsequent work, The Brawl at Austerlitz (La Bagarre d’Austerlitz, 1921; Figure 4), another miniature window, which looks like a window in a brick wall on one side and a

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 25

French door on the other. The transparent panes are painted with the whitewash glazier’s marks used to indicate that a house is not yet ready for entry or occupation.⁵³ Duchamp explained that the title is a pun on “Gare d’Austerlitz,” an important railroad station in Paris named after the Battle of Austerlitz.⁵⁴ Undecidably either a window encased in a brick wall or a French door that does not open, since the handles have been removed on both sides, this work returns to explorations of the ocular and transparency by staging the round-trip character of vision. The French title, Bagarre d’Austerlitz, is deceptive, since it designates both an actual location in Paris and a historical event. However, the allusion to the Austerlitz railroad station (gare) is misleading, since one cannot take a train to Austerlitz from there, and the word bagarre transposes the battle (bataille) of Austerlitz into a minor quarrel or scuffle (bagarre), an event, presumably, that would delay or preempt going anywhere at all. Despite the illusion of reference engendered by these deictic markers, the puns in the title short-circuit the idea of reference. This verbal implosion through puns is also enacted on the visual level. The window panes painted over with the glazier’s marks hold the promise of a visual access that can only be realized by walking around the work to see it from the other side. It is at that point that the viewer discovers the discrepancy between its visual appearance as a window in the front and door in the back. This undecidable window or door functions as a hinge (it is both open and closed at the same time) that short-circuits conceptually and holds at bay the seduction of the ocular.⁵⁵ Like Fresh Widow, this work alludes to Renaissance perspective machines by activating the window as an apparatus for the production rather than the consumption of the look.⁵⁶ Fresh Widow and The Brawl at Austerlitz emerge as playful commentaries on the “retinal seduction” of painting by attempting to restitute to it the conceptual dimension that it lost when it entered the public sphere. Duchamp elaborated his use of windows by making an analogy to painting: I used the idea of the window to take a point of departure, as . . . I used a brush, or I used a form, a specific form of expression, the way oil paint is, a very specific term, specific

Figure 4. Marcel Duchamp, The Brawl at Austerlitz (La Bagarre d’Austerlitz), Paris, 1921/1941–1942. Replica of original in The Box in a Valise, 1941–1942. Miniature window made according to Duchamp’s specifications. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Mme Marcel Duchamp, 1994. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 27

conception. See, in other words, I could have made twenty windows with a different idea in each one, the windows being called “my windows” the way you say “my etchings.”⁵⁷ According to Duchamp, the “idea of the window” functions as a new medium of expression, embodying a specific conception the way painting does. But he does not merely use these windows as forms of expression alongside painting; rather, he uses them as devices that play on and draw upon painting in order to demystify its retinal illusionism and to announce its demise. This strategy may explain Duchamp’s decision to display a French window under the title Fresh Widow, insofar as his use of windows “widows” painting, depriving it of its visual appearance by stripping it bare of its retinal vestments and retinue. Recalling Duchamp’s warning, “beware of fresh paint,” Fresh Widow takes liberties with painting only to undermine its visual character. Similarly, the window/door of The Brawl at Austerlitz visually and verbally stages a kind of dead end, a short circuit of puns that alludes to Duchamp’s scuffle with painting, a struggle that marks both an impasse and the possibility of a new departure. By designating these windows as “my windows,” the way one would say “my etchings,” Duchamp recoups these anomalous works under a generic designation that would appear to assimilate them to other media of artistic expression. While drawing on the legacies of painting, these freestanding windows emerge as critical devices whose deployment brings the viewer face-to-face with the gaze as the true object of consumption. It is interesting to note that Duchamp considered the “making” of these windows, in which he took no hand, significant enough that he expressed his desire to change his designation from “painter” to what he called “windower.” He explained to Arturo Schwarz, “Instead of being considered a painter, I would have liked, on this occasion, to be thought of as a fenêtrier,” implying through the neologism “windower” his desire and concern to explore the conceptual potential of windows, not as a their manual maker but as their intellectual maker.⁵⁸ His reliance on the neologism “windower,” which conveniently puns with “widower,” serves to designate Duchamp’s emergence as a new kind of maker in a new medium, bereft—but not


/ Critiques of the Ocular

bereaved (as it turned out)—of both his prior identity and his activities as an artist. Consequently, it is not altogether surprising to note Duchamp’s reassignment of his “creative” gestures to his female alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, along with an appeal to copyright that would playfully mark the appropriative nature of his interventions.

Anartistic Reflections: Rrose Sélavy I was never interested in looking at myself in an aesthetic mirror. t marcel duchamp, in an interview with katharine kuh Dada has also come back. Double-barreled, second shot. It’s a phenomenon peculiar to this century. t marcel duchamp, ephemerides, july 1, 1966 As noted earlier, Fresh Widow is the first work that records the appearance of Duchamp’s female alter ego, since it bears across its wooden sill the inscription fresh widow copyright rose sélavy 1920. For the moment, this analysis will hold off the examination of the implications of Duchamp’s appeal to the copyright, since it will be examined at length in chapter 2. In fact, The Brawl at Austerlitz bears the imprint of a double signature, since it is signed below on one side, in white paint, “Marcel Duchamp” and on the other side, “Rrose Sélavy/Paris 1921.” What do these signatures involving gender reversals of the artist, either as female alter ego or as undecidable multiple Marcel Duchamp/Rrose Sélavy, have to do with windows, painting, and his critique of the ocular? Asked by Otto Hahn whether his choice of the pseudonym “Rrose Sélavy” reflected his interest in language, Duchamp explained: “It was to amuse myself. I have a great respect for humor; it’s a protection that allows one to pass through all the mirrors. One can survive, even success” (Ephemerides, July 23, 1964). While Duchamp’s answer emphasizes the humorous aspects of his artistic pseudonym, it also makes clear that his use of humor is both protective and strategic. Humor ensures his passage “through all the mirrors,” alluding to the various traps associated with the artist as both producer and as commodified

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 29

product or image in the public sphere. Just as Duchamp’s appropriation of Mona Lisa’s feminine appearance in L.H.O.O.Q. became a “hinge” in an optical play that also enabled the projection of masculinity, so too do these windows serve to mark the multiplication and gender reversibility of their maker. This doubling of the artist as himself or as female alter ego, on the opposing sides of the window/door sill of The Brawl at Austerlitz, explicitly demonstrates the reversibility of both gender and artistic identity in his windows, thus earning their designation as “hinge pictures.” This work anticipates Door: 11, rue Larrey (1927), a door that Duchamp had built in his apartment that is both open and closed since it opens onto two doorways, thus visibly violating the French saying claiming that a door cannot be open and closed at the same time. Splitting and at the same time bringing together two opposing, and indeed mutually exclusive, images of the artist, Duchamp’s windows and doors abolish the logic of identity and thus the possibility of its function as commodifiable image. When Duchamp was asked by Calvin Tomkins why he invented Rrose Sélavy as his female alter ego, he responded, “It was not to change my identity, but to have two identities.”⁵⁹ The issue of gender transvestitism or masquerade is framed here by the gesture of recasting the semblance of artistic identity through doubling, thereby defying essentialism by multiplying its modes of appearance. Duchamp’s intervention can be better understood in light of his comment that one of the most notable aspects of twentieth century art is that artists come in pairs: Another characteristic of this century is that artists come in pairs: Picasso-Braque, Delaunay-Léger, although PicabiaDuchamp is a strange match. A sort of artistic pederasty. Between two people one arrives at a very stimulating exchange of ideas. Picabia was amusing. He was an iconoclast on principle. (Ephemerides, July 1, 1966) Described as a “sort of artistic pederasty,” the pairing, or rather coupling, of artists as Duchamp-Picabia reflects Duchamp’s interpretation of the intersubjective nature of artistic creation.⁶⁰ Challenging the myth of the artist creator as unique origin of a work, he inscribes


/ Critiques of the Ocular

creativity into the space of an exchange, whose erotic overtones allude to the multiplication of participants in the creative act. The doubling of artistic identity implies the erosion of the conventional notion of artistic making by recasting it as an appropriative rather than originary act. This play on appropriation can be seen in Duchamp’s claim of Man Ray’s signature on “Dust Breeding” (1920), a photograph by Man Ray of a section of Duchamp’s Large Glass, which Duchamp signed in pencil in his own hand.⁶¹ By affixing Man Ray’s signature in his own hand, Duchamp devalues its originality both as insignia of authorship and as authorizing warrant. Scrambling the artists’ hands at work in the making of this work, he undermines authorship in order to expose its collaborative nature. By positing the creative act as an active interchange and reversal with the other, he opens up authorship to future forms of appropriation either by other artists or by spectators. This attempt to activate and reauthorize the position of spectatorship can be seen in Duchamp’s birthday gift to Ettie Stettheimer of a set of tailor-made luggage tags complete with strings. Bearing Rrose’s alias and Duchamp’s address, the tags bear in lieu of their destinations the phrase “Ettie who are: you for me?” (Etiquette: Vous pour moi? Ephemerides, July 30, 1922).⁶² Playfully alluding to the mobility of travel, these luggage tags become the figure for the transposition of artistic identity. The implied query regarding identity and its redeployment through the interchange of “you” and “me” holds out a playful invitation to rethink authorship through the appropriative prism of spectatorship. Moreover, by extending his identity as subject for appropriation, Duchamp sets up new protocols or forms for labeling (etiquette) authorship as a relay in a circuit of exchange that indefinitely defers its closure. Duchamp’s idea to expand the notion of the artist as unique creator by deploying authorship as a reappropriative act was inaugurated in 1916. In a letter to his sister, Suzanne (January 15, 1916), he suggests that she take over the bottle rack left in his studio as a readymade by signing it herself, not in the guise of, but in the manner of Duchamp: Take this bottle rack for yourself. I’m making it a “Readymade,” remotely. You are to inscribe it at the bottom and on

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 31

the inside of the bottom circle, in small letters painted with a brush in oil, silver white color, with an inscription I will give you herewith, and then sign it, in the same handwriting, as follows: [after] (d’après) Marcel Duchamp. (Affectionately, Marcel, 43–44) Duchamp’s own appropriation of the bottle rack as a manufactured object is here reassigned and relayed to his sister, who will proceed to reauthorize it in turn by affixing her own signature after, and according to, or in the manner of (d’après), Marcel Duchamp. Suzanne signs Marcel’s signature with an oil-painting brush, thereby tracing an allusion to painting, the medium that Duchamp appears to have left behind. She thus appropriates Duchamp’s hand from a distance, a hand that in fact never had a hand in the “making” of the readymade. Duchamp’s appeal to his sister in the “making” of this work announces the birth of his female alter ego and artistic persona Rrose Sélavy, whose signature on Fresh Widow, or sometime coupled in conjunction with Marcel Duchamp’s, as in The Brawl at Austerlitz, will go on to authorize his works. The appearance of Duchamp’s signature as his female alter ego Rrose Sélavy was compounded by the visual incarnation of this pseudonym in a series of photographic portraits elaborately staged by Duchamp and shot by Man Ray circa 1920–1921.⁶³ These photographs give visual semblance to and provide facticity for Rrose’s identity, presented in guise of an artist. Duchamp’s presentation as Rrose Sélavy challenges the idea of authorship, since his presence as both subject and object in and of the photograph splits up authorial claims between him and Man Ray. The first set of photographs present Duchamp in masquerade, a portrait of the artist as female counterpart depicted as an emancipated woman in modern dress, whose dedication to [the spectator] is signed as “lovingly / Rrose Sélavy / alias Marcel Duchamp” (Figure 5).⁶⁴ Not only did Duchamp borrow a stylish hat from Germaine Everling (Picabia’s mistress), but, more importantly, he also borrowed her arms and delicate hands in order to enhance the illusion of femininity conveyed by the photograph. Earlier, Duchamp had “lent” his hand to his sister’s signing of a readymade from a distance; now he “borrows”

Figure 5. Man Ray, “Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Sélavy,” Paris, 1921. Photograph by Man Ray, retouched by Duchamp. Man Ray’s dedication appears at upper left (not visible in figure), and Duchamp’s signature and alias at lower right. Gelatin silver print, 8½ × 6⁄ inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Samuel S. White III and Vera White Collection, 1957. Copyright 2008 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 33

Everling’s hands (she stood right behind him in a sort of embrace) in order to back up and sign the semblance of his femininity. Just as the making of a readymade could be lent out to a female counterpart, so, it would seem, could Duchamp’s refashioning of sexual identity rely on borrowing a woman’s hands. Drawing on the hands of another, the “making” of a readymade and the “manufacture” of sexual identity are brought into play, thereby challenging the referential logic of identity through relay and simulation. But transvestitism may become a vehicle not merely for impersonating another sex but for questioning the very identity of the painter as a public image. This allusion to painting and the painterly persona is made explicit in the readymade Beautiful Breath, Veil Water (Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette; 1921), in which he pasted a different Man Ray photograph of himself transvested as Rrose Sélavy onto a perfume bottle.⁶⁵ These photographs (Figures 6 and 7) are more ambiguous genderwise, since Duchamp’s ostentatious masquerade as an older woman in an elaborate headdress (which also resembles a painter’s bonnet), a heavy velvet cape, and ornate jewels draws attention to the artifice of the disguise. The close cropping that frames the head, the exclusion of hands that would provide identifying indices, and the overdetermined mode of dress draw attention to masquerade as a strategy for questioning both gender and artistic identity. These images recall early modern portraits of painters, in which elaborate clothing and ostentatious jewelry signified both the material success and the symbolic authority of the painter. Insofar as these deliberately contrived photos imply allusions to the painter’s standing and professional reputation, they refer to the conventions for the manufacture of painterly identity as public image. While impersonating a female counterpart in the guise of Rrose, Duchamp also alludes to these aspirations to a painterly or artistic persona, that is, to the artifice or conceit he had abandoned when he gave up the activity of painting. Marking the commodification of the painter as public image, since the photo (Figure 6) is affixed to a perfume bottle, the image attests to a luxury that Duchamp will no longer afford, that of perpetuating the myth of the artist as founding origin and mythic referent for the work of art.

Figure 6. Man Ray, “Marcel Duchamp as Belle Haleine,” New York, 1921. Gelatin silver print. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Marcel Duchamp Archive, gift of Jacqueline, Paul, and Peter Matisse in memory of their mother, Alexina Duchamp. Copyright 2008 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Figure 7. Man Ray, “Marcel Duchamp as Belle Haleine,” New York, 1921. Gelatin silver print, 4⁄ × 4⁄ inches. Verso inscription refers to New York Dada, no. 20 (April 1921) and Duchamp and Man Ray. Loan from private collection. Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Carl Zigrosser, 2003. Copyright 2008 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris.

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 35

In Beautiful Breath, Veil Water, Duchamp’s “veiled” semblance of himself as female other and/or artistic alter ego on a perfume bottle humorously comments and plays on his recurrent denunciations of the sensual aspects of painting as a “physically visual” and “olfactory” experience. It reflects, as well, his concerted efforts to escape the dictates of taste by an appeal to “grey matter” through conceptual interventions: As it happens I have produced extremely little because I couldn’t repeat myself. The idea of repeating, for me, as an artist, is a form of masturbation. Besides, it’s very natural. It’s olfactory masturbation, dare I say. Each morning a painter, on waking, needs apart from his breakfast a whiff of turpentine . . . and if it’s not turpentine it’s oil, but it’s olfactory. A form of great pleasure alone, onanistic almost. (Ephemerides, December 9, 1960) Duchamp elucidates the scarcity of his productions in terms of his deliberate refusal to repeat himself by perpetuating either artistic conventions or a traditional image of the artist as producer. His condemnation of the “whiff of turpentine” reflects his resistance to painting’s sensual as well as it professional aspects, insofar as a painter exercises his or her craft habitually, like a bureaucrat or a civil servant. Dissociating the idea of art from the idea of pleasure, he attempts to expand artistic making beyond the normative confines of taste and the artisanal aspects of the painterly craft in order to question the idea of the artist as originary source. Beautiful Breath, Veil Water (Figure 8) playfully challenges the “olfactory masturbation” or “onanism” associated with painting and the painter, by reassigning the evanescent traces of perfume (that figured the conventional image of the artist as originating source) to both himself and to Rrose, his transvested female and postpictorial counterpart.⁶⁶ Neither solely female nor any longer a painter, Duchamp uses these verbal and visual disguises in order to question the representation and identity of the artist as unique identity and origin of the work.⁶⁷ Like Paris Air, Beautiful Breath, Veil Water captures the nostalgia for the aura of the artist along with the danger of

Figure 8. Marcel Duchamp, Beautiful Breath, Veil Water (Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette), New York, 1921. Rigaud perfume bottle with label by Duchamp and Man Ray. Bottle: 6 inches, in oval box 6⁄ × 4⁄ inches. Photograph by Man Ray, 1921. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Duchamp Archive, gift of Jacqueline, Paul, and Peter Matisse in memory of their mother, Alexina Duchamp. Photograph by Lynn Rosenthal, 1995. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 37

succumbing to its lure as a commodity luxury item. However, such an attempt at packaging the artist would be haunted by the same fate as the bottling of air in Paris Air. The dilatory and evanescent nature of perfume would serve to mark the emergence of a new kind of maker and a new kind of making that would figure Duchamp’s expressed preference for breathing rather than working. Postponing the apparition of identity, this play of simulacral apparitions subverts both the commodified image and the narcissism implied in the reflection of the artist in an aesthetic mirror.

The Large Glass: Window Dressing and the Oculist Witnesses . . . but when will I administer checkmate or will be mated? t marcel duchamp, ephemerides, july 22, 1951 In a letter to Suzanne and her husband Jean Crotti, Duchamp responded to their request on behalf of Tzara to exhibit in the upcoming Salon Dada at the Galerie Montaigne in June 1921: “As you know very well, I have nothing to exhibit—that the word exposer [to expose] resembles the word épouser [to marry] . . .” (Ephemerides, May 19, 1921).⁶⁸ At first, Duchamp’s reluctance to exhibit his works can be interpreted as the expression of his general aversion for exhibitions of conventional paintings and sculpture, as he reiterated later in his correspondence: “All expositions of painting and sculpture make me ill. And I’d rather not involve myself in them” (October 19, 1925; Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 185). In reply to Jean Crotti’s renewed request for his participation in the Salon Dada, Duchamp sent a telegram: “Pode Bal—Duchamp [Balls—Duchamp],” meaning “Nothing doing” or “Nuts to you” (June 1, 1921; Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 180), which was exhibited in lieu of his work.⁶⁹ Like L.H.O.O.Q., this playful telegram marked Duchamp’s disengagement from the ocular in terms that vulgarize it by analogy to body parts. Marking a visual absence, the telegram signaled Duchamp’s deliberate choice of conceptual forms of making that may appear so visually insubstantial as to look like nothing at all.


/ Critiques of the Ocular

But just as displaying this quintessential Dada telegram announcing “Nothing doing” challenges the notion of exposition, Duchamp’s earlier denial that he has nothing to exhibit since “to expose” (exposer) resembles “to marry” (épouser) invites closer examination. Given his continued preoccupation during this period with the making of The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, or The Large Glass (Figure 9), the question arises, does the title’s enigmatic reference to marriage also imply an allusion to his aversion to expositions of painting and sculpture? And would this expressed aversion to art expositions take the form of an exposure that would reveal the framework that determines the nature of their display, as setup or installation? Such an endeavor would necessarily call upon and involve an engagement with the spectator, whose gaze and modes of consumption would also bring into play the specter of commodification. The idea that a relationship exists between the project of the readymades as a critique of commodities and The Large Glass seems at first not only daring, especially given the work’s critical privilege as a masterpiece, but altogether far-fetched, given its painstaking production over a period of eight years. However, when considered in light of the previous analysis of Duchamp’s freestanding windows Fresh Widow and The Brawl at Austerlitz, which overlapped with the production of The Large Glass, the question arises, does it share their function as ironic machine, as an apparatus for window dressing that exposes the fate of art? Duchamp’s initial idea to leave paint and canvas behind in favor of glass derived from an experience with a glass palette in 1913: “The idea came from having used a piece of glass for a palette and looking through the colors from the other side. That made me think of protecting the colors from oxidation so that there wouldn’t be any of that fading and yellowing you get on canvass.”⁷⁰ The irony is that the idea to sidestep painting came from an encounter with the pictorial pigment, at once made visible and also held at bay by the glass palette. The glass acts like a display case for colors that Duchamp also associated in his notes with commodities, such as toothpaste, brilliantine, and cold cream (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 76). Robert Lebel compared The Large Glass to a “restaurant window encrusted with advertisements, through which we see figures moving within,” thus emphasizing its

Figure 9. Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (La Mariée mise à nu par ses célibataires, même), New York, 1915–1923. Oil, varnish, lead foil, lead wire, and dust on two glass panels (cracked), each mounted between two glass panels, with five glass strips, aluminum foil, and a wood-and-steel frame, 109¼ × 69¼ inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, bequest of Katherine S. Dreier, 1952. Photograph by Graydon Wood, 1992. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.


/ Critiques of the Ocular

mediating role as a display case that simultaneously features commodities offered up for view and the reflection of the spectator.⁷¹ Recalling the effects of the shop window, or vitrine, discussed earlier in reference to Fresh Widow and The Brawl at Austerlitz, The Large Glass emerges as yet another move in Duchamp’s strategy to question the commodifying power of the gaze through the deliberate exposure of its conditions of presentation and display. Thus, the turn to glass as a medium marks an ironic departure from painting, since it represents the search for an alternative mode of representation that would escape the pitfalls of painting without altogether leaving it behind. Duchamp commented to Alain Jouffroy that in The Large Glass he was searching for a new means of expression that would draw upon painting in order to move beyond it: “That is to say when I made this glass, my intention was not to make a painting to look at, but a painting using the tube of paint simply as an accessory and not as an objective” (Ephemerides, December 8, 1961). Resisting the seduction of painting and the retina, the glass reduced the ocular retinue of painting and its materials to accessories, all the while reinvesting it with conceptual and poetic associations.⁷² This recourse to glass as a transparent medium and to its association with windows will restitute to the gaze its material thickness by revealing its social and cultural underpinnings as a system for both production and consumption. The exposure of these conditions will delay the visual advent of the work, thus helping us understand why The Large Glass was also subtitled Delay in Glass. It is important to keep in mind that the word “expose,” designating visual show or display, includes in its Latin etymology temporal considerations such as interruption or delay (ex, “out”; pausare, “to pause”). Duchamp explained that this notion of “delay” was intended to replace and indeed to do away with the very idea of a picture: “Use ‘delay’ instead of picture or painting; . . . delay in glass does not mean picture on glass—It’s merely a way of succeeding in no longer thinking that the thing in question is a picture” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 26). By giving The Large Glass the subtitle Delay in Glass, Duchamp underlined the fact that its conceptual and optical incursions would retard its lapse into mere exposition and thus

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 41

into the commodification that is the common fate of retinal painting. Moreover, in a response to a letter from Serge Stauffer, Duchamp specified that the windows avoided the business of making paintings (Ephemerides, August 6, 1960). Thus, the mythical encounter of the bride and the bachelors in The Large Glass emerges as an expression of Duchamp’s interrogation of painting’s retinal destiny and its postponement. Playing on the ocular and the onlooker through verbal and visual puns, he conceptually drew on the idea of painting all the while “stripping it bare” of its color accessories and retinal vestments.⁷³ This resistance to the retinal ironically scripted in the guise of the onlooker is figured in The Large Glass in the silvery and diaphanous traces of the three Oculist Witnesses. Having had this section of the glass silvered, Duchamp described his intervention: “I am scraping the mirror by drawing after the [oculist] chart that Yvonne [Chastel] has at home” (Ephemerides, October 20, 1920).⁷⁴ By having in effect transformed this section of The Large Glass into a mirror whose silvering he had to scrape away to generate the outlines of the Oculist Witnesses, he marked the conjunction of ocular and optical concerns. However, he did not simply draw on available oculist charts, but instead transposed his pencil study of Oculist Witnesses (Témoins oculistes, 1920; Figure 10), which was signed on the lower left in pencil by rose sélavy). The title of this work conflates the idea of the eye witness (témoin oculaire) with that of being witness to the oculist (témoin oculiste)—the physician who treats the eye. Is Duchamp once again conflating through puns the malady (the ocular) with the antidote (the optical), as he did in Paris Air? Moreover, the fact that the word oculist (oculiste) puns on au culiste (an allusion to the infamous kick in the rear administered to the idea of painterly masterpiece) suggests that Duchamp’s attempts to demystify the look in The Large Glass may also not shy away from either humor or indelicacy. L.H.O.O.Q.’s focus on the ocular underlines the importance of the “look” in The Large Glass, illuminating both its seductive allure (erotic potential) and the dangers of its commodification. The inscription of the onlookers as “Oculist Witnesses,” through the mirror inversion and the scraped reproduction of oculist charts, marks onlookers’ ironic positions that


/ Critiques of the Ocular

attest to the lure of the ocular while also witnessing the postponement of painting’s pictorial becoming. The function of the “Oculist Witnesses,” according to Duchamp’s poetic but highly enigmatic notes, is to take the “Splash” (not to be mistaken for champagne overflow) that “ends the series of bachelor operations” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 63). This metaphorical conflation of visual consumption and sexual consummation exposes the libidinal mechanisms of the viewer’s gaze. This splash is then “dazzled” by the oculist’s charts and forms a “Sculpture of drops (points),” with “each drop acting as a point and sent back mirrorically to the high part of the glass to meet the 9 shots” (ibid., 65). The nine shots were produced by dipping matches in paint and shooting them from a toy cannon, a process repeated “3 times by 3 times from the same point.” The traces of these shots were then perforated, as per Duchamp’s instructions, into the glass. According to the notes, the target “corresponds to the vanishing point (in perspective)” (ibid., 35). This detailed account of the mechanics of the gaze as it is dazzled across the oculist charts through the three plates of glass constituting the bride’s garment and reaching upward into the domain of the bride to meet the nine shots restitutes to the gaze its materiality. Described in these notes with attendant associations of libidinal and lubricious impulses, the splashing of the “look” effects the coupling and crossover between the bachelors and the bride in The Large Glass. Duchamp used the term “mirrorical return” to describe the mechanism of the “look,” and in so doing he marked both its inversion and its mechanical reversibility. As in Fresh Widow and The Brawl at Austerlitz, these mirrorlike mechanics introduce optical considerations into The Large Glass, thus postponing the realization of its retinal destiny. The upper part of The Large Glass, or the Bride’s domain, contains both explicit and implicit references to optical concerns that are elaborated through the bias of references to perspective via verbal and visual puns. The Top Inscription, also known as the Milky Way (Voie Lactée) is a pun on voile acté (enacted veil), which is a pun on the net or veil as perspective device.⁷⁵ Its irregular outer perimeter resembling a cloud was described in a note as “the clouds are rather of soap (shaving)” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 76), thus alluding to

Figure 10. Marcel Duchamp, Oculist Witnesses (Témoins oculistes), New York, 1920. Stylus on reverse carbon paper, 19⅝ × 14¾ inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.


/ Critiques of the Ocular

the infamous whiskers, illusionist optics, and gender reversibility of L.H.O.O.Q. Resembling painting frames or windowlike openings, the three “Draft Pistons” (“Pistons de Courant d’Air”), or “Nets,” photographs allude to Renaissance windows used as perspective devices. This visual resemblance packs additional meanings since the three irregular square shapes in the Top Inscription also mark the introduction of chance operations into this section of The Large Glass. Duchamp produced the “Draft Pistons” (1914; Figure 11) by making three photographs of a one-meter-square piece of gauze netting hanging before a window, recording the changes in the netting’s shape in response to warm air currents from the radiator below. Associating artistic draftsmanship and drafts of air, he said of his intervention: I wanted to register the changes in the surface of the square, and use in my Glass the curves of the lines distorted by the wind. So I used gauze, which has natural straight lines. When at rest, the gauze was perfectly square—like a chessboard— and the lines perfectly straight—as in the case of graph paper. I took the pictures when the gauze was moving to the draught to obtain the required distortion of the mesh. (Ephemerides, May 21, 1915) The word “gauze” (gaze, in French) puns on “gaze” and “gas” (gaz, in French), thereby also inscribing ocular (and eyewitness) concerns into the upper section of The Large Glass. The fact that the window behind the netting is closed indicates, as do his later windows, the shutting down of the ocular in favor of the optical.⁷⁶ Unlike Alberti’s and Filarete’s windows, which used a veil or gauze netting as a perspectivegenerating device, the three “Draft Piston” photographs capture the fugitive traces of the movement of air (its drafts) in three exposures that playfully distort the geometrical logic of perspective. They represent yet another instance of the “drawing [or sketching] on chance” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 187) that Duchamp first experimented with in Three Standard Stoppages (Trois stoppages étalon; 1913–1914), his supposed joke on the meter. However, rather than adding depth, the Draft Pistons add a conceptual perspective to The Large Glass by

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 45

Figure 11. Marcel Duchamp, “Draft Piston” (“Piston de courant d’air”), Paris, 1914. Photograph to determine the outline of one of the irregular squares at the top of The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even. Gelatin silver print, 23⅞ × 19⅝ inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Mme Marcel Duchamp, 1991. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

redefining its mechanics as governed not just by eroticism (and its libidinal determinism) but also by the indeterminacy of chance. Duchamp referred to the “orientation of the 3 Nets” as “a sort of triple ‘cipher’ through which the milky way supports and guides the said commands” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 36). The fact that the


/ Critiques of the Ocular

idea of the “cipher” is presented in the mode of the “triple” marks its preponderance in The Large Glass, not just as a number but also as an indicator of different types of logical and social relations. Duchamp explained that the number three holds a particular kind of potency for him: “For me it is a kind of magic number, but not magic in the ordinary sense. As I said once, number 1 is the unity, number two is the couple, and three is the crowd.”⁷⁷ His comment elucidates the significance of the number three, which is neither mystical nor esoteric, since it refers to the logic of relationships implied in unity, the couple, and the multitude. Designated as the crowd, three figures the multiple defined as a number that enables a new set of logical and social relations to come forth in excess of one (unity) and two (dualism). Three as the crowd stands in for the Oculist Witnesses in The Large Glass who bear testimony to the lubricious eroticism and implied coition in the solicitation of the gaze by retinal painting. Figured in the guise of the crowd (as the multiple) and marking a new position unrecoupable in terms of unity and dualism, the Oculist Witnesses attest to the retinal destiny of painting only to mark its postponement as visual expression. The figural presence of the Oculist Witnesses is shadowed by the inscription of Rrose Sélavy, Duchamp’s artistic alter ego who signed the preliminary study. The position of the onlooker is thus activated by expanding spectatorship to include notions of artistic making. A closer examination of the title The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even reveals that these apparitions of the artist-spectator are not localized to the Oculist Witnesses alone, since they haunt the entire glass through splintered inscriptions of verbal puns on Marcel Duchamp’s name.⁷⁸ The scission of his first name, “Marcel,” into “mar” and “cel” references the upper and lower sections of The Large Glass, as the respective domains of the bride (mar / iée) and the bachelors (cél / ibataires).⁷⁹ Moreover, his enigmatic description of The Large Glass as an “Agricultural machine” or “Apparatus / instrument for farming” also inscribes Duchamp’s name (du champ, “of, in the field”) onto the glass.⁸⁰ Rather than serving as a mirror of some external reality that hides the “coition” that Duchamp associated with visual consumption (as he noted in his earlier remarks on shop windows), The Large Glass

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 47

cuts through notions of reference through the “mirrorical” implosion of visual and verbal puns.⁸¹ The amorous proceedings of the glass, staged through the splintered apparitions of the artist-onlooker, attest to Duchamp’s redeployment and subversion of both visual and verbal reference. They enable us to understand Duchamp’s expressed aversion to looking either at painting or himself in “an aesthetic mirror,” since The Large Glass has ceased to retinally engage either the semblance of painting or the painter. When asked by George Hamilton whether The Large Glass is a Dada work, Duchamp responded: I wouldn’t say that, even though I tried in that big glass to find a completely, personally new expression, the final product was to be a welding of mental and visual reactions. In other words the ideas in the Large Glass are more important than the actual realization. . . . In that quest my research was to find some way of expressing myself without being a painter; without being a writer; without taking one of these labels, and yet producing something that would be a product of myself. (Ephemerides, interview for BBC, January 19, 1959) Reluctant to label his work, Duchamp insisted on the conceptual thrust of his project that welded mental and visual reactions in order to generate a work where the ideas evoked are more important than their actual realization.⁸² His critique of the ocular and the work of art takes an important turn at the strategic moment when the interplay of the verbal and the visual ceases to reference the idea of art as objective realization. Duchamp’s quizzical query to Walter Arensberg, “but when will I administer checkmate or will be mated?” (Ephemerides, July 22, 1951), begins to take on new meanings when considered in light of his interventions in The Large Glass. This work administers a decisive checkmate to the idea of painting by postponing its visual realization, all the while inscribing the proliferation or “mating” of the artist-onlooker that disrupts the actualization of an artistic identity.


/ Critiques of the Ocular

Demystifying Artistic Origins Dada led to a new image of the artist. t hans richter, dada: art and anti-art I am a pseudo all in all, that’s my characteristic. t marcel duchamp Duchamp’s works from the Paris Dada period thus embody the “delay” that is the postponement of art’s pictorial becoming because they restaged its visual mandate as a belated event. This event is no longer intrinsic to the fate of painting, since it belongs to its critical and conceptual aftermath. Attempting to understand Duchamp’s position in reference to the contemporary Dada movement, André Breton singled out his ability to hone in on the ideas and stakes at issue: First of all let us observe that the situation of Marcel Duchamp in relation to the contemporary movement is unique in that the most recent groupings invoke the authority of his name, although it is impossible to say up to what point he has ever given them his consent, and although we see him turning with perfect freedom away from the complex of ideas whose originality was in large part due to him, before it took the systematic turn that alienates certain others as well. Can it be that Marcel Duchamp arrives more quickly than anyone else at the critical point of an idea?⁸³ Breton was quick to recognize Duchamp’s impact on avant-garde experimentation, an influence that while not exercised deliberately proved compelling by virtue of its critical acuity in identifying the intellectual stakes and issues in play. However, his invocation of Duchamp’s critical contributions was strategic, insofar as he attempted to recoup Duchamp and, later, the energies of Dada to the service of the nascent Surrealist movement. Breton’s attempts to disassociate Duchamp’s contributions from his Dada interlocutors and collaborators reinforced the myth of originality and notions of artistic genius that Duchamp explicitly contested. Although Breton mentioned that Duchamp barely consented

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 49

“to pass for an artist” and that he signed some of his works in the guise of Rrose Sélavy, he deliberately chose to overlook the import of these gestures. Breton’s efforts to mystify Duchamp in order to realign him with the Surrealist agenda failed to take into account Duchamp’s continued efforts to challenge the notion of authorship by splitting and reassigning its identification functions: as Duchamp-Picabia, MarcelSuzanne, Duchamp–Man Ray, or Duchamp–Rrose Sélavy. It is precisely this doubling or coupling of artists that Duchamp had designated as one of the trademarks of modernity and of Dada, in particular: “Double-barreled, double shot” (Ephemerides, July 1, 1966). Duchamp’s efforts to challenge the myth of artistic originality by questioning authorship also extended to his analysis of Surrealism, insofar as it sought to dissociate itself from its Dada origins. He noted that although the Surrealists did not like to speak about their Dada origins, it was interesting to examine the passage from one movement to the other: The members were entirely the same: Breton, [Louis] Aragon, [Paul] Éluard, [Jacques] Rigaut (who later committed suicide), [Philippe] Soupault naturally. . . . Picabia and me were old already. We understood that even to laugh, even to mock, even to destroy becomes boring after a while when it has become a habit. Any habit can become boring. In the end, after being Dada for four or five years, they needed a change. To pass from one habit to the other. The Surrealist habit, which was born in 1924, still exists. So it is more solid, more general. It is clear that when you destroy something rapidly, you cannot continue to destroy it. (Ephemerides, December 23, 1960) Duchamp’s insistence on this historical transition, which resulted in Surrealism’s throwing water on the fires of Dada, reveals the difficulty of sustaining the Surrealist myth of self-origination. By emphasizing the fact that the players were largely the same, he drew attention to the strategic nature of their interventions as they attempted to establish a new position in reference to their Dada activities. Rather than positing a radical break between Dada and Surrealism, Duchamp


/ Critiques of the Ocular

suggested that the development of Surrealism implied a repositioning and a reconfiguring of the gestures made available by the Dada movement. This inability to sustain provocation and shock as defining vehicles of expression led to the exhaustion of Dada. What had once been Dada’s insignias of revolt and freedom—laughter, mockery, and destruction—became stultified through repetition. The anarchic and destructive impulses of Dada were eroded by the tedium of repetition. It is this consolidation of artistic gesture into habit that Duchamp had decried throughout his life and that he explicitly evoked to elucidate his abandonment of painting. This position, moreover, would explain his aversion to being associated with various artistic movements, starting with Cubism. His inability to restrict himself, to “accept established formulas” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 26), reflected his rejection of the consolidation of an artistic movement into a discipline with a set artistic agenda. Duchamp’s comments on the passage from Dada to Surrealism put into question the Surrealist myth of self-origination by pointing out that both the players and their interventions had already been scripted through their prior participation in the Dada movement. Thus, it would seem that there was a “readymade” dimension to Surrealism as a movement that implied repetition and appropriation as constitutive gestures of its attempts at self-origination. However, this is not to say that Surrealism’s appropriation and repositioning of Dada can be reduced to mere mimicry; there are important differences between the two. According to Duchamp, although Surrealism “had a vein of Dada,” it did not “rebuild on the Dada debris.” Rather, it had the idea of “taking into consideration the unconscious, which Dada had not touched at all.” Surrealism’s emphasis on phenomena of the unconscious, such as hallucinations and dreams, brought to bear Freud’s influence on the artistic domain. Starting as a literary movement, Surrealism became a more general movement that encompassed “all sorts of activities which have almost nothing to do with painting and the plastic arts” (Ephemerides, December 23, 1960). Although Surrealism’s stance was not as revolutionary as Dada’s “extreme protest against the physical side of painting,” the poetic,

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 51

philosophical, and political scope of its activities nevertheless largely exceeded the realm of painting and the plastic arts. Reacting to Dada’s ethos of revolt, Surrealism was informed by a desire to consolidate its origins and artistic agenda in the search for recognition as an artistic movement. It is precisely this desire for institutional legitimacy that Duchamp called into question when he resisted being associated with Surrealism or, earlier, Cubism. It is interesting to note, however, that while Duchamp dissociated himself and Picabia from Surrealism, he explicitly aligned his and Picabia’s agendas with the Dada spirit of revolt: We tried to be more general than Surrealism, much more independent if you like, because Surrealism wanted to be something that fitted into the framework of society X or Y. But with us, there was not even this idea of fitting anywhere. We were much more Dada than Dada because, if we could have, we would have destroyed Dada. There was simply the idea of not fitting in anywhere and not to seek any notoriety. You never manage it, these are pseudo-dreams. (Ephemerides, January 6, 1961) For Duchamp, Dada represented a spirit of purgation, a revolt against social and artistic norms that could ultimately lead to a call for the destruction of Dada. He claimed independence from the pressures of fitting within a movement, such as Surrealism, that sought artistic and social legitimization, in order to preserve a margin of freedom. Yet, as he admitted, the desire not to fit in is a “pseudo-dream” destined to fail, since it cannot be sustained over time without being recouped. Duchamp’s stance of destroying Dada echoed pronouncements such as “True Dadaists are against Dada,” or “Dada is dead,” which had rapidly become signatory gestures of Dada.⁸⁴ In his “Lecture on Dada” (1922), Tzara commented on this tendency of breaking off or resigning from Dada as one of its founding gestures, since he claimed to be “the first to tender his resignation from the Dada movement.” His qualification, that “basically, the true Dada have always been separate from Dada,” underlined Dada’s spirit of self-purgation as a resistance


/ Critiques of the Ocular

to being assimilated to an officially sanctioned movement.⁸⁵ Even as Duchamp and Picabia claimed to be more Dada than Dada by calling for its destruction, their stance was still informed by its antiinstitutional and antiart critique that enabled the radical interrogation of painting. Duchamp recognized in Dada an “extreme protest against the physical side of painting,” a “metaphysical attitude” whose intellectual implications were largely absent in the earlier Impressionist, Fauvist, and Cubist circles. In addition, Duchamp sympathized with the purgative effects of Dada, as a “sort of nihilism” that sought to free the mind from the influences of the past and the present. But this attempt at self-purgation in the name of individual freedom led to the seemingly counterintuitive discovery of the artist’s dependence on and critical dialogue with the tradition. Recalling his conversations with Picabia, Duchamp commented on the “blank” force of Dada, not just as a liberating force but also as a reminder of the difficulty of overcoming artistic influence: It [Dada] was a way to get out of a state of mind—to avoid being influenced by one’s immediate environment, or by the past: to get away from clichés—to get free. The “blank” force of Dada was very salutary. It told you “don’t forget you are not quite so blank as you think you are!” Usually a painter confesses he has his landmarks. He goes on from landmark to landmark. Actually he is slave to landmarks—even to contemporary ones. (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 125) If Dada was serviceable as a purgative, it was precisely as a reminder of the difficulty of freeing oneself from the pressures of the present and the past. For Duchamp, the possibility of challenging these constraints by overcoming their forcible character implied the correlative recognition of the extent of their influence in shaping artistic sensibility. Dada’s “blank” force proved salutary to the extent that it implied the artist’s recognition of being marked by one’s contemporary context or by past traditions, even as the artist actively sought to challenge their influence. The effort of self-purgation invites an inquiry into the autonomy of the artist as producer, who discovers in the process of

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 53

attempting to carve out a new position the extent to which such a gesture implies a critical dialogue with what has already been done. Even as Duchamp affirmed Dada claims for liberation, he radically undercut notions of individual artistic agency by inscribing them in a field of prior determinations and gestures. As Duchamp pointed out regarding his earliest attempts as a painter to move beyond Impressionism, it is very difficult to free oneself of artistic influence: One must pass through the network of influence. One is obligated to be influenced and one accepts this influence very naturally. From the start one doesn’t realize this. The first thing to know: one doesn’t realize one is influenced. One thinks he is already liberated and one is far from it! Therefore one must accept it and wait for the liberation to come itself, if it must ever come, because certain people never obtain it, never see it come.⁸⁶ It is not enough to seek freedom from artistic influence by simply deciding to liberate oneself. Rather, true liberation lies in the recognition of the burden of influence and the magnitude of its extent. If one questions the notion of artistic influence while being cognizant that its negation or too vociferous denunciation does nothing more than reinforce its impact, what strategies are left to challenge the definition and meaning of art?

The “Conceptions” of “Anartist” I was interested in ideas—not merely visual products. t marcel duchamp, “painting . . . at the service of the mind” Duchamp’s dismissal of the ocular, summed up in his claim that it is not the visual question of the readymade that is important, marked both his ostensible abandonment of painting as retinal expression and his critique of the art object as a commodity. Driving this analysis was the understanding that by becoming subject to market forces through public consumption, circulation, and exchange, artworks ceased to


/ Critiques of the Ocular

be visibly different from articles of ordinary commerce. His conclusion, that the work of art had now become a commonplace product like soap and securities, would still scandalize many today. It implied that art in the modern age had lost its autonomy, its ability to isolate or withdraw itself from the economic sphere, and in so doing risked dying.⁸⁷ If art lost its immunity to commerce and thus its ability to be distinguished from commerce, what would prevent it from becoming obsolete and thus subject to abandonment or possible extinction? This is the question that Duchamp’s readymades and his glass works subsequently raised, not, as I demonstrated, by going back to an idea of an art before the emergence of the commodity but, rather, by actively recognizing the conundrum of the erosion of art’s visual character through public consumption. As this analysis has shown, Duchamp’s ingenious efforts to challenge the visual destiny of art, whether through the readymades, his “windows,” or The Large Glass, did not simply imply a strategy of denial or negation of art that would have in effect reinforced its definition. This is precisely why Duchamp, who was an important Dada sympathizer, also chose at times to deliberately distance himself from the movement. As he had noted, even shock, mockery, or laughter loose their edge once they have acquired the force of habit. Proclaiming antiart or shock for their own sake or as a publicity- or celebrity-seeking device risks falling back into the idea of art that one sought to challenge in the first place. This is why Duchamp resisted the designation of the readymade as art, or as antiart, in favor of the far more neutral term “anart.” Octavio Paz cautioned against the common error of mistaking the readymade for art, since doing so dulls its edge and thus destroys its capacity to challenge the definition of art: “The Readymade is a two-edged weapon: if it is transformed into a work of art, it spoils the gesture of desecration; if it preserves its neutrality, it converts the gesture itself into a work.”⁸⁸ His comment captures the danger and tenuousness of Duchamp’s intervention, since the readymade cannot simply be reclaimed as art and still retain the capacity not only to desecrate art but also, more importantly, to challenge the possibility of its definition. Resisting the pull of dialectics by attempting to valorize one of the terms in the opposition of art and antiart, or better

Critiques of the Ocular

/ 55

yet, by attempting to overcome this opposition altogether through synthesis, Duchamp resorted to an ingenious strategy. He played on the opposition of these terms by turning that very opposition into a dynamic work in its own right. As this analysis has shown, neither the readymades nor the various “windows” can be reduced to singular gestures by being considered as objects in their own right, since their power to challenge art is derived from their proximity and conjunction with the idea of art. The readymades are machines of sorts whose dynamics are fueled by the coupling of the commodity and the idea of art as reversible terms. But to what end? For further answers regarding the ends of Duchamp’s strategy to question the idea of art, we will turn to his analysis of chess endgames in chapter 3. However, for now it suffices to note that his readymades and his “windows,” along with The Large Glass, challenged the dominance of the retinal by introducing optical considerations whose conceptual character reframed the ocular understanding of vision. By “coupling” these opposing terms, he led to their “mating,” as it were, generating a mechanism fueled by mirrorlike inversion and reversibility. We can now better understand Duchamp’s claim that he has nothing to exhibit, since the word exposer resembles épouser. The visual exposure associated with conventional painting is countermanded through a conceptual strategy that mandates the espousal of ideas that subtend the production and consumption of the spectator’s gaze. The Large Glass thus emerges as a “looking-glass,” a mirror whose optical setup will reference the conditions of presentation and display that determine the construction of the spectator’s gaze. Duchamp highlights through puns the “hilarious” dynamics of The Large Glass insofar as they figure the libidinal mechanics of visual consumption through allusions to sexual consummation. We now begin to understand why in The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, or The Large Glass, both retinal consumption and the ostensible consummation of the marriage are held at bay, duly earning the work its subtitle of Delay in Glass. Duchamp’s influential legacy reflects his strategic approach to art: identifying the conceptual ideas and stakes at issue rather than focusing on its sensorial aspects, be they visual or olfactory. Duchamp noted in an interview with Emily Genauer in the Herald Tribune that he


/ Critiques of the Ocular

had “stopped painting but not making art. Thereafter he concerned himself with ‘conceptions’ . . . which he holds more important than mere technique possessed by an artisan” (Ephemerides, January 13, 1965). However, this emphasis on “conceptions” represents neither an affirmation of ownership of ideas, nor an attribution of artistic identity to the creative act. Duchamp’s interventions imply another way of “making” whose “anartistic” character challenges the very definition of art, along with its negation, antiart. His redefinition of the position of the artist as an interactive interval (as a locus of exchange, play, and appropriation) necessarily implicates others, be they artists, critics, or spectators. As Duchamp observed in his second interview with Alain Jouffroy: “The real critique of art should be a participation and not, as is in most cases, a simple translation of that which is untranslatable” (Ephemerides, October 29, 1958). Extended to critics, but also alluding to artists and spectators alike, Duchamp’s invitation reflects his recognition of the creative act as an engagement that necessarily implies the interplay of multiple persons and personae. Redefining authorship in the mode of appropriation, Duchamp playfully redeployed Dada’s collective legacy to future spectators, an open invitation to posterity to contribute its dues to the creative act. As Duchamp concluded in The Creative Act, by bringing art in contact with the world in order to draw out and interpret its qualifications, the spectator joins the artist in the “making” of the work: “All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 140).


 The Spectacle of Film: Duchamp and Dada Experiments The cinema must not be an imitation but an evocative invention as rapid as the thought of our brain. t francis picabia, “instantaneism”

The origins of Dada were multiple; so were its endings. The numerous signs of its putative demise were staged in the midst of the activities that characterized the Paris Dada movement in 1922–1923. According to Elmer Peterson, the attempts to kill off Dada were many, one of the most notable being André Breton’s failed attempt in 1992 to organize the Congrès de Paris, an international meeting whose aim was to provide intellectual direction and defense for the modern spirit.¹ This initiative to legislate the meaning of modernity by a committee of non-Dadaists whose charge was “to determine what was modern and what was not” was denounced by Dada activists Georges RibemontDessaignes, Tristan Tzara, Paul Éluard, Théodore Fraenkel, and Erik Satie as being counter to the anarchic and antiart spirit of Dada. At issue was not the death of Dada per se—its anticipated destruction and demise was openly espoused by Dada activists—but, rather, the dogmatic character that Breton’s undertaking assumed in trying to distill and unify the “essential principle of modernism.”² As Georges Hugnet pointed out, the “adjective ‘modern’ was pejorative,” since “Dada had always fought against the modern spirit.”³ The fractious defections that ensued led to Breton’s abandonment of this project and fueled his denunciations of Tzara as a fraud and a “publicity-mad impostor,” marking (according to Ribemont-Dessaignes) not just the breakup of the movement but the “death of Dada.” Was this death publicly officiated when a coffin labeled “Dada” was dumped into the 57


/ The Spectacle of Film

Seine in a staged mock burial conducted by students of L’École des beaux-arts?⁴ Or was it the subsequent outbreak of physical violence initiated by a cane-swinging Breton and associates such as Éluard during the notorious performance of Tzara’s play The Gas Heart (1923), a row resulting in police intervention, which sealed the destruction of Dada? These events not only exposed ideological rifts internal to the Dada movement but also underlined its tumultuous transition to Surrealism. Commenting on the violence of this transition and its appropriative impetus, Richter observed: “Surrealism devoured and digested Dada. Similar cannibalistic methods are by no means rare in history and as Surrealism has a strong digestion, the qualities of the devoured were transferred to the invigorated body of the survivor. So be it.”⁵ Identifying the emergence of Surrealism with an archaic and yet historically necessary act of ritualized violence and consumption, Richter recognized the promise of renewal that Dada held out. But the devouring of Dada did have consequences akin to indigestion, as Picabia had forewarned. A new tone of seriousness emerged, reflecting Breton’s attempts to codify the Dada revolt into a strict intellectual discipline. As Richter noted, this led to the Surrealist recuperation of Dada’s explosive elements in order to fashion, “on rational principles, an irrational artistic movement.”⁶ Breton’s critique of the anarchic and provocative ethos of Dada marked his move toward Surrealism as a new artistic order: “For my part, I never aspire to amuse myself. It seems to me that the sanction of a series of utterly futile ‘dada’ acts is in danger of gravely compromising an attempt at liberation, to which I remain strongly attached.”⁷ While ostensibly decrying provocation for its own sake, since it risked being reduced to stereotype or habit, Breton was in effect also denying the playful aspirations and legacy of the Dada movement. His appeal to seriousness was a denunciation, in the name of the Surrealist agenda and its call for liberation, of the futility of Dada interventions. Whereas Richter, in true Dada spirit, recognized the demise and appropriation of Dada as a historical necessity, Breton dismissed its artistic influence in an attempt to foster the myth of Surrealism’s originality. But did Dada really die? Although succeeded by Surrealist mani-

The Spectacle of Film

/ 59

festos and events from 1924 onward, a certain Dada sensibility continued to be expressed in experimental films produced between 1924–1928. Although they largely overlap with the Surrealist period, these films provide important insights into Dada’s contributions and its contentious transition to Surrealism.⁸ Among the better-known examples that will be examined here are Francis Picabia and René Clair’s Entr’acte (1924), Marcel Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema (Anémic cinéma) (in collaboration with Man Ray and Marc Allégret, 1926), and Man Ray’s Retour à la raison (1923), Emak Bakia (1926), and L’Étoile de mer (that is, “Starfish”; in collaboration with Robert Desnos and Jacques-André Boiffard, camera assistant, 1928).⁹ These films attest not only to the network of collaboration, association, and influence among Duchamp, Picabia, and Man Ray but also to their shared intellectual disenchantment with the idea of painting and art in general.¹⁰ The latter was fueled by both a fascination with and a resistance to the seductive lure of commodities and advertising.¹¹ Their disillusionment with art took different forms, including Duchamp’s critique of the “retinal” fate of painting and art, Picabia’s claim to “to be able to invent without painting,” and Man Ray’s suppression of the camera in photography and film as an expression of his dispensation from using the eye in painting. By extending the critique of painting as visual experience to the film medium, they introduced conceptual considerations that enabled them to challenge the narrative forms and visual entrancement of conventional cinema. Questioning the nature of cinematic vision as a product of the cinematographic apparatus, they reframed visual concerns as a function of the technical processes entailed in both the making and the viewing of films. Recasting the idea that the film spectacle was restricted to moving images, they sought to reactivate the social relations that subtend both the production and consumption of images.¹² The public declarations of Dada’s “death” did not prevent—indeed, may have fueled—Picabia’s attempts to reclaim its spirit of revolt by sowing mayhem, even as Surrealism sought to establish its own ascendancy and artistic legitimacy. Two months after the publication of Breton’s First Surrealist Manifesto in 1924, Picabia presented his “instantaneist” ballet Relâche along with the film Entr’acte (with René


/ The Spectacle of Film

Clair), which was shown before the ballet and continued during the intermission.¹³ Considered an attack against Surrealism, this multimedia event was staged as an assault on the public.¹⁴ The spectators were advised to bring dark glasses and earplugs and to shout rather than applaud. Taunting signs placed in the audience encouraged outright revolt: “If you are not satisfied go to hell! Whistles are for sale at the door.”¹⁵ The short introductory sequence of the film that preceded the ballet heightened the disruptive atmosphere. It showed Picabia and Satie shooting a canon ostensibly aimed at Paris but directed toward the film’s audience. This ballistic attack unleashed on the eye of the unwitting spectator prefigured not just the film’s explicit violence, evoked through pugilism and shootings, but also, more significantly, its implicit assault against the conventions of the film medium. Entr’acte’s emphasis on movement (slowed down or sped up) through the use of cinematic tricks and techniques confronted the spectator with the breakdown of illusion associated with traditional film. A key aspect of Entr’acte was the casting of major Dada artists and associates as actors: Picabia, Satie, Duchamp, and Man Ray. Their presence, along with the final mock funeral scene that culminated in the rise of the “dead,” insinuated playful allusions to Dada’s irrepressible spirit of revolt. Duchamp appeared in a short sequence playing chess with Man Ray, before the jet of a water cannon washed the pieces off the board (Figure 12). This chess sequence was intercut with shots of the columns of L’Église de la Madeleine whose movement (produced through editing) mimics the motion of chess pieces on the board. Generated through the superimposition of the chessboard on the moving traffic, this emphasis on movement extends the logic of the chess game to cinema.¹⁶ It suggests a metareflection on the film medium that will favor its representational mechanisms rather than its ostensible objects.¹⁷ Duchamp’s appearance in this chess sequence inaugurated his engagement with cinema as an actor before he turned to the making of Anemic Cinema with Man Ray and Marc Allégret in 1926. Although Man Ray had already achieved notoriety as a filmmaker through the scandal surrounding the screening of his first film, Retour à la raison, he shared not just Duchamp’s passion for chess but also his interest in the value of gaming as a “metaphor for art.”¹⁸ Does

The Spectacle of Film

/ 61

Figure 12. Francis Picabia and René Clair, Entr’acte, 1924. Film shot of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray playing chess on a Paris rooftop.

this allusion to Duchamp’s and Man Ray’s chess playing imply a critique of art, and does it also invite consideration of new ways of thinking about the film and its makers? And would this exploration of film as spectacle ultimately have an impact on how art is understood in terms of its modes of presentation and reception? Before investigating these questions in depth, it is sufficient to note that Entr’acte marked Duchamp’s passage from the position of an artist who renounced the idea of art to that of an actor and later filmmaker, thus inviting consideration of his intervention in the cinematic field. Driven by a shared agenda, even while representing different strategies at work, the experimental films of Picabia and Clair and of Man Ray and his associates help illuminate Duchamp’s attempts, in Anemic Cinema, to strip cinema bare of its retinal presuppositions. Born out of an intensive network of intellectual and artistic collaborations, these experimental films provide an important context for the “optical” film of Duchamp and his associates, since they radically question


/ The Spectacle of Film

the processes entailed in the production and consumption of the visual image. As will be shown, these films expose and manipulate the techniques of film production, such as camera work, editing, and the filmstrip, along with aspects of consumption, such as the conditions of projection and viewing that define the position of the spectator. Fueled by a critique of visual consumption and the commodity operative in the artistic domain, these works interrogate and challenge film as visual spectacle and as a mechanism of display. This contextualized approach reflects Duchamp’s seminal insight that, even as artists seek to purge themselves of influences, they discover that they are not as “blank” as they would like to think (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 125). Any effort to establish a new position, whether in the field of art or that of filmmaking, implies taking into account prior and present determinations that shape the nature of the playing field. Artistic influence is at play whether recognized or not, and it is all the more pertinent given the collaborative context of Dada-influenced film experiments.

Staging the Spectacle: Picabia and Clair The spectacle is capital to such a degree of accumulation that it becomes an image. t guy debord, society of the spectacle The months leading to the production and showing of Entr’acte on December 4, 1924, largely overlapped with the rising conflict between Picabia and Breton over Surrealism in the wake of Dada’s supposed demise. Although it often took the form of personal attacks, their conflict and eventual break in May 1924 attested to larger intellectual differences concerning the meaning and legacies of the Dada movement. Lashing out against revisionist attempts by contemporary critics to rewrite Dada’s origins by recouping Breton as the “brain” of Dada, Picabia denounced him as a pedantic and marginal player, comparing him to a “weather vane” whose “only use is to mark which way the wind blows.”¹⁹ Picabia’s relentless attack on the Surrealist “cannibalization” of Dada took ever more vituperative forms: “The works

The Spectacle of Film

/ 63

of Messieurs Breton and, how do you say it? Philippe Coupeaux [a pun on “Soupault”], are a poor imitation of Dada and their Surrealism is exactly of the same order.”²⁰ His sharp and shortsighted dismissal of Surrealism as a misappropriation of Dada reflected his attempt to reclaim the originality and force of Dada interventions.²¹ The production of Entr’acte during this period, as well as the conditions of its screening in the context of the ballet Relâche, can be regarded as a response to Breton’s denunciations of Dada, a contentious manifesto cum happening that sought to reinstate the playful urgency of the Dada spirit. In addition to writing, staging, and designing the ballet Relâche, Picabia also came up with the idea and wrote the basic script for Entr’acte, which served as the basis for his collaboration with René Clair (his pseudonym for René-Lucien Chomette). Clair brought to this project a honed sensibility as a film enthusiast, critic, and actor, as well as a conviction of the revolutionary potential of the cinema as a new and highly public form of expression.²² Despite Clair’s relative inexperience as a filmmaker (he had only made one film, Paris qui dort, which had not yet been shown), both Picabia and Clair described their collaboration with glowing respect for each other’s inventiveness and contributions. The subsequent success of Entr’acte was instrumental in launching Clair’s career as a professional filmmaker. Entr’acte both preceded and disrupted the continuity of Picabia’s “instantaneist” ballet Relâche. The word relâche means “no show today” or “theatre closed,” thus confusing the announcement of the ballet’s performance with its cancellation. The postponement of the opening night due to the illness of the lead dancer, Jean Borlin, stoked the public’s expectations regarding Dada events. As Clair noted, “There was a delightful outcry mingled with comments of people in the know: ‘We might have known. That’s what the title meant. “Theatre closed.” It’s the apotheosis of Dada. The best trick yet by that clown Picabia.’ ”²³ This self-contradictory title packing a double message captured the film’s Dada spirit of revolt and its use of humor as a weapon intended to shake up the bourgeoisie. The film’s presentation also followed a double logic, since it was shown twice: first as a preview to the ballet in an introductory sequence featuring Picabia and Satie, and then as a full-length picture during the ballet’s intermission. Picabia explained


/ The Spectacle of Film

in the program notes that “Entr’acte is a real entr’acte, an intermission in the monotonous boredom of life and conventions full of ridiculous, hypocritical respect.”²⁴ Framing the ballet and in turn framed by it, Entr’acte (meaning “between acts”) is positioned as an interval that challenges the distinction between art and life and that positions film in a new and critical relation to other media.²⁵ Thomas Elsaesser remarked that what distinguished this film was neither its techniques nor its specific content, but its performance as public spectacle and event.²⁶ However, the spectacle in question extends beyond the conditions of the film’s initial screening in the context of the ballet, since the film explicitly interrogates its own conditions of possibility as visual spectacle along with spectatorship. In the “curtain raiser,” Picabia and Satie bounce onto the screen out of the blue and in slow motion, shooting a canon into the screen. This opening salvo both foregrounds the power of cinema as an illusion-producing machine and undermines it through an attack on the screen as material support. Rupturing the screen, as it were, the cannonball’s projection into the spectator’s space marks the magic ability of cinema to perpetrate even the spectacle of its own destruction. It does so by breaking with the conventions of film-viewing, threatening in one blow the integrity of the screen and the spectator’s position as a detached viewer. This violation of the screen as a site for the projection of cinematic illusion (as separate from life) is later reiterated by a sequence showing boxing gloves attacking the screen. Playfully reversing the technical conditions of its “projection,” the film appears to break through the screen, rebounding on the unsuspecting spectator. This metareflection on the nature of film as spectacle reveals its illusionist underpinnings and also informs the film’s double ending, as will be shown below. In addition to its critique of cinematic illusion, Entr’acte also takes potshots at the idea of art, demystifying its authority and its elusive mystique. Notably, the depiction of a ballerina filmed from below through a glass pane humorously undermines ballet’s artistic conventions based on the valorization of formal movement and the idealization of the female body. The complicity of the spectator’s eye with the camera’s underhanded scrutiny of what lies under the ballerina’s tutu vulgarizes ballet’s aesthetic aspirations. The sudden

The Spectacle of Film

/ 65

revelation that the dancer is a bearded, mustached, and bespectacled man breaks down artistic pretense through vaudeville-like gags. The sly inscription of masculinity onto an idealized female image introduces allusions to both Duchamp’s and Picabia’s playful desecration of reproductions of the Mona Lisa as the epitome of high art.²⁷ However, by destabilizing the visual appearance or feminine “look” of the ballerina’s image as a spectacle, while relying on the effects of spectacle through the use of vaudeville-like gags in film, Entr’acte’s critique of gender threatens to lapse into parody and thus risks reinforcing the codes and symbolic order that it ostensibly takes to task.²⁸ One of the distinguishing features of Entr’acte is that the film’s major protagonists are played by recognized artists (who participated in various Dada events), as if they were ordinary actors. The fracturing of their identities through doubling captures the playful redeployment of subjectivity in the film. Paired up as Picabia and Satie, Duchamp and Man Ray, Picabia and Borlin, and so on, their doubling or coupling alludes to Dada’s collaborative spirit. The depiction of Duchamp and Man Ray precariously perched on a rooftop playing chess is particularly interesting, given Duchamp’s well-known preference for the game as an alternative to making art. The metaphorical expansion of the chessboard through superimposed images of moving city traffic extends the logic of the chess game to the film’s larger representational purview. As commentary on the gamelike or ludic nature of the film, the representation of chess presents an alternative scenario for reenvisioning filmmaking and its makers. Based on the dynamics of movement and strategy, the chess game’s adversarial character captures the film’s ethos of reaction against cinematic conventions, bourgeois artistic norms, and Surrealism. Unlike art that favors the notion of a unique maker, chess is played in twos, a condition that evokes the positions of the actors and the makers of the film. Commenting on Entr’acte, the critic J. L. Croze insightfully remarked, “The film of Picabia, understood, married by René Clair in such a manner that one asks himself who is the one who conceived it and who is the one who made it.”²⁹ Charles Beylie later noted that Entr’acte lacks the identifying marks of its maker, René Clair. Like the magician at the end of the film, Clair makes himself disappear, creating the effect that Entr’acte


/ The Spectacle of Film

is a film with no master.³⁰ Clair’s failure to “sign” the film by appropriating it through authorial marks may reflect the deferral of authorship engendered by the collaborative nature of the film’s production. It suggests that authorship itself might be at issue in the film, redefined as an appropriative rather than originary gesture. Entr’acte’s lack of narrative consistency is brought to its culmination by the dizzying acceleration of the latter part of the film, which depicts at length a funeral that mocks the idea of death. Is this funeral yet another commentary on the “death” of Dada and its irrepressible rebirth at the end of the film? Initially mimicking the deliberately slow and ceremonial pace of funerals for heads of state or other renowned individuals, this mock funeral quickly degenerates into a Dada melee. Starting in slow motion, the camel-drawn hearse followed by the funerary cortege progressively gains speed, leading to the dispersal of the entourage in a madcap chase. Shots of people running are cut in with shots of cyclists, speeding cars, an airplane, and a barreling roller coaster, generating an irrepressible sensation of accelerated movement. This sense of motion is further emphasized by rapid editing techniques using traveling shots that have no discernible goal, other than to communicate increased pace and speed. These include upside-down shots and shots in which the road appears to split into two oblique bands creating the illusion of a tear in the screen itself. The film camera’s ability to generate the illusion of movement is undercut by moments when the film foregrounds its own technical and virtual condition. Thus, it is not altogether surprising that this sequence culminates in the “resurrection” of the huntsman’s corpse as a magician, who with his wand makes the coffin and the other protagonists disappear and ends by making himself disappear as well. Alluding to the power of illusion inherent in cinema that makes things appear or disappear at will, this sequence also presents a critique of film’s potential as a magic-making machine. The enchantment with vision that characterized the origins of film (as figured in the works of Georges Mèlies) is demystified by analogy to a visual trick. However, this sleight of hand no longer figures the magic of creation; rather, it now figures the mechanical powers of cinema as an illusion-producing apparatus. Just as Entr’acte has a double beginning, so too it has two endings,

The Spectacle of Film

/ 67

creating through this doubling a metareflection on the film medium as visual spectacle. The announcement of the film’s end mimics the opening cannonball scene as the screen becomes the site of rupture. In the sound version of Entr’acte, the word Fin (End) appears, announcing the film’s termination, only to be broken by a man jumping through the movie screen (Figure 13). Lying dazedly on the ground, the man is kicked by a passerby and propelled back through the screen, disappearing behind it. The screen’s rent is miraculously restored, and the word Fin reappears on a pristine white surface followed by the list of credits. Staging the violation of the movie screen as material support, this ending disrupts the seamless illusion and closure of the cinematic spectacle. Rupturing the screen, rather than cutting the eye (as in the later Surrealist film Un Chien andalou), Entr’acte erupts into the space of the spectator, abolishing the boundaries between film and life, foregrounding the construction of spectatorship as an extension of the cinematic apparatus. The emphasis on visual tricks that violate the spectator’s perception and psychological identification undermines the sense of closure. In the silent Italian film version, the magician reappears and addresses the spectator with a hand gesture indicating that the show is not over. But the man who broke through the screen insists otherwise. After a brief scuffle between the two men, the vanquished magician is sent back through the screen, which is then reconstituted as the “End.”³¹ This second version brings out the film’s complicity with the viewer’s look, which is deliberately solicited in order to bring about the closure of the film. This nod to the viewer underlines Entr’acte’s artistic ethos as a collaborative enterprise, where the spectator, by playing along, signs off on the film’s making. Instead of being cast as passive witness to someone else’s vision, the spectator completes the creative act originated by the film’s makers. Directed both as a salvo against the complacency of the cinematic public and as a critique of the nascent Surrealist movement, Entr’acte delivered a double punch. Léger’s assessment of Relâche, that it was “a lot of kicks in a lot of behinds, sacred or not,” can be extended to the entire film.³² The kicks administered were meant to awaken the bourgeoisie from its “hypnotic” trance, but they were also intended to take on larger sacred cows, such as the revolutionary claims of the


/ The Spectacle of Film

Figure 13. Francis Picabia and René Clair, Entr’acte, 1924. Film shot of “The End.”

Surrealists. Picabia’s diatribes against Breton and his followers that culminated in the declaration that Surrealism is a “poor imitation of Dada” were critiques of the misappropriation of Dada for the purposes of a new game altogether.³³ What was at stake was no longer the Dada spirit of play and collaboration; rather, it was Breton’s attempt to ensure his own reputation as the founder of a new artistic movement. Thus, while aggressively settling its accounts with Surrealism, Entr’acte playfully reclaimed the urgency and importance of Dada interventions. Neither purely reactive nor negative, the film kept Dada alive by relaying an impressive repertory of gestures to posterity. It demystified the illusionistic seduction of cinema by showing that its magic depended on visual tricks engineered by its manipulation as a mechanical medium. It mocked art as an ideal by reclaiming its logic as a form of gratuitous play. This emphasis on play eroded the pretensions to artistic creation by opening up a collaborative space of production that invited the spectator’s participation. Like the magician

The Spectacle of Film

/ 69

in the film who sprang back to life, the film’s deferred ending alluded to Dada’s irrepressible spirit of play. A joyous celebration of Dada’s ostensible end, Entr’acte was a reminder that Dada was not dead, for even its “wake” would mark the persistence rather than the demise of its spirit.

Drawing on Light: Lenses and Looks in Man Ray’s Films It is light that creates. I sit before the sheet of sensitive paper and I think. t man ray, “is photography an art?” In a 1928 interview with Jean Galotti, asked whether photography is an art, Man Ray responded: “One should not ask that question. Art is obsolete. We need something else. One must look at the light at work. It is light that creates. I sit before the sheet of sensitive paper and I think.”³⁴ Having collaborated with Duchamp in his experiments with optical machines in Rotary Glass Plates (Precision Optics) and later in the making of Anemic Cinema, Man Ray shared his interests in exploring the optics of vision. But unlike Duchamp, whose optical experiments involved the production of another dimension (a conceptual space of visual and verbal games), Man Ray presented his understanding of the optical as “an appeal only to the eyes,” devoid of story or scenario.³⁵ His attempts to question the nature of cinematic vision by exploring its technical production and public consumption constitute one of the most notable aspects of his experimental films. Moreover, these concerns also inflected his efforts to redefine his position as film spectator. Man Ray explained that he had devised an optical enhancement to his glasses that enabled him to appreciate the film image as an abstraction: “I invented a system of prisms which I glued on my glasses: thus I could see black-and-white films which bored me in color and as abstract image.”³⁶ Activating his position as spectator, Man Ray took matters into his own hands, since altering the film’s “look” implied, in effect, seeing an altogether different movie. His efforts to disrupt and reinvent the visual image through its optical manipulation allude to his ongoing interests in challenging the


/ The Spectacle of Film

logic of the film image and the spectator as products of the cinematographic apparatus. By the time Man Ray was featured in Entr’acte, he had already enjoyed a certain “scandalous” success with the presentation of his first film, Retour à la raison, in the context of one of the more infamous Dada event/performances at the Evening of the Bearded Heart (July 6, 1923). An assemblage of found and fragmentary footage, Man Ray’s Retour à la raison suggests the appearance of a collective or even anonymous work.³⁷ In it, Man Ray dispensed with the camera lens as an accessory to film. He used the material surface of the filmstrip as generator of images by placing objects, such as nails or tacks, on the film and then exposing it, bypassing the camera. Man Ray transposed to cinema the rayographic process he had invented to produce a camera-less picture. He compared this suppression of the camera lens in rayographs to the demise of a visual understanding of painting: “One no longer uses one’s eyes in painting so, voilà, I have also suppressed the eye of my camera, its lens.”³⁸ Instead of intervening manually or visually, as a painter would, he created conditions that enabled light to do its work: “I have finally freed myself from the sticky medium of paint, and am working with light itself.”³⁹ As such, he minimized his intervention as an artist, since it was light and the photosensitive paper or film that performed the execution of his ideas.⁴⁰ The elision of the camera’s eye implies a critique not only of conventional film space but also of the film frame as a cinematic unit, since there was no separation into successive frames. Working directly on the film’s surface involves treating the film as material surface and support, rather like a canvas, instead of as a transparent medium that references a space exterior to itself. Insofar as the film’s surface records the actual presence of pins and thumbtacks, the surface becomes itself an element of plastic form. This gesture of activating the film as a material surface challenges the spatial and visual processes operative in conventional cinema.⁴¹ The emphasis on film as a material surface is explicitly featured in the conclusion of Retour à la raison, where a moiré of moving shadows is superimposed on the nude torso of a woman. The projection of light and shadows on the female body reduces it to a film screen, designating it as a plastic site for the production of cinematic illusion.⁴²

The Spectacle of Film

/ 71

This reduction of the female body to a projection screen announced Man Ray’s subsequent explorations in Emak Bakia and L’Étoile de mer, where the construction of femininity is in question.⁴³ In Emak Bakia, the conventional cinematic representation of the female gaze as an index of desire is evoked only to be undone, since the actress’s “look” is the result of eyes painted on her closed eyelids.⁴⁴ When she opens up her eyes to face the camera, her gaze establishes a link between her painted-on, blind stare and the intervention of the camera. Following the repeated motif of a woman’s eyes opening and gazing into the camera, this sequence figures less an awakening to desire than a wake-up call revealing the cinematic artifice entailed in its production.⁴⁵ The painted-on eyes figure a “look” whose blind stare describes the agency of the camera as a mechanical device rather than a subjective expression. Man Ray’s gesture recalls Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy’s treatment of the female gaze in Ballet mécanique (1924). In this film, the focus on the detail of a woman’s eyes staring in wonder both invites and frustrates the spectator’s expectations for engagement. Playing on the significance of the feminine gaze within the institution of cinema, her look of wonder, however, is set up as a reaction to the film’s visual treatment of objects rather than as an address to the spectator. Rerouting the female gaze from its engagement with the spectator, as established by the traditions of silent film, the staring eyes reflect a sense of wonder at the camera’s ability to confer visual meaning.⁴⁶ Subsequent depictions of an isolated eye blocked off with black cardboard, opening and closing like a camera shutter, mark Léger’s displacement of the feminine look by the mechanized camera. Such a move would explain the overall strategy of the film, where the objectification and depersonalization of the female gaze is counterposed with the seductive visual animation and personification of ordinary objects. Like Léger, Man Ray explored the potential of the camera to confer the “look” and thus generate subjective effects.⁴⁷ Man Ray’s unmasking in Emak Bakia of the artifice entailed in the construction of the feminine gaze as a cinematic device refers back to the film’s beginning. The opening sequence shows Man Ray’s eye as a cameraman superimposed in reverse on the camera, as if it were one of the lenses.⁴⁸ Referencing pictorial collage, this cinematic trick


/ The Spectacle of Film

displays the filmmaker’s eye as looking but unable to see, reminding the viewer of the mechanical premises of cinematic vision. Founded at the juncture of the human eye and the mechanical apparatus, the filmmaker’s gaze is filtered through the camera’s lens and delimited by the camera’s visual field. The eye’s perceptual functions are supplanted by the technical construction of the cinematic gaze. This can be seen later in the film when two eyes are superimposed on the shining headlights of a car (instead of on the camera, as they were earlier). The blind stare of these eyes “illuminates” the artifice of vision in cinema and the contingency of the human look. This is made explicit when the camera is thrown into the air in order to convey the impact of a collision. The random images captured by the tossed camera illuminate its ability to gather images without the intervention of the human eye. By supplanting the eye, Man Ray exposes cinema’s power to simulate human vision by constituting a “look” devoid of human agency. Man Ray’s conceptual intervention provides a commentary on the nature of vision in cinema, confirming his claim that what the film offered the public was “the result of a way of thinking as well as of seeing.”⁴⁹ Man Ray’s interrogation of modes of seeing in cinema gains further elaboration in L’Étoile de mer. Although the film deliberately features the manipulation of the camera lens as a technical device, the effects generated sometimes attain an expressive, poetic quality associated with Surrealist imagery.⁵⁰ Notable instances include the intermittent use of the gelatin filter, which lent a dreamlike quality to certain images, and the repetition of images of the starfish in a jar in order to endow them with symbolic connotations of femininity and the projection of psychic forces. These sequences recalled earlier Impressionist film experiments that identified the cinematic with the symbolic and poetic power of the image.⁵¹ However, this “surreal” expressive quality is not only consistently disrupted throughout the film but, indeed, shattered at the end. Throughout, the visual consumption of these images is interrupted by the use of intertitles that often obscure rather than illuminate their meaning.⁵² Instead of reinforcing or supplementing visual reference, as subtitles do in silent films, they disrupt its consolidation by introducing points of view that are not

The Spectacle of Film

/ 73

reconcilable to the modes of seeing espoused in the film. The film’s subtitle indicates that it is based on a poem by Robert Desnos, as seen by Man Ray (tel que l’a vu Man Ray). The straightforward reference to sight turns out to be misleading, since the film consistently struggles with the idea of what seeing might mean in cinema, given its mediated nature through technical production and social consumption. It is important to note that Man Ray is not freely interpreting Desnos’s poem but is in fact adapting Desnos’s scenario, which already included some of the intertitles later reprised in the film.⁵³ His “vision” of Desnos’s poem was thus filtered through the constraints of his collaborator’s poetic vision. In L’Étoile de mer, Man Ray’s cinematic presentation alternates between two different ways of seeing. Images shot in focus are interspersed with blurred, mottled images filmed through a lens covered with a gelatin filter. Man Ray’s manipulation of the camera’s lens distorts conventional vision by generating abstracted images that resemble sketched drawings or Impressionist paintings. Screening and obscuring sight, these mottled images frustrate the spectator’s voyeuristic impulses, especially when dealing with representations of female nudity. The blur produced by the gelatin filter delays the process of vision while making it materially perceptible, refocusing the spectator’s attention on its mediated character as generated through the camera’s lens. By highlighting the construction of the cinematic image through the intervention of the camera, Man Ray challenges the ostensible immediacy and transparency of vision that underlies the experience of cinema as visual spectacle. Likewise, the intertitles introduce a poetic reflection on vision and on the ways of seeing implied in lyric poetry. Literal and figurative allusions to seeing are dominant, as they alternate between poetic images of clarity and obscurity. Implying different ways of seeing, as if one were changing lenses, this strategy invites reflection on the verbal construction and projection of sight. This manipulation of the poetics of vision in the intertitles parallels Man Ray’s handling of visual images through the use of different lenses in the film. The repeated verbal and visual references to glass (verre), which is also a pun on verses (vers) and lenses (verres) in French, evoke seeing and mark its construction through the interplay of verbal and visual


/ The Spectacle of Film

representations.⁵⁴ Allusions to lyric poetry in the intertitles that rely on poetic similes idealizing the female love object are juxtaposed with visual images of male voyeurism that reveal the violence implied in the objectification of femininity. The latter invite reflection on the mediated character of cinematic vision, insofar as the intervention of the camera puts femininity under glass as a specimen for visual scrutiny and consumption. Although the film hints at the possibility of dramatic action in the form of an erotic encounter, this promise is never realized.⁵⁵ Instead of presenting eroticism as a development in the plot, the film addresses it as a function of seeing, of envisioning femininity. The opening sequence shows a woman walking with a man. She stops, turns toward him, and adjusts her garter. The subsequent superimposition of the man’s face on a shot of the woman’s body highlights the scene’s eroticism as a function of male voyeurism: the consumption of femininity as visual lure and spectacle. This shot is punctuated by the subtitle “Women’s teeth are objects so charming . . . that one ought to see them only in a dream or in the instant of love.” Rather than referencing male fear of women’s sexuality as some critics have contended, this title disrupts the voyeurism of the previous scene by introducing a different point of view.⁵⁶ While mimicking the praise of female beauty found in lyric poetry, this verbal image shatters the vision of femininity as the projection of an ideal. Fragmenting the image of the female body, this focus on women’s teeth brings into view a part of the anatomy that has eluded the charms of lyric poetry. The introduction of this point of view violates the seamless illusionism associated with voyeurism. At issue is not just the psychological threat of castration for the male protagonist but also the more pervasive violence implied in the verbal and visual conventions for representing femininity. This allusion can be seen in the intertitle “So beautiful! Cybele?” (Si belle! Cybele?), a play on words that assimilates a comment on feminine beauty (si belle) with Cybele, an erotic deity associated with castration rites. The punning merger of castration with the sight of the female body points to the violence of the male gaze in reducing femininity to an ideal image.⁵⁷

The Spectacle of Film

/ 75

At the end of L’Étoile de mer, the crisis of representing femininity as a verbal/visual image is brought to a violent conclusion. The appraisals of her beauty, “how beautiful she was” (Qu’elle était belle) and “how beautiful she is” (Qu’elle est belle), are violated in the final sequence. The face of the nude woman is shown staring at the camera, through a glass pane bearing the inscription belle, “beautiful.” As the glass violently shatters (as if hit by a stone), the woman turns away and looks back again at the camera (Figure 14). Described as an “explosion” in the script, the shattering of the glass ruptures the ostensible transparency of the cinematic image, displaying femininity as a spectacle. This explosive gesture cannot be merely construed as a negation of feminine beauty or as erotic consummation through symbolic violation, as Kovács suggested.⁵⁸ Rather, Man Ray’s intervention reveals the violence inherent in the camera’s mechanical gaze insofar as it objectifies femininity by subjecting it to scrutiny through a glass lens. However, the breaking of the glass pane also figures the consumption of this image by equating the impact of the spectator’s look with a ballistic projectile. Recalling Man Ray’s use of the gelatin filter, which rendered the processes of vision materially perceptible, the splintered glass reveals the violence of the mechanisms that subtend the cinematic production and consumption of femininity. Although described by Man Ray as a “Surrealist film,” L’Étoile de mer retains many of the features associated with his earlier Dada films that questioned the nature of cinematic vision and the cinematographic apparatus. By drawing attention to the construction of the visible and of vision in cinema as a function of the camera, Man Ray preempted the film’s visual illusionism. As Rudolf Kuenzli pointed out, this emphasis on cinematic manipulation that “never lets the viewer enter the work of film” distinguishes Dada from Surrealist films. By contrast, “Surrealist filmmakers largely rely on conventional cinematography (narratives, optical realism, characters) as a means to draw the viewer into the reality produced by the film.”⁵⁹ Whereas Surrealist films used conventional cinematic techniques to evoke various subconscious psychic states such as dreams, Dada films questioned the film apparatus itself as an illusion-producing machine. Thomas Elsaesser observed


/ The Spectacle of Film

Figure 14. Man Ray, L’Étoile de mer, 1928. Film shot of cracked glass pane bearing the inscription belle.

that the Dada object “always manipulates the materials of technical reproduction (and not those of expression).”⁶⁰ His distinction illuminates Man Ray’s film strategies in his experiments with the mechanics and optics of the camera, along with his earlier manipulations of the filmstrip and the position of spectatorship. In L’Étoile de mer, the smashing of the glass pane (like the breaking through of the screen in Entr’acte) radically disrupts the circuit of the gaze in cinema, as mechanical product and object of consumption. Questioning the production and consumption of femininity as “coition through a glass pane” (to borrow Duchamp’s suggestive terminology; Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 74), he short-circuits and demystifies its dead-end illusionism. Coming three years after his collaboration with Duchamp and Allégret in the making of Anemic Cinema, L’Étoile de mer marks Man Ray’s expanded critique of the erotic promise and hidden violence implied in the staging of the spectacle of femininity as cinematic representation.

The Spectacle of Film

/ 77

Stripping Film Bare: Anemic Cinema I was interested in film as a means to express [another] dimension. t marcel duchamp, in an interview by francis roberts Unlike many of his Dada and Surrealist contemporaries who privileged the medium of film, Duchamp viewed cinema primarily as a form of amusement or diversion. Although his notes and interviews contain few references to film in general, he did comment on his unwillingness to recognize cinema as an art form: “I don’t believe in cinema as a means of expression. It could be one, later perhaps; but like photography, it doesn’t go much further than a mechanical way of making something. It can’t compete with art. If art continues to exist . . .” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 104). His reluctance to regard cinema as a means of expression given its limitations as a mechanical medium is all the more striking when considered in light of his earlier explorations of the readymades and the potential of mechanical reproduction to challenge the idea of art. Based on his critique of the visual nature of the pictorial medium, one can speculate that his rejection of cinema may also entail a reaction against its retinal character, its visual allure and seduction. Why then does Duchamp go on to make a film? In an interview with Francis Roberts, Duchamp explained his venture into cinema: “Cinema never interested me as an artist. That little film called Anémic Cinéma is the only one I ever made. I was interested in film as a means to express [another] dimension. As in the spinning roto-relief disks I experimented with with Man Ray in my studio in New York and in his studio in Paris.”⁶¹ While restating his disinterest in cinema as a form of artistic expression, Duchamp described his experiment in film in terms of his long-standing inquiries in multidimensional geometry and optics. It is important to keep in mind that these concerns overlap with the period of completion of The Large Glass. In that work, along with its accompanying notes later collected in The Green Box (1934), he extensively explored both the mechanisms of projection for n-dimensional spaces and optics in order to go beyond the pictorial medium’s visual limitations.


/ The Spectacle of Film

His experiments with optics and the question of the onlooker presented in the guise of the Oculist Witnesses were discussed at length in chapter 1. Presented as a critique of the retinal seduction operative in painting, this section of The Large Glass actively interrogated the premises of visual consumption and spectatorship. More specifically, beginning in the 1920s, Duchamp started to investigate optical effects engendered by the rotation of two-dimensional surfaces.⁶² He began in 1920 with a motor-driven optical machine, Rotary Glass Plates (Precision Optics), which relied on the continuity of retinal impressions produced by rotating blades painted with circular lines to generate the illusion of continuous concentric circles. This was followed by another motorized optical device, Rotary Demisphere (Precision Optics) (1925), which rotated black eccentric circles (which appear to advance and recede) in order to create the illusion of depth and space. Duchamp and Man Ray attempted to film this device to make Stereoscopic Film (1925, uncompleted). Using red and green film and two different cameras and viewpoints, they sought to generate a three-dimensional effect visible through anaglyphic spectacles with red and green lenses.⁶³ During this time Duchamp was also involved in the production of Disk Bearing Spirals (1923), preliminary studies for the Optical Disks that appear in Anemic Cinema. He described his interests to Cabanne as follows: At that time, I felt a small attraction toward the optical. Without ever really calling it that, I made a little thing that turned, that visually gave a corkscrew effect, and this attracted me; it was amusing. At first I made it with spirals . . . not even spirals—they were off-center circles which, inscribed one inside the other, formed a spiral, but not in the geometric sense; rather in the visual effect. I was busy with that from 1921 to 1925. (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 72) The rotating disks project the illusion of relief and hence of a threedimensional space. Supplanting the pictorial conventions of perspective based on geometry, the rotation of these spiraling disks simulates through movement the illusion of depth achieved in painting through

The Spectacle of Film

/ 79

the static projection of a three-dimensional space. Duchamp thus undermines the conventional understanding and positioning of the eye as viewpoint in painting, in order to focus on the kinetic mechanisms of vision and its optical effects. In his interviews with Cabanne, Duchamp elucidated the importance of these optical experiments insofar as they informed and determined his interest and activities in Anemic Cinema: The movies amused me because of their optical side. Instead of making a machine which would turn, as I had done in New York, I said to myself, “Why not turn the film?” That would be a lot simpler. I wasn’t interested in making movies as such; it was simply a more practical way of achieving my optical results. When people say that I’ve made movies, I answer that, no, I haven’t, that it was a convenient method—I am particularly sure of it now—of arriving at what I wanted. (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 68) Duchamp may be right to claim that he did not make a film, since he refused to rely on the visual presuppositions and conventions of the cinematic medium.⁶⁴ However, rather than merely questioning the nature of the cinematic image and the cinematographic apparatus, as other avant-garde filmmakers have done, Duchamp considered the possibility of “turning” the film (which is also a pun on tourner, the French term for shooting a film). Instead of making a machine that would turn, he treated film as a readymade machine. In Anemic Cinema, he inscribed the movement of rotation within the picture frame, making a play on the mechanical rotation that connects film frames to each other. And he did the same with disks inscribed with puns in the film, treating them as machines that appeared to “turn” on themselves because their texts rely on words that sound similar but trigger different meanings.⁶⁵ His experiment in film was a way of expressing through the spiraling motion of the optical disks the illusion of relief, of another dimension achieved through optical projection. Similarly, the rotation of the disks with puns opens onto a mental dimension, since they implode the effect of verbal reference and meaning through


/ The Spectacle of Film

the proliferation of puns. Duchamp was appropriating movement as an instrument in order to explore the potential of rotation to generate another spatial dimension or to collapse meaning. Rotation became the means for attaining optically, rather than visually, the projection of another dimension, of what Jean Clair called “the purely mental space of both optical illusion and wordplay.”⁶⁶ Abolishing naturalistic three-dimensional perspective space, the spiraling disks inaugurate a fourth dimension, a mental space of optical and linguistic games. This conceptual move challenges the dominance of the visual in cinema by stripping it of its retinal vestments and retinue. Let us examine more closely the material elements, structure, and modes of viewing at issue in Anemic Cinema.⁶⁷ The film is composed of a title card, followed by nine rotating Disks Inscribed with Puns that are interspersed and alternate with ten rotating Optical Disks. It concludes with a peculiar credit sequence that bears a copyright insignia signed by hand and undersigned, ostensibly with a fingerprint, by Duchamp’s artistic alter ego, Rrose Sélavy. The spectator’s experience of the film alternates between reading the disks with puns and looking at the optical disks. Commenting on this compositional strategy, Annette Michelson noted that it “solicits alternately a reading and a viewing, a seeing in or through illusionist depth and an apprehending of a plane surface.”⁶⁸ This alternating movement between reading and viewing disrupts the spectator’s “look,” reflecting Duchamp’s deliberate effort to challenge the retinal illusion and seduction of the cinematic medium. This strategy in Anemic Cinema recalls his earlier interventions in The Large Glass, where he sought to remove the work’s “retinal aspect” through the conjunction and alternation of seeing and reading. Duchamp insisted that the notes accompanying The Large Glass must be consulted while viewing, in order to disrupt its being “looked at” in the aesthetic sense of the word (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 42–43). Just as he challenged the retinal legacy of painting, so, in Anemic Cinema, did he proceed to question the nature of film as a visual medium along with the category of authorship. In the film’s title sequence, the words “Anemic” and “Cinema” are shown diagonally to each other as if rotated around a hinge, suggesting their potential reversibility as mirror images. Arturo Schwarz noted

The Spectacle of Film

/ 81

that the title is treated as if it were a palindrome (it would read the same backward and forward), when in reality it is merely an anagram.⁶⁹ The rotation and folding over of “Anemic” onto “Cinema” produces a mirrorlike reversibility (a “mirrorical return,” to use Duchamp’s term) suggesting that cinema is brought in some manner face-to-face with itself. However, it also implies that this “face-off ” would have consequences, since cinema would become anemic, suffering a fate already scripted in and thus endemic to its nominal condition. In what sense could cinema be considered to have suffered a loss of blood and thus to have turned into a mere shadow of its former self? Duchamp’s punning play on “cinema” and “anemia” recalls his earlier intervention in the readymade Paris Air (see chapter 1), where he punned on the word and idea of “inoculation” as a way of alluding both to the ocular and also to the efforts to contain it through immunization. Duchamp’s earlier intervention suggests that there may be a similar strategy at work in Anemic Cinema, that of “inoculating” film against the retinal by “bleeding” or draining its visual and verbal meaning.⁷⁰ According to Jean Clair, the title “Anemic Cinema” as an anagram reveals the basic principle of the film, which is “to make an object ‘turn’ on itself.” This object “might be a figure or a phrase turning in space which was no longer the naturalist space of the disk’s revolutions, but the purely mental space of both optical illusion and wordplay.”⁷¹ It is important to note that this attempt to make an object turn on itself is not to be confused with the actual space of the disks’ rotations, since it belongs to a mental space of optical illusion and wordplay. It is a question no longer of the eye but now of the mind’s gray matter in “making” and “getting” the picture. This movement from the retinal to the conceptual decisively marks the allusions to sexuality associated with the movement of both the optical disks and the disks inscribed with puns. From a graphic perspective, the spiraling movement of the optical disks suggests an inand-out movement, a playful allusion to the sexual act. The eye of the spectator is drawn in by the rotating movement of the circles, invited to penetrate the spiraling depth, and then thrown back out through the optical illusion of protrusion. Toby Mussman noted that “the way the eye reads the optical illusion as both going in and coming out—that is, the eye goes back, and forth, reading it first as penetration and


/ The Spectacle of Film

then as protrusion—makes an abstracted allusion to the sexual act.”⁷² Duchamp’s exploration of optical illusion as an allusion to the sexual act captures the problematic status of the spectatorial gaze by exposing its voyeuristic impulses. It illuminates the mechanisms of desire implicit in visual consumption, insofar as the spectator’s gaze attempts to penetrate, fix, and objectify representations of sexuality. But in Anemic Cinema, the gesture of visual consumption is deliberately thwarted, since the spectator’s gaze is confronted with optical effects resulting from the disks’ spiraling movement rather than with visual renderings of either body parts or the sexual act. Commenting on the spiral’s impact on the viewer, Duchamp noted that its capacity to generate the effect of relief is dependent on movement: “The spiral at rest doesn’t give / any impression of relief / (or at least only imagined / psychologically)” (Marcel Duchamp, Notes, note 170; see Figure 15). This is to say that movement triggers and sustains the “corkscrew” effect to which the spectator assigns sexual significance.⁷³ The fact that sexuality is posited as an effect, as a projection of spiraling movement, renders it irreducible to a stable gender reference. While the projective movement of the spiraling disks may suggest a breast, such a literal reading is subverted by the fact that the effect is the result of an optical illusion rather than an actual representation.⁷⁴ The provisional status of this allusion to femininity is later made explicit in Duchamp’s Rotoliefs (1935), where the same optical disk is reprised under the title Chinese Lantern.⁷⁵ Playing on the collapsible nature of a paper lantern, this disk illuminates the reversible nature of optical effects, since the spiraling movement can suggest either protrusion or depth. The corkscrewlike movement of the nearly concentric circles on another disk suggests penetration, thus playfully alluding to the male function. The resemblance of this optical disk to a slightly off-center dartboard is later picked up in Duchamp’s sculptural molds. He presented a phallic, riblike object under the title of Dart-Object (Objet-Dard; 1951), which in French is also a pun on objet d’art, “art object.” It is significant that this object was part of the mold shaping the breast of the nude displayed in Given.⁷⁶ Its phallic appearance is derived as an impression from a mold designed to represent femininity, suggesting the reversibility and thus the potential collapse of notions

The Spectacle of Film

/ 83

Figure 15. Marcel Duchamp, Anemic Cinema (Anémic cinéma), Paris, 1926. Optical Disk, no. 1. Courtesy of Arturo Schwarz. Photograph by Enrico Cattaneo. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

of sexual difference. The male and female functions are inscribed into the viewer’s conceptual space as optical lures whose visual meaning is provisional, like puns. The optical disks are travesties of sexuality, for they present feminine or masculine traits as interchangeable projections, thus undermining the referential status of sexual difference. The last optical disks (numbers 9 and 10) in Anemic Cinema are slightly different, since the rotating circles are partially shaded so as to enhance their volumetric effect. Instead of corkscrew effects, their rotation projects the figure of an eye as seen in relief. Does such a reference to the eye imply a belated attempt to return to the visual? The fact that this image is reprised as a reproduction on the cover of the Surrealist journal Minotaure (Winter 1935) over Man Ray’s photograph “Dust Breeding” suggests otherwise. The photograph captured Duchamp’s Large Glass in the making, lying flat on its back and accumulating dust that provided “a kind of color” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 53) for the Sieves section. “Raised” or “bred” for several


/ The Spectacle of Film

months, the dust was graded (or should one say pruned?) into a miniature landscape in relief before being fixed in varnish. While “perspective resembles color” insofar as it relies physically on the eye (ibid., 87), it differs from color since it entails a mental projection from a two-dimensional image to the third dimension. Privileging “grey matter” over color, “Dust Breeding” alluded to Duchamp’s attempts in The Large Glass to hold the visual bias of painting at bay by delaying it through conceptual interventions. Moreover, it is also useful to recall that “Dust Breeding” was later published (in Littérature, October 1, 1922) with the playful caption “Behold the domain of Rrose Sélavy.”⁷⁷ By assigning to Rrose this realm of breeding dust, Duchamp designated her the keeper of anart, a domain barren to visual intervention but ripe for conceptual innovation. The reproduction of the last disk of Anemic Cinema over “Dust Breeding” suggests that the allusion to the eye at the end of the film refers not to vision per se but, rather, to its optical manipulation and its effects. The composite image acts as a reminder of the film’s optical illusionism, where references to “masculinity” and “femininity” are provisionally constructed by the spiraling movement of the rotating disks. Marking Duchamp’s critique of ocular vision, the play on optics in Anemic Cinema thwarts the reduction of sexuality to an object of sight, reactivating the spectator as producer rather than visual consumer. The film draws attention to the construction of sexuality because its production relies not on actual visual images but on mental projections triggered by the spiraling disks. This conceptual redefinition of sexuality countermands its visual consolidation, thwarting the dominance of the eye through optical interventions.

Rotating Puns as Anemic Machines And it’s only because of humor that you can leave, that you can free yourself. t marcel duchamp, interview by guy viau, july 17, 1960 Just as the gesture of seeing is recast in Anemic Cinema as a function of optical illusions, so is the gesture of reading the nine Disks Inscribed

The Spectacle of Film

/ 85

with Puns subverted by their movement in a spiral. The white block letters are pasted on cardboard and mounted on phonograph records. The choice of records is significant, since they allude to sound, a dimension ostensibly absent in this “silent” film. Moreover, the disks serve to undermine visual import by highlighting the importance of sound to the viewing of the film. Diverging from silent-film traditions that present intertitles in linear script, the spiral layout of words on the rotating disks impedes their legibility. In order to read the words, the spectator is compelled to turn his or her head to follow the disks’ spiraling motion. Furthermore, occasional flickers disrupt the reading by creating an effect similar to natural blinking. Although mimicking intertitles in silent films, the disks do not illuminate the content of visual images; rather, they solicit the viewer’s attention in their own right. The disks are inscribed with a series of phrases whose organizing principle relies on the sounds of puns rather than on logical meaning. Instead of offering themselves up to be read, these puns, like rhymes, invite play and the proliferation of meanings. Duchamp’s long-standing interest in puns is well known and may well date to his early work as a cartoonist (1905–1910) for the newspapers Le Courrier français and Le Rire. His fascination with wordplays and puns is already visible in certain titles of his paintings, but it comes to the fore in about 1912–1919 in the context of his readymades.⁷⁸ He described such titles as the “use of words as a means of adding color,” adding a verbal and thus mental dimension to the visual consumption of the work.⁷⁹ Influenced by Raymond Roussel’s and Jean-Pierre Brisset’s experiments with language through wordplays and puns, Duchamp likewise sought to liberate language from the conventions of meaning in order to explore its “antisense” potential (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 41). He was interested in the productive force of puns that activate language’s creative and poetic potential, a subject he elaborated on in an interview with Katharine Kuh: For me, words are not merely a means of communication. You know, puns have always been considered a low form of wit, but I find them a source of stimulation both because of their actual sound and because of the unexpected meanings attached to


/ The Spectacle of Film the interrelationships of disparate words. . . . Sometimes four or five different levels of meaning come through. . . . If you introduce a familiar word into an alien atmosphere, you have something comparable to distortion in painting, something surprising and new.⁸⁰

Instead of considering puns “a low form of wit,” Duchamp valued their ability to open up to another dimension where meaning proliferates through multiple associations. He emphasized the poetic potential of puns because they dislodge conventional meanings through the similarity of sounds. By setting into play interrelationships of different words, puns create unexpected analogies and distortions. Instead of trapping meaning, they set it into motion, thus triggering its dissemination. Duchamp’s readymade Trap (Trébuchet, 1917; Figure 16) provides a concrete example of how puns function both visually and verbally. As a coatrack turned on its back and nailed to the floor, it functions as a trap, while its title, Trébuchet, is a pun on the French trébucher, “to stumble” or “to trip.” Moreover, as a chess term, “trébuchet” also means a snare, the offer of a pawn in the hope of making the opponent stumble. By making us trip, puns invite us to think about wordplay as a mechanism that generates movement. As they trigger new thoughts and thus different ways of understanding, puns enrich ordinary language by activating its poetic and conceptual possibilities, upholding various meanings as if in a balance. The viewer is ensnared, unable to resist the temptation of endowing these verbal devices with multiple associations. As Trap suggests, the spectator’s intervention is mandated by and scripted into the activation and interpretation of the work. Thus, the initial gesture of making this work is inseparable from the spectator’s appropriation and redeployment. This idea of defining the “making” of a work as an interactive and shared enterprise is figured on Disk 3 by Duchamp’s query regarding a possible exchange between two interlocutors: “si je te donne un sou, me donnerastu une paire de ciseaux?” (if i give you a sou [penny], will you give me a pair of scissors?). Elmer Peterson suggested that this figurative expression plays on the French custom of giving a sou

The Spectacle of Film

/ 87

Figure 16. Marcel Duchamp, Trap (Trébuchet), New York, 1917/1964 (1964 edition). Assisted readymade: coat rack nailed to floor, 19 × 100.1 × 11.6 cm. Courtesy of Arturo Schwarz. Photograph by Enrico Cattaneo. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

to preserve friendship when offered a sharp object (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 113). This inscription reverses the deal, since the token of friendship is proffered up front with no assurances that one will not be cut out. This little game between “I” and “you” figures the interactive nature of puns that require the participation of the spectator in order to activate the pun and thus “make” it work. The disks inscribed with words in Anemic Cinema contain extensive references and figurative allusions to the ways puns function as generators of multiple meanings. For instance, Disk 6 (Figure 17) bears the inscription “esquivons les ecchymoses des esquimaux aux mots esquis” (let’s dodge the bruises of the eskimos in exquisite words). This text is merely a fragment of an earlier print version that began with Rrose Sélavy et moi (Rrose and I), which identifies both explicitly as agents, with the caveat that Rrose represents


/ The Spectacle of Film

a plural persona as Duchamp’s artistic alias.⁸¹ Rather than claiming “their” shared love of puns, however, this inscription appears to promote a strategy of evasion from puns, as if that were possible. Can this admonition to be serious by dodging or evading (esquiver) the bruises of words ever be realized? It would seem not, since the putative attempt to evade puns only results in more puns. This can be seen in an earlier version of this inscription, which appeared on the cover of the Little Review (Spring 1925), which features the word estivons, “let us esteem or value,” instead of esquivons, “let us dodge,” in the final version of this pun. This early version assigns authorship to Man Ray, as if wordplay could be secured or legitimized. Further puns on “Eskimo” generated by the playful reversal of Esquimaux, “exquisite pains,” into mots esquis, “exquisite words,” emphasize the bruising pleasures of puns. Rather than dodging the bruises of puns, Rrose, Duchamp, and it would seem Man Ray are in the business of taking potshots at language as well as at retinal art. One need only recall that Duchamp’s calling card introduced him as Rrose Sélavy, with a dual business specialty: “Precision Oculism” and “Complete Line of Whiskers and Kicks.” Referring, as Peterson suggested, to L.H.O.O.Q., Duchamp’s bearded Mona Lisa, the “whiskers and kicks” playfully allude to Duchamp/Rrose’s business specialty in puns whose effect is to boot us in the rear (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 105). Disk 1 with puns, which opens the film, bears a text that mimics the prescription for a beauty regime: “bains de gros thé pour grains de beauté sans trop de bengué” (tea baths for beauty spots with a minimum of bengué). Appearing after the film’s title, Anemic Cinema, this directive for improved complexion in the guise of a mock ad seems to constitute a response to the anemia ascribed to cinema. But what has rendered cinema anemic? Is it the fact of its commercialization, of its reduction to a commodity whose visual and verbal consumption is mechanical and unreflective? And if that were the case, isn’t there a particular irony in appropriating the logic of advertising to attempt to cure cinema from succumbing to commodification? Cinema’s visual seduction renders the experience of seeing a film akin to the experience of visual consumption that Duchamp ascribed to shopwindows. But how would the immersion in a bath

The Spectacle of Film

/ 89

Figure 17. Marcel Duchamp, Anemic Cinema (Anémic cinéma), Paris, 1926. Disk Inscribed with Pun, no. 6. Courtesy of Arturo Schwarz. Photograph by Enrico Cattaneo. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/ Succession Marcel Duchamp.

cure film of its lapse into a visually seductive commodity? If the development of film entails its immersion in a chemical bath to bring out the picture, then the proposed regimen of “tea baths” suggests a different way of making film that would not lapse into the production of pictures and thus fall into the snare of visual and commercial consumption. The idea of inoculating film against its picture-making tendency is also playfully hinted at on Disk 4: “on demande des moustiques domestiques (demi-stock) pour la cure d’azote sur la cote d’azur” (wanted domestic mosquitoes [half-stock] for the nitrogen cure on the côte d’azur). This proposal for a mosquito-based nitrogen cure alludes to the anemia of cinema (since mosquitoes draw blood), while promoting the use of mosquitoes (that spread disease) to hold the illness at bay through inoculation. Along with this reference to the cinematic image, the question arises, does this prescription of tea baths for beauty spots also involve a feminine referent? Could it be a playful allusion to Rrose Sélavy, who signs the film? This seems likely, given Rrose’s tendency to dress up and look seductive, as in the 1921 Man Ray photograph of Duchamp in female masquerade. Such an allusion to Rrose would be misleading, however, given that her “femininity” is a matter of travesty. Like


/ The Spectacle of Film

the spiraling motion of puns, this ostensible reference to the feminine collapses into its male counterpart. Instead of sustaining the female illusion, Rrose’s toilette exposes the trap of falling for its visual lure. Thus, whether it applies to the cinematic image or to Rrose’s or to both, this supposed regimen of tea baths for beauty spots seems to imply a critique of pretensions to beauty. Since bains de gros thé also puns on bains de crottes (turd baths), the implied reversibility of bains de gros thé (tea baths) for grains de beauté (beauty spots) conjoins references to bodily waste with pretensions to beauty. These puns recall Duchamp’s earlier intervention in his readymade Fountain (1917; Figure 18). A urinal—a mass-produced industrial object—was rotated 90 degrees, reentitled Fountain (a pun inverting its physical function as a drain) and submitted for exhibition as a work of art.⁸² Rendered useless as a commodity by being turned on its back, the reactivation of the urinal as a “fountain” invited its consideration as an art object. Like the puns “turd baths” and “grains of beauty,” this urinal/fountain combined references to bodily waste (as that which must be kept hidden from public view) with the aspirations of art (traditionally associated with the display of beauty). Acting like a switch or faucet turned on or off between the commodity and the potential artwork, the logic of the urinal/fountain parallels the twists and turns of puns. We will return shortly to the question of the pertinence of these puns to the redefinition of cinema. The analogy between the urinal/fountain and the mechanisms of puns is reinforced in Anemic Cinema by an inscription on Disk 8 that also mimics an advertisement. It states, “parmi nos articles des quincaillerie paresseuse, nous recommendons un robinet qui s’arrête de couler quand on l’écoute pas” (among our articles of lazy hardware, we recommend a faucet that stops running when nobody is listening to it). The fact that listening is crucial in determining whether the faucet is turned on or off references the way puns function in wordplay. One must listen for the sounds of words in order to stumble on and trigger their multiple meanings. This allusion becomes clearer in light of a late work, the dust jacket for the exhibition catalog Marcel Duchamp: Readymades, 1913–1964, by Arturo Schwarz. The phrase “A faucet that stops run-

The Spectacle of Film

/ 91

Figure 18. Alfred Stieglitz, “The Fountain by R. Mutt,” photograph of Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, New York, 1917. Original destroyed; dimensions not recorded. Gelatin silver print, 4⁄ × 7⁄ inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

ning when nobody is listening to it” is set as a caption to an etching of Duchamp’s readymade Fountain, which bears the inscription “an original revolutionary faucet” (un robinet original révolutionnaire) and the subtitle “mirrorical return” (renvoi miroirique). It is only by turning on the faucet of puns that one


/ The Spectacle of Film

can hear the repetition of the letter “r” and recognize Duchamp’s bilingual play on the spelling of this letter as “air” (in French) and “are” (in English) as a stand-in for “art.”⁸³ By tapping language and switching it on through puns, Duchamp activates a conceptual understanding of Fountain as a faucet that switches back and forth between “air” and “art,” nonart and art. But why is the faucet in Anemic Cinema presented as an article of “lazy hardware”? By linking language to the readymades, to the appropriation and rotation of mass-produced hardware, he points to the activation of language through the mirroring play of puns. Duchamp’s wordplay turns language on and keeps it running, an antidote to the “laziness” of ordinary language that remains untapped poetically and conceptually. Just as the “male” urinal once turned on its back becomes feminized as “fountain” (its shape led to its description as the “Madonna of the Bathroom,” and fontaine, the word for “fountain” in French, is a feminine noun), so do puns upon rotation switch between male and female positions. Instead of inscribing sexuality into the actual meaning of words, Duchamp evokes it figuratively through the movement of puns generated by their phonetic mirroring and reversibility. Such sexual allusions can be seen on Disk 7, which bears the inscription “avez-vous déja mis la moële de l’épée dans le poêle de l’aimée?” (have you already put the marrow of the sword into the oven of the loved one?), also translated by Peterson as “Have you put the hilt of the foil in the quilt of the goil?” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 106). The inversion and play on puns of the French phrase la moële de l’épée (the marrow of the sword) and le poêle de l’aimée (the oven of the loved one) projects figurative allusions to masculinity and femininity. It destabilizes their referential status through their punning inversion and reversibility.⁸⁴ Ostensibly alluding to sexual intercourse, this figuration of sexuality as an in-or-out movement mirrors the rotation and reversibility of puns on the spiraling disks. Duchamp’s enigmatic evocation of incest on Disk 5 explicitly references sex (albeit of an illicit kind), while also suggesting conflict or difference: “inceste ou passion de famille à coups trop tirés” (incest or familial passion, on very bad terms). Incest as passion for the familial (or similar) is juxtaposed with the phrase à coups

The Spectacle of Film

/ 93

trop tirés (on very bad terms) or (in blows or kicks too drawn out), which also puns on “with knives drawn” (à couteaux tirés), signifying a violent conflict. Might this allusion to incest as a passion rooted in kinship refer to Duchamp’s alter ego Rrose Sélavy? The expression à coups trop tirés recalls Duchamp’s calling card that identified him as Rrose (his self-engendered alter ego) in the business of “precision oculism” and “whiskers and kicks of all kinds” (or “genres,” a pun with “gender” in French). As discussed earlier, “whiskers and kicks” referred to their shared enterprise in puns, taking potshots at both language and art by booting the spectator in the rear. The evocation of incest alludes to Duchamp and Rrose’s kinship and shared passion for puns, as well as to the “incestuous” consonance triggered by a pun’s shifting meaning. Thus, the sexual allusions in Anemic Cinema are redirected in the spiraling circuit of deferred authorship and in the figuratively erotic movement of the punning disks. Just as Duchamp’s self-engenderment as Rrose multiplied authorship and postponed its consolidation, sexuality is deferred from attaining meaning because of the proliferation of mirroring sounds and puns. The erotic emerges as a relay generated through phonetic consonance that echoes the rhythms of respiration. Insinuating an analogy between breathing and eroticism, Duchamp dematerializes both authorship and sexuality through an appeal to living that counters the activity of making art: “I like living, breathing, better than working” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 72). The inscription on the last disk with puns privileges “breathing” over making art by staging a playful challenge of authorship and the creative act. Disk 9 (Figure 19) reads, “l’aspirant habite javel et moi j’avais l’habite en spirale” (the aspirant lives in javel and me, i was living in the spiral). Read phonetically, the second part can also be translated as “I had the cock in a spiral” or “I had an inspired cock.” The use of the first person in the guise of “me” and “I” and the sexual connotations implied in the pun on the spiraling penis reinforces the illusion of a personal statement. However, Duchamp deliberately thwarted such a self-referential reading by commenting to Michel Sanouillet that this is not his pun (“L’aspirant de Javel n’est pas de moi”).⁸⁵ Despite the use of “me” and “I,” he is neither the


/ The Spectacle of Film

original author nor, by extension, the sexual referent of this inscription. The pronouns are merely shifters: they represent positions activated at will in order to both constitute and relay the illusion of meaning.⁸⁶ Pronouns do not belong to anyone in particular, since language is available to all for both appropriation and deployment. By stating that he has merely passed on rather than authored this pun, Duchamp renounces the aspirations to originality attached to the traditional conception of the artist. Given this attempt to challenge authorship, why would the disk evoke the notion of inspiration (en spirale)? The inscription begins with the word “aspirant” (l’aspirant) and concludes with “in a spiral” (en spirale), which also suggests a pun on “inspiration” (inspirale). “Aspirant” signifies someone who seeks to attain something, and “aspiration” refers to the desire for a higher attainment as well as to the act of breathing and to a phonetic feature. The latter two meanings allude to the word “aspirate” (from Latin aspirare), “to give the h-sound to,” meaning to pronounce with an audible breath.⁸⁷ These wordplays on aspiration combine the audibility of breath and the pronunciation of sounds in order to suggest aural consonance that drives the spiraling movement of puns. The word “inspiration” derives from the Latin inspirare (atus), which means “to breathe or draw in air, to be animated or full with ideas, and a source or impulse for creation in art.” Is it appropriate to evoke the word “inspiration” to describe wordplay, given that puns, like readymades, are appropriated and redeployed rather than created anew? While not creatively inspired, puns nevertheless may prove inspiring by triggering and “animating” new meanings and ideas. Duchamp plays on the phonic similarities linking aspiration, inspiration, and the spiral to bring together allusions to the artist, to breathing, and to puns. These allusions become clearer when considered in light of Duchamp’s seemingly uninspired declared preference for living or breathing over making art. He commented to Cabanne, “I like living, breathing, rather than working. . . . Therefore, if you wish, my art would be that of the living: each second, each breath is a work which is inscribed nowhere, which is neither visual nor cerebral. It’s sort of constant euphoria” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 72).

The Spectacle of Film

/ 95

Figure 19. Marcel Duchamp, Anemic Cinema (Anémic cinéma), Paris, 1926. Disk Inscribed with Pun, no. 9. Courtesy of Arturo Schwarz. Photograph by Enrico Cattaneo. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/ Succession Marcel Duchamp.

Marking his preference for breathing “air” rather than making “art,” Duchamp downplays artistic aspirations in favor of an art of living figured through the evanescence of breathing. But is this gesture a literal affirmation of existence or the figurative means for questioning the notion of artistic intervention? Duchamp’s readymade Beautiful Breath, Veil Water humorously summed up the ostensible attempt to bottle the artist’s “breath” or “fragrance.” Duchamp’s recourse to an empty bottle that supposedly captured the breath and/or fragrance of his artistic alter ego (Rrose Sélavy) staged both the seduction of and the resistance to being identified and commodified as an artist. Duchamp’s earlier appeal to breathing as a dispensation from becoming an artist is also reflected in his gesture of according “breath” the status of a “work.” However, since this “work” is “inscribed nowhere” and is “neither visual nor cerebral,” it does not incur the danger of lapsing into art. By conjuring the audibility of breathing in the play of consonance, puns represent an intervention whose status as a work is evanescent, like the trace of breath or perfume. Although puns are often dismissed as puerile or infantile, their “breath” or “fragrance” cannot be bottled (packaged in glass as a commodity). The inscription on Disk 2 further alludes to breathing as a figure for the work of


/ The Spectacle of Film

puns: “l’enfant qui tète est un souffleur de chaire chaude et n’aime pas le chou-fleur de serre chaude” (the nursing child is a blower of hot flesh and does not like the hothouse cauliflower). The word souffleur refers to a blower or prompter, while the verb souffler means “to get one’s breath,” or figuratively, to breathe a word or sound or a theatrical prompt. As this inscription of spoonerisms suggests, puns may be like child’s play, uncontainable (in glass or hothouses), and irrepressible in their capacity to “breathe” a word or a sound. Puns work like prompters; they activate (like the child blower above) through the play of sounds the imagination of the spectators, inviting their participation in the creative act understood as a collaborative enterprise.

Signing the Dissemination of Authorship I am a regular movie actor. . . . I had absolutely no idea of becoming any Marcel Duchamp at all. t marcel duchamp, speaking at the pasadena museum of art on the occasion of his retrospective, 1963 Given Duchamp’s reiterated critique of authorship, we can now begin to understand his cautionary note on Disk 1. His ostensible prescription for a beauty regime, “tea baths for beauty spots with a minimum of bengué,” contains the qualification “with a minimum of Bengué.” Is this ostensible beauty prescription a pun on the commercial unguent (Ben Gay), or does it also refer to its inventor, a doctor named Bengué? And does the conflation of the product and its inventor point to the potential reduction of authorship to a commodity? While the inscription of the proper name raises the specter of the author, it does so by minimizing its impact (“with a minimum of Bengué”). How are we to reconcile this recommendation to minimize the authorial function with the ending of Anemic Cinema, which overdeterminedly evokes the assignation of authorship? Rather than providing the usual credits for the film, the last shot displays “copyrighted by Rrose Sélavy 1926” (Figure 20), but Rrose’s name is signed and accompanied

The Spectacle of Film

/ 97

below by a thumbprint. This surplus of indices associated with the author and manual production are particularly surprising in the context of cinema, a medium based on mechanical reproduction and one in which authorship is by necessity multiple and split according to specializations. Having denounced the danger of the artist’s “hand” (or rather “paw,” patte in French; Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 106) in painting, why would Duchamp resort here to its emphatic trace in the guise of a thumbprint? Duchamp’s overdetermined gesture, however, becomes legible when considered in light of his earlier dismissal of the mechanical nature of photography and film as a means of expression. A closer look at his playful deployment of signs associated with the author and artisanal production reveals a strategic attempt to rethink the nature of both authorship and the cinema. The copyright ostensibly designates Duchamp’s female artistic alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, whose identity is validated by the presence of her signature and her reputed thumbprint affixed to celluloid. Despite the fact that according to Duchamp there is a femme savante side to Rrose Sélavy, she signs the film with her fingerprint as if she were illiterate. Is this an attempt to dumb down Rrose, or is it, rather, an attempt to draw attention to her hand in the making of Anemic Cinema? Standing in not just for Duchamp but also for Man Ray and Marc Allégret, who worked on the film’s production, Rrose Sélavy, with her signature, incorporates their functions like the president of a corporation. This gesture recalls Duchamp’s strategy in the Monte Carlo Bond (1924), which bears his double signature, as Rrose Sélavy (“President of the Company”) and as Marcel Duchamp (“An Administrator”). As Amelia Jones noted, not only was Rrose designated as an independent agent, but her role as president appeared to give her the upper hand over mere administrators such as Duchamp.⁸⁸ Reassigning agency to his artistic alias, Duchamp plays on the logic of the corporation in order to uphold the authority of a fiction. Does, then, his attempt to lend his own hand for Rrose’s fingerprint undermine his borrowing of the hands of others in the making of the film? While ostensibly enhancing the referential verisimilitude of Rrose’s identity and artistic presence, Duchamp’s gesture of lending his hand highlights the multiplicity of producers who have lent a hand in the making of the film. This apparent consolidation


/ The Spectacle of Film

Figure 20. Marcel Duchamp, Anemic Cinema (Anémic cinéma), Paris, 1926. The film’s last shot, showing Duchamp’s signature and thumbprint.

of authorship in the guise of Rrose’s signature alludes to the fiction of the “single-handed” author, a fiction whose authority is vested like the presidency of a corporation. Rrose as pseudonym and artistic alias is a stand-in, a fictional placeholder for a gesture whose authority is disseminated through the interplay of Duchamp and his collaborators Man Ray and Allégret. Artistic identity is thus shown to be a fiction, a relay game between different personae or positions without a firm referent but constructed provisionally through their circulation. Given Duchamp’s critique of authorship, how is his use of copyright to be understood? Rrose’s first authorial appearance as artist was manifested in her gesture of signing Fresh Widow by claiming copyright. But as Molly Nesbit pointed out, this claim to copyright was a bluff, for because the window was an industrial good, Duchamp (or Rrose) could at best patent it, but could not be granted authorial rights. Conflating the industrial patent with the culture of the copyright, Duchamp assimilated the right to make, use, or sell an invention with the exclusive rights to reproduce, disseminate, or sell granted to

The Spectacle of Film

/ 99

an author, artist, or agent. But in so doing, he subverted the distinction and hierarchy between the “making” of industrial and cultural artifacts, since the patent certifies “invention,” while the copyright licenses the “rights to reproduction” and thus concerns the dissemination rather than creation of cultural works. In Anemic Cinema, the evocation of the copyright is followed by the signature of Rrose Sélavy, thereby alluding to modes of authorizing paintings rather than licensing rights. Duchamp conflates the copyright understood as the rights to reproduction with the artistic signature as guarantor of the uniqueness of the work of art.⁸⁹ By reappropriating the film’s copyright through the insignia of artistic agency, he playfully suggested that the reproduction rights backed by the copyright may secure less the work itself than its creator. This ploy of assigning originality to the rights to reproduction is mimicked by Duchamp’s counterfeit of Rrose’s signature and thumbprint.⁹⁰ He ascribes to her the rights to reproduction, all the while simulating the authorial signs of Rrose’s agency and fictional presence. Rrose’s counterfeit thumbprint alerts the viewer that a scam may be at work, since fingerprints are signatory traces of the perpetrator of a crime. Subverting the legal and institutional referents for the constitution and legitimization of artistic identity, Duchamp undermines the copyright through a strategy of simulation that disseminates authorship instead of securing the dissemination of the work. By signing the film with an impression of his hand, he alludes to appropriation not as a way of securing authorship but in order to open it up to collaborators or future spectators. Duchamp’s earlier cited comment about Anemic Cinema, “Why not turn the film?” now becomes clearer. Instead of merely “making” a film (tourner un film) as others have done, he turns film on its head, using a strategy of optical and verbal puns that alter its “look” as well as undermine its meaning. Recalling his earlier experiments with readymades, he takes the film as a medium of mechanical reproduction and turns it on itself through optical and verbal play in order to “inoculate” it against its visual and verbal bias. Delaying the lapse of cinema into a commodity, he drains film of its visual and verbal meanings through the mirroring play of puns. In so doing, he redefines film as a conceptual enterprise, liberating it as a form of expression


/ The Spectacle of Film

to engage with questions regarding the nature of art. Resisting the allure of the visual image, he takes its semblance to task by recasting it as a mental projection. Disrupting the act of seeing and reading, Duchamp activates the conceptual space of optical illusion and wordplay in order to reappropriate the logic of the film and realign it with his broader strategy for challenging the retinal appeal and status of the work of art. Produced through the punlike rotation of “cinema” into “anemic,” the film turns on itself as if in a mirror, remanding its visual semblance as it switches on its anemia as a medium of technical production. Like his sometime collaborators Picabia and Man Ray, Duchamp drew on art in order to rethink the nature of cinema, and he redeployed the technical apparatus of film in a way that encouraged the emergence of new forms of reflection on art. By making visible and manipulating the techniques of production and display, these artists/filmmakers challenged film as a visual medium in order to reveal its mechanics as an apparatus for social and cultural expression. Their critique of film as visual spectacle brought into play the social conditions that underlie visual consumption and spectatorship. Their attempts to shatter or break through the deadening power of the gaze led to the activation of spectatorship, thus opening the space of consumption as a sphere for collaborative production. Their radical analysis of the cinematic medium that exposed its modes of technical and social operation furthered the critique of art that Dada had inaugurated but almost lost in the melee of vociferous denunciations and negative animus that marked its violent transition to Surrealism.


 Endgame Strategies: Art, Chess, and Creativity Fundamentally, I don’t believe in the creative function of the artist. t marcel duchamp, dialogues with marcel duchamp

Marcel Duchamp’s artistic career has often confounded both his admirers and critics. His rapid passage through different pictorial idioms led him to leave painting largely behind by 1913, and in 1923 it culminated in his supposed abandonment of art in favor of chess.¹ Duchamp’s artistic career started in 1910 when he began to publicly exhibit paintings whose representational character reflected the influence of Paul Cézanne and of the Fauvists. This figurative dimension was quickly supplanted by experiments with Cubist-like abstraction and mechanomorphic figures. By 1913 Duchamp had begun to put both painting and conventional art into question. His experiments with recording the random shapes generated by fallen pieces of string in Three Standard Stoppages (Figure 21) marked his departure from traditional methods of artistic expression. This work was the first of Duchamp’s efforts to “can chance,” a radical gesture of deploying chance as the generative mechanism of a work that left behind the procedures of painting. It also marked the beginning of his experiments with appropriating mass-produced consumer objects such as in The Bicycle Wheel in 1913, whose meaning and potential for challenging the idea of art and authorship took several years to develop. In 1923, just as Duchamp completed what many subsequent critics considered his masterpiece, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, the idea that Duchamp had renounced art for chess gained 101


/ Endgame Strategies

Figure 21. Marcel Duchamp, Three Standard Stoppages (Trois stoppages étalon), Paris, 1913–1914. Assemblage: three threads glued to three painted canvas strips, 5¼ × 47¼ inches, each mounted on a glass panel, 7¼ × 49⅜ × ¼ inches; three wood slats, 2½ × 43 × ⅛ inches, shaped along one edge to match the curves of three threads; the whole placed in wood box, 11⅛ × 50⅞ × 9 inches. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Katherine S. Dreier Bequest. Copyright The Museum of Modern Art. Licensed by SCALA/Art Resources, NY, 2009. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

currency. According to Joseph Masheck, “Duchamp never discouraged it and seems to have enjoyed the mysterious notoriety that it gave him as well as the silent isolation to carry on his activities out of the limelight. Duchamp was said to have taken up a decided anti-art position, abandoning art in favor of playing chess.”² Within thirteen years, less than it takes most painters to begin a career and establish an artistic reputation, Duchamp seemed to have gone beyond painting and even beyond conventional art. His supposed abandonment of art in favor of chess only fueled public perception of his antiart stance, a position that he preferred to simply qualify as “anartistic.” Although Duchamp continued to produce significant works throughout his lifetime, the perception that his artistic career was dormant or had petered out

Endgame Strategies

/ 103

haunted his work into the mid-1960s. This perception only began to change upon the posthumous exhibition of his secret installation piece Given. And yet, as Octavio Paz suggested, it would be a mistake to interpret Duchamp’s initial repudiation of painting as a renunciation of his artistic work, since his efforts to take leave of painting and challenge the idea of art did not imply a rejection of art altogether: The negation of painterly painting was far from being a renunciation of art; the twenty-three years separating the Large Glass from Given were not empty—rather they were years of research and preparation. The surprising thing is precisely the persistence of Duchamp’s underground work, his patience and his coherence. Like Saint-Pol-Roux, who used to hang the inscription “The poet is working” from his door while he slept, Duchamp used to say that he was not doing anything except breathing—and when he was breathing, he was working.³ Paz’s cautionary comment reminds us that even as Duchamp ostensibly left painting behind and, through the readymades, challenged the idea of art, he continued to experiment and produce new works. His numerous pronouncements regarding his preference for playing chess rather than making art enabled him to “go underground,” evading publicity and dodging the pressures of the modern art market that reduce both artwork and artist to commodities. Even though he proclaimed his preference for “breathing” rather than working, he continued to labor for over twenty years in secret on his last major work, Given.⁴ Eschewing the labels associated with art and the artist—he referred to them as “anart” and “anartist”—he actively resisted having his activities and his position recouped as art. Noting that Duchamp had spent much more time on chess than on painting, Hubert Damisch asked how Duchamp was able to devote twenty years of his life to something that was no more than a game: It is as if a man who seemed quickly convinced of the emptiness of the definitions of painting that were current in his


/ Endgame Strategies

time, this man who was passionately committed to never playing the fool, had found no other defense against an art which was nothing but a game to him than to leave it to take up still another game, but one whose rules were perfectly explicit and binding (and not without lamenting, in the end, that chess had become less an affair of art than of science). It is as if, even while claiming to escape painting, he had found it necessary to find a substitute which was not simply an antidote for it. And in this sense chess obviously seems to have functioned for him as a model of art itself, in the compulsive mode: there where painting—at least in its “modern” version—had only the appearance of a game (and often a ridiculous one), would chess not be the example of a game to which one could apply the name “art” with total rigor, an art where mastery could be verified?⁵ Damisch contends that Duchamp’s claim to escape painting entailed finding a substitute, one where chess would function as a “model for art itself.” This appeal to chess would substitute for but not remedy the condition of art, since the verifiable mastery of the game of chess would appear to be more deserving of the name “art” than art itself. Damisch’s analysis captures Duchamp’s play on art and chess that results in a reversal of the categories and values associated with these terms. But was chess for Duchamp merely a defensive move against art, as Damisch claimed? In ostensibly opting for the “game of chess” rather than the “game of art,” was Duchamp in effect challenging the opposition of these terms in order to redefine both their meanings? This chapter will explore Duchamp’s appeal to chess not as a model or substitute for art but as its strategic counterpart that opens up a new way of understanding the interplay of these terms. Despite its affinities to art, chess is not interchangeable with it, since its intellectual modes of operation are engaged in the production of strategy rather than material objects. While recognizing a shared plasticity in chess and art, Duchamp also recognized chess’s adversarial and tactical character and thus its affinity to competitive sports. But more importantly, how is one to reconcile the calculated strategy of chess with

Endgame Strategies

/ 105

Duchamp’s reliance and indeed celebration of chance in art?⁶ Can the logic of chess as a game of skill be accommodated in some way, or at least brought into a productive conjunction, with the indeterminacy of chance? This chapter will show that rather than reducing art to chess, Duchamp played on their strategic conjunction and opposition in order to activate a conceptual understanding of their interplay. This appeal to chess in considering the question of art represents a strategic move deployed in order to challenge the supremacy of art from the admittedly disadvantaged position of play. The gambit is risky and the stakes are high, since to reveal that “art” is already at work in chess and to suggest the need for the gamesmanship of “chess” when playing with art imply a new way of understanding artistic production.⁷ But the story would not be complete were one to fail to consider how chance is at play and indeed at work in artistic consumption.

The Art of Chess and the Gamesmanship of Art While all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists. t marcel duchamp, address to the new york state chess association banquet, 1952 Duchamp’s interest in chess goes back to his childhood, when chess, art, and literature were among his French bourgeois family’s favorite pastimes. His profound commitment to the game, in all its aspects, intellectual, competitive, and professional, is well known and widely recognized.⁸ A first-rate chess player for over forty years, he was a member of several French teams participating in Chess Olympiads during the late 1920s and early 1930s. He coauthored with Vitaly Halberstadt a treatise on endgame strategies in chess, Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled (L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées).⁹ “Endgame” refers to the “final set of moves which lead to the mating of the King,” requiring “a subtle yet effective strategy based on an economy of means.”¹⁰ The notes, drawings, diagrams, and materials required for the preparation of the book were collected in The Box of 1932, anticipating Duchamp’s compiled notes and reproductions of his


/ Endgame Strategies

works in The Green Box (1934) and The Box in a Valise (1935–1941).¹¹ Later, in New York, he continued to be an active player, winning many tournaments, including the New York Chess Club championships, as well as serving as a coach for the U.S. Olympiad team in 1967–1968. Moreover, as a member of the board of directors of the American Chess Foundation (1959–1968), he was an active fund-raiser who organized art exhibitions or auctions, with works donated by renowned avant-garde artists. In fact, many of his later chess works were produced for art events intended to generate funds for the benefit of chess.¹² Ignored because of their chess subject matter and pecuniary implications, these chess works demand further critical reflection and examination. Although Duchamp’s chess playing appeared to have functioned independently of his art and indeed looked at times as if it supplanted his artistic production altogether, it would be wrong to conclude that these activities were mutually exclusive or should be considered apart. Rather than associating chess with the gratuitousness of play, Duchamp considered it more “serious,” given its exclusive reliance on mental acts instead of manual virtuosity, as in art. What Duchamp particularly valued in chess was its uselessness, its lack of social purpose and hence promises of economic gain: “Chess is purer, socially, than painting, for you can’t make money out of it.”¹³ Chess is less likely to succumb to economic pressures than art because it entails the production of ideas, not objects, and is hence more sheltered from the dangers of commodification and market forces. Duchamp also found the world of chess players more sympathetic and interesting than the artistic milieu, since he considered chess players completely blind and blinkered: “Madmen of a certain quality, the way an artist is supposed to be and isn’t, in general” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 19). Their monomaniacal devotion to the game protected them from yielding to the lure of public recognition, with its attendant social and economic influences. When asked by Cabanne whether chess was “the ideal work of art,” Duchamp acknowledged that “it could be” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 19), echoing his own earlier query to Truman Capote: “And

Endgame Strategies

/ 107

why . . . isn’t my chess playing an art activity?”¹⁴ Are these analogies of chess to art intended to rehabilitate chess and notions of play in the face of the seriousness of art? And in that sense, do they represent an attempt to privilege chess as a model for art itself as Damisch suggested? However, rather than merely accepting the parallel between chess and art, it is important to bear in mind Duchamp’s insistence on their differences. Unlike art, chess is a game involving two opponents who pit their “heads” in a deadly competition that resembles the fatal combat of war. As Duchamp observed, “Chess is a sport. A violent sport. This detracts from its most artistic connotations.”¹⁵ Moreover, decision making in chess is based on logic, whose invisible mechanics determine the possibility of all the moves: “Chess, on the other hand, involves a purely Cartesian exercise. . . . The decision that you have to make is of a different order and the result is of a different order.”¹⁶ As this analysis will show, Duchamp’s strategic juxtaposition of chess and art was intended to bring their oppositional logic into view not in order to valorize antithesis but to strategically play on their potential reversibility, thus deadlocking them in a perpetual draw. Recalling the fate of the readymade, this impasse will turn out to be crucial in any continued reflection on the possibility of art. In his interview with Francis Roberts, Duchamp noted that while art and chess may appear to be in opposition, they share a key dimension: In my life chess and art stand at opposite poles, but do not be deceived. Chess is not merely a mechanical function. It is plastic, so to speak. Each time I make a movement of the pawns on the board, I create a new form, a new pattern, and in this way I am satisfied by the always changing contour. Not to say that there is no logic in chess. Chess forces you to be logical. The logic is there, but you just don’t see it.¹⁷ While art and chess may stand at opposing poles in his personal life, this contrast is deceptive insofar as the mechanical function of chess also introduces plastic considerations, since each move creates a new form or pattern, bringing the game within the purview of art. However,


/ Endgame Strategies

Duchamp’s acknowledgment of a plastic dimension in chess does not deny its logical character, for the logic is present even if one does not see it. The invisible presence of logic in chess opens up the question of whether art itself may be governed by unspoken rules that determine its character and fate. Although it is defined in opposition to gaming, is art really exempt from considerations that would bring it within the scope of something analogous to a game? Duchamp understood chess as a plastic rather than purely intellectual game. As his comments to James Johnson Sweeney indicate, playing chess is like painting: “It is like designing something or constructing a mechanism of some kind by which you win or lose.”¹⁸ This plasticity is not in the realm of visible form but in the abstraction of the pieces’ movements on the board driven by their strategic and positional nature: A game of chess is a visual and plastic thing, and if it isn’t geometric in the static sense of the word, it is mechanical since it moves; it’s a drawing, it’s a mechanical reality. The pieces aren’t pretty in themselves, anymore than is the form of the game, but what is pretty—if the word “pretty” can be used—is the movement. Well, it is mechanical, the way, for example, a Calder is mechanical. In chess there are some extremely beautiful things in the domain of movement, but not in the visual domain. It’s the imagining of the movement or the gesture that makes the beauty, in this case. It’s completely in one’s gray matter.” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 18–19) The beauty that Duchamp appeals to is not based on aesthetic categories, on the visual appearance of the chess pieces, the form of the game, or artistic self-expression. It is not aesthetic in the visual sense, since its plasticity derives from the intellectual imagining of the movement of the board pieces, creating constantly shifting patterns.¹⁹ This succession of states arising from a set of logical transformations constitutes “drawings” whose mutable outlines are the expressions of a mechanical reality. The difference is, however, that at the end of a game of

Endgame Strategies

/ 109

chess, said Duchamp, “you can cancel the painting you are making.”²⁰ In chess, unlike in painting, “image” production is transitional and multiple. Duchamp thus uncovers within chess a paradigm for the reinterpretation of aesthetic pleasure as derived neither from invention nor from the sensuality of the pieces themselves but from their recomposition and redeployment as a game. Duchamp observed that the design formed on the chessboard is like a “score for music,” whose plasticity is activated through performance. Playing chess is like performing a musical score that follows a prescribed pattern yet varies according to particular interpretation. He suggested that the beauty of chess positions, unlike that of art but like that of musical notes, derives from their movement: “Both chess and music are visual arts coupled to mechanics. Both are arts of movement. The beauty of a chess position is that it is not static. The beauty is in the arrangement and the inherent possibilities” (Ephemerides, April 12, 1963). Chess is mechanical because the game is defined by a set of rules that impose a particular logic on the options available to its players. Moreover, insofar as each player is compelled to move in reaction to the strategic moves of his or her opponent, it has an interactive dimension. The status of individual decision or the expression of agency is reduced to a “Cartesian exercise,” since the parameters of the game dictate the nature of the moves. Endemic to chess, this condition may prove to be appealing for someone seeking to get out of the game of art: “In art I came finally to the point where I wished to make no more decisions, decisions of an artistic order, so to speak.”²¹ Duchamp’s claim to have wanted to stop making artistic decisions must not be understood simply as an abandonment of art. Rather, it represents a reaction against the conventions of “physical” art production and a subsequent turn to art as “intellectual expression.”²² It involves rethinking decision making in art according to the gamesmanship of chess, whereby every decision derives its meaning from its strategic positioning in regard to both an opponent and to the field as a whole. As this chapter will later point out, this is not to abolish the role of chance but, rather, to draw upon it along with other forms of determination in order to develop a notion of strategic play.


/ Endgame Strategies

Endgame Strategies in Chess and Art A work is a machine for producing meanings. t octavio paz, marcel duchamp Duchamp and Halberstadt’s treatise on king and pawn chess endings, Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled (Figure 22), represents a very unusual exercise because, according to Duchamp, the “end games in which it works would interest no chess player.” He added that even chess champions do not read the book, “since the problem it poses really only comes up once in a lifetime,” and he further qualified the rarity of such endgames as being “nearly Utopian” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 77). What, then, is the precise object of this book, and who is its presumed audience? Was it an effort to prove Duchamp’s standing as a chess theorist and his single-minded devotion to chess? Or did his pursuit of solutions to endgame problems in chess also build on his earlier attempts to find new strategies in art in order to overcome his standoff with painting? What follows will demonstrate that Duchamp’s treatise on chess endgames reflects the dilemma, indeed impasse, he faced with the readymade in developing a strategy that would bring art to its ostensible end. At first sight, the reader is struck by the visual qualities of Opposition and Sister Squares, whose design and publication engaged Duchamp’s energies as extensively as did his more “artistic” productions.²³ Ernst Strouhal commented, “Not since the Middle Ages had a chess book exhibited such high production value,” noting that it displayed qualities associated with the artist’s book (innovative typography and unusual illustrative diagrams) rather than the spare functionality of a chess book (as a reference book or manual), leading him to conclude that “it speaks more to the world of art than to that of chess.”²⁴ Although intended for a chess audience, the volume crosses over into art, since the endgames it presents also serve to illuminate art’s predicament in the modern age. A closer examination of Duchamp’s handling of the title, layout, and illustrations reveals that unusual pains were taken with the book’s design, using techniques at times so complicated and laborious as to border on the absurd. For instance, rather than relying on conventional

Endgame Strategies

/ 111

Figure 22. Marcel Duchamp and Vitaly Halberstadt, Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled (L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées), Brussels, 1932. Front and back covers; book, 11 × 10½ inches. Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

lettering or type to set the book’s title and the authors’ names, Duchamp placed a zinc stencil between two plates of glass, exposed it to sunlight, and photographed the shadows of the letters reflected at an angle on the ground. He then prepared a negative from this photograph that was stereotyped for print reproduction.²⁵ Ranging from the projection of shadows to the production of photographic negatives, these techniques rely on symmetries, inversions, and reversibilities, mirrorlike reflections and operations whose optical import was used to challenge the visual nature of art. Rejecting the “look” of conventional lettering, Duchamp enlisted the angled presentation of their reflected shadows as an allusion to perspective and forms of optical manipulation.²⁶ In so doing, he recast lettering as a function of a geometric or optical system of projection.²⁷ Duchamp’s recourse to these complicated technical procedures to alter the visual appearance of the lettering is not restricted to the production of the book alone, since they are also used to have an impact on the book’s consumption. Departing from conventions, he separated


/ Endgame Strategies

the title, Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled, from the attribution of authorship on the cover page, forcing the reader to turn the book over in order to find the authors’ names on the back cover. The use of the word par, “by,” on the cover prompts the reader to turn the book over (as if it were reversible), thus disrupting the traditional direction and movement of reading.²⁸ Designing the volume like a mechanism rather than a static object, he uses rotation and reversibility in order to mark his persistent rejection of the visual in favor of the optical. By availing himself of these techniques, Duchamp reprised strategies that were operative in his earlier works, ranging from his readymades to puns and windows and to his cinematic experiments with optical effects. Another notable feature of Duchamp and Halberstadt’s Opposition and Sister Squares is the book’s presentation in three languages, French, German, and English, starting from the frontispiece and extending to the book’s contents. Duchamp found this idea, proposed to him by his Belgian editor, “excellent,” and he was very happy to comply with this request.²⁹ However, Duchamp developed the conceptual implications of this trilingual presentation, using it to disrupt rather than facilitate legibility. On the visual level, the serial presentation of the text in German, English, and French systematically interrupts and delays its understanding, as evidenced in the layout of the table of contents. The list of terminology, methods of analysis, and various case studies are repeated in three different languages, making it extremely difficult to follow. The serial presentation of the table of contents in three language columns (Figure 23) looks more like a diagram or schematic rendering of a work of art than like a game manual, recalling some of the preparatory diagrams and notes leading to The Large Glass. The juxtaposition of phrases in three languages creates confusion, since the words used sometimes resemble each other (as cognates) but also differ from each other as the reader moves linearly from one tongue to another. Hovering between translations and the poetic play of puns, the stability of the linguistic medium dissolves before the reader’s eyes as a nonsustainable mirage. Thus, the book’s ostensible aim of explaining endgame strategies by promoting meaningful communication is undone by the disruption of the mechanisms of legibility.

Endgame Strategies

/ 113

Figure 23. Marcel Duchamp and Vitaly Halberstadt, Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled (L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées), Brussels, 1932. Table of contents. Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

In the book’s introduction, Duchamp and Halberstadt comment that the confusion and debates occasioned by the chess terms “opposition” and “sister squares” may have been born “in greater part of a faulty typographical arrangement” (Opposition and Sister Squares, 1), implying a problem in the visual rendering of the text. In order to rectify this typographical “failure,” the authors resorted to the strategy of multiplying “even to excess” the number of diagrams in order to “facilitate the understanding of the text” (ibid.). Opposition and Sister Squares presents over 235 diagrams outlined in red, which are displayed according to a set layout of three illustrations on every other page.³⁰ Once the diagrams are introduced on page 3, the pagination


/ Endgame Strategies

is repeated on facing pages (page 4 on the left is followed by 4 on the right, 5 on the left by 5 on the right, and so on), thus creating mirrorlike effects that mimic the strategies of rotation and reversibility deployed on the cover. Throughout the book, the authors deliberately abandoned the alphanumeric conventions of chess notation (used to designate the board position of the chess pieces) in favor of a unique letter-based system. They also inserted hinge indicators into the diagrams, as well as transparencies in order to document the underlying dynamics of the various endgames. Functioning according to mirrorlike mechanics, these hinge mechanisms enable the reader to visualize parallelisms in the opposing chess positions (Figure 24). The repetition of letters indicating chess positions on opposing sides served to highlight otherwise hidden relationships, uncovering unexpected symmetries, inversions, and reversibilities. Consequently, Duchamp’s reliance on diagrams represented no mere return to the visual, since they functioned to reveal, through anagrammatic or punlike transpositions, the poetics of the endgame. Duchamp’s descriptions of the chess endings in Opposition and Sister Squares as “nearly Utopian” is not an exaggeration, since the chess volume treats many rare situations when only the kings and a few pawns are left on the board locked in the last throes of combat. It is important to remember that in endgames where so many pieces have already left the board, “one can only hope to win by transforming a pawn into a Queen” by reaching the other side.³¹ This strategic crossover of the chessboard (like a mirror) transforms the male pawn into a queen leading to the mating of the king and the end of the game. Such transformation suggests the idea of gender reversibility along with the fatality of marriage, since the ostensible mating or nuptials of the king coincide with his demise. These maneuvers bring into play allusions to both the figurative apparatus and the mechanics of Duchamp’s artistic works by suggesting that the gender reversals and amorous matings are as fatal in chess as in art. One only needs to keep in mind the encounters of the king and queen in his mechanomorphic chess paintings and the belated mating of the bride and her bachelors in The Large Glass. Thus, despite the dryness and highly speculative character of these endgame theories, one can begin to understand

Endgame Strategies

/ 115

Figure 24. Marcel Duchamp and Vitaly Halberstadt, Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled (L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées), Brussels, 1932. Page 58. Research Library, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, California. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

Duchamp’s interest in their potential for illuminating both the impasse and its resolution in his standoff with art. Duchamp and Halberstadt’s strategies involving opposition orthodox, heterodox, and sister squares represent an even rarer version


/ Endgame Strategies

of endgames when the White king’s move to a certain square at the end of the board subjects the Black king to zugzwang. Zugzwang is a German term that has been anglicized and adopted into chess terminology to designate a situation in which “neither player wants to have the move but neither can lose the move.”³² Zugzwang is a maneuver where the blocking of the pawns entraps one of the kings by forcing it to move but in so doing deadlocks both kings in an exercise of symmetrical, reversible moves in which, according to Duchamp and Halberstadt, “no more than a draw can be obtained” (Opposition and Sister Squares, 112).³³ Neutralizing both the expression of desire and decision making, zugzwang acts as a mechanism that locks the two kings in a mirrorlike set of parallel maneuvers that essentially cancel each other out.³⁴ François le Lionnet (a competitive player who competed against Duchamp and was a well-known authority on chess) described the visual manifestation of this maneuver as the expression of a “hidden telepathy,” since it suggested an invisible communication between apparently unrelated squares: If the White King moved to a certain square at one end of the board he obliged the Black King to make a certain move? It’s as though there were a sort of telepathy between the squares! And what Halberstadt and Duchamp perfected was the theory of this relationship between squares that have no apparent connection, les cases conjuguées, which was a sort of theory of structures of the board.³⁵ Compelled to move (as if by a transfer of thought or intelligence), the two opposing kings are coupled, trapped in a set of reversible maneuvers that suggest the workings of a mirrorlike mechanism. As a chess maneuver, zugzwang reveals the hidden mechanics of the chessboard, thereby providing theoretical insight into its organizing principles. In Opposition and Sister Squares, Duchamp illustrated zugzwangbased endgame maneuvers by including a series of diagrams on transparent paper. As mentioned, the use of a letter-based system enabled the reader to visualize the parallelisms in opposing chess positions otherwise unavailable to simple inspection. The authors presented the

Endgame Strategies

/ 117

deadlock implied in these chess maneuvers according to a mechanism they called the “principle of superimposition by folding”: “We reproduce here 8 diagrams on transparent paper which, folded over on the hinge as indicated by a red dotted line, show the mechanism of superimposition of the White principal domain on the Black principal domain” (Opposition and Sister Squares, 91). The superimposition of the White and the Black domains only becomes apparent when considered as a function of their alignment according to a common principle. Duchamp and Halberstadt explained that “each square of the White principal domain is on the same diagonal as its sister in the Black principal domain” (ibid.). This circumstantial alignment activates the mechanism of superimposition, allowing for the potential folding over of the transparencies standing in for the chessboard. The diagonal thus acts like a virtual hinge that realigns the visual logic of the chess grid by revealing the hidden symmetries between the two domains. In so doing, it functions like a deciphering grid or filter that brings into view unexpected relationships. But does the function of this deciphering grid extend beyond its illustrative role, and does it figure the impasse of the two kings as a relation that would sustain rather than collapse their opposition? At the end of Opposition and Sister Squares, Duchamp and Halberstadt summed up the mechanism of the chess system they discovered by stating that opposition, orthodox or heterodox, is “based on the constant relation of the 2 squares occupied by the K’s,” described as “a cipher by means of which we establish a priori, the equilibrium between the K’s” (Opposition and Sister Squares, 112). They concluded that in cases of orthodox or heterodox opposition or sister squares, “no more than a draw can be obtained,” thus underlining the significance of this mechanism in maintaining equilibrium between the two kings (ibid.).³⁶ Neither enigmatic nor esoteric, since it is based on maintaining the a priori condition of equilibrium between the two squares occupied by the kings, this “cipher” enables the possible alignment of the Black and White domains. But what precisely is the significance of this chess strategy, particularly since its impact is restricted to a draw? And does the idea of a chess draw have import for the question of art? The latter concern is all the more compelling given that Duchamp had


/ Endgame Strategies

already broached the idea of the cipher in The Large Glass, where he described the Three Draft Pistons as a “triple cipher” (grille) acting as a filtering grid and thus a decoding mechanism for the messages of the Bride. Commenting on Opposition and Sister Squares in his interviews with Pierre Cabanne in 1966, Duchamp provided an insight into the significance of the work’s title and into his particular contribution to it. Rather than getting caught up in highly specialized chess terminology, he gave a straightforward account of the nature and implications of his chess strategy: The “opposition” is a system that allows you to do such-andsuch a thing. The “sister squares” are the same thing as the opposition, but it’s a more recent invention, which was given a different name. Naturally, the defenders of the old system were always wrangling with the defenders of the new one. I added “reconciled” because I had found a system that did away with the antithesis. (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 77; emphasis added) The “more recent invention” Duchamp is here referring to is the school of thought in chess called hypermodernism (developed in the 1920s), which sought to counter the more static, positional approach to chess (the so-called classical style, which itself emerged in reaction to the so-called romantic style) through a more strategic and dynamic manipulation of the center chess positions.³⁷ “Opposition” and “sister squares” thus represent two contrasting systems for resolving the same chess problem, providing different ways of looking at the same thing.³⁸ Whereas “opposition” refers to the classical, visually manifest alignment of the two kings, on file, on diagonal, and so on, “sister squares” refers to connections among related squares that only emerge due to their conceptual realignment as a function of the cipher that reveals their hidden parallelisms. By recognizing “opposition” and “sister squares” as two different yet equally viable approaches to the same problem, Duchamp appealed to a new system of relations whose logic would bypass the constraints of both unity and dualism.

Endgame Strategies

/ 119

Duchamp claimed that he added “reconciled” because he found a system that does away with “antithesis.” At the beginning of his chess treatise, he explained that instead of choosing either “opposition or sister squares,” as competing factions representing different chess styles had done over the years, he proposed a new solution that brought these opposing positions into conjunction with each other: “opposition and ‘sister squares.’ ” In so doing, he redeployed the conflicting, indeed mutually exclusive, definition of these terms (as indicated by his use of “or”) through a new association of these terms (as indicated by “and”) that couples them in a mirrorlike play of opposition and reversibility. This strategy actively preserved their opposition by maintaining their balance rather than overriding their differences. It is in this sense that Duchamp’s use of the term “reconciled” departed from its conventional meanings, which ordinarily signify restoring harmony through a return to a prior condition or restoring amicability between conflicting parties.³⁹ His use of the term evokes its meaning in the context of accounting, where it designates the attempt to balance reciprocally the debit and credit columns.⁴⁰ By demonstrating the equal viability of “opposition” and “sister squares,” he introduced multiplicity into chess by “reconciling” seemingly different systems for representing the same problem. The introduction of multiplicity into chess would thus mirror his play on multiplicity in art. Duchamp’s discovery of a system of “reconciliation” that did away with antithesis in chess was driven by his awareness of the limits of opposition pursued for its own sake in art. As the discussion of Duchamp’s critique of Dada in chapter 1 has shown, the danger in adopting a purely oppositional logic is that one may perpetuate the very thing one seeks to question. This can be seen in Duchamp’s resistance to being considered “antiart”: “No, no the word anti-art annoys me a little, because whether you’re anti or for, it’s two sides of the same thing.”⁴¹ As Duchamp suggested, the claim to be antiart merely reinforces through antithesis the stability and power of the thesis it seeks to challenge. His strategy of reconciliation in chess enabled him to define a new position that is inherently dynamic because it switches back and forth, like a mechanical device, between two ways of looking at things. This position no longer risks the pitfalls of antithesis by


/ Endgame Strategies

consolidating a prior position through opposition, since it is governed by a poetic or punlike logic based on multiplicity. The question that arises is, how does Duchamp’s endgame strategy in chess illuminate his standoff with art? This matter is all the more compelling because Duchamp’s artistic activities draw not just on the logic of chess but also on chance, thus relying on opposing categories.

Drawing on Chess and Chance I don’t believe in the existence of eternal laws governing art metaphysically. t marcel duchamp, western round table on the modern arts, april 8–10, 1949 You see I haven’t quit being a painter, now I’m drawing on chance. t marcel duchamp, writings of marcel duchamp Duchamp’s interest and devotion to chess seems at first hard to understand and to reconcile with his artistic experiments with chance, notably his efforts to “can chance” in such works as Three Standard Stoppages. Whereas chess implies deliberate decision making, both strategic and tactical, chance would seem to imply no agency at all. A chance event occurs, without design, forewarning, or regard for a particular agent. Duchamp explained, “Pure chance interested me as a way of going against logical reality” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 46). Not only does the adoption of chance imply a radical critique of rationality (as embodied in human agency and mastery of the world), but it also represents an appeal to freedom from the conditions of alienated production in the modern period. As E. Kohler noted, “Only what chance reveals is immune against false consciousness, free of ideology, not stigmatized by the total reification of the conditions of human life.”⁴² In this sense, chance can also be seen as counter to the work process, of notions of manufacture or labor associated with the work of art. How do these apparently opposing tendencies get expressed in Duchamp’s works? How can the rigor, rules, and

Endgame Strategies

/ 121

determinacy of chess as a game be reconciled with the contingent and indeterminate nature of chance? Moreover, how do chess and chance inform and transform Duchamp’s notion of artistic production? This last question is particularly important, since neither chess nor chance has played a significant role in traditional aesthetics. As will be shown, Duchamp’s appeal to chess brought into consideration notions of play, strategy, and opposition whose purview exceeded the individualistic and expressive logic of the creative artist. The introduction of chance as a generative mechanism revealed the potential of contingency as a trigger for the production of new, even groundbreaking work. This appeal to chess and chance serves to exteriorize the notion of artistic production by introducing determinations that erode the mystique of the artist as unique creator and pure origin of a work. In Opposition and Sister Squares, the crossover of chess strategy into the domain of art is set up through an analysis of trébuchet (trap maneuver; Opposition and Sister Squares, 9, diagram 15). Trébuchet is yet another variant of reciprocal zugzwang—offering a pawn to the opponent in the hope that he or she will stumble (trébucher) on and be trapped by it. However, Duchamp’s discussion of trébuchet as a chess maneuver inevitably brings into play his 1917 readymade Trap (the coatrack nailed to the floor), explicitly instituting a dialogue between chess and art. Duchamp’s introduction of chess terminology functions as a commentary on art understood according to the strategies and oppositional logic of chess. Lacking a pedestal, the coatrack nailed to the floor makes the viewer stumble on the conditions of art by playfully inviting consideration of its grounds for existence. As such, it also functions like a trap that locks the individual into a balancing act: a perpetual reflection on the possibility of art. This coatrack emerges as a Trojan horse, an apparent beneficent concession to art that entraps the viewer in a circuit that switches back and forth between the idea of commodity and the work of art. As an endgame chess strategy, trébuchet illuminates the intervention of the readymade not as a negation of art but as a way of coupling the idea of art and antiart in a perpetual draw that is also an impasse. This strategy enabled Duchamp to draw on the opposition of these terms without having to choose between them or pretend to resolve the differences they set into play. This is


/ Endgame Strategies

why Duchamp preferred to qualify his activities as anart or anartistic, since he managed to avoid the trap of both unity and dualism in challenging the meaning of art. Now we begin to understand why Duchamp accorded the readymades such an important role in his works, against the critical tendencies to valorize his more monumental undertakings such as The Large Glass. When asked by Francis Roberts whether he considered the readymades to be of the same order of achievement as his other works or whether he thought of them as being more trivial, Duchamp responded, “No, they are not trivial for me at least. They look trivial, but they’re not. On the contrary they represent a much higher degree of intellectuality.”⁴³ But what, precisely, accounts for the readymade’s intellectual rather than artistic pretensions? In an interview with George Hamilton in 1959, Duchamp expounded on the readymades’ strategic role in questioning art’s definition. When he was asked if a readymade can be thought of as a work of art, Duchamp replied that the attempt to claim the readymade as art relies on the presumption that we already have an essential definition of art. However, that is not the case since each historical period operates with its own notion of art, leading him to conclude that “there is no one essential that is good for all centuries.” The impossibility of providing a historically transcendent definition of art leads him to posit the readymade as a critique of any such definition: So if we accept the idea that not trying to define art is a legitimate conception, then the Readymade can be seen as a sort of irony, or an attempt at showing the futility of trying to define art, because here it is, a thing that I call art. I didn’t even make it by myself; as we know, art means to make, to hand make, to make by hand. It’s a hand made product of man, and there instead of making, I take it ready made, even though it was made in a factory. But it is not made by hand, so it’s a form of denying the possibility of defining art. (Ephemerides, January 19, 1959) Marking the fundamental recognition of the legitimacy of not defining art, the readymade emerges at once as the symptom and the solution

Endgame Strategies

/ 123

of the futility of persisting in doing so. Duchamp discovered an ingenious solution, whose logic is ironic rather than dialectical. Irreducible to either of its constitutive terms, the readymade resists the pitfalls of essentialism, dualism, and dialectical synthesis. Trapped as dynamic play in a process that switches back and forth between its conditions as art and commodity, the readymade’s ironic impasse resists being recouped by the forces of commodification. This attempt to show through the readymade the futility of defining art turns out not to be a useless or empty gesture. Rather, it represents an intervention against essentialism in art: “It has a conceptual value, if you want, but it takes away all the technical jargon. You don’t know whether you should take it as a work of art, and that is where the irony comes in” (Ephemerides, January 19, 1959). As an article of mechanical reproduction, the readymade embodies the idea of the series, whose logic is not reducible to either essence or opposition, since it is driven by the proliferation of the multiple. Introduced in opposition to the idea of art but failing to properly sustain that opposition because it bears an exact resemblance to what it ostensibly challenges as a multiple, the readymade derives its energies from the failure of art to legitimate itself. Posited as an alternative to art, the readymade figures the end of art as an impasse that also acts as an ironic mechanism. Recalling Duchamp’s approach to “reconciliation” in chess that enabled him to bypass the trap of unity and dualism, the readymades enable him to conceptually draw on the opposition of art and antiart in order to demonstrate the impossibility of defining art. Given Duchamp’s elaboration of the readymade as an endgame strategy, how are we to understand the nature of his intervention? Is his gesture deliberate, or does it also bear the imprint of contingency? How are we to balance the exigencies of artistic agency and chance? Duchamp’s accounts of his discovery of the readymades suggest that it was a gradual process occurring from 1913 to 1916. Initially captivated by movement, it took time for Duchamp to recognize the bicycle wheel turning in his studio as something worthy of being deemed a “work” at all.⁴⁴ And it took even more time for him to understand the artistic potential of this and subsequent objects by labeling them “readymades” and exhibiting them.⁴⁵ Duchamp’s description of the


/ Endgame Strategies

genesis of Trap provides further insight into its chance discovery and that of the readymades as a whole: . . . a real coat hanger that I wanted sometime to put on the wall and hang my things on but I never did come to that— so it was on the floor and I would kick it every minute, every time I went out—and I got crazy about it and I said to hell with it, if it wants to stay there and bore me, I’ll nail it down . . . and then the association with the Readymade came and it was that. It was not bought to be a Readymade—it was a natural thing. . . . it was nailed where it was and then the idea came.⁴⁶ Acquired as a utilitarian object that never made its way to the wall, this four-pegged coat hanger became an obstacle or aggravation fated to be kicked around until Duchamp decided to nail it down. The decision to nail it to the floor, however, may not have been as accidental as it initially seems, since patère, “coat peg,” puns with par terre, “on the ground,” thereby suggesting that the coat rack may have been already destined for the floor. In becoming an object of engagement or play, the coat rack seemed to have gained subjective presence, even agency, for its accidental presence on the floor took on the air of a decision, “if it wants to stay there and bore me, I’ll nail it down,” necessitating Duchamp’s response. Once nailed down and requiring circumnavigation (a behavior more commonly associated with the contemplation of art, particularly sculpture), it began to emerge as a possible work in its own right. Its association to other readymades eventually emerged. From the gesture of stumbling and kicking an object around came the idea of a work as a conceptual intervention that undermined the definition of art. Having described the readymade as “a work of art without an artist to make it” and having indicated that one doesn’t so much choose a readymade as be chosen by it—“it chooses you, so to speak”—Duchamp decentered artistic subjectivity. Moreover, he marked the importance of chance as a generative mechanism or trigger that he actively drew on for the production of his works. When asked by Francis Roberts on the occasion of his 1963 Pasa-

Endgame Strategies

/ 125

dena retrospective whether his dependence on chance reflected a certain disdain for the mechanics of art, Duchamp replied, I don’t think the public is prepared to accept it . . . my canned chance. This depending on coincidence is too difficult for them. They think everything has to be done on purpose by complete deliberation and so forth. In time they will come to accept chance as a possibility to produce things. In fact the whole world is based on chance, or at least chance is the definition of what happens in the world we live in and know more than any other causality.⁴⁷ Duchamp’s reliance on chance, whether in his attempts to “can chance” in Three Standard Stoppages or to draw on it in The Large Glass and the readymades, does not represent a denial of determinism, whether in the mechanics of art or the forms of artistic agency. By commenting that he “was satisfied with the idea of not having been responsible for the form taken by chance,” Duchamp was not abrogating creative agency but simply suspending its conscious exercise.⁴⁸ Lacking warning or predetermination, chance, unlike rational decision making, requires receptivity, a “passive, though alert consciousness.”⁴⁹ This suspension of conscious agency enabled him to tap into the possibility of exploring new forms of production that draw on chance in order to generate plastic forms. By coming to recognize chance as a creative mechanism, Duchamp brought into play a notion of making that bypassed the conceits and methods of expression associated with art. Eschewing purpose, deliberation, and the sheer force of habit, chance opens up the horizons of individual agency to unexplored possibilities. It redefines creation not only as a deliberate act but also as an event whose recognition and potential development over time enabled him to tap into something new.⁵⁰ Duchamp pointed out in his interview with Katharine Kuh that “when you tap something you don’t always recognize the sound.”⁵¹ This helped liberate him from the past, even as the full implications of what he had discovered were yet to come. For this meaning to come into fruition would involve not just the moment of its chance discovery but also its subsequent


/ Endgame Strategies

appropriation, that is, its recognition, critical assessment, and future deployment in the production of new works. If the discovery of the readymade was determined in part by pure chance, how are we to understand Duchamp’s supposed abandonment of painting? Did he simply decide to stop painting one day, or did this cessation signal the emergence of a new understanding that exceeded painting’s purely material and retinal purview? When queried by William Seitz about his decision not to paint anymore, Duchamp responded emphatically: No, the decision is more general than that, and it was not a decision in the first place. It never was a decision. . . . In other words, painting for me was a means to an end, but not an end in itself. To be a painter for the sake of being a painter was never the ultimate aim of my life. That’s why I tried to go into different forms of activity—purely optical things and kineticism—which has nothing to do with painting. (Ephemerides, February 15, 1963) Duchamp’s denial that he had chosen to abandon painting represents not an abrogation of decision making per se but simply a repositioning of its authority. What proved to be decisive was his openness to engage the idea of painting in unexpected ways. It reflects an understanding of painting as a means of expression rather than an end in itself and to which he refused to accord special standing either as a medium or profession: “Painting was only a tool. A bridge to take me somewhere else. Where, I don’t know. I wouldn’t know because it would be so revolutionary in essence that it couldn’t be formulated” (Ephemerides, February 15, 1963). The gradual discovery of the readymade fed Duchamp’s dissatisfaction with the purely material purview of painting and provided an alternative to painting that would not merely negate it but would also conceptually draw on it in order to open the door to a new set of possibilities. Duchamp’s explanation to Francis Roberts regarding the genealogy of the readymade suggests that his discovery was not just informed by

Endgame Strategies

/ 127

chance events but was also based on his understanding of the determinations at work in the practice of painting: A Ready-made is a work of art without an artist to make it, if I may simplify the definition. A tube of paint that an artist uses is not made by the artist; it is made by the manufacturer who makes paints. So the painter is really making a Readymade when he paints with a manufactured object called paints. So that is the explanation, but when I did it, it was not at all intended to have an explanation. The iconoclastic part of it was much more important. Well, the Impressionists were iconoclasts for the Romantics and the Fauves were the same and again Cubism against Fauvism. So when I came along, my little idea, my iconoclastic gesture, was ready made.⁵² While simplifying the definition of the readymade, he vividly captures its import as a work that claims to be art even when not made by an artist. While it is true that the readymade’s claim to mass production would involve no actual handwork, its appropriation and display imply a conceptual rather than physical form of making. Duchamp suggests that the discovery of the readymade lay dormant in the idea of painting as material process and composition. By noting that a tube of paint is an object of manufacture, he invites an inquiry into considering the relation of painting to notions of manufacture. Treating painting as a means rather than an end, he highlights the fact that its material components were instrumental in determining the artist’s future appropriation and use. In A Theory of Literary Production, Pierre Macherey explored the theoretical implications of this idea when he contended from a Marxist perspective that writers as producers do not manufacture the materials with which they work, for they inherit and perpetuate through them historical forms that retain their specificity. Neither “spontaneously available” nor “neutral, transparent components” that would “disappear into the totality they contribute to,” these materials “have a sort of specific weight, a peculiar power, which means that even


/ Endgame Strategies

when they are used and blended in a totality they retain a certain autonomy.”⁵³ These material components engage a prior history of forms so that their meaning cannot be restricted purely to their deployment and function in a specific work. They are bearers of determinations that exceed both the artist’s intent and his or her execution of the work, thereby eroding the hegemony of authorship. Macherey’s suggestion to replace the notion of artistic creation with that of artistic production seeks to capture the persistent force of these material factors and indeed the labor involved in the creative process. Attempting to dispel the enigma of artistic creation, he seeks to restitute to it its material determinations.⁵⁴ Duchamp suggests that the idea of the readymade emerged from a notion that was already operative in the material of painting, a medium that relies on manufactured paints. He playfully contends that a painter is making a readymade without knowing it when he or she relies on commercially available pigments: “Since the tubes of paint used by the artist are manufactured and ready-made products we must conclude that all the paintings in the world are ‘readymades aided’ and also works of assemblage” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 142). By assembling and using already manufactured materials, the painter is no longer simply creating something out of nothing; rather, he or she is appropriating and redeploying components already marked by a history of production and conventions of usage. His provocative comment extends the logic of the readymade, from the mechanical and commercial model of manufacture to painting and all other forms of artistic making. In so doing, he dissolves the distinctions that privilege artistic production over other forms of making, thus further undermining claims for the unique creative genius of the artist. Duchamp’s recognition of the readymade’s debt to painting enables him to circumvent it as actual practice while implementing it as an idea in excess of painting’s purview. What enabled Duchamp to take this groundbreaking position? He provided an important clue when he suggested that his discovery was set within painting’s historical manifestations, particularly the rapid succession of the avant-gardes ranging from Impressionism to Cubism. He noted that his path was prefigured, his “iconoclastic gesture was

Endgame Strategies

/ 129

ready-made,” sketched out by attempts of earlier avant-gardes to redefine the object of painting. Masheck described Duchamp’s discovery of the readymades as a chesslike move to outwit Cubism, not by turning to abstraction but by abstracting an object through its literal reproduction.⁵⁵ This enabled him to sidestep the trend toward pictorial abstraction, engineered by movements such as Cubism, by substituting mass-produced objects for represented ones. Duchamp’s discovery of the readymade thus emerges as an endgame move that drew on painting while outwitting it as a representational medium. His position was fashioned as a response, thinking and working through the moves made by Cubism in an active dialogue with the earlier avant-gardes. Recognizing that the logic of the readymade informed his available options within a field of cultural determinations, he redeployed this idea by positing it as an object in its own right. Pierre Bourdieu argued in The Field of Cultural Production that artistic production is a strategic exercise that positions the artist as creator in a historical field of already established determinations. Rather than liquidating artistic traditions, he suggested, the avant-garde, like previous artistic movements or styles, “makes history” by introducing a new position that “ ‘displaces’ the whole series of previous artistic acts.”⁵⁶ According to Bourdieu, Duchamp’s extensive artistic and chess experience provided a historical understanding that enabled him to strategically manipulate the field of artistic production.⁵⁷ Duchamp’s conception of the artistic sphere is a modal one, as both producer and consumer, where “history is immanent to the functioning of the field.”⁵⁸ His abilities to stake out his positions reflect his historical sense of the horizon of modernism and his strategic understanding of art as a playing field. Duchamp’s “originality” lies in his recognition of the realm of artistic production as a field of readymades, insofar as it is always already marked and constituted by prior determinations. Because the artist as maker always operates within givens, artistic production also emerges in the mode of consumption as the appropriation and redeployment of previous styles and movements. Duchamp’s interventions reflect neither the simple assimilation nor the mere rejection of artistic traditions but, rather, the speculative drawing on these determinations in order to redefine the possibilities of art. He


/ Endgame Strategies

elaborates a notion of artistic production that draws on the creative potential of both chess and chance by setting determinacy and contingency in play. These forces shape the process of individual creation by providing a particular arena and range of options for its expression. With its gamelike character, Duchamp’s definition of artistic production as a strategic intervention in a field of givens threatens classical definitions that mystify both the artist and artistic creativity by isolating them from other spheres of social and economic production. The point is not to exclude unconscious expression and intent, as we shall later see, but, rather, to recognize the fact that artists operate within a set of determining conditions that tangibly shape their horizon of artistic activity. The question of artistic agency and intervention cannot be isolated from the field of artistic production, from the horizon of gestures that will inform all its future determinations.

Is Creativity an Appropriative Act? To create is divine. To reproduce is human. t man ray, “originals graphic multiples,” 1968 Criticism is as inevitable as breathing. t t. s. eliot, tradition and the individual talent If the production of a work is marked by the interplay of chess and chance, how should one conceive of the work’s consumption? And is it even appropriate to raise the question of consumption when addressing the creation of a work of art? According to Duchamp, chance also plays a seminal role in a work’s consumption since it reduces the act of artistic production to a gamble: “Artists throughout history are like gamblers in Monte Carlo and in the blind lottery some are picked out while others are ruined. . . . It all happens according to random chance.”⁵⁹ As will be shown, while Duchamp recognizes that art is a blind gamble, given that “posterity is a form of the spectator,” the question is, can this gamble be contained by being brought into play as a chesslike gambit? The possibility of such a move is figured in Duchamp’s attempts to combine games of chance with games of

Endgame Strategies

/ 131

strategy. Writing of his efforts to find a system for recovering betting losses by increasing the stakes (called a martingale), Duchamp stated his ambition to overcome the contingent logic of chance through the determinacy of chess: “Don’t be too skeptical, since this time I think I have eliminated the word chance. I would like to force the roulette to become a game of chess” (letter to Jacques Doucet of January 16, 1925, Paris, referring to the Monte Carlo Bond, in Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 187–88). If the act of consumption is marked by the vagaries of chance because the author is unable to secure the work’s reception, is there a way of staging spectatorship so as to secure the future of appropriation? After considering Duchamp’s redefinition of the creative act in terms of appropriation, we examine its tangible elaboration in a set of chess works that were produced for art exhibits intended to raise funds for chess. The ambiguous nature of their authorship, which enlists other potential agents, will enable an assessment of appropriation as a strategy for innovative production. Throughout his writings and his numerous interviews, Duchamp stated his desire to challenge not just the role but the very criteria for defining the artist: “I wanted to change the status of the artist or at least to change the norms used for defining the artist. Again to dedeify him.” This attempt to “de-deify” the artist challenges both the supremacy of the artist as creative genius and the mystification of the creative act. Duchamp explained that “the idea of the artist as a sort of superman is comparatively recent. This I was going against. In fact, since I’ve stopped my artistic activity, I feel that I am against this attitude of reverence the world has.”⁶⁰ Duchamp was reacting against the social and cultural ideology of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that unduly elevated and mystified the figure of the artist as supreme maker, as absolute origin and agent of the work, while ignoring the conditions and processes of artistic production. The problem was that artistic creativity was defined uniquely in terms of subjective agency, in total disregard of both the means of production and the material and historical conditions that defined the nature and outcome of a work. Duchamp was contesting this historical bias, which elided reflection on the processes of making. In so doing, he was challenging the internalization of creativity within the individuated modern


/ Endgame Strategies

bourgeois subject in order to propose an alternative, externalizing model based on appropriation and multiplicity. In a provocative talk, “The Creative Act,” presented on a panel at the meeting of the American Federation for the Arts in Houston (April 1957), Duchamp surprised both the other panelists and his public alike. Rather than focusing only on creation as an individual act, he also focused on the productive role of the spectator in generating the meanings of the work. In so doing, he displaced the priority of authorship, suggesting that the notion of artistic creation must also take into account the work’s reception and consumption by the spectator. Moreover, he emphasized the fact that artistic production involves processes that rely on prior determinations, redefining the gesture of creation as an appropriative rather than original act. He highlighted the importance of appropriation by quoting a short passage from T. S. Eliot’s essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1919), thus inviting further inquiry into the relation of his talk to Eliot’s essay.⁶¹ Duchamp began “The Creative Act” by radically challenging the traditional idea of artistic creation. He claimed that there are “two poles of creation in art: the artist on the one hand, and on the other the spectator who later becomes the posterity” (“The Creative Act,” in Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 138). Shying away from assigning the creative act solely to the artist, as was the case in aesthetic traditions, Duchamp reassigned it to the spectator as well, indicating that the making of an artwork does not end with its production (that is, its initial execution) but also includes its critical, institutional reception and consumption. He suggested in effect that a work’s meaning does not lie uniquely with its author as maker or originating source but also lies with its destination—as embodied by its consumption by the spectator or posterity. The introduction of the spectator as a player opened the act of creation into an interactive space where the production of art objects becomes inseparable from their consumption—the social and cultural context in which they are received and judged. Duchamp split up authorship and redeployed agency into an interactive space, akin to play, that serves to counter the author’s legitimizing function in conventional art. By reframing the creative act as a process that only gains completion upon the intervention of the spectator, Duchamp postpones the

Endgame Strategies

/ 133

meaning of the work of art by opening it up to future appropriations. As Roland Barthes pointed out in reference to literary works: “We know that to give writing its future, it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author.” According to Barthes, the future of writing rests on the fact that the meaning of a work cannot be foreclosed by the author. Rather, it attains its provisional realization through the reader’s appropriation of the work, since a “text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination.”⁶² However, as Barthes cautioned, it is an error to mistake the birth of the reader for the death of the author, for such a notion would merely perpetuate these categories, replacing one myth with another. Duchamp suggested that it is the interplay of the artist and spectator that makes the work and that it is this dynamic that determines the work’s future. Duchamp’s opening up of authorship to the prospective spectator recast artistic creation in the mode of appropriation, understood as a dynamic process that replaces notions of originality. In assigning the spectator a role in the creative process, however, Duchamp was not denying the agency of the artist as maker. Rather, he qualified the knowledge that the artist may have regarding his or her intervention by claiming that “the artist acts like a mediumistic being” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 138). Duchamp suggested that the position of the artist as producer cannot be privileged and considered apart because it is informed and delimited by exterior considerations in excess of the artist’s intent and volition. By comparing the artist to a medium, he insisted on the role of the artist as intermediary, as mediator and transformer rather than as sole and pure origin of the work: If we give the attributes of a medium to the artist, we must then deny him the state of consciousness on the esthetic plane about what he is doing and why he is doing it. All his decisions in the artistic execution of the work rest with pure intuition and cannot be translated into a self-analysis, spoken, written, or even thought out. (Ibid.) The artist’s inability to be fully conscious of or to account for the creative act does not imply an incapacity to make decisions regarding the


/ Endgame Strategies

execution of the work. Rudolph Arnheim (who was one of the panelists) objected to Duchamp’s position, since he himself called for judgment and awareness on the part of the artist. For him, to talk about the artist as medium was to “attribute to him the kind of passivity and the kind of being an instrument” that ends up neglecting the very essence of the “artistic process.” Duchamp responded to Arnheim by clarifying that he did not mean “to make a medium of the artist but to compare him to the status of a medium,” given that “half of the creation is done by these onlookers.”⁶³ Duchamp’s comparison of the artist to a medium does not diminish the artist’s capacity to make creative decisions. Rather, what Duchamp was challenging was the presumed coincidence between the artist’s understanding of his or her work and the work’s reception by the spectator or art institutions that would judge its merits: I know that this statement will not meet with the approval of many artists who refuse this mediumistic role and insist on their awareness of the creative act—yet, art history has consistently decided upon the virtues of a work of art through considerations completely divorced of the rationalized explanations of the artist. (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 139) Duchamp argued that while the artist may be full of the best intentions, he “plays no role at all in the judgment of his own work” (ibid.). The artist’s decisions in the execution of the work are informed by intuitions, shaped by prior artistic gestures and conventions, that determine outcome. However, the fact that these intuitions cannot be fully known or accounted for by the artist in no way diminishes their impact and regulative force. In the creative act, the artist goes from intent to execution, but this “difference between the intention and its realization” is a “difference which the artist is not aware of,” since in this “chain of reactions a link is missing” (ibid.). This gap between what an artist intends to realize and does in fact achieve is the personal “art coefficient” contained in the work. According to Duchamp, this personal “art coefficient” is like an “arithmetical relation between the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed” (ibid.). Recognizing the artist’s in-

Endgame Strategies

/ 135

ability to control expression through intent and thus to contain the play of excess and difference that marks its representation, Duchamp sundered the coincidence of intention and expression that had been crucial to the myth of the modern artist as individual. Instead, he showed that even as the artist may be unable to consciously control the expression of his or her intentions, unintentional forms of expression are also expressed, but unavailable to be experienced or claimed by the artist. The recognition of these unconscious forms of expression requires not just an act of production but also an act of reception and consumption embodied in the spectator’s position. By inviting the spectator to share responsibility for the creative act, Duchamp expanded the playing field of art to include spectatorship as potential subject matter and site for artistic intervention. In a set of unusual chess works—unusual because they violated the precepts of art (they were produced explicitly for fund-raising purposes) and authorship (they have ambiguous attribution, and sometimes involved only limited participation by Duchamp)—he explored the creative potential of spectatorship as an appropriative gesture. Pocket Chess Set with Rubber Glove (1944; original lost; replica made in 1966 under artist’s supervision; Figure 25) was presented at the Imagery of Chess group exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. This work is an assemblage in a box of his previous readymade Pocket Chess Set (1943)—a small leather chessboard with celluloid and pins—and a rubber glove displayed so as to mimic the position of a hand lying on top of the chessboard.⁶⁴ The miniaturization of the chessboard, along with the projection of the three-dimensional chess pieces into two-dimensional pinned figures, suggests a strategy for redefining art. This vertical projection for the horizontal surface of the chessboard alludes to painting’s reduction of three-dimensional space to a two-dimensional plane. The presence of the rubber glove resting on the open chess set is puzzling, particularly since any attempt to use it would make one unable to handle the very small and delicate chess pieces. This utilitarian rubber glove stands as a reference to painting (as physical task and impediment) and its displacement by the conceptual entailed in both chess and Duchamp’s anartistic experiments. A mass-produced item, this pliant rubber glove also functions as an allusion to Duchamp’s


/ Endgame Strategies

historical usurpation of painting through the readymades. Like a plaster cast, the empty glove is an insignia of an absent hand (presumably referring to authorship) made available for the spectator to activate this assemblage, like a chess player.⁶⁵ By assigning the viewer a collaborative role as a producer of the work, Duchamp emphasized the act of reception as constitutive and indeed decisive for the work’s meaning.⁶⁶ In so doing, he demonstrated that the work’s consumption necessarily entails production, an engagement with the generation of meaning whose intellectual character is not merely critical but also creative. This interpretation of authorship in a transitional, gamelike mode, as a position activated by the spectator, appears to be undermined by the fact that Pocket Chess Set with Rubber Glove is signed. At the back of the wooden box of the 1966 version, we find an inscription on a paper slip: “Seen liked and approved Marcel Duchamp October 13 1966” (Vu aimé et approuvé Marcel Duchamp 13 October 1966). Is this reaffirmation of authorship through the evocation of Duchamp’s signed endorsement? Or does his signature further endorse the possibility of the work’s consumption by the spectator? Critical accounts reflect this ambiguity: Arturo Schwarz contended that the 1966 version of the work was made under the artist’s supervision to replace the lost 1944 original, while Francis Naumann claimed that Robert Lebel presented Duchamp with a replica that he signed with this inscription of his approval.⁶⁷ The question of who precisely made the work may ultimately remain unresolved, but what is interesting is that this statement creates ambiguity regarding authorship independently of the work’s production. A closer examination reveals that Duchamp’s signature here signs not so much the work itself as the possibility of the contingency of its consumption and appropriation. For this signed statement expresses Duchamp’s artistic appreciation of this work as a spectator: “Seen liked and approved.” Vu aimé et approuvé also means a favored perspective, a preferred position or point of view. This representation of authorship as a seal of approval and legitimization of the work as aesthetic and legal endorsement reveals the signature as merely provisional: it is based on merely appropriating a position, which is left open for further appropriations by future spectators or players. In January 1966 Duchamp issued a wooden chessboard entitled

Endgame Strategies

/ 137

Figure 25. Marcel Duchamp, Pocket Chess Set with Rubber Glove, New York, 1944; replica made in 1966 after original lost under artist’s supervision. Assemblage of Pocket Chess Set (1943) with rubber glove in a box. Original dimensions not recorded. Courtesy of Arturo Schwarz. Photograph by Enrico Cattaneo. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

Homage to Caïssa (Hommage à Caïssa; Figure 26), in an edition of thirty signed and numbered copies to be sold for the benefit of the Marcel Duchamp Fund of the American Chess Foundation. Caïssa is the name of the goddess of chess, a divinity of relatively modern lineage since she got her name from a nymph in a poem composed by Sir William James (1746–1794). The work pays homage to inspiration in the guise of the chessboard as offering or tribute. This attempt to honor the muse of chess suggests that, as with the gods of antiquity, inspiration lies not


/ Endgame Strategies

with the player but, rather, in an exterior, divine agency. Duchamp’s playful appeal recalls the homage that artists of antiquity paid to muses when seeking inspiration to produce their works. But what does it mean to seek inspiration in chess, given that one’s repertory of moves and ability to play the game is determined by the knowledge one has of previous games? By positing inspiration as a source exterior to the player or agent (historically personified in the guise of the muse), is Duchamp also making a point about the nature of creativity in the arts? This chessboard draws attention to itself as an object defined by two systems of overlapping rules. Functionally disabled as a game table, it continues to reference chess, while its vertical display as sculptural still life and signed work also alludes to art, suggesting their shared logic as gamelike interventions in a playing field. The black-and-white pattern of the chessboard outlines the possibility of a game, the potential movement and positioning of chess pieces, but also artworks. The emphasis on the game as field (champ) is a pun on Duchamp’s own name, bringing together the logic of chess and art as a field of strategic operations. This analogy however, is intended not to impoverish art but, rather, to activate a conceptual understanding of its positional and strategic nature. Bringing together the artistry of chess and the gamesmanship of art, Homage to Caïssa represents the tradition as a set of determinations that come to inform any creative move the chess player or artist subsequently makes. As the reference to the muse Caïssa suggests, creativity is now an index not of subjective expression but, rather, of the poetic redeployment of prior determinations. It now becomes clearer why Duchamp defined the artist as a “mediumistic being” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 139). Insofar as artistic decision making embodies a strategic assessment and positioning in the field, it emerges as an impersonal act, rather than as a gesture of self-expression.⁶⁸ As Eliot remarked in “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” “It is in this depersonalization that art may be said to approach the condition of science.”⁶⁹ Duchamp’s appeal to Caïssa as the muse of chess figures Eliot’s depersonalized condition of the artist, whose gesture of expression is framed by and informed by exterior considerations. Thus, Duchamp’s extension of art within the playing field of chess reveals that art is a form of making whose logic

Endgame Strategies

/ 139

Figure 26. Marcel Duchamp, Homage to Caïssa (Hommage à Caïssa), New York, 1966. Wood chessboard, 18⁄ × 18⁄ inches. Courtesy of Arturo Schwarz. Photograph by Enrico Cattaneo. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

is inventive only to the extent that it appropriates and redeploys the determinations of the playing field. Duchamp’s analogy between the playing field of chess and art reprises one of Eliot’s major moves in “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” notably, his description of the creation of a new work of art: What happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all works of art which preceded it. . . . The existing order is complete before the new


/ Endgame Strategies work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted.⁷⁰

According to Eliot, a work of art emerges in a field of prior determinations, an existing order that is already complete. Challenging the idea that creation can occur in a void, he suggests that innovation takes place against the background of tradition. The intervention of the new work affects all the works that preceded it, redefining their respective relations and values. The position of the new work repositions all the other pieces on the board. In Homage to Caïssa, the chessboard alludes to the creative act understood as a strategic intervention in a field of givens. The problem is that the creator is not merely a producer but also a product of preexistent determinations. The chessboard is a reminder that the art game can never be played as a tabula rasa and that an artist is never as “blank” as he or she may think. A homage to artistic production, this work marks the indebtedness of artists and artworks to tradition (as the modern muse) while holding out the promise of innovation through appropriation and strategic play. Before proceeding to an analysis of Duchamp’s last chess work, Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive (1967), which can be taken as an ostensible reaffirmation of artistic mastery and authority, it is helpful to consider it in the context of another work from this period, a funerary urn that appears to contradict this intent. Rather than affirming the artist’s viability, the urn ostensibly enshrines the remains of his authorial surrogate, Rrose Sélavy. Duchamp produced a “provoked readymade” entitled Urn with Ashes of Duchamp[’s Cigar] (1965; Figure 27). This work is a somber, sealed, black clay urn that bears midheight the inscription “Rrose Sélavy,” suggesting that it contains the ashes of the deceased. The idea of associating Rrose with a funerary urn may not have been entirely incidental, given Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s description of an old master picture as a “funeral urn.”⁷¹ Rrose’s “birth” and her emergence as the signatory of Fresh Widow and Duchamp’s artistic alter ego during the Paris Dada movement marked his abandonment of painting. But how could Rrose have died when she was

Figure 27. Marcel Duchamp, Urn with Ashes of Duchamp[’s Cigar], Paris, 1965. Black clay urn, 7⅛ × 4¼ inches; inscribed at midheight “Rrose Sélavy.” Courtesy of Arturo Schwarz. Photograph by Enrico Cattaneo. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.


/ Endgame Strategies

nothing more than a fiction in the first place? A closer look at the title quickly dispels this misconception by indicating that the work is an urn with ashes of Duchamp, with the added qualification in brackets that these are ashes from his cigar. With Duchamp still alive and well, why would Duchamp’s cigar ashes merit burial under the insignia of his artistic pseudonym? Even this designation turns out to be misleading, since the ashes of Duchamp’s cigar (smoked at a dinner organized by the members of the Association for the Study of the Dada Movement) were sealed in along with the ashes of the association’s minutes. Thus it turns out that this is an urn with no body in it (a pun on the lack of bodily remains and also identifying marks as in a “nobody”). And yet, although the urn contains no physical body, the fact that valueless and indeed ephemeral remains are collected under seal suggests that these are matters of some importance to be treated in such a ceremonial manner. In this smoke-and-mirror game, the entombment of the ashes of Duchamp’s cigar and the Dada Association’s minutes alludes to ancient funerary rites in which bodies of the deceased were buried or cremated with objects (and sometimes people) most precious to them, serving to mark their symbolic roles, their social or religious status and attainments. In Urn with Ashes of Duchamp[’s Cigar], the urn’s funerary rationale is purloined by indicators that suggest that what is fueling this work is the myth of the artist that underwrites and validates the production of art. Staging the ritual sacrifice and death of the fiction of authorship, these ephemeral remains attest to Duchamp’s idiosyncratic claims as an “anartist” (a breather rather than a worker, and hence the recourse to smoking as its insignia) and his association with Dada, a membership whose collaborative exchanges and endeavors radically redefined creative agency in the modality of the multiple. Was this ritualized exorcism of the fiction of authorship merely a backhanded stratagem to reinforce authorship’s referential function? Just a year before Duchamp’s death in 1968, Éditions les maîtres (which specialized in sculptural editions by notable modern masters) issued his last work dealing with chess, Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive (1967; Figure 28). Produced in an edition of six sets, this assemblage

Endgame Strategies

/ 143

includes a bronze mask and arm made from life casts of Duchamp’s face and right arm. It also incorporates a cast of the knight from Duchamp’s chess set (based on his suggestion) and a partial chessboard, three squares deep, made from onyx and black Belgian marble. This work presents the artist looking at the chessboard and considering his next move in a game whose outcome is yet to be decided. While, as Naumann noted, it is difficult to determine precisely the extent of Duchamp’s involvement in the work’s overall design, it is clear that he valued it sufficiently to arrange for its presentation in several exhibitions.⁷² However, even as Duchamp abstained from “authoring” this work in terms of its physical production, he lent his face and arm to it by patiently posing for the wax casts made by Alfred Wolkenberg (the firm’s owner). In addition, he signed, dated, and approved the plaster cast assemblage with the French inscription bon à tirer, “good to draw on” or “good to shoot,” indicating its readiness for casting and mass production. With this cooperation and approval, he assumed in effect a supervisory role that recalls his earlier position in Paris Air and Fresh Widow, where he availed himself of proxies for the execution of his ideas. His authorizing directive bon à tirer puns in French with the expression “good to shoot,” thus declaring the work’s availability as a target. Was this yet another attempt to target the notion of authorship? And does this attack on the specter of authorship also mark the possibility of its imminent demise? How are we to reconcile these questions, given that both the initial impetus and the issue of Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive appear to attest to the life (and viability) of its maker and thus to the monumentalization of the artist? Does this plaster cast of Duchamp as eternal chess player ultimately lapse back into the apparently inescapable destiny of enshrining and commodifying the image of the artist? Recalling Duchamp’s With My Tongue in My Cheek (1959), a profile drawing and plaster cast of Duchamp’s swollen cheek, Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive captures the semblance of the artist defined by tongue-in-cheek humor by preserving the artist’s face for posterity in a cast that resembles a death mask. The allusion to death, reinforced by the chessboard’s onyx and white marble materials, evocative of a mausoleum, serves to heighten the sense of life, since the plaster cast is a direct

Figure 28. Marcel Duchamp, Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive, New York, 1967. Assemblage: bronze cast and chessboard of marble and onyx, 21½ × 16¾ × 9¼ inches. Produced under Duchamp’s supervision by Éditions les maîtres, New York. Courtesy of Arturo Schwarz. Photograph by Enrico Cattaneo. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/ Succession Marcel Duchamp.

Endgame Strategies

/ 145

imprint of a living being. The upright hand supports and cradles the mask in a gesture indicating mental reflection or concentration. The presence of the hand acts as a reminder of Duchamp’s remarks on painting and the danger of the retinal: “I’m on guard because there’s the danger of the hand [patte].” The danger of the hand ( patte, literally “paw” but also a homonym for pâte, “paste,” an implicit allusion to casts and molds) is here deactivated by the head, whose mental directives come to define not just the nature of the chess game but also the art game. Facing the spectator across the partial chessboard, Duchamp is repositioned in this work from an artist into a player, redefining the act of artistic making as a gesture that is completed by the spectator. Assigning agency to the work’s reception and consumption, the work recasts the logic of authorship and artistic production in the modality of interactive play. Challenging the myth that the birth of the spectator must in some sense entail the death of the author, Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive suggests that the life of a work resides not in the effigy of its author but in the dynamics the work sets in play.⁷³ The interactive nature of this piece marks a new understanding of the artist, whose authorial privilege as producer has been eroded by his redefinition as a player who is also necessarily a consumer in the art game. This work invites spectators to play: to position themselves across the chessboard as agents that will activate the board. While alluding to and playing on the referential power and drama of the artist’s funerary mask, Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive gives way to carnival. It celebrates a new idea of authorship understood as the assumption of a mask, a transitional role or position whose meaning is determined through interaction and play. Associating the logic of the production of the artist with that of the readymades (insofar as both rely on molds and casting), Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive suggests that Duchamp’s legacy is not to be found in his image as an artist but, rather, in his celebration of the creative act. This work is called Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive because the active intervention of the spectator will serve to animate the authorial function, inviting posterity to share in the responsibility of the creative act. As Duchamp pointed out, the creative act necessitates the intervention of the spectator, who will bring the work into contact with


/ Endgame Strategies

the external world in the process of deciphering and interpreting its determinations (“The Creative Act,” in Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 140). An open invitation to the viewer, and by extension to posterity, to lend a hand in the creative act, Duchamp’s work will set up the dynamics of its future encounters with the public.⁷⁴ Drawing on the logic of chance, Duchamp builds the conditions of the work’s engagement with the spectator into the dynamics of the work itself. In so doing, he brings into play the indeterminacy of chance by treating it as a chesslike gambit, thus reconciling chess as a game of strategy with gambling as a calculus of probabilities.⁷⁵ Recalling Duchamp’s advice to John Cage—“Don’t just play your side of the game, play both sides”—his works invite the spectator to put on the authorial mask when positioned as a player who activates the production of the work’s meaning.⁷⁶ In sum, Duchamp set this artistic gambit into motion not just by revolutionizing the art game but also by redefining the player’s position as a space where authorship is postponed through spectatorship. Radicalizing the notion of artistic consumption by invigorating spectatorship, Duchamp uncovered within its interactive, gamelike logic the productive and innovative aspects of appropriation. In so doing, he demonstrated that the “birth of the spectator” is not at the expense of the “death of the author,” since authorship is merely postponed in a relay of appropriative gestures that “give” artistic production its “future” (to loosely paraphrase Barthes’s terms). Activating the spectator as producer rather than mere consumer of art, Duchamp enriched the field of creative production by multiplying the potential makers and meanings attached to artworks.


 Pointing Fingers: Dalí’s Homage to Duchamp Besides it’s only the others that die. t marcel duchamp, tombstone epitaph When the others die, they become Dalínian. t salvador dalí, unspeakable confessions

Among Salvador Dalí’s extensive legacy of artworks is a chess set designed for the American Chess Foundation upon the establishment of the Marcel Duchamp Institute for the noncommercial advancement of chess in America.¹ Chess Set (1964–1971; Figure 29) was shown at the exhibition Homage to Caïssa (at the Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery, New York, February 1966), along with works by Man Ray, Max Ernst, and others, and with Duchamp’s chess work Homage to Caïssa.² Made in honor of Marcel Duchamp, Chess Set marks Dalí’s homage to Duchamp as long-standing friend, intellectual interlocutor, and fellow chess player.³ Dalí started introducing images and references to Duchamp in his works after 1937, and he continued even after Duchamp’s death with the production of Nude Ascending a Staircase: Homage to Marcel Duchamp (1973).⁴ In contrast to Dalí’s hyperbolic criticisms of past and contemporary fellow artists, Chess Set is a tangible expression of admiration. “Tangible” here is no mere figure of speech, since this unusual chess set is made up of chess pieces modeled on the five fingers of Dalí’s hands. The king and queen are modeled after his and his wife Gala’s thumbs, each with a molar tooth for a crown, and the knights are thumbs with the fingertips cut off. The pieces are packed together in a portable box or carrying case, recalling Duchamp’s celebrated portable miniature museum collection of his works in The Box in a Valise (1935–1941).⁵ As previously discussed, chess’s conceptual potential for Duchamp served as an antidote to 147


/ Pointing Fingers

art’s retinal allure, providing analogies for rethinking the nature of art and artistic expression. The question arises, does chess function similarly for Dalí, as a vehicle for signifying a resistance to the visual and for exploring the nature of artistic activity as an appropriative enterprise? Dalí’s deliberate embodiment of the chess pieces as fingers modeled on his own hands inscribes into chess a manual dimension that may appear at odds with its conceptual potential valorized by Duchamp. Hands, and fingers in particular, constitute a recurrent motif in Dalí’s works—paintings, sculptures, films, and even architectural projects— from the late 1920s onward.⁶ Their presence in his work has been primarily interpreted from a psychoanalytic perspective as the traces of onanistic and narcissistic behavior. Dalí’s own fascination with psychoanalysis and obsessive references in his writings to his own life and body encourage such conclusions. But the question arises, does the representation of fingers and hands also present Dalí’s own reflections on painting as a manual activity? Are fingers and hands vehicles for reflection on the art of painting understood as a deictic activity, as an art of demonstration that relies on pointing and showing? And does Dalí’s exploration of photography enable him to redirect the deictic impulses of painting into new directions that bring optics and virtual spaces into play? Dalí’s extensive comments on painters and painting, combined with the reflections embodied in his works and his playful engagement with Duchamp via the Chess Set, open up a new understanding of the meaning and import of pictorial activity, the position of the artist, and the creative act. Speaking about the Chess Set, Dalí, like Duchamp, equates chess with forms of artistic expression: I had a precise, though symbolic, conception for the chessboard which I created especially in the honor of Marcel Duchamp. In chess, as in other forms of expression of human alchemy, there is always a creator. I wanted to be embodied in the following fashion: As the hand of an artist, of the perpetual creator. How could one express this vision better than through the figure of my own hand, of my own

Pointing Fingers

/ 149

Figure 29. Salvador Dalí, Chess Set, 1964–1971. Thirty-two chess pieces in silver and silver gilt based on two salt shakers and the fingers of Salvador Dalí and his wife Gala. Courtesy of Fundació Gala–Salvador Dalí. Copyright 2008 Salvador Dalí, Gala–Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

finger. The family-castle should keep watch over all of this because man can only fully and openly show his hand in his own home—his “castle.”⁷ In this passage, Dalí explicitly identifies the imprint of the creator with the artist’s own hand and fingers. By positioning his fingers on the board, Dalí makes visible the intervention of the artist’s hands in the creative act. This gesture stands in open defiance of Duchamp’s own rejection of the pictorial and avowed affirmation of the danger of the hand (le danger de la patte), that is, the insistence on the manual aspects of painting instead of its conceptual dimensions. However, Dalí’s identification of the fingers on the board with the hand of the creator is somewhat misleading. In Dalí’s chess set, two opposing sets of fingers are facing each other at the start of the game, turning the chessboard itself into a mirror of sorts. This initial doubling of the hand of the creator on the chessboard is complicated by a further doubling: while the


/ Pointing Fingers

fingers on the board, including the king, are modeled on Dalí’s own hand, the queen is based on his wife Gala’s thumb, thereby inscribing their joint imprint as creators on the chessboard. This doubling of the creator mimics Dalí’s sometime strategy of signing his works with the double signature Dalí–Gala. What is at issue here is less the proliferation of Dalí’s artistic signatures than the fact that artistic authorship and agency is represented here through the doubling and interplay of Dalí’s and Gala’s fingers on the chessboard. The artist’s hand as creator is presented here in the modality of a couple, as a plural entity, whose dialogic character disrupts notions of individual agency. Instead of functioning as mere representations of the artist’s hand, the fingers on the board suggest that art making and the artist may be in question as categories that are subject to multiplicity and play. In his essay “The Liberation of Fingers” (1929), Dalí comments on the strangeness of fingers when they are dislocated or dissociated from their usual contexts: My thumb had often suddenly surprised me as something disturbing and unusual, despite the habit of seeing it poking out of the hole in my palette. I have recently observed the (so inexplicable) gesture little children have of hiding their hands and leaving their fingers loose and free. A single finger has been the subject of several of my recent paintings and photographic works . . . along this violent path on which we can moreover give things their own liberty.⁸ Although Dalí explicitly frames his discussion of the liberated fingers with “a flying phallus” and the “winged phallus” of ancient civilizations (with which he became familiar after reading Freud), this association is given a particular twist by his expressed anxiety about his thumb poking out of the painting palette.⁹ Cut off from the rest of the hand by the palette, the thumb references the activity of painting, but its visual isolation also inscribes an element of estrangement. Dalí’s continued interest in the representation of fingers throughout his artistic career suggests, alongside its manifest onanistic and narcissistic psychoanalytic associations, references to painting as an artistic practice. The hand and fingers

Pointing Fingers

/ 151

in particular figure an understanding of painting as a deictic medium, where the gesture of showing brings into play various modes of pointing. For painting’s ability to refer to something outside of itself coincides with references to its own material conditions regarding the manipulation and organization of pigment on the canvas. Dalí’s discomfort when faced with his thumb poking out of the palette suggests that painting as a manual activity may be problematic and subject to some anxiety, not merely for psychological reasons but for artistic ones as well. The capacity of painting to designate reality may be in question, since Dalí systematically sought to expand the meaning of pictorial representation through an appeal to technical media such as photography and optics and other disciplines such as psychoanalysis. This ambivalent presentation of the hand is evident in Dalí’s further manipulations of the chess set fingers and their chess analogues. Keeping in mind Dalí’s explicit analogizing of chess and art, it is interesting to note that the king and queen are both crowned with a molar tooth. When asked, “Why a tooth?” Dalí replied, “Why not a tooth?” His humorous reply is perhaps intended to put a “bite” back into art.¹⁰ The identification of the index finger with the bishop is particularly telling, since it references art in terms of the sacred iconography of the pointed finger and at the same time alludes to its pictorial deictic function.¹¹ However, the most puzzling figure in the chess set is that of the knight, since the top part of this thick, thumblike finger has been cut off, a “decapitation” of sorts. This castrated finger recalls a comment in Michel de Montaigne’s essay “Of Thumbs” (which Dalí illustrated in 1947), where it is noted that a Roman knight maliciously cut off the thumbs of his children in order to exempt them from serving as soldiers. The incapacity of this finger to point by analogy to painting inscribes into the work the inability or failure of being able to paint. This inscription of failure can be read both as an expression of Dalí’s own anxiety and as a reference to Duchamp’s interest in chess, which supposedly coincided with his abandonment of art. The rooks are figured through two salt shakers appropriated from the St. Regis Hotel in New York, a sly and sleight-of-hand allusion to Duchampian readymades. While presenting a humorous tribute to Duchamp, who called himself a “salt seller,” these salt-shaking rooks also point to


/ Pointing Fingers

Duchamp’s freedom to move beyond painting. Dalí’s chess set fingers thus refer to Duchamp’s ambivalent relation to painting as an activity that he engaged in but later moved beyond. If the hand embodies the imprint of the artist as creator, as Dalí contended, then his display of fingers on the board suggests that the position of the artist and the activity of painting must be rethought as a function of the game and its dialogical interplay. At issue is not merely Dalí’s homage to Duchamp, but Dalí’s own attempts to challenge the definition of both painting and the artist while continuing to paint.

Photography and the Question of Deixis Painting is not photography, the painters say. But photography is not photography either. t rené crevel, l’art vivant James Thrall Soby commented on Dalí’s interest in photography as it relates to painting. At a time when painters were reacting against photography by turning to abstraction, he noted Dalí’s fascination with photography, particularly as regards his efforts to equate the pictorial and the photographic surface: He called his technique “handmade photography,” by which he meant to say that it defined appearances so sharply as to make them rival those which, recorded by the camera, were indubitably existent. With him, in however temporary a sense, came to an end the reaction against painting as a photographic medium which had gathered force throughout the late nineteenth century and reached climax in the earliest twentieth century. Whereas André Derain in describing his career as a Fauve, had written, “this was the epoch of photography . . . a fact which counted in our reaction against everything which resembled negatives taken from life,” Dalí went so far as to give his paintings a surface similar to glossy photographic prints. He wished, in a word, to depict the unreal with such extreme realism that its truth and validity could no longer be questioned.¹²

Pointing Fingers

/ 153

Soby drew attention to Dalí’s pictorial technique, defined as “handmade photography.”¹³ He pointed out that Dalí’s pictorial precision and sharpness lends a photographic dimension to his depictions of the irrational, making them rival the representations of the camera.¹⁴ He underlined this point by noting the glossy surfaces of Dalí’s paintings, which mimic photographic prints. However, the question arises as to whether this appeal to what appear to be photographic techniques involves merely an effort to validate “unreality,” or whether it constitutes a speculative reflection on the relationship of painting and photography as deictic arts. While painting and photography involve modes of pointing in their respective media, the fundamental difference between them lies in the suppression of the hand in photography, leading Dalí to conclude: “The hand ceases to intervene.”¹⁵ The technology of the photographic apparatus supplants the work of the hand, which remains active in painting. In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes extensively remarked on the deictic nature of photography: “Photography is never anything but an antiphon of ‘Look,’ ‘See,’ ‘Here it is’; it points a finger at certain vis-àvis, and cannot escape this pure deictic language.”¹⁶ The specificity of photography lies precisely in the fact that it points its finger at things, making things present for us, here and now. And yet this invitation to look and see, implied in the deictic nature of photography, only serves to remind the viewer of technology’s ability to dispense with the intervention of the human hand—and for that matter, the human eye. As Dalí observed, the deictic impulse of photography can exceed the capacity of either the hand or the eye to point, for a photograph may reveal to us realities not immediately accessible to the eye: “The mere fact of photographic transposition means a total invention: the capture of a secret reality. Nothing proves the truth of superrealism so much as photography. The Zeiss lens has unexpected faculties of surprise.”¹⁷ According to Dalí, photography does not merely record reality by transposing it; rather, photography reinvents reality through the capture of a hidden or secret reality. In accessing its referent, photography as a technical device can point to and reveal things unavailable to the naked eye.¹⁸ But the photographic image does not simply point at things because


/ Pointing Fingers

it is also a physical and chemical imprint. In her essay “Notes on the Index: Part 1,” Rosalind Krauss commented on the nature of the photograph as luminous trace: “Every photograph is the result of a physical imprint transferred by light reflections on a sensitive surface. The photograph is thus a type of icon, or visual likeness, which bears an indexical relation to its object.”¹⁹ The photograph is an imprint, a graphic record crystallized on a surface bathed in liquid emulsions. As an “emanation of the referent,” to use Barthes’s term, this imprint captures visual likeness as globules of emulsion coalesce in a screen of dots (Camera Lucida, 80). When considered as a physical and chemical imprint, photography approaches the material conditions of painting (as pigment on canvas). But this analogy becomes especially visible when it concerns the production of visual likeness, as in the case of pointillism, as embodied in the techniques of Georges-Pierre Seurat and Paul Signac. Dalí’s fascination with pointillist technique in painting can be seen as yet another indication of his efforts to rethink painting by reference to its photographic potential: “The pointillist technique especially aroused my admiration. The re-creation of real life by way of the decomposing particles into minuscule drops of color seemed pure genius to me” (Unspeakable Confessions, 43). Just as photography creates the illusion of life through the consolidation of an emulsion into dots, pointillism generates visual likeness as an inference marshaled from the coagulation of the minuscule drops of color. This reduction of pictorial reality to drops or dots of color mimics the work of photography while collapsing the distinctions between the two. When Dalí experimented with pointillism in painting, however, he did so not in the tradition of the Impressionists but, rather, by emphasizing the graphic character of the screens of dots, which recall magnified photographic prints.²⁰ In Macrophotographic Self-Portrait with Gala Appearing as a Nun (1962), he painted over a color photograph with gouache. Since the photograph is magnified, the color dots that compose it come into relief, simulating both the surface of Dalí’s skin and the surface of a canvas (nonexistent here, since it’s a photograph). Thus, painting and photography are cross-referenced in a manner that erases their particular indexical character. In Portrait of My Dead

Pointing Fingers

/ 155

Brother (1963; Figure 30), the dots of oil on the canvas mimic the enlarged surface of a photographic print, crystallizing on the canvas its iconic residues. This pictorial reproduction of a photographic print, presented as if under magnification, undermines the pictorial only to highlight its graphic character. The dots serve to conflate the specific indexical markers of the media of painting and photography while preserving differences in their visual outlook. Moreover, their similarity to benday dots also brings into play allusions to advertising and the print medium.²¹ Drawing on the nonartistic traces of photography as a technical medium, Dalí redeployed these elements speculatively in an attempt to find new ways of thinking about painting. Like Duchamp, instead of turning to abstraction as most painters of his time did, he focused his efforts on a reconsideration of the photographic medium. He explored and deployed its conceptual implications as a system of demonstration (pointing and showing) and also exposure (framing and display) in order to expand the meaning of pictorial representation. This new manner of creatively combining photography and painting resulted in a “synthesis” that Dalí called “classic” but that introduced a new, virtual experience of space: This time we’ll use real photographs. With photographs and new spatial techniques, I’ll achieve a synthesis that we might actually call classic, and even absolutely classic. Images will remain photographic as always and from these images the moving points and lines come. The element of genius is obtaining a surface full of tiny points as in the era of pointillism, except that for the eye there will appear to be different variable distances and spatial locations between them. (Conversations with Dalí, 24–25) Dalí’s obsession with the surfaces of dots of paint, or dots in photographic prints, involves the destabilization of the experience of space, which becomes relative to the interplay between the individual dots and the surface, multidimensional and variable. Continuing his explanation, Dalí added that these points on the surface of the canvas also


/ Pointing Fingers

Figure 30. Salvador Dalí, Portrait of My Dead Brother, 1963. Oil on canvas, 69 × 69 inches. Private collection. Courtesy of Fundació Gala–Salvador Dalí. Copyright 2008 Salvador Dalí, Gala–Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

have a tactile dimension, enabling the viewer to use them as pivots in order to gain access into another dimension: “The entire canvas will be full of dots. The spectator will feel as if he could plunge his hands through those dots. They’ll form whatever image the artist intends: a buttock or a lizard, and the photographic impression in relief will always be one of the goals of the canvas” (ibid., 25). Rather than merely functioning as imprints of an external referent, Dalí suggested, these dots also open toward another space, since one could dive across them with one’s hands. The physical act of breaching with the hand across a specific point, as if the canvas were a surface that led into another

Pointing Fingers

/ 157

plane, redefines pictorial deixis because it no longer single-handedly designates either the external world or the material world of the painting. Its referent is virtual and vertiginous, constituted at the juncture of the strategic crossover of painting and photography. Dalí’s fascination with the role of dots as locus of convergence for photography and painting in the production of a virtual space becomes explicit in his comments on Jan Vermeer’s The Lacemaker (La Dentelière, circa 1660–1670). He expressed his appreciation for Vermeer in terms of an anxiety of perfection, “of perfecting and perfecting something that was already perfect” (ibid., 49). But this admiration for Vermeer’s search for precision, perfection, and completion becomes in Dalí’s case a profound meditation on an “infinitesimal fragment of that painting” (ibid., 41). He focuses on the detail of the lacemaker’s hand holding a needle that is visually suggested but not actually depicted. This detail acts as a punctuation mark in the painting, a point of sublime convergence for the expressible and the inexpressible: I discovered that in The Lacemaker as in all great paintings, the divine converges on something the artist did not paint visibly but contented himself with suggesting. In The Lacemaker it’s a needle stitching somewhere and yet unseen. Is it a phenomenon of cosmogony? I know that the whole universe is gravitating around the indiscernible point of that needle, whose existence is certain but which was not meant for human eyes. (Ibid., 50)²² The focus of Dalí’s analysis is on the tip of this virtual needle, which, although invisible, draws the spectator’s attention to the point where it breaches the canvas’s visible surface to penetrate into the invisible. Dalí’s account of his sublime viewing experience describes the possibility of reaching, through this minute point, a virtual space, invisible and yet physically attainable. Commenting on The Lacemaker’s “violent aesthetic power,” he linked the work’s allusion to tactility (staged through the point of the needle) to the sense of danger evoked by its potential use (its stitching in a virtual space). Earlier, in Diary of a Genius, his account of the tip of the virtual needle is far more violent,


/ Pointing Fingers

since he suggests being pierced by it: “And the sharpness of that needle I have felt acutely in my own flesh, in my elbows when, for instance, I wake up with a shock in the middle of my most paradisiacal siestas.”²³ Here, the tip of Vermeer’s virtual needle enables not so much a punctual meditation on the sublime in art as a nightmare whose violent impact is translated into a somatic, bodily experience. Dalí’s obsession with the pointlike tip of the virtual needle brings us back to the initial reflections on the deictic nature of painting and photography. In Camera Lucida, Barthes elaborated the notion of the punctum, which he described as that punctual element that comes to disturb the general composition of the photographic image. The punctum is both a “wound” and a “prick,” and it “refers back to the notion of punctuation”; more precisely, “these marks, these wounds are so many points.” Barthes concludes: “A photograph’s punctum is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)” (Camera Lucida, 26–27). His comments regarding the punctum inscribe into photography a form of pointing, a deictic activity that exceeds the photograph’s designation of reality. Like an arrow reaching out of the photographic image, the punctum has a physical impact insofar as it acts as a point of wounding, a point that grips and pierces the viewer. Analogous to Vermeer’s pictorial punctum (as Dalí sees it), the photographic punctum opens up a breach in the visual surface of the image, transfixing the viewer in its grasp. In both cases, the punctum functions both as a residual trace or material imprint and as a kind of virtual needle that encompasses in its reach the virtual depth of the image and the viewer’s body. When Dalí called Vermeer “the authentic painter of ghosts,” he may have been referring to more than the ephemeral reflections of individuals captured in mirrors.²⁴ His interest in the spectral reflects his fascination with the vertiginous and hallucinatory dimension of the pictorial and photographic punctum as pivots enabling breaches into the virtual.²⁵ Dalí discovered in the punctual and minute details of Vermeer’s works a conceptual dimension that enabled the extension of painting’s dominion of the visible into the virtual. As Dalí observed, Vermeer’s original move was accomplished with an economy of pictorial means: “He simply added a detail, a refinement, something imper-

Pointing Fingers

/ 159

ceptible here and there so that the tradition, although scrupulously followed, turned into an unprecedented originality” (Conversations with Dalí, 51). Vermeer’s originality lies not only in his imperceptible touches but also in his ability to suggest painting’s attempt to reach beyond its limits as a visual medium. It is interesting to note, in this regard, Svetlana Alpers’s remarks on the stylistic originality of Vermeer, which she attributes to the stylistic features that emerge from “copying the quirks” of the camera obscura: “It would appear that those small globules of paint that we find in several works—the threads in the Lacemaker, the ship in the View of Delft—are painted equivalents of the circles of confusion, diffused circles of light, that form around unfocused specular highlights in the camera obscura of the image.”²⁶ For Alpers, Vermeer’s originality lies in the innovative transposition of the technical effects of the camera obscura into the pictorial image as figured through depiction by the minute globules of paint.²⁷ Building on Vermeer’s conceptual allusions, Dalí transposed the technical effects linked to photography into the subject matter and representational modes of his paintings. Underlining this crossover of painting and photography, Dalí privileged the painter’s decision to emphasize the “photographic” dots with a touch of paint: “The painter will merely have to emphasize the points in some way and amplify them by a very light touch of his brush. And with the aid of painting, I shall render that touch as masterly as possible. It was known in the epoch of Velasquez as la bravura del toco, the bravura of touch” (Conversations with Dalí, 25). This touching up of the points marks the painter’s magisterial touch, emerging in effect as a kind of signature. However, contrary to Dalí’s suggestion, this “bravura of touch” does not signify in the manner of Velasquez and his time. The touch of Dalí the painter is more like that of a punctuation mark, adding bits of paint to points whose visual meaning is defined by their lack of the gestural content that constitutes one of the traditional markers of painting. The mark of the hand as the trace of individual style and hence authorial signature is conflated in Dalí’s works with photographic techniques whose impersonal character is magnified by the painter’s touch. Instead of merely referring to the painter, this pictorial touch also references painting’s reliance on photography to redefine its


/ Pointing Fingers

meaning in a virtual sense. Playing on the deictic obsession that haunts both painting and photography, Dalí expanded the conceptual scope of painting, thus challenging its visual determinations.

The Return of the Virtual Hand So I projected myself into bodies to seek out my structure. salvador dalí, unspeakable confessions In his film collaboration with Luis Buñuel, An Andalusian Dog (Un Chien andalou, 1929), Dalí returned obsessively both to Vermeer’s Lacemaker and to the figure of the hand.²⁸ His previous fascination with photography and its ability to capture a secret or virtual reality extended into the realm of cinema. Dalí was captivated by film’s ability to capture unusual objects or persons, like spectral apparitions: “Cinema catches unusual beings and objects which are more invisible and ethereal than the apparitions of muslin spirits. Each image of the cinema is the capture of an unquestionable spirituality.”²⁹ This spiritual quality that Dalí ascribed to cinema is a reflection of its power to transmute things in the process of capturing their spectral semblance. In An Andalusian Dog, spectrality is figured through gestures of pointing at or designating something that is visibly absent.³⁰ One need only recall the shocking opening sequence, of a woman’s eye slashed with a razor, to recognize the fact that the eye and vision itself are under violent attack in this film. A print of Vermeer’s Lacemaker is presented in a scene involving the reappearance of a woman attentively reading a book, only to be distracted by something: “She flinches all the sudden, she listens with curiosity . . . is convinced now that something is happening” (An Andalusian Dog, scenario reprinted in Salvador Dalí: Rétrospective, 69). Her manifest reaction to something that is visually absent is reprised in the following sequence. She is shown pensively contemplating the clothing accessories of a man: “All was arranged as if these objects had been worn by someone stretched out on the bed” (ibid., 70). Although absent from the frame, the young man’s virtual presence is alluded to by his vestments and the imprint of his body

Pointing Fingers

/ 161

on the bed. Drawing on the deictic quality of Vermeer’s Lacemaker, which suggestively points at a virtual space, this sequence shows film’s capacity to capture a spectral presence, outlined as a visible absence. Dalí’s efforts to redirect the meaning of deictic markers away from the visible in order to designate, through absence, the virtual presence of a person and object become explicit in a subsequent sequence. A young man suddenly reappears behind the heroine; he is engrossed in anxious examination of his outstretched hand, “where ants coming out of the black hole swarmed about” (ibid.). The man’s fascination with the movement of the ants coming out of a black hole in the middle of his palm suspends the hand’s capacity to act and to point, thus in effect detaching it from the rest of the body. The swarming movement of the ants suggests the presence of an invisible force that threatens to take over the hand’s agency.³¹ This obsession with the representation of the hand depicted as incapacitated in its ability to point is reprised in the following sequence, in which an androgynous young woman “tries to collect, with a stick, a severed hand with colored nails, that is found on the ground.” When the hand is packed back into the box by a police agent, the woman “is invaded by an extraordinary emotion. . . . She was subjugated by the echoes of a distant and religious music” (An Andalusian Dog, scenario reprinted in Salvador Dalí: Rétrospective, 70). Once again, the deictic potential of the hand is redirected from the visible to an audible presence that informs the scene without being visible. This recurrent obsession with the spectral in An Andalusian Dog attests to a critique of the eye and hand as sites or instruments for deixis and to their redeployment in order to allude to a virtual reality exceeding the visual content of the image. Following his cinematic experiments, Dalí pursued the question of pictorial and photographic deixis by exploring its implications for sculpture. One of Dalí’s earliest forays into sculpture is a reproduction of the Venus de Milo in plaster, entitled Venus de Milo with Drawers (1936; Figure 31). This work was cast in 1964, in patinated white bronze, simulating plaster, and was followed by Venus de Milo with Drawers (1964) in plaster and Venus de Milo with Drawers (1964) in patinated bronze.³² Recalling L.H.O.O.Q., Duchamp’s reproduction of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, refurbished through hairdressing, Dalí’s


/ Pointing Fingers

sculpture reproduced the statue of Venus de Milo with the addition of a series of drawers with mink buttons.³³ According to Dalí, although he had the idea and traced the drawers, it was Duchamp who handled the execution of the technical details, as well as the commission and supervision of the original model.³⁴ If Duchamp chose the Mona Lisa because of its cultural standing as a masterpiece and as an epitome of femininity, what might have motivated Dalí’s appropriation of the Venus de Milo from other classical models? Like the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo has been one of the most reproduced and appropriated artworks in history.³⁵ However, Dalí might have been intrigued not just by her cultural standing as sculptural icon but also by her lack of arms, which generates ambiguity as regards her pose. The absence of manual gesture and thus of deictic markers neutralizes her subjective presence, rendering it illegible. Perversely countering her armless condition, Dalí’s introduction of drawers makes Venus de Milo with Drawers an extensive meditation on the sense of touch. The irreverent fragmentation and compartmentalization of the body into open drawers is accompanied by the tangible provocation of the mink buttons.³⁶ The contrast of plaster and mink, of hard and soft materials, functions as an invitation to touch, to transgress the inviolability of the body by opening it to the exterior. The tactile is scripted into the sculpture as a constitutive motif, redirecting its sculptural intent by its more mundane associations with the use of an item of furniture. Previously available for visual consumption, Venus de Milo as a prototype of the classical female nude now becomes accessible to touch.³⁷ The introduction of tactility breaches the distance that separates this image as feminine ideal from that of a mere object, redefining her fate in terms of her availability for appropriation. Dalí’s use of drawers in this work is influenced by the Mannerist artist Giovanni Battista Bracelli and his “furniture figures” from his series of prints Capricci or Bizzarie (1624).³⁸ However, unlike Bracelli, who used objects as constitutive elements (like an alphabet) for figuring the human body, Dalí breaks up the anthropomorphic logic of the body through the introduction of drawers. In so doing, he conflates the subjectivity of the human body with the body’s treatment as a material object. Dalí’s obsession with human figures and drawers is visible in

Figure 31. Salvador Dalí, Venus de Milo with Drawers, 1936. Painted plaster with metal pulls and mink pompons, 38⅝ × 12¾ × 13⅜ inches. Through prior gift of Mrs. Gilbert W. Chapman, 2005. Photograph by Robert Hashimoto. The Art Institute of Chicago. Copyright 2008 Salvador Dalí, Gala–Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


/ Pointing Fingers

other drawings and paintings of 1936, including The City of Drawers (1936), The Anthropomorphic Cabinet (1936), and The Burning Giraffe (1936). For Dalí the drawers came to signify the possibility of penetrating the interior of the human body by opening it up for view. They embody the drive to visualize the female body by opening its secret recesses to the naked eye: Take that drawing of mine, for example, showing a woman’s body with drawers opening out of it. Those drawers include everything—Freud, Christianity, the possibility of penetrating into the interior of a human being with its secret compartments all full of meaning.³⁹ According to Dalí, the drawers contain the entire baggage of the Western tradition’s concerns and, indeed, obsession with the body. Their aperture brings into view the hidden recesses and secret premises that underlie the construction of the female body, which institutions as varied as psychoanalysis, religion, and science have tried to plumb throughout history.⁴⁰ Fragmenting and compartmentalizing the human body by reducing it to a material object, Dalí recast the subjective logic of femininity. Transgressing the supposed interiority of the female body by opening the drawers, Dalí exteriorized femininity as a virtual mode of being. He summed up the advent of this redefinition of femininity with the remark “The woman will become spectral.”⁴¹ Dalí also suggested a figurative understanding of the drawers as “kinds of allegories destined to illustrate a certain complacency to smell the innumerable narcissistic odors emanating from each one of our drawers.”⁴² By suggesting that there is an olfactory dimension to this work, he inscribed yet another deictic marker that pointed to the evanescent imprint of the absent body. Although invisible, odor nonetheless points to something formerly present from which it emanated, capturing the body’s presence as a virtual trace. By instituting a play between presence and absence and between the visible and invisible body, he inscribed a virtual potential into the sculptural aspects of the Venus de Milo with Drawers.

Pointing Fingers

/ 165

Dalí’s experiments with the hand, with the deictic and the virtual, come to a head in his painting Metamorphosis of Narcissus (1937; Figure 32), which he stated was obtained entirely through the application of the paranoiac-critical method.⁴³ This painting is unusual because it is supposed to be accompanied by a recorded reading of the poem by the same name. Doubling the presence of the nymph Echo in the myth, this vocal trace accompanies the visual consumption of the image. This virtual female presence stands in for Gala, Dalí’s wife, who often read out loud to him while he painted.⁴⁴ This play of echoes that frames the painting also informs its visual content, as can be seen in the painting’s doubling and vertiginous reflections. There are two images of the crouching Narcissus, rising side by side from his reflection in the water. The first, on the left, reprises Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s well-known Narcissus (1600) while erasing the face and other marks of individuality by reducing the body to elongated and disarticulated volumes figuring the knee, legs, and arms. The second image, on the right, reflects the first but replaces Narcissus’s fragmented bodily schema with a fossilized hand holding a bulblike egg.⁴⁵ Dalí commented that “the metamorphosis in the myth took place at this precise moment, for the image of Narcissus was suddenly transformed into the image of a hand springing up from its own reflection” (Salvador Dalí: Rétrospective, 285).⁴⁶ But how are we to interpret Narcissus’s transformation from a disarticulated composite of body parts into a hand that stands in for this lack of bodily schema? In appropriating Caravaggio’s depiction, Dalí redirected Caravaggio’s emphasis on Narcissus’s knee (which according to Mieke Bal acts as a synecdoche marking the body’s severing and fragmentation) to the isolated hand holding an egg.⁴⁷ Although hands have been considered an insignia of narcissism in the form of autoerotic, onanistic tendencies, Dalí’s comments on the Chess Set suggest that the hand is also an embodiment of the artist as creator.⁴⁸ Keeping in mind Alberti’s contention that Narcissus was the “inventor of painting,” Dalí’s emphasis on the hand would serve to mark not so much the original imprint of the artist as the appropriative nature of pictorial expression.⁴⁹ Metamorphosis of Narcissus presents an almost delirious hall of


/ Pointing Fingers

Figure 32. Salvador Dalí, Metamorphosis of Narcissus, 1937. Oil on canvas, 820 × 1,092 × 85 mm. Copyright 2008 Tate, London, and Salvador Dalí, Gala–Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

mirrors, a specular play of reflections that intersect and traverse the space of the canvas. The horizontal plane of Narcissus’s reflection in the pond is crossed by a perpendicular, transversal plane of reflection that extends from the right edge of the pond along the fossilized hand and continues through the left edge of the checkered game board. The presence of this checkered surface, in the upper-right quadrant of the painting, alludes to the perspectivist space of Renaissance painting (to painting as a mirror) and to the chessboard that relies on mirrorlike effects. The painting’s dispersal and fragmentation of these specular effects suggests that Dalí’s engagement with mirrors and reflections is far more complicated than the original myth of Narcissus indicates. While recognizing the visual fascination exercised by mirrors, Dalí focused on metamorphosis, that is, on the transformation and transposition of images whose optical mobility challenges the fixity of the specular image. Although Jacques Lacan’s view of the mirror stage as a “drama of a succession of phantasies that extends from the fragmented body-image to a form of its totality” proves useful toward es-

Pointing Fingers

/ 167

tablishing the contrast between the wholeness of the specular image and the fragmented body, this specular reading fails to account for the metamorphic and hallucinatory dimension of the painting.⁵⁰ Reading the last lines of Dalí’s companion poem to the painting, Fiona Bradley noted a shift away from the specular doubling of Narcissus to the appearance of Gala, Dalí’s wife: “When this head cracks itself, / When this head cracks open, / When this head bursts open, / there will be the flower, / the new Narcissus, / Gala— / my narcissus.”⁵¹ The appearance of Gala at the end of this poem is not surprising, given that her potential presence has been adumbrated by the poem’s vocal echo, doubling the presence of the nymph Echo in the original Narcissus myth. A metamorphosis appears to have taken place, since the narcissistic myth of self-love is here shadowed by the myth of erotic love, which twins the persona of Narcissus into a new doubled entity, male and female. It is helpful in this context to consider Dalí’s explanation of his habit of signing his works with a double signature: “In signing my paintings Dalí–Gala, all I did was to give a name to an existential truth, since without my twin Gala I would no longer exist” (Unspeakable Confessions, 243). Gala, alias Echo, subtends the specular identification of the artist as Narcissus, becoming his condition of possibility. Bradley remarked on this tendency, “Dalí has made the image of Gala into a sign, and has redirected the signifying impulse of the sign towards himself.”⁵² But the question arises, does Gala function purely as a “mirror,” enabling Dalí to redirect her image as a sign toward himself? Or rather, does Dalí’s metamorphosis into himself and Gala represent a more radical gesture, that of redefining authorship in the modality of the multiple? Dalí’s gesture appropriates and redeploys Duchamp’s figuration of his artistic persona and signature as Rrose Sélavy and, indeed, might refer to its later incarnations, as featured in Duchamp’s work Door for Gradiva (1937; Figure 33). This work was designed as a glass door for André Breton’s Surrealist art gallery Gallerie Gradiva. Incised into the glass is the silhouette of a man and woman coupled together, as if metamorphosed into each other. This optically deceptive piece is undecidedly either a figure for aperture or closure. This ambiguity is further compounded by the question of whether it depicts a couple


/ Pointing Fingers

joined in an embrace or engaged in an erotic encounter. Each of the letters of “gradiva” stood for one of the Surrealist muses, thereby suggesting that the metamorphic figure brought into play a representation of artistic creation. Alluding to the artist and his muse, the doubling and sexing of the image undermines the idea of the artist as solitary Narcissus. Like Duchamp’s alias signature, Dalí’s inscription of Gala into Metamorphosis of Narcissus and into his own signature also disrupts the notion of artistic identity, rupturing its referential function as a stable and unified entity. Dalí’s appropriation of his wife’s name and presence into his work also brings into play the Surrealist reliance on the feminine as a figure of mythic inspiration.⁵³ Whitney Chadwick argued that Gala personified for Dalí the “Surrealist muse,” the embodiment of Gradiva, Galatea, and so on. Dalí’s dedication to Diary of a Genius supports this contention: “I dedicate this book to my genius Gala Gradiva, Helen of Troy, Saint Helen, Gala, Galatea Placida.”⁵⁴ Burdened with a plethora of mythic associations, however, Gala does not function merely as a muse, since she occupies all the feminine positions: the healer, the seductress, the saint, the aesthetic object, and the like. Dalí’s identification of Gala and Gradiva is particularly interesting, since Gradiva is a metamorphic figure, part plaster cast relief, part mythical woman, and part corporeal reality. Like the spectral Gradiva, or the repeating voice of Echo, Gala represents the very possibility of metamorphosis, of becoming, rather than being. Her virtual existence does not validate Dalí’s artistic identity; on the contrary, it verifies his spectrality as creative agent. Dalí accounted for his troubled relation with the specular image and identity by evoking the unusual circumstances of his boyhood: “For my schema, my corporeal image, my double started by being a dead boy. I had no corporeal image, fate having willed for me to be born without a body or in an angelic one, with putrefaction images to boot” (Unspeakable Confessions, 244). Referring to his brother, dead of meningitis three years before his birth, who resembled him like a “mirror image” and who was also called Salvador, Dalí explained his incapacity to present himself and his corporeal image in the guise of a specular dead double.⁵⁵ Dalí’s rejection of specularity reflects his understanding of having been twinned according to the spectral logic

Figure 33. Marcel Duchamp, Door for Gradiva, Paris, 1937 (1968 replica). Glass door; original destroyed. Courtesy of Arturo Schwarz. Photograph by Enrico Cattaneo. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.


/ Pointing Fingers

of his dead brother: “Not a solid, compact, hard reality, but a replica, a double, an absence.”⁵⁶ Presenting his identity in the mode of an echo, as a reply to an event doubling an absence, Dalí opened it up to transformation and appropriation. His emphasis on metamorphosis over the specular image reflects his development of a transitive and nonessentialist representation of identity—hence the possibility of designating himself in terms of Gala, as an echo or double whose virtual character eschews the fixity of specular images. Dalí described this relationship to his dead brother, which he claimed was the origin of his genius, as a hallucinatory projection into bodies in order to discover himself: “So I projected myself into bodies to seek out my structure” (Unspeakable Confessions, 244). His capacity for projection, for appropriating and transforming himself into other bodies, privileges metamorphosis as a defining principle. Dalí ascribed this capacity for transmutation to his not having an experience of his own body as stable self and frame of reference: Having no bodily analogy, I could not judge forms and objects about me. I could only experience them from within. Little by little I transformed this escape of the being, this transmutation into pure consciousness. Therein lays the quality of my genius. Unable to give a meaning to things, since I had no stable self as a frame of reference, I experienced them by possessing them, getting the feel of their configuration with absolute sharpness, however strange it might be. (Ibid., 245) He contended that the lack of bodily analogy as guiding morphology enabled him to experience things from within, not as an external form but as a transmutation of consciousness. Lacking a stable self as founding origin and referent, he was freed from the burden and the conventions of meaning. This inability to give meaning to things by consolidating them referentially was recouped as creative impetus. Dalí accounted for his artistic ingenuity in terms of this capacity for metamorphosis that is referentially freed from the creative subject. He concluded that his lack of bodily form shaped his capacity to have

Pointing Fingers

/ 171

an impact on the world: “I literally burst upon the world because I had no body” (ibid.). Describing himself as a “hallucinatory projection” (ibid., 244), Dalí remarked on his lack of a sense of being: “I am aware of my being and person as of a double” (ibid., 241). But this double is a reflection not of either his mere person or being but, rather, of their interplay: “My game (both jeu and je—my I as well) is to bring about the impossible. I am the Don Quixote of unreality” (ibid., 246). The double no longer references its corporeal other as a stable entity; rather, it defers the logic of identification by reducing it to a logic of simulation. The agent of simulation emerges as an effect that embodies the irreducible interplay of truth and the simulacrum. As Dalí noted, it erases the possibility of distinguishing between them: “I’m not only an agent provocateur, I’m also an agent simulateur. I never know when I start simulating, and when I’m telling the truth” (Conversations with Dalí, 69). Thus, the play of provocation and simulation undermines the sense of reality. It subverts the referential function of reality through the relay structure of the simulacrum. While the simulacrum may be in essence gratuitous, its presence compels its interchangeability with and ultimate subversion of reality. Dalí proceeds to rhetorically question their interplay: “What is reality? What is simulacrum? There is neither osmosis nor comparison between the two. The presence of simulacrum is gratuitous but compelling and everything is interchangeable. Shit, blood, and death conceal treasures” (Unspeakable Confessions, 262–63). The logic of the simulacrum erodes the real, restaging reference as a function of a virtual interplay. Gala–Dalí thus becomes the signature of the artist as simulator, a multiple entity whose hallucinatory character cannot be reduced to the insignia of a single entity or persona. If Gala cannot be absorbed into Dalí, this is because her spectrality is merely an extension of Dalí’s own lack of existence. Gala is a “mirror” only to the extent that she reveals Dalí’s own incapacity to attain bodily analogy, that is, to see himself as a reflection. Given his virtual status, since he lacks bodily analogy, or an essential being to refer to, Dalí is able to proliferate as a set of outrageous incarnations. Metamorphosed into multiple entities, his spectral identity is governed by the logic of simulation. His position allows no contradictions


/ Pointing Fingers

because it is beyond ordinary logic. Among Dalí’s proliferating signatures, his insignia “Gala–Dalí” marks his embodiment in the mode of a multiple. These perpetual metamorphoses postpone the consolidation of artistic identity, other than as a spectral double. Dalí’s simulational strategies thus situate the logic of artistic genius within the Nietzschean horizon of perpetual becoming.

Chessmating Duchamp: Mirror Moves Marcel Duchamp I felt was the most anti-Dalínean of beings. t salvador dalí, unspeakable confessions Hands and fingers haunt Dalí’s work. They make an appearance in his architectural projects for the building of a church and in projects for monuments. And eventually they are evoked as the incarnation or signature of the artist as creator in the Chess Set, as discussed earlier. Dalí’s decision to embody the chess figures as fingers constitutes his most direct commentary on Duchamp. By recasting the chess pieces as fingers modeled on his own and Gala’s hands, Dalí appears to reaffirm the primacy of painting as a manual activity. But does his position signify a return to the business of art as usual? Dalí presents his dilemma when facing the solution proposed by Duchamp: “Had I listened only to Duchamp, I should have burnt my brushes. He had already sent art and antiart to blazes. He had solved his problems like the chess teacher he was. The only solutions that interested him were imaginary. His irony was enough for anything” (Unspeakable Confessions, 195). Dalí disengaged himself from the Duchampian legacy by holding on to the hand and the painter’s brushes. While he distanced himself from the Duchampian solution as advanced by the readymades, he proposed pictorial solutions whose optical import challenged the meaning of painting through its conceptual interface with photography.⁵⁷ His experiments with pictorial modes of designation based on photography enabled him to uncover within painting the potential for forms of virtual reference. Dalí revisited the conundrum of his continuing to paint in the after-

Pointing Fingers

/ 173

math of the readymade in his preface to Duchamp’s interviews with Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp. The preface was written in January 1968, before Duchamp’s death on October 1, 1968. It should be noted that, having declined to write the preface himself, Duchamp had suggested Dalí, and he was delighted when Dalí accepted.⁵⁸ Having played chess with Duchamp during their longstanding friendship, Dalí was now asked to comment on his art and, in so doing, to position himself on the board as well. Commenting on the legacy of Duchamp’s readymades that radically tested the distinctions between art and nonart, Dalí suggested the possibility of attempting to rescue originality. But this idea of originality refers not to the making of a work but, rather, to the manipulation of this idea by the artist: In Paris, in the early days, there were 17 persons who understood the “readymades”—the very rare readymades by Marcel Duchamp. Nowadays there are 17 million who understand them, and that one day, when all the objects that exist are considered readymades, there will be no readymades at all. Then Originality will become the artistic Work, produced convulsively by the artist by hand.⁵⁹ The effort to rescue originality so that it becomes “the artistic Work” was a project that would come into play when the opposition between art and nonart was eroded to the point of their becoming indistinguishable. Dalí suggested that such a development reflected the massive proliferation of the viewing public, which threatened, through the appropriative and leveling power of consumption, to radically diminish the impact of a work.⁶⁰ Thus, while recognizing the demise of conventional notions of originality, the question arises as to its meaning as an appropriative gesture, namely, in what sense can appropriation emerge as an insignia of originality? A brief examination of a collaborative, albeit incidental, work by Dalí and Duchamp provides important clues to their ideas on fingers and their relation to appropriation. It also illuminates Dalí’s treatment of fingers as a stand-in for the artist’s hand as creator in his Chess


/ Pointing Fingers

Set, three years later. Entitled Note to Leonard Lyons (1961; Figure 34; Lyons was a columnist for the New York Daily News), this incidental work presents an instance of appropriation in its reuse of the back of the title page from Robert Lebel’s book Sur Marcel Duchamp (1959), the first monograph study of Duchamp. In addition, it presents a dedicatory inscription to Lyons, a drawing, and a fingerprint, and it is signed by both Duchamp and Dalí.⁶¹ Visually, the page shows the outline of Duchamp’s profile looking like it has been torn off, an impression duly reinforced by the inscription below: “Marcel Duchamp dechiravit pour Robert Lebel.” Framing this image is a seaside landscape drawn in long elegant lines into which Duchamp appears to be looking. Above and to the right there is a red fingerprint signed below as Marcel Duchamp with an arrow pointing to Duchamp’s dedication. Above the fingerprint, Dalí wrote in Catalan, “I declare this is my fingerprint,” and he signed his name as if legalizing this pronouncement. As Elena Filipovic noted, these doublings and mirrorings of the signature raise playful but important questions: “To whom does the most individual mark of identity, the fingerprint, belong? Could Dalí’s authentic fingerprint be a Duchampian ‘work’? Or would Duchamp’s signed fingerprint have become Dalí’s ‘work’ had he declared it so?”⁶² By casting into doubt the ownership of the fingerprint, the question of authorship is forcefully brought into view as the attempt to sort out the particular handwork of the two artists. Deciding who signed this work and who countersigned it would be essential to determining not just who made it but also who would be its rightful owner. However, it is clear that these questions are meant to be raised but not be resolved. This work deliberately scrambles the indices (signatures, fingerprint, legal declaration, and indicative arrow) associated with authorship and with allusions to artistic making as a form of ownership. Duchamp’s and Dalí’s play with the fingerprint and signature as legitimating signs reprised Duchamp’s gesture in Anemic Cinema, where he used his thumbprint as an authorizing mark along with the signature of his artistic alias, Rrose Sélavy. However, as shown in chapter 2, this gesture was fictitious on two counts. First, his signature as Rrose was Duchamp’s stand-in for himself and his collaborators, Man Ray and Allégret. Second, his signature was not the validation of an original

Figure 34. Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp, Note to Leonard Lyons, New York, 1961. Ink and thumbprint on printed book page with Duchamp’s profile, 12¼ × 9¼ inches. Signed and dedicated on recto by Duchamp and on bottom by Dalí. Private collection. Courtesy of Ubu Gallery, New York, and Galerie Berinson, Berlin. Copyright 2008 Salvador Dalí, Gala–Salvador Dalí Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.


/ Pointing Fingers

gesture, since what it signed was the copyright, which indicates not the making of an original work but the rights for its dissemination. What this work endorsed, in effect, was not authorship but its proliferation, that is, the possibility of its appropriation. And it is precisely this potential for appropriation that Dalí also reclaimed in his own name and as his own right in laying claim to his “originality.” In his concluding remarks to his preface to Duchamp’s interviews, he stated: Marcel Duchamp could have been king if, instead of making the “Chocolate Grinder,” he had made the “Holy Ampulla,” the unique, divine ready-made, to anoint himself as king. Duchamp then could have been crowned at Rheims. And Dalí would have asked his permission to paint the picture “King and Queen Traversed by Nudes at High Speed” [sic].⁶³ The circuitous character of Dalí’s outrageous argument reveals his playful and agonistic logic, as he sought both to engage with and disengage from Duchamp. The readymade that would have let Duchamp anoint himself king, a “Holy Ampulla,” is something more likely to have been made by Dalí in order to anoint himself. And the picture Dalí would then have asked permission to paint, The King and Queen Traversed by Swift Nudes (1912), was one already painted by Duchamp. Dalí’s pompous pronouncements playfully manifest the artist’s desire to gain authority over his own work by dissociating himself from prior influences. However, this showdown between the two artists also reveals the cover-up at work, notably Dalí’s denial here that Duchamp had already produced a less-than-holy ampoule, Paris Air. Contrary to Dalí’s insistence on its historical association to the coronation of kings, Duchamp’s readymade desacralized the supremacy of the artist and the idea of art. Dalí’s dizzying logic deployed in his homage cum ostensible usurpation of Duchamp demonstrates that the question of originality is only relevant to the extent that it refers to appropriative acts. Presented at the exhibition Homage to Caïssa at Duchamp’s behest, Dalí’s Chess Set alludes to his recognition of the muse of chess along with Duchamp as figures of appropriation. Rather than serving as representations of manual production, the fingers of the Chess Set

Pointing Fingers

/ 177

represent the hand of the artist in his or her ability to handle the tradition, to appropriate, manipulate, and redeploy prior gestures so as to carve out a new position on the board. We now begin to understand what Dalí meant in titling his preface to Duchamp’s interviews “L’Échecs, c’est moi” (Chess, it’s me). Playing on the triple meaning of échec—“chess,” “check,” and “failure”—and on the misleading nature of his use of “me” (is he referring to himself or Duchamp?), he encapsulates both Duchamp’s and his own dilemma and strategies in taking on the question of art. When Dalí remarked “I am reliving the entire history of art” (Unspeakable Confessions, 246), his claim turned out to be more than a biographical statement insofar as it captured the appropriative spirit of his work in its redeployment of prior artistic traditions. This can be seen in a work he produced in collaboration with Philippe Halsman, Dalí/Mona Lisa (1954; Figure 35), which strategically reappropriated Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. Halsman’s description of the genesis of this work highlights Dalí’s awareness of the risk of plagiarism that haunts the gesture of appropriation: One day Dalí confided that he always wanted to look like the Mona Lisa. I smiled, because I never felt a similar desire. Dalí insisted, and I was moved by the deep emotion in his voice. “All right,” I said, “I will put your mustache on Mona Lisa’s face.” “That is the trouble,” exclaimed Dalí. “Marcel Duchamp has already created a scandal by drawing a mustache on Mona Lisa. It would be plagiarism.” “But I will also give her your piercing eyes and your big hands. She will be counting money.” Dalí’s face lit up. One of his dreams was coming true.⁶⁴ This collaborative work marked an attempt to draw on the legacy of both Leonardo and Duchamp as a way of drawing attention to Dalí, by assembling a portrait of the artist through the purloined semblance of another—an appropriated masterpiece that restaged femininity as masquerade. In true Duchampian spirit, this work reassembled photographic elements that included portions of Dalí’s face and most notably his eyes, his signature moustache, and supposedly his hands holding a veritable treasure trove of gold coins (mocking Breton’s derisory

Figure 35. Philippe Halsman, Dalí/Mona Lisa, 1954. Photomontage/ photograph of Salvador Dalí posing as Mona Lisa: Dalí’s eyes and mustache and Halsman’s hands pasted on a reproduction of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, 35.3 × 23.5 cm. Magnum Photos. Copyright 2008 Philippe Halsman Estate.

Pointing Fingers

/ 179

dismissal of Dalí by punning on his name, “Avida Dollar”), pasted on a reproduction.⁶⁵ Whereas Duchamp had borrowed Leonardo’s semblance of the Mona Lisa and added a moustache, goatee, and inscription, Dalí and Halsman redeployed her semblance by endowing her not with the insignias of masculinity but with those of artistry. Dalí’s features (the enlarged ogling eyes) were added along with his visual signature as an artist (his rolled-up moustache as an exclamation point and identifying mark) and Halsman’s large hairy hands holding out coins—a reminder of art’s inescapable fate as a commodity in the modern period.⁶⁶ Redirecting the indices of the appropriation of the work toward the artist as maker, this work celebrates appropriation as one of Duchamp’s most lasting legacies, one that Dalí was proud to assume as semblance and insignia of his own presentation as an artist. Contending that “L.H.O.O.Q. can be taken quite adequately as the epitaph of modern painting,” Dalí staked his claim to its legacy, drawing on the impasse in which modern art found itself trapped.⁶⁷ As the two kings, or rather queens, in their Mona Lisa impersonations face each other across the chessboard as if in a mirror, it becomes clear that all original moves have been already played out. But the game continues, as Gala–Dalí, Duchamp–Rrose Sélavy, Dalí–Duchamp embodiments of the artist as multiples, postpone, through appropriation, the endgame of modernity.

This page intentionally left blank


 The Apparatus of Spectatorship: Duchamp, Matta-Clark, and Wilson There are too many people looking in the world; it is necessary to do away with the number of people looking. t marcel duchamp, ephemerides, june 21, 1967

Marcel Duchamp’s critique and ultimate abandonment of the retinal aspects of painting has emerged over time as one of his most influential gestures.¹ His reaction against a purely visual understanding of painting reflected his attempts to reinvest art with an intellectual dimension that would bring into play its verbal, cultural, and institutional frames of reference. His efforts to strip painting bare of its visual vestments and outward appearance made visible its theoretical and institutional roots, thus decisively redefining art’s destiny as an activity that no longer abides in the visual register.² Interrogating the preeminence accorded to a retinal understanding of art, Duchamp’s antivisual stance also implied a reflection on the mechanisms of sight at play in the act of reception. By elaborating the conceptual and cultural premises that stage the public’s consumption of works of art, he decentered the priority of vision as a purely perceptual operation, resituating its meaning as a function of the social and cultural sphere. His attempt to rethink art as a phenomenon in excess of visual concerns reflects, as Martin Jay suggested, an anti-ocularcentric impulse that has been fundamental to the development of twentieth-century French thought, art, and culture.³ What is specific to Duchamp’s critique of the “look” is his effort to question spectatorship by exposing the givens pertaining to its production and consumption of visual forms. He did so by exposing and taking apart the apparatus that subtended the construction of 181


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

spectatorship. His efforts to bring an end to the retinal bias of art have played a crucial role in fueling contemporary debates regarding the possible end of art as conventionally understood.⁴ Gregg Horowitz and Tom Huhn have noted that Duchamp’s antiretinal stance, understood as a refusal to operate solely in a visual register, confronted art with its historical drive for self-definition as a visual phenomenon and thus its ostensible end: Art only needed to have its own lack of visual essence revealed to it to see that its historical drive for self-definition in visual form had been all along a delaying of its rendez-vous with its historical end. . . . Duchamp, we might say, brought art to its historical culmination by rendering its commitments visible, by, that is, making visible (not visual) the dialectic of the demand for visuality.⁵ However, to speak about revealing art’s lack of a visual essence is not to deny the role of vision and the visible but, rather, to question art’s attachment to the visual as a founding premise and defining destiny. Such an inquiry uncovers art’s commitment to visuality not just in terms of an object’s outward appearance but also in terms of its modes of public manifestation or presentation, which include its exhibition display and consumption in the public sphere.⁶ Rather than liquidating cultural traditions through the cult of the new, as Clement Greenberg contended, Duchamp brought art face-to-face with its founding premises, its historical definition in visual form, and its social modalities of reception in the modern age.⁷ It is this legacy that will prove decisive to postmodernity, insofar as the question of the end of art opens up a conceptual reflection on art’s conditions of possibility, that is, its historical, cultural, and social premises.⁸ Duchamp’s efforts to rematerialize the viewing process implied an interrogation of the art museum that institutionally frames and valorizes the reception of works of art, since as Duchamp noted, “It is the onlooker who makes the museum” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 70). However, just as the spectator’s visual consumption is staged by modes of exhibition, so too is visual experience also the expression of

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 183

market forces that inform the institution of the museum as a forum for public consumption.⁹ As Duchamp admitted to Cabanne with some embarrassment, there is the “publicity aspect which things take on, because of that society of onlookers who force them to re-enter a normal current,” thus alluding to the coercive and normalizing impact of consumption on the artist. His conclusion that “the group of onlookers is a lot stronger than the group of painters” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 71) underlines the decisive impact of consumption on production in determining the fate of painters and their works. In the museum, visual contemplation of particular works is supplanted by multiple and rapid exposures fueled by a logic of consumption. Moreover, the expectations that the spectator brings to the viewing of certain works may function as a form of overexposure, since they predetermine and foreclose visual experience by reducing it to yet another vehicle of consumer culture. Duchamp acknowledged the influence of public consumption by noting its impact on the act of viewing. In his notes on the “infrathin,” he observed that the active interchange between the spectator and the work is minimized, indeed obstructed, by the conditions of display and the public’s expectations: The exchange between what one / puts on view [the whole / setting up to put on view (all areas)] / and the glacial regard of the public (which sees and / forgets immediately) / Very often / this exchange has the value / of an infra thin separation / (meaning that the more / a thing is admired / and looked at the less there is an inf. t. / sep). (Marcel Duchamp, Notes, note 10) According to Duchamp, the visibility of an artwork is attenuated by its exhibition in the public sphere, since the apparatus of display determines the act of seeing. The conditions of display that stage the act of spectatorship glaze over the viewer’s look by deactivating engagement with the work.¹⁰ “Seeing” becomes a way of “forgetting” because admiration implies less an encounter with an art object than its visual foreclosure. Hence, looking merely confirms some prior knowledge of the object, mediated through its reproduction, market value, or


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

cultural reputation. Thus the “infrathin” separation that describes visual exchange is eroded, to the extent that looking is overdetermined by forms of social exchange. Interrogating the ostensible transparency of vision, Duchamp redefined the act of viewing in terms of its social and historical determinations. By delaying the immediacy of seeing, he challenged the distinction between vision and visuality understood as the opposition of physical versus social interpretations of vision.¹¹ The spectator’s “look” thus emerges as a construct, a position that is assembled through the manipulation of the display setup that determines the visual exposure and consumption of art objects in the public sphere.¹² Duchamp’s attention to public consumption also brought into focus the precarious position of the spectator, given the indeterminacy and indeed contingency associated with modern acts of public viewing. The emergence of public exhibition venues and modes of display broke with prior social forms and accepted conventions and thus brought into view a new condition, that of artists no longer knowing whom they were addressing and on what terms.¹³ This loss of address embodied in the indeterminacy of modern spectatorship emerged as the subject matter of Duchamp’s installations, insofar as the conditions for displaying and viewing artworks were, as this chapter will show, determinative, overriding the specifics of what was being shown or seen. In order to elaborate in more concrete terms Duchamp’s strategy as regards the apparatus of spectatorship, we will begin with a brief examination of his early experiments in exhibition display and installation art, experiments that culminate in his testamentary work Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas. These works explicitly stage the historical and institutional “givens” that inform the exhibition and visual consumption of art objects as an apparatus of projection and display. Given will be considered as an installation of the spectator’s look, a peephole setup that through overexposure reveals the premises of spectatorship in the public sphere as a device for production and material consumption. Duchamp’s attempt to historicize the position of the observer by disclosing its technical and social construction implies a critique of the camera obscura as model of vision. Jonathan Crary argued that the historical specificity of modernism marks a rupture with the conditions of vision presupposed by this

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 185

device, which both legislated for an observer what constituted perceptual truth and delineated a fixed set of relations to which he or she was made subject.¹⁴ Duchamp’s efforts to illuminate the seduction of the retinal by undermining its perceptual immediacy and to dismantle the position of spectatorship as subjective mastery mark his seminal contributions to the modernist critique of visuality, as well as his legacy to postmodern installation art.¹⁵ In the wake of Duchamp, installation artists, such as Gordon Matta-Clark in the 1970s and Richard Wilson in the 1980s and 1990s, interrogate visual consumption by exposing its social scaffolding as an apparatus whose determinations engage with the logic of the museum as institutional structure and architectural artifact.¹⁶ Their efforts are by no means unique, being shared by many other artists who have also drawn on Duchamp’s legacies in providing a framework for the interrogation of the institution of the museum.¹⁷ While different in appearance, Matta-Clark’s Conical Intersect (1975) and Wilson’s 20:50 (1987) share a common conceptual agenda insofar as they seek to dismantle visuality as a necessary “given” or condition for the production and consumption of art. Whereas Matta-Clark exposed the visual “con” of the “look” by dissecting the intersection of the spatial and social scaffolding of spectatorship with the institution of the museum, Wilson undermined spectatorship by overriding spatial determinations, short-circuiting the detachment of vision through its perceptual overload. These projects forced viewers to confront the institutional conditions that subtend visuality, resulting in the reconfiguration of spectatorship and the deterritorialization of the museum as autonomous space of visual consumption.

Duchamp’s Circumvention of the “Look” and Installation Art I am rather uneasy when there is nothing more than this retinal effect. t marcel duchamp, interview with philippe colin, june 27, 1967 In assessing Duchamp’s legacy to posterity two important, indeed inevitable, questions arise: Where do his works belong, given the


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

challenge they extend to the idea of art? And is it appropriate to exhibit them in museums? In a 1959 interview, George Heard Hamilton asked Duchamp these questions, reiterating the concerns of some spectators and critics who felt that Duchamp’s readymades represented an antiartistic stance that could not be reconciled either with the mounting market value of his works or with their enshrinement in the institutional space of the museum: ghh: M. Duchamp, if your works are ironic reflections upon the difficulties of defining art as a function, a process, is it wrong to exhibit them in art museums? md: No, it is not wrong because, after all, even if they are supposedly ironical, they still belong to the same form of human activity. Whether you object to their conception, they are still in the same medium. They are not scientific, they are artistic, even if they are against art in this way. (Ephemerides, January 19, 1959) According to Duchamp, even though the readymades comment on the impossibility of defining art, their manner of opposing art does not exclude them from its sphere as both medium and human activity. The readymades belong in the museum because they challenge the idea of art not by denying or rejecting it out of hand but by drawing on it in order to show the futility of defining it. Such a strategy leaves the meaning of art open and at play, to be rediscovered anew between the artist’s making and the spectator’s appropriation in the act of consumption. It is precisely this critical engagement emerging from the confrontation with issues of commodification and the culture industry that has proven essential to the readymades’ influential legacy in the development of both the European and American NeoAvant-Gardes.¹⁸ But does Duchamp’s admission that his works still belong in the museum imply a final endorsement of its visual emphasis, modes of display, and institutional character? Even as Hamilton was asking about the museum in his interview in 1959, Duchamp had been at work in secret for over a decade on an installation work that would radically question spectatorship and the

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 187

museum as a space for visual consumption. During this period he also helped his friend and patron Walter Arensberg find a museum to house his collection (which included a sizable number of Duchamp’s works). Moreover, the final agreement with the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1950 gave Duchamp a decisive role in the division of the space and the collection’s installation.¹⁹ However, Duchamp’s subsequent collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the display of his works in no way dampened his general critique of museums, which he described as “mausoleums of art history.”²⁰ Throughout his works and interviews, he commented on the pitfalls attendant on the institution of the museum, its complicity with the art market (given the influence of dealers), and the importance of monetary considerations in anointing works and artists displayed within. He remarked, “The museums are run, more or less, by the dealers. In New York, the Museum of Modern Art is completely in the hands of dealers. Obviously this is a manner of speaking, but it’s like that. The museum advisers are dealers. A project has to attain a certain monetary value for them to decide to do something” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 98). Duchamp’s experiments with the readymades (from 1913 onward) came to fruition in 1916, when he attempted to exhibit these massproduced objects as art objects. Initially relegated to the privacy of Duchamp’s studio, these works took several years to emerge in the public sphere and be properly named and recognized for their conceptual potential to usurp conventional art objects.²¹ It is through their public exposure that Duchamp’s challenge to art was activated and set into motion in the institutional setting. The readymade is a visual lure that mechanically delivers what painting could only hold out as promise. It is the perfect copy of an object because it is a multiple resulting from the process of mechanical reproduction.²² This visual expropriation of the object by its mechanical analogues radically breaks with painting, insofar as these works reference simultaneously both their ordinary and their artistic conditions. Rather than fetishizing an object as the expression of formal and material concerns, Duchamp’s appropriation of its mechanical analogue made visible the institutional context that frames, renders legible, and endows objects with value. The readymades stage the gratuitous conversion of ordinary objects into works


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

of art, and then back again to their nonart condition, undermining, through this movement, art’s reliance on visual appearance as a defining mode. Duchamp discovered a new paradigm for artistic production, one that expropriated visual appearance of its retinal impact and reinvested its potential in strategic interventions that make visible the institutional conventions that define the exhibition and consumption of objects as art objects. As Walter Benjamin observed, by detaching objects from the realm of tradition and substituting a plurality of copies for unique works, mechanical reproduction undermines the “aura” of works of art experienced in their original sacred or ritual settings.²³ According to Benjamin, in the modern age the “exhibition value” of a work supersedes the “cult value” of art, since the significance of art objects is defined not by their existence but by their being put on view.²⁴ So it is the question of exhibition and display that Duchamp’s readymades most urgently raised in defying art’s mandates. Although they initially may appear as the denial or even abandonment of painting, the readymades conceptually engage and draw upon painting insofar as they literally materialize its mimetic ambitions. The readymades embody the postponement of art’s pictorial becoming, because they restage the question of visual appearance as a belated event, one no longer intrinsic to the fate of painting but rather, now intrinsic to its conceptual reembodiments. Duchamp’s earliest experiment in installation art appeared to be driven by an attempt to challenge not just the nature of the art object but also that of its environment by turning the conditions of display into a work in its own right. Sculpture for Traveling (1918; Figure 36) is a piece made from colored rubber bathing caps cut into irregular strips and glued together into a flexible lattice.²⁵ Attached with variable lengths of string to the four corners of his New York studio, this “multicolored spider’s web” (Ephemerides, July 8, 1918) lacked the solidity of statuary because the “form was ad libitum” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 59). Its variable shape and dimensions were adaptable to its conditions of display. His choice of bathing-cap strips may have derived partly from their elasticity, but it also was driven by the fact that they alluded to the head. The inscription of a mental dimension into the work was particularly important to Duchamp, given his efforts

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 189

to challenge, through intellectual expression, a purely visual understanding of painting and art. The analogy of this work to a “spider’s web” hides a reference to painting, for the French word for the web of a spider (toile d’arraignée) also refers to the pictorial canvas (toile). Dispensing with the idea of painting, the suspension of this web of rubber strips only retained the protocols of its display. Like a spider’s web, Sculpture for Traveling lay in wait ready to entrap the unwitting spectator by impeding his or her ability to walk around the room (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 59). The unfolding of this work in space obstructed the “habitual movement of the individual around the contemplated object” (Ephemerides, June 26, 1955), thus disrupting notions of exhibition display. Deflating art’s aspirations to the solidity of objects, he produced a pliant and ephemeral work whose unfolding conflated it with the surrounding environment. Providing an “antidote” to painting and sculpture, the economy of means and portability of Sculpture for Traveling exposed and challenged the defining conventions for both the production and consumption of works of art. In the late 1930s, Duchamp returned to his attempts to explore and challenge the consumption of art as a space of contemplation by activating and engaging with questions of spectatorship in the context of two major installations. These public installations would bring into view the social and institutional forces that govern the display of art. In 1,200 Bags of Coal (1938; Figure 37), which was an “environment” produced for the International Exposition of Surrealism, Duchamp was asked to prepare the ceiling of the exhibition room. He obliged by hanging on the ceiling bags used for the transport of coal. According to Henri-Pierre Roché, Duchamp had planned to use open umbrellas but had had difficulty getting hold of so many used ones at such short notice.²⁶ Not content to disorient the spectator through the reversal of ground and sky, which he accomplished by attaching the supposedly “heavy” coal bags to the ceiling, he also “naturalized” the floor of the gallery by adding sand, a layer of dead leaves, and a pool of water displaying requisite lilies and reeds.²⁷ A perforated iron brazier at the center (which was illuminated from within by an electric lamp) marked the incongruous nature of this simulated grotto as an art environment, while luxuriously made beds punctuated the four corners of

Figure 36. Marcel Duchamp, Sculpture for Traveling, Paris, 1918. Original lost; dimensions variable. Strips of bathing caps tied and attached to corners of room. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Duchamp Archive. Photograph by Lynn Rosenthal, 1998. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 191

the room. These elements anticipated and set up the basic terms and dynamics of Given, since they alluded to the conjunction of water and the illuminating gas, while the four beds framing the room held erotic connotations.²⁸ Although the ceiling was well illuminated, the paintings exhibited in this space were mainly in the dark, thus furthering Duchamp’s antiretinal agenda. The flashlights that Man Ray handed out at the door functioned, as it turned out, not so much to illuminate the works as to bring the spectators into view, thus featuring their social interactions as the true subject matter of the exhibition.²⁹ In 1942, Duchamp produced a modified version of his earlier work Sculpture for Traveling in an installation format, in which the strings (minus the bathing caps) competed with the display of artworks, reducing them to the status of accessories to the exhibition. Sixteen Miles of String (Figure 38) was presented in the First Papers of Surrealism Exhibition organized by André Breton and Duchamp (referred to as his “twine”) for the Coordinating Council for French Relief Societies (New York, October 14–November 7, 1942). The choice of string as material was telling not just because it alluded to the scarcities of war but also because its commonplace character would also be a sly allusion to the readymades.³⁰ The site for this exhibition was the ornate Whitelaw Reid mansion (circa 1880s), replete with gilded decorations and painted ceilings. This ostentatious and dated setting was out of synch not only with the “modernity” of the works displayed but also with the traumatic events of the time. Transposing his intervention in Sculpture for Traveling from his studio to the public sphere, Duchamp constructed an elaborate web of entangled strings that crisscrossed the exhibition space, obscuring individual works and obstructing the spectators.³¹ By posing a physical impediment, the entangled strings hindered spectators’ efforts to see the paintings displayed. Reflecting Duchamp’s earlier attempts to keep painting and its retinal seduction at bay, this work took as its subject matter the conditions for the display and viewing of art. Not surprisingly, the artists exhibiting their works were less than happy about this disruption in the viewing conditions for their works.³² As Duchamp recalled, his gesture roused concern and ire among the artists: “Some painters were actually disgusted with the idea of having


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

Figure 37. Marcel Duchamp, 1,200 Bags of Coal, Paris, 1938. Installation of mixed media for the Exposition internationale du surréalisme, Galerie Beaux-arts, Paris, January–February 1938. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Photograph by Joan Broderick, 1985. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

their paintings back of lines like that, thought nobody would see their paintings.”³³ Did Duchamp’s “harassment of the spectators” disguise the harassment of his fellow artists’ works, as Brian O’Doherty (also known as Patrick Ireland) contended?³⁴ It is important to keep in mind that Duchamp’s intervention took on not other artists’ works but, rather, the conditions of their display. However, by interfering with and obstructing the modes of presentation and display of artworks, Duchamp diminished their visual presence. The experience of art was

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 193

Figure 38. Marcel Duchamp, Sixteen Miles of String, New York, 1942. Installation for First Papers of Surrealism Exhibition, organized by André Breton and Marcel Duchamp, “his twine.” Philadelphia Museum of Art, Marcel Duchamp Archive, gift of Jacqueline, Peter, and Paul Matisse in memory of their mother Alexina Duchamp, 1998. Photograph by John Schiff. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

rendered humdrum by contrast to the setting or space that housed it. The web of entangled strings captured the attention of the viewers, distracting them from looking at and engaging with individual works. This disruption of aesthetic contemplation reframed the spectators’ experience of the exhibition as an event that was no longer about the business of art as usual. On the exhibition’s opening night, children solicited and instructed by Duchamp played in the galleries, throwing balls and raising havoc. Their play further hindered and disrupted the seriousness of the occasion as an art event. Moreover, their presence brought into view something that exhibitions, formal and solemn, usually hid from view, that is, the social dynamics and play that subtend both the production


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

and the consumption of art. Countermanding the anachronism of the setting and challenging artistic conventions, this installation staged the possibility of its annulment as art. By barring access and obscuring visibility, the crisscrossing strings marked a de facto cancellation of the show as a purely visual event. Resembling a giant cobweb, Duchamp’s installation commented on the obsoleteness of art now gone dusty, along with its modes of display.³⁵ Sixteen Miles of String exposed the institutional premises (or “strings”) attached to the display and consumption of art, strings that secured the myth of its immutability. Challenging the idea of art by “unraveling” the institutional determinations that foreclose the viewing experience, this work revealed how exhibition display sets up spectatorship and the production of its meaning.³⁶ Moreover, it also demonstrated the extent to which the position of the spectator is entangled in institutional constraints that risk relegating the experience of art to the dustbins of history.

Duchamp and the “Givens” of the Visible All Western Metaphysics has been a peephole metaphysics. t theodor adorno, negative dialectics Duchamp’s critique of the retinal and his investigations of the notion of spectatorship as an apparatus for viewing art culminate in Given (Figure 39, Exterior Door). It is important to keep in mind that Duchamp withdrew by going underground for the production of this work. He kept a second studio and enlisted the help of his wife Alexina “Teeny” Duchamp (née Alexina Sattler) in gathering the various materials needed for the construction and assemblage of the piece, such as bricks, branches, and the like. By keeping this work a secret and delaying its public exhibition until after his death, he absolved himself from having to comment on, defend, or be defined by it as he had once been by the public exhibition and notoriety of Nude Descending a Staircase (1912) in the New York Armory Show in 1913. His secrecy may be seen as a gesture of resistance to the commodifying and fetishizing reach of the forces of the art market. As he noted in an interview with William Seitz in

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 195

1963, art had “become a crazy machine of money,” one whose standards were eroded by commercialism: “Yes. We have so many standards: the gold standard, the platinum standard and now the burlap standard. It is surprising that a piece of cloth, a piece of burlap on a stretcher with a few nails, can bring such prices.”³⁷ Given the pressures forcing the artist to capitulate to materialism, the idea of holding such forces at bay by limiting their influence has some merit. When Duchamp was preparing for his Pasadena Retrospective in 1963, he was asked by Walter Hopps, “Assuming there is a secret work you have been working on for quite sometime. Do you think this would be the time and place to show it?” Duchamp responded, “If there would be such a thing, the answer would be: No.”³⁸ His apparently straightforward response to Hopps, however, packed a double meaning, one whose significance would be unveiled only posthumously upon the exhibition of Given in Philadelphia in 1969. Duchamp’s “No” in fact was ironic, since it was less a denial of the existence of a secret work than a denial that the retrospective was the right time or place for its showing. How are we then to understand Duchamp’s reluctance to show this work, given its concerns with seeing, spectatorship, and modes of display? Does the irony of this work mark yet another impasse in Duchamp’s encounters with art, an endgame move that reprised his earlier strategic approach in the case of his readymades and chess works? Given evokes the history of optical, pictorial, and viewer experiments in art, alluding to Samuel Van Hoogstraten’s seventeenth century peep-box, Perspective Box with Views of a Dutch Interior.³⁹ In Hoogstraten’s doll-size peep-box, the pictorial depictions of a Dutch interior scene, in which several rooms lead off one another, are artfully set up so as to create the illusionism of multiple three-dimensional spaces. The constructed illusionism of this display is deliberately emphasized by the presence of a second peephole on the other side and the additional depiction of a man looking in through the far window.⁴⁰ Mimicking the spectator’s illicit and intrusive look into this domestic space, the voyeuristic regard of the man outside the window both mirrors and intercepts the spectator’s look. The reproductions of pictures, mirrors, and their reflections further emphasize an illusionism whose visual impact is generated through allusions to pictorial renderings.

Figure 39. Marcel Duchamp, Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas (Étant donnés: 1. La Chute d’eau / 2. Le Gaz d’éclairage), New York, 1946–1966. Exterior door. Mixed-media assemblage, approximately 95½ × 70 × 49 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of the Cassandra Foundation, 1969. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 197

The composite perspectivism of these renderings are artfully combined to deceive the eye into the naive belief that it is “seeing,” rather than merely witnessing depictions of its look. According to Svetlana Alpers, this box represents “the accumulated nature of the picturing of the world fit in a peep-box.”⁴¹ Hoogstraten’s peep-box thus functions as a miniature artistic compendium whose depictions of vision constitute a veritable catalog, a portable museum of pictorial strategies for staging and deceiving the eye. Moreover, by making visible the apparatus of display that structures the act of viewing, Hoogstraten’s peep-box playfully exposes the voyeuristic nature of spectatorship. Alluding to this tradition of perspective boxes, Given is a life-size multimedia installation, constructed as a boxlike peephole apparatus for viewing and display that stages the spectator’s “look” as a function of pictorial consumption. Because Given is a permanent installation in the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it requires the viewer’s deliberate displacement to the site. However, the apparent immobility of this work is deceptive, since it was originally assembled in Duchamp’s New York studio, only to be disassembled according to his precise instructions and reassembled in the space of the museum.⁴² In the instruction manual, Given is referred to as “an approximation that can be taken apart,” or disassembled (aproximation démontable), a designation that clearly argues against the visual appearance of solidity and finality that the work engenders.⁴³ The fact that the work is called an “approximation,” to be dismantled and reassembled, captures its provisional nature as an installation whose activation implies a viewer who acts as producer of the work. Furthermore, Duchamp’s prescription that the word “approximation” convey “a margin of ad libitum in the assembly and disassembly of construction,” suggests that the work’s attainment of visual form requires the viewer’s libidinal investments.⁴⁴ By inscribing a libidinal dimension into the consumption of this work, Duchamp exposed the visual “con” of the retinal, undercutting its pretensions to neutrality and detachment. Given’s conditions of display radically undermine the viewer’s expectations of what constitutes a visible exhibit in a museum.⁴⁵ Its location behind a barred door, at the end of an underlit room, initially renders it visually inaccessible. The logic of visual consumption underlying


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

museum exhibits is put into question and delayed. It is only by becoming witness to other spectators looking that the possibility of beholding is reinstated as a socially mediated circuit. Thus, even before the question of visibility in Given can begin to be posed, Duchamp has actively barred and delayed the spectator’s gaze, recasting its perceptual immediacy by exposing its social and institutional givens. Upon looking, the spectator’s detached look is captured by the peepholes, immobilized in a voyeuristic position more akin to carnivals or pornographic shows than to a museum. As John Cage observed, Given imprisons the viewer at a particular distance and removes the mobility and freedom to look formerly enjoyed with the transparency of The Large Glass.⁴⁶ Duchamp addressed the idea of fixing the spectator’s position when he mused that “it would be interesting if artists would prescribe the distances from which their work should be viewed.”⁴⁷ First denied visual access, the spectator is then invited to look through the peepholes, which set up and fix the spectator’s view from a predetermined distance. The spectator’s predicament as voyeur, imprisoned in a particular position and way of looking, reflects Duchamp’s deliberate gesture of holding the viewer at bay, all the while setting up spectatorship for view as an apparatus of display. Looking through the peepholes, the viewer is startled by the blinding illumination of the scene (which has the effect of a photographic overexposure) and by the sense of visual constriction and violence produced by a gaping aperture through a brick wall (Figure 40, Interior View). This second opening, which appears to be the result of a violent breach, re-mediates the objective neutrality of the peepholes by coloring the scene with intimations of violence. But where does this sense of violence come from? Is it in the peephole, or in the Peeping Tom? Or does it emanate from the sex of the female nude displayed too prominently for view? Duchamp’s instruction that a 100watt bulb be placed directly above the woman’s sex only emphasizes the work’s capacity for provocation by being “in your face.” Unlike in Fresh Widow or The Brawl at Austerlitz, there is no window to act as a partition to mediate the onlooker’s gaze, no protective hymen to shield the spectator’s look from the specter of violation. Moreover, if one shifts from the visual to the verbal register to consider the nature

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 199

of this violence, new clues emerge. Given Duchamp’s love of puns, might this breach in the brick wall that partially bars the viewer’s access be a figuration of Trébuchet, understood in its medieval sense as “trebucket,” a device used to breach the defenses of ancient fortresses? As is usually the case with Duchamp, the introduction of such a pun would not be without consequences. It would suggest an unexpected link between Given; his chess book, where trébuchet was one of the endgames elaborated; and his readymade Trap (Trébuchet), the coatrack nailed to the floor. In chess, trébuchet is a type of zugzwang or endgame move, where “whoever has the move loses the game,” a position that a player must avoid unless it would be the opponent’s turn to play. In Given, the viewer’s physical immobility imparts the gaze its power, since the spectator’s entire presence has been reduced to the dynamics of the gaze. However, to be seduced by the power of the gaze is in fact to lose, according to Duchamp’s denunciation of retinal art. His allusion to chess and to readymades captures both the temptation and the trap of an art that continues to abide in the visible, capturing the determinations that constrict the spectator’s options for engagement. Given alludes to this ironic impasse or stalemate with art, as the readymade did earlier, not by negating or denying it but by explicitly setting these issues into contestation while leaving the game undecided as an impasse or draw. Given shows that the attempt to question the idea of art cannot merely give up on it or negate it but must continue to draw on it in order to challenge its meanings. In his manual of instructions for assembling Given, Duchamp specified that black velvet curtains were to be used as a way of creating a “black chamber” between the door and the wall of bricks, thereby mimicking the effects of a photographic chamber, of a “camera obscura.” This photographic allusion emphasizes the logic of visual exposure at issue in this work.⁴⁸ The brick wall delays the viewer’s gaze, undermining the urgency of the look by constricting its scope and its powers of penetration. Through its breached, irregular opening, the spectator is confronted with the display of the cropped figure of a nude who defiantly holds up a gas lamp, while lying spread-eagled in a hyperrealistic landscape with a running waterfall in the background. Described as “startlingly gross and amateurish,” this diorama

Figure 40. Marcel Duchamp, Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas (Étant donnés: 1. La Chute d’eau / 2. Le Gaz d’éclairage), New York, 1946–1966. Interior view. Mixed-media assemblage, approximately 95½ × 70 × 49 inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of the Cassandra Foundation, 1969. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 201

view of the nude staged by the peephole apparatus startles by mirroring back the spectator’s look.⁴⁹ Conventionally veiled in the pictorial traditions of the nude, the exposed genitalia are defiantly displayed and offered up for view.⁵⁰ Seeking to probe the reality of sex, the spectator’s intrusive gaze is projected back on itself, thus becoming the object of scrutiny. The immediacy of the spectator’s gaze is delayed, disassembled by the voyeuristic setup. Thus, the violence of the work appears to lie less in its manifest sexual exhibitionism and voyeurism than in the confrontation of the spectators with their desire to look, to be fascinated by the display and consumption of sexuality as an image. By making manifest and restaging the scaffolding that determines the nature of the viewing experience, Duchamp challenged the logic of voyeurism. Undermining the coincidence of sight and visual pleasure, he disrupted the apparatus of spectatorship by actively resisting the equation of sexuality with forms of visual essentialism. The sense of visual discomfort and violation that Given engenders is less the result of the explicit sexual content than the result of the shameless exposure and confrontation of the viewer with the libidinal impulses of his or her look.⁵¹ What Given exposes is not so much sexuality per se as its modalities of representation and consumption as perpetuated by the traditions of the pictorial nude.⁵² This reference to painting is deliberately scripted into the work, since the nude lies on black-and-white checkerboard linoleum hidden under branches, which alludes to Albertian perspective and to chess (Figure 41). Attempting to find a way out of painting, Duchamp reproduces and makes visible its conventions, through an installation strategy in which the nude emerges as a rhetorical trace of painting dispossessed of its outward appearance. Staging its complicity with the viewer’s gaze, with painting understood as peep show, Given disassembles and frees the spectator’s gaze from its objectifying constraints by delaying its impact. This gesture undermines the referential power of gender, as well as the artistic modes that sustain it, since they are reliant on spectatorship understood as public spectacle. As an “installation” that exposes the objectifying and dead-end character of the spectator’s look, Given stages the mortality of the “nude” as pictorial genre and of art as a visual form. While ensconced in the museum, this antimonument


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

or cenotaph undermines the museum’s visual and institutional logic. By decentering the priority of vision through a strategy of delay that postpones Given’s retinal becoming, Duchamp resituates its potential meanings and conceptual legacy within a postmodern horizon. Given’s legacy to postmodernity is an ironic one, for art’s visual lure is staged as a display that exposes not just its mechanics but also its conditions of possibility. Duchamp produced a work that is neither a painting nor an object but an environment, which calls into question its status as art, all the while being enshrined in the museum. Instead of describing the work, the title—Given: 1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas—simply holds out a list of scenic details, a reference to the background landscape and to the object (the gas lamp held by the nude) with no narrative links or rationale provided to make sense of the scene as a whole. Duchamp’s references to irony in his notes to The Large Glass help illuminate the conundrum presented by the work’s title: “Always or nearly give, the why of the / choice between 2 or several solutions. (by ironic causality) / The ironism. of affirmationDifferences with / negating ironism dependent only on the laugh /” (Marcel Duchamp, Notes, note 68). While presented in the guise of a mathematical or logical proof, as emphasized by the layout in a column of the rubrics 1) and 2), the title of Given reprises Duchamp’s definition of irony insofar as it appears to give a choice “between 2 or several solutions” without presenting any rhyme or reason for the “why.” Another clue to approaching this work can be found in references to chess, since its layout in the Manual of Instruction indicates the presence of the checkerboard mat mentioned earlier, which is hidden to the spectator’s gaze. This reference is further reinforced through the phonetic interplay of the subtitle of Given (which refers to water and gas, eau and gaz in French) and the French title of his chess book L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées (Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled), which embeds puns on eau as O and gaz as cases. These allusions to chess and the chessboard turn the nude into a chess piece, thus alerting the viewer that a game may be at stake. But is it a chess game or an art game? As discussed in chapter 3, opposition and sister squares represent two opposing yet equally viable systems for solving endgame chess

Figure 41. Marcel Duchamp, Manual of Instruction for the Assembly of “Étant donnés,” New York, 1966. Binder containing photographs, drawings, and manuscript notes, 11⅝ × 9⁄ × 1¾ inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of the Cassandra Foundation, 1969. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

problems. Opposition refers to the visually manifest alignment of pieces on the board, and sister squares to their conceptual realignment as a function of hidden parallelisms and symmetries. The first can be aligned with Duchamp’s references to “appearance,” and the second to “apparition,” where the former refers to ordinary perception and the latter to its conceptual construction through various systems of projection as presented in the notes on Given to The Large Glass.⁵³ Representing different systems for reconciling the same problem, Duchamp’s strategy bypasses the constraints of logic, of unity or dualism, of thesis and antithesis by introducing an ironic solution. Set up like a chess piece on a chessboard, the nude in Given marks this crossover between endgame chess problems and end-of-art problems. The input of chess serves to highlight the crisis in art that Duchamp presented as a draw or impasse between painting understood in its visual mode (appearance) and its conceptual redeployment (apparition) that postponed its visual import. The beauty of Duchamp’s ironic approach lies in its open-endedness, since it proposes no set solution and presents itself as a perpetual movement of self-questioning based on the recognition of multiple perspectives.⁵⁴ When asked about his legacy, Duchamp, while minimizing his influence, referred to his ironic approach that enabled him to question everything: That business of my being influential is very much exaggerated. Whatever there is in it is probably due to my Cartesian mind. I refused to accept anything, and doubted everything. So, doubting everything, I had to find something that had not existed before, something I had not thought of before. Any idea that came to me, the thing would be to turn it around and try to see it with another set of senses. Anyway, it might be that now all these things I did, which did not come from anything before me, have become a source for these young people to start a new step entirely on their own—which I accept with pleasure. But all that has nothing to do with me, really.⁵⁵ Duchamp’s legacy to postmodernity, to future spectators and artists, is his ironic approach that enables him to escape the pitfalls of

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 205

affirmation or negation through perennial questioning, a back-andforth exchange. Unlike Descartes, who used doubt in order to establish the certitude as a new ground for the definition of truth, Duchamp systematically questioned the premises and conditions of possibility of art in order to show the impossibility of defining it in the first place, thus preempting the foreclosure of its meanings.⁵⁶ As Matta-Clark’s and Wilson’s installations will demonstrate, Duchamp’s ironic legacy in questioning the apparatus of spectatorship and the institution of the museum as a space for public consumption and display will continue to be the active locus of difference and debate.

Matta-Clark’s Anarchitectures: The Museum as Ruin The determining factor is the degree to which my intervention can transform the structure into an act of communication. t gordon matta-clark, “the greene street years,” gordon matta-clark Although informed by Duchamp’s antiretinal stance and interrogation of the museum, Gordon Matta-Clark’s works redeploy these issues in a different sphere. They seek to radicalize and ultimately challenge the relation of art and architecture by bringing into focus the social networks that subtend them. Matta-Clark used decayed urban buildings, which he called “throwaway environments,” as the strategic medium for his interventions. Their disposability, lack of visual appeal, and precarious existence outside the sphere of the museum restaged the ideology of modernism in the modality of a disposable ruin. Subject to impending demolition and destruction, the record of his works (captured in drawings, photographs, and films) proves more lasting than the actual pieces. It is precisely the inability of these works to endure, to be preserved, monumentalized, or enshrined, that attests to their capacity for resistance to an artistic ideology that would objectify and reduce them to a spectacle of consumption. Matta-Clark’s efforts to break away from conventional notions of art and architecture involve the expansion of historical and social notions of space


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

by releasing the “power of the positioned interrelationship of things beyond form and function.”⁵⁷ The formal and functional concerns that traditionally define an architectural approach to space are redirected into an inquiry into the passage of time insofar as it serves to mark the disintegration of social space. This effort to reconceptualize architectural space as an always already lived site, whose urbanity is in a process of decay, constitutes a radical departure from the formal and artistic logic of the museum. Matta-Clark deterritorializes the institutional ambitions of the museum by redeploying the logic of urban decay as both subject matter and site for his interventions. The structures of the ruined buildings he operates on are the visible symptoms of a breakdown of notions of community that underlie the production of lived space. While relying on already extant architectural structures, MattaClark’s interventions put the notion of architecture itself under erasure by challenging its conditions of possibility.⁵⁸ His works remind us of Martin Heidegger’s injunction that “the essence of the erecting of buildings cannot be understood adequately in terms either of architecture or of engineering construction, nor in terms of a mere combination of the two.”⁵⁹ Matta-Clark’s violent reframing of architectural and engineering practices involves exposing buildings as modes of dwelling in order to reveal the lived traces of their social history. He intervenes in the urban landscape by cutting open and disfiguring already abandoned and ruined buildings, thereby putting the social and institutional presuppositions of architecture on display. By making visible the layers of lived sediment associated with dwelling, these voids activate the reinfusion of socially determined meanings.⁶⁰ His strategies of intervention mark a decisive rupture with all functional constraints, severing the logic of construction through engineered acts of deconstruction. Matta-Clark’s “anarchitectural” works thus excavate, within the building ethos of modernist architecture, the moribund, melancholic condition of urban decay. In his original plan for Conical Intersect produced for the Paris Biennial, Matta-Clark proposed to make an enormous hole in the new building, still under construction, of the Pompidou Center, which was intended to house the controversial Museum of Modern Art.⁶¹

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 207

Jean-Hubert Martin noted that Matta-Clark’s initial plan was surprising because it involved a reversal of his usual practice: “That is, he wanted to make one of his works before the completion of a building, rather than before its demolition.⁶² However, since this project was not deemed viable, he was given, for two weeks, the use of two adjacent townhouses dating back to the seventeenth century (27 and 29, rue Beaubourg), which were among the last buildings left standing in the modernization of Les Halles district.⁶³ Transposing the denial of the hole in the new museum, Matta-Clark proceeded to drill a huge hole in the exterior wall of the townhouses made available to him. In doing so, he transposed the Duchampian break through the brick wall in Given that constructed the peephole effect, and he also inscribed intimations of violence perpetrated against the museum rather than the nude as a work of art. Matta-Clark described Conical Intersect, also called Étant d’art pour locataire (1975; Figure 42, exterior view) as follows: The work was interesting as a non-monumental counterpart to the grandiose bridge-like skeleton of the center just behind. For two plaster-dusty weeks people watched us measuring, cutting and removing the debris from the truncated conical void. The base of the cone was a circle four meters in diameter through the north wall. The central axis made an approximately forty-five-degree angle with the street below. As the cone diminished in circumference, it twisted up through the walls, floors and out of the attic roof of the adjoining house. This hollow form became a Son et Lumière for passers-by or an extravagant new standard in sun and air for lodgers.⁶⁴ A demolition-slated antimonument to the rising scaffolding of the newly erected Pompidou Center, this provisional ruin dramatizes urban decay as visual counterpoint to the desires for modernization and urban renewal embodied in the construction of the new modern art museum.⁶⁵ Conical Intersect takes on the social and institutional presuppositions of the museum, from the ground level. It focuses attention on the construction of the edifice, as a gesture of deliberate


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

Figure 42. Gordon Matta-Clark, Conical Intersect, 1975. Exterior view. Black-and-white documentary photograph. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York, and Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. Copyright 2008 Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark/Artists Right Society (ARS), New York.

violence that relies on the destruction and grandiose reconstruction of the community fabric of an entire neighborhood. Visually reframing and partially blocking the side of the Pompidou Center rising beyond it, the ruined facade of the two buildings at once bar and realign the views of passersby. The opening in its side recasts the architectural logic of the building, reducing it to a large box that recalls perspective and peephole boxes. Mimicking the gaping wound of an eye, the conical aperture (Figure 43, interior view) opens downward toward the spectacle of the street below, and also exposes the building’s hollowed

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 209

form. The eruption of sun and air engineered through the cut in the roof and the circular opening in the front disrupted the building’s functional closure through its visual exposure. Depending on the position of the viewer, this work became a “sound and light show” (son et lumière) for the passersby or a “new standard in sun and air for lodgers.”⁶⁶ Fracturing the unity of vision by not allowing for a “single or overall view,” and thus defying the “category of a snapshot project,” Conical Intersect interrogates the structures that determine visual consumption.⁶⁷ Alluding to Duchamp’s Given (Étant donnés), as referenced in its punning subtitle Étant d’art pour locataire (which can be translated as Given Art for the Dweller or Standard for the Dweller), Conical Intersect undermines the spectator’s position by introducing the perspective of an absent dweller. It is precisely this historical position, voided by the erection of the nascent museum, that marks the blinding gap at the heart of visual consumption. The illusion of visual mastery fostered through spectatorship is radically disrupted through an appeal to notions of dwelling whose historical and social underpinnings defy reduction to conventional artistic forms. The overt associations of this work with Duchamp’s critique of spectatorship and the logic of the museum are spelled out in MattaClark’s alternative designation, “Quel Con,” as presented by Gerry Hovagimyan: The other name was Quel Con, which he knew was a very wry play on Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. (Gordon also called it at various times, “Quel Can,” “Cal Can.”) Duchamp’s title when said aloud letter by letter, means in French, “she has a hot behind.” Gordon’s pun says both “what a cone,” and “what a ——”—I don’t know quite how to say this, “lady’s genitals, a cunt.”⁶⁸ Matta-Clark’s reference to Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. is not surprising given that it stages, through its comic disfiguration of a commercial print of the Mona Lisa, Duchamp’s critique of pictorial vision and his mockery of the masterpiece as the embodiment of the museum’s institutional aspirations.⁶⁹ Matta-Clark reappropriates Duchamp’s barb in order to redirect the spectator’s look at the condition of the

Figure 43. Gordon Matta-Clark, Conical Intersect, 1975. Interior view. Black-and-white documentary photograph. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York, and Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. Copyright 2008 Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark/Artists Right Society (ARS), New York.

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 211

newly nascent museum as an edifice that entails the violent erasure, the “shave,” of the edifices that surround it. The 1699 townhouses were originally owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Leiseville. As “his and hers” residences, they became the site of Matta-Clark’s interventions and playfully allude to the gendered reversals performed by Duchamp on the Mona Lisa. If Duchamp undermined the facticity of sex by suggesting that it might be a function of the spectator’s look, Matta-Clark redeployed this playful rhetoric on the art museum, in order to reverse its logic as ruin in the making. By setting up the visual lure of an eye and mimicking its optical functions through mechanisms of conical projection, Matta-Clark exposed the museum’s visual “con,” the institutional and ideological setup at work on the unsuspecting passersby. Countering the spectacle of the erection of the new museum, he redirects their look to the vacant, eyelike aperture that bears witnesses to the townhouses’ demolition as that blind spot in urban architecture that will continue to haunt its modernist ideals. Conical Intersect thus captures the “transitional nature of the urban environment” and the “implicit violence of social displacement.”⁷⁰ As disposable ruins of our times, the townhouses’ pathos is to be found not in their formal structure but in the loss of their temporal function, since they no longer constitute an adequate embodiment of either lived space or the larger community. These twin houses emerge as reminders of social change and displacement that will be erased by demolition in order to enable a new modernist ideal of community to come forth. Recasting this modernist ideal as an obsolescent ruin, Matta-Clark delays its future, postponing its realization through decay. The introduction of light into the building functions less to illuminate the structure itself than to scramble its internal coherence. It does so by revealing the multiple layers of lived meaning attached to the dwelling. Light here references not vision but time, since the illumination of the building’s internal surfaces highlights traces of other people’s histories. Screen memories of individuals now departed, these marked surfaces redefine the building as an apparatus for restaging collective memory. Figured by the eerily void premises, the inscription of the inhabitants’ presence recalls the evidence of human life as a haunting absence. Matta-Clark explained, in reference to Splitting (1975), “I just


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

wanted to get back to whatever the empty rooms were made of, like the layers of the linoleum on the floor, or whatever there was of surfaces. The shadows of the persons who had lived there were still pretty warm.”⁷¹ As memorials or tombs of urban life, these abandoned buildings capture the traces of human dwelling as perceptible absence. The positivist ethos of architecture that attempts through building to set up forms of dwelling is here unveiled in terms of its alienating effects. The abjection of the twin townhouses illuminates the trace of living subjects dispossessed by the violence of urban sprawl. As both a symptom of and apparatus for dwelling, Conical Intersect displays the alienating gap of the human subject estranged from the conditions of living.⁷² Matta-Clark’s Conical Intersect thus challenges the meaning of both architectural and artistic modes of production. Instead of activities that seek realization as finished structures, his anartistic operations redefine production as a process that underscores meanings attached to notions of dwelling. His interventions involve deassembling built structures so as to reveal their social and cultural underpinnings, as conditions that inform the experiential and conceptual manipulation of space.⁷³ In Conical Intersect, as in his subsequent works that challenge the museum, Matta-Clark counters architectural notions of reference, through conceptual redeployments that violate the visual semblance and viewing space of the institution.⁷⁴ These include his plans for cutting up a seminar room into square pieces that would be stacked in the middle of the exhibition space for the Idea as Model show at the Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies in New York (1976). His proposal for Meander (1976) involved making three diagonal cuts through the edifice of the Georgia Museum of Art in order to create a “free passage from ground to sky.”⁷⁵ In Office Baroque (1977), he reconfigured the space of a building in Antwerp directly across a military museum, along the explosive axis of two interlocking semicircular areas of cuts. And in his last work, Circus; or, The Caribbean Orange (1978), commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in an adjoining townhouse slated for its expansion, he generated a series of circular cuts whose spherical shape unfolds like a ball thrown into space along an ascending diagonal axis.⁷⁶ Like Conical Intersect, these works keep the museum in sight while activating

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 213

modes of viewing that shatter the ostensible transparency of both vision and space. Referencing the ideology of modernist architecture, Matta-Clark’s works apply a radical wedge to the idea and edifice of the museum, deterritorializing its visual premises and modernist ambitions through the temporalizing register of the ruin.⁷⁷

Wilson’s Space Transformers For me the spaces in which I make the work are the test beds for my ideas. t richard wilson, exchange with simon morrissey regarding butterfly (2003) in richard wilson Richard Wilson’s 20:50 (1987; Figure 44), exhibited at the original Saatchi Gallery in London, alludes to both Duchamp’s and Matta-Clark’s interrogations of the apparatus of visual consumption while pursuing a different agenda.⁷⁸ This work addresses not so much the object of vision as the spectator’s perceptual horizon, which is orchestrated through conceptual interventions. By creating a perceptual overload, a delirium of vision that short-circuits its impact, 20:50 both staggers and speeds up visual consumption, thereby dismantling its immediacy.⁷⁹ As with Given, direct visual access to this work is barred. A narrow aperture opens out of the gallery space, providing little indication of the installation hidden out of view off to the right. As the viewer draws closer, an overpowering smell of oil bombards the senses, an olfactory euphoria akin to stench that brings to mind the residual presence of large industrial spaces. A security guard stands at the threshold of the installation’s entry, not to protect the piece but for the safety of the spectator. Access to the large room filled with 10,000 gallons of used sump oil is mediated through a metal jetty that projects obliquely into the space. This jetty is protectively walled in on three sides at waist height, constituting a metal trench suspended in the heavy oil. Slightly inclined, the jetty’s outline tapers inward, eventually dead-ending within the installation. At its edges, the surface of the oil disturbed by the visitor’s movement threatens to spill over and violate the integrity of both the viewer’s body and the spectatorial platform. It is precisely


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

when the viewer activates the piece by physically stepping into it that the security guard’s function is revealed, as he or she attempts to protect the beholder from being contaminated by the work. From its very inception, the neutrality of beholding is threatened and exposed as having potential physical consequences. This threat of bodily contamination extends beyond the physical interplay between viewer and piece and involves forms of visual exposure that are so radical as to undermine the viewing subject’s position and spatial orientation. The reflective, shimmering properties of oil create a kind of visual delirium subverting the sense of spatial depth. The slick surface engenders a play of mirrors, confusing the viewer’s sense of what constitutes reflection as opposed to what can be seen in depth through the transparent medium of the oil.⁸⁰ This undecidable play of surface and depth produces an experience of “reversibility” that sets space free of its rational connotations by imploding the logic of vision.⁸¹ This loss of spatial orientation enacts a fundamental subversion of figure/ground relations. In 20:50, it is the viewer who is the medium acted upon and ungrounded, and not painting, which traditionally functioned as the prime medium for staging figure/ground relations. Commenting on the public’s interaction with his installation, Wilson underlined the violence of its impact: “I watched some people go into that room and walk halfway up the corridor and grab the sides—they thought the floor had gone. They got oil on them” (“By Digging You Discover,” 4). This, however, was not a momentary experience, for this radical sense of disorientation persisted beyond the immediate scope of the installation. The sense of vertigo resulting from loss of spatial orientation, as a source of physical grounding, dispossessed the viewer of the conventional neutrality of beholding. It transformed the spectator into a performer, an unwitting actor whose agency and subjective position had been restaged by the experience of the installation. This spatial expropriation engendered by the play of reflections is also echoed by the visual expropriation of the beholder. The experience of seeing is activated by stepping into the work. However, the waisthigh metal walls of the viewing trench block the spectators from bending over to see themselves reflected on the work’s mirrorlike surface. Vision is sundered from the temptations of self-reflexivity, since the

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 215

Figure 44. Richard Wilson, 20:50, 1987. Used sump oil, steel. Dimensions variable. Photograph from its installation at the first location of Saatchi Gallery, 28 Boundary Road, London. Courtesy of Saatchi Gallery, London. Copyright 2008 Richard Wilson.

beholder is dispossessed of his or her reflection. Disabled from visually inscribing him- or herself into the work, the play of reflections only emphasizes the position of the beholder as the blind spot in the installation. This visual disenfranchisement of the seeing subject reveals a “moment of non-visual ‘belonging’ ” that pertains to and inhabits the very experience of seeing.⁸² In 20:50, this condition is made perceptible as the expression of the positional nature of the viewer’s body, of its enforced invisibility in the midst of the reflective oil. The visual overload of 20:50 is paradoxically achieved through the work’s near invisibility, the result of the sump oil’s filling the dimensions of the room so that visual boundaries and form/content relations are blurred. According to Wilson, “It brought me right back to the perfect solution of making a piece of work which is almost invisible, . . . except that in this case the room was the mould and the liquid


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

remained liquid” (“By Digging You Discover,” 4). Alluding to techniques of mechanical reproduction, Wilson treated the room as a mold whose shape was first reproduced by the tank within it, only to be once again “reproduced” by the sump oil, whose fluid illusionism divests the room of its architectural solidity.⁸³ Wilson thus undermined the architectural reference of the gallery site through a strategy of technical delays, which confused its spatial and formal logic.⁸⁴ Wilson explained that his choice of oil was driven precisely by its antisculptural character and by the fact that its “liquidity” was technically mediated and socially regulated: “I was also interested in using a material which was so anti-sculpture, a material which you could be arrested and fined for if you poured it down the drain” (“By Digging You Discover,” 4). If oil is antisculpture, this is not simply because it is a liquid, a material that only achieves shape in response to a container, but also because it is a contaminant (with “environmentally unfriendly connotations”) that threatens the physical well-being of the spectator. Wilson’s choice of sump oil—a material equated with residues from industrial engines—is also motivated by its derivative and hence transitional character: “What better way to deal with the idea of transformation than to deal with a material that has been through its own transformation?” (ibid.). But the latent transformation of oil into residue is merely a stage in a set of metamorphoses that the substance undergoes starting from its geological origin as a fossil fuel to its later chemical refinements into modern fuels. Wilson remarked that “oil is very much a material of our century” (ibid.); that is not merely because it is associated with wealth and wars have been fought over it, but also because it incarnates history and its liquidation in modern times. Not only does sump oil have a geological and technological history, but it also comments on the fate of history in the modern period. And, perhaps, the story that it tells, both as liquid medium and as olfactory residue, references the history of art as well, alluding to the materiality of painting.⁸⁵ This historical condition of art is evoked only to be challenged by its subsequent conceptual transformations. According to Wilson, 20:50 references its artistic history: “It seemed to touch on its immediate past: Op Art, Land Art, Field Painting, Installation—so many of those other “isms” from the sixties and early seventies were

The Apparatus of Spectatorship

/ 217

suddenly pulled together” (“By Digging You Discover,” 4). However, not only does 20:50 pull these various art “isms” together in a compendium, but it also conceptually restages and transforms them inasmuch as this work is virtual and multiple in its displayed manifestations. The designation of “variable dimensions” used to describe 20:50 refers to the work’s multiple incarnations. Each time it was exhibited, first at Matt’s Gallery in Edinburgh; then at Saatchi’s in Boundary Road, North London, and at Mito Art Tower in Japan; and then at Saatchi’s again (in London’s County Hall), its visual appearance changed, reflecting the specific constraints of the site. In his interview with Richard Wilson, Steve Rushton compared Charles Saatchi’s buying of 20:50 to the relationship between Richard Hamilton’s Large Glass and Duchamp’s Large Glass, that is, the acquisition of a record of the original event at Matt’s. Wilson, however, clarified his own position by specifying that what Saatchi bought was the rights to the work’s conceptual framework, rather than its objective incarnations: “What he actually bought were the rights to that piece of work which meant that every time it is shown it has to be rebuilt. Each time it is shown the focus changes. It can only be shown with the owner’s permission and in every case so far it has had my agreement. . . . It is very much a chameleon piece” (ibid., 5). Selling the rights to the work involves a transfer of ownership that references a conceptual blueprint, rather than a distinct and unique object. Despite its site-specific manifestations, this work is virtual because its multiple physical embodiments are both variable and contingent. Each site introduces its own contingencies, thereby modifying the work’s reflective properties in respect to the specific sources, position, and quantity of light. As Wilson explains in reference to Sheer Fluke (1985): “The influence of the room was important, because the room was doing all the informing via me” (ibid., 6). By recognizing the contingently “appropriative” aspects of the site that inform the display and physical appearance of this work, Wilson expropriates himself as an artistic agent and relegates himself to the status of an intermediary negotiating the givens of a specific site.⁸⁶ His deferred appropriation of the work and Duchamp’s “appropriation” of the museum space by his peephole installation imply the “expropriation” of these spaces from the institutional logic of the


/ The Apparatus of Spectatorship

museum. Enacted from within the museum’s confines (Duchamp and Wilson), or from outside (Matta-Clark), this strategy of deterritorialization references the institutions underlying the apparatus of visual consumption and display as a terrain of continued contestation.⁸⁷ As this study has demonstrated, the question of the end of art’s purely visual form that Duchamp inaugurated does not merit summary conclusions regarding art’s final demise or discouragement regarding its future prospects. Rather, it implies the radical redefinition of art through conceptual considerations that expose and interrogate the cultural, historical, and social premises of art’s reliance on visuality. The question of what becomes of art when it is no longer conceived as a purely visible activity necessitated an inquiry into how it presents itself to be seen. It is in this context that an examination of spectatorship proves crucial, since it brings under scrutiny the viewing conditions at work in the display and consumption of art.⁸⁸ Based on Duchamp’s disassembly of the “look” that exposed the retinal bias of art, MattaClark and Wilson reappropriated its apparatus through a critique of visuality at the strategic juncture of art and architecture. Exploring the intersection of sight and site, their installations interrogate art and architecture on their visual, spatial, and ideational content. Defying the constraints of conventional artistic genres, their interventions decisively disrupt the dominance of vision through conceptual strategies that reactivated its historical, cultural, and social contexts. By rematerializing the viewing processes of art, their installations challenge art’s demand for visuality and its modes of consumption and display. Whereas Matta-Clark took a jackhammer to the idea and edifice of the museum in order to expose its visual “con,” Wilson short-circuited spectatorship through a visual overload that ungrounded the subjective appropriation of architectural space. Exposing the “givens” that underlie visual display and consumption, Matta-Clark and Wilson disassembled the operational logic and scaffolding of spectatorship by reinfusing it with sociohistorical considerations. Decentering the priority of vision through conceptual strategies, their installations mark the decisive shift from modernism to postmodernism, enabling the emergence of forms of unartistic production that challenge art’s visual essence and aesthetic mandates.


Concluding Remarks

Mirrorical Returns It is no longer necessary for artists to die: they are embalmed while they are still alive. This danger goes by the name of success. octavio paz, “price and meaning” (1963)

Legacies This study concluded with an examination of the apparatus of spectatorship as the setup that would determine the construction of its position in the public sphere (with particular reference to the institution of the museum) in the works of Duchamp, Matta-Clark, and Wilson. It explored how the social and institutional scaffolding of spectatorship is driven by a critique of commodification implied in visual consumption that brought into play considerations of the work’s exposition, that is, its physical and institutional modes of presentation and display. However, before bringing this study to a close, some additional reflections are in order, namely, as regards the nature of spectatorship and its creative impetus and potential. The extent and persistence of collaborative or appropriative activities by artists drawing on the idea of art with Duchamp, or appropriating and redeploying his works in his wake, confronts us with the question, why is this so? Certainly, the idea that art need not persist in its visual manifestations and that it could pursue a conceptual destiny that would be less liable to succumb to the forces of commodification has held great attraction for both artists and spectators alike. However, Duchamp’s theoretical positions and their popularization alone are unable to fully account for the continued influence of his ideas today, suggesting the necessity of further inquiry into his artistic practice, especially in regard to his elaboration of spectatorship as interactive exchange and play of ideas. 219


/ Concluding Remarks

Does the activation of spectatorship help explain the continued collaborative and appropriative potential and legacy of Duchamp’s works? The analyses of his works starting with the readymades revealed that they act as devices that trigger the viewer’s engagement, creative response, and play. But is there also an ethical impetus implied in not simply soliciting the engagement of the spectator but mandating his or her response? By implicating the spectator in the making of a work, Duchamp was doing more than simply redeeming the viewer from the passivity implied in the artwork’s reception and consumption. By requiring the spectator to partake in the creative process along with the author, he implicated him or her in the process of artistic making, understood no longer simply in terms of selfexpression but now as an act of critical responsibility. Awakening and sustaining this critical faculty in the spectator, Duchamp resisted the foreclosure of his ideas in the guise of artistic influence. Noting his reputation as the “Dadda of Dada” and the “Grandpa of Pop,” Grace Glueck questioned him about the influence of his work on younger artists. Duchamp responded, “Influence is too disparaging a word. It’s rather been a meeting of ideas.”¹ He contested the use of the word “influence,” which appeals to the myth of the artist as originating and validating source by valorizing spectatorship. He suggested that it is more appropriate to regard the relations between his works and future spectators/artists as a “meeting of ideas,” thus privileging intellectual exchange as forum and fulcrum for the creative act. In so doing, he also challenged the idea of artistic legacy, redefining its impetus as an engagement with the ideas of others rather than himself. Thus, Duchamp’s ironic legacy is not simply reducible to claims of personal legacy or expression, since the issues that it lays on the table for the future spectators or artists will continue to be the active locus of difference and debate. Duchamp’s reluctance to appeal to influence reflects his critique of authorship and his valorization of spectatorship as the other pole in the production of art. Reprising his designation of the artist as a “medium” presented earlier in his talk “The Creative Act,” he revisited his formulation in his extensive interviews with Pierre Cabanne in 1966:

Concluding Remarks

/ 221

I believe very strongly in the “medium” aspect of the artist. The artist makes something, then one day he is recognized by the intervention of the public, of the spectator; so later he goes on to posterity. You can’t stop that, because, in brief, it’s a product of two poles—there’s the pole of the one who makes the work, and the pole of the one who looks at it. I give the latter as much importance as the one who makes it. (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 70) By suggesting that artistic production cannot be thought of independently of the work’s consumption, Duchamp activated the authorial function to include spectatorship as its other constitutive element or “pole.” But what does spectatorship bring into play? It constitutes a response to the work understood as an address whose recognition implies a critical appraisal rather than the passive daze of visual consumption. It brings into focus the responsibility of the work’s reception, as an act of engagement, appreciation, and interpretation that relies on judgment and debate in order to mobilize and adjudicate the cultural meanings at play in the work. The legacy of Duchamp’s activation of spectatorship as a collaborative or appropriative act is embodied in one of his very late works, Three Mirrors (1964; Figure 45), which has received almost no critical attention to date. This is due to the deceptive simplicity of the work, in which Duchamp appears to have done nothing or almost nothing at all. Following his visit to the installation of an exhibition by his friend and sometime collaborator Enrico Baj for the Thirteenth Milan Triennial in 1964, Duchamp signed the back of three mirrors. The work Three Mirrors is composed of those three individual mirrors, framed like paintings, bearing on the bottom center Duchamp’s signature scratched into the back of the mirrors’ silver coatings. Baj’s one-man show included along with other works his characteristic collages of broken-up mirrors. By signing the three mirrors, Duchamp paid homage to and appropriated Baj’s idea to use mirrors, but he did so with a difference. Whereas Baj still relied on the idea of collage in assembling the shards of broken mirrors (thereby treating the mirror as a medium for modernist


/ Concluding Remarks

expression in terms of fragmentation and assemblage), Duchamp held back from altering the mirrors other than by imposing the imprimatur of his signature on their back. Rather than breaking or fragmenting the mirror, he exposed a scission, a hinge at the heart of the mirror that constitutes the mechanism of its reflective powers as an optical device. The mirror provides an exact copy, but it inverts that copy from left to right, rendering the image more or less a perfect copy save for the infinitesimal, “infrathin” (to use Duchamp’s term) difference that marks the reflected image. In taking on the mirror as medium and material in its capacity to materialize the viewer’s gaze through projection, he reiterated his critique of the ocular through optical play, thus bringing into view the position and apparatus of spectatorship.² At first sight, Three Mirrors appears to be alluding to and even perhaps returning to the idea of the readymade—the mass-produced multiples that were signed as originals. The fact that each mirror bears its production number stamped on the back further reinforces this contention. However, despite its apparent affinities with the readymade as a mass-produced, serial object, Duchamp did not designate the work as such. Why would this be the case? Schwarz reported that on signing the three mirrors, Duchamp remarked, “I am signing readymade future portraits.”³ As his remark indicates, Duchamp appealed to the idea of the readymade as a way of describing not the status of the mirror as a mass-produced object but, rather, its function as an apparatus for representation that produces “readymade future portraits.” The term “readymade” here refers to the capacity of the mirror to faithfully replicate, through reflection, the visage of the future spectator. What Duchamp signs, in effect, is not simply the mirror as an object but, rather, the mirror as an apparatus for always already or readymade representation. As a machine for the production of reflection, the mirror provides a perfect likeness that alludes to the mimetic impulses of painting without relying on or succumbing to manual virtuosity.⁴ The mirror provides an almost-exact replica, one with an optical twist, given the inversion of the reflected image from left to right.⁵ This work is activated by the spectator, who completes the work, as it were, by lending his or her face through the gesture of looking. Spectatorship as a passive act of visual reception is transformed into a creative act

Concluding Remarks

/ 223

Figure 45. Marcel Duchamp, Three Mirrors, Milan, 1964. Mirror no. 63112215, front and back views. Courtesy of Arturo Schwarz. Photograph by Enrico Cattaneo. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

insofar as the act of reception is conflated through the viewer’s gaze with the production of the readymade portrait. This readymade portrait is transitional, since the image is “canceled” when the spectator is not looking into the mirror. The act of looking turns the spectator into a work signed by Marcel Duchamp, who signed the future spectator’s look by purloining his or her image under the insignia of his own making. The placement of his signature at the bottom center (instead of the conventional left or right margin) leads to further ambiguity because its location directly bellow suggests that, rather than merely designating authorship, it may also refer to or describe the image, like a title. Purloining the face of a future spectator, the work brings the viewer face-to-face with his or her own narcissism, for the reflection of the face as an image is not merely other because it is inverted; more importantly, the reflection is other also because it reveals the mirror’s inability to secure a particular self-reflection. Duchamp suggested that the mirror’s capacity


/ Concluding Remarks

for reflection is always open to appropriation by the spectator (whose position is open and can be occupied by anyone) and thus is deeply disturbing for anyone attempting to use it as a device to fix or secure identity and selfhood. The three mirrors undermine the myth of Narcissus because the image of the spectator’s visage is signed as always already belonging to someone else.⁶ As signatory, Duchamp signed not the image itself (for the mirror image is always provisional) but the possibility of future portraits, whose existence cannot be secured by the narcissistic conceit of the spectator. By signing future readymade portraits, Duchamp’s autograph serves as a reminder of the spectator’s provisional appropriation of the image, disabling the possibility of its fetishization and commodification. It does so by staging the always already alienated condition of the spectator’s gaze.⁷ Does this work represent a return to retinal art, given its reliance on the look? No, since the mirror that generates visual semblance is an optical device that distorts ordinary vision. And that fact carries conceptual implications in this work. The mirror can be considered the first optical device in history because literal reflection emerges as the product of a set of technical operations involving the rotation and inversion of the image. Thus, the mirror acts like a hinge that opens onto the space of representation by revealing the constructed (that is, projected and inverted) visible image. The mirror undermines the immediacy of ordinary vision through optical play, thereby enabling a conceptual reflection on its nature and modes of operation. Three Mirrors stages Duchamp’s invitation to the spectator to join in the creative act by transforming the spectator at once into author and subject matter of his work (as “readymade future portraits”). Unlike earlier readymades, which drew on their resemblance to ordinary objects in order to question the idea of art, this work “draws on” and literally “draws in” the viewer by purloining his or her semblance through the intervention of their look. By casting a new light on the viewer (previously a blind spot in the history of art) and activating his or her position, Duchamp restores to spectatorship the capacity of artistic making. The spectator’s look is revealed not just as a testament to consumption but also as a productive gesture that holds out the open-ended promise of an always future portrait. Duchamp’s

Concluding Remarks

/ 225

activation of spectatorship reveals the creative potential inherent in the dynamic established between author and spectator as the “two poles” of the creative act. As this study has shown repeatedly, in the cases not just of Picabia but also of Man Ray and, later, Dalí, the creative potential of their collaborative exchanges activated a space of play (between the “two poles”) whose dynamics fueled their abilities to draw on and redeploy each other’s ideas. And as the following pages will make clear, this irrepressible legacy will continue to be actively at work in Baj’s collaborative/appropriative endeavors. Duchamp’s reference to the artist as a “medium,” which means a middle or intervening state, quality, person, or material, such as oil paint, marks the condition of the artist as an intermediary or intervening state, a go-between rather than a unique origin and agent. The artist is a medium insofar as his or her capacity for “making” is also determined by the appreciation and reception of artworks as spectator. As we saw in the cases of Matta-Clark and Wilson and as we shall see with Baj, the artist’s ability to innovate requires the ability to draw on past traditions and institutions along with the ideas of his or her contemporaries in order to produce something that will register as new against the background of preceding gestures. Duchamp’s unprecedented valorization of the spectator extended an open-ended invitation to the public and artists alike to consider and draw on this productive and even inspiring aspect of spectatorship. By reminding us that the creative act is collaborative in nature, he solicited the spectator’s interest and contribution to the creative act. His works extend an invitation to play, to join in on the game, by encouraging spectators and artists alike to discover the productive aspects implied in their engagement with art. Duchamp’s open-ended invitation, which was also a challenge, not only radicalized the idea of art but also instituted new dynamics for driving its creative impetus, thus explaining the continued impact of his works to date. Challenging the premises of art, Three Mirrors (which is still a readymade of sorts) accomplishes its aim imperceptibly, without drama or fanfare. Unlike the readymade, which openly posted its deliberate questioning of art, this work bypasses and postpones the subterfuge of novelty by proposing something that is shocking precisely because


/ Concluding Remarks

it is on the surface and, as a surface, so innocuous. In his interview with Joan Bakewell a couple of months before his death on October 1, 1968, Duchamp commented on the ultimate erosion and loss of shock in modern times: “No, no. Finished, finished. That’s over. You cannot shock a public, at least with the same means.”⁸ Conflating itself to an ordinary object, put forth as nothing more than a signed mirror, this work attains the promise of “unart,” a work no longer noticeable as such. Duchamp proceeded to elaborate his notion of the erosion of shock: “But probably the shock will come from something entirely different, as I said, non-art, anart you see, A-N-A-R-T. You see with no art at all, and yet, something would be produced.” The imperceptible something that is produced is a gesture that amounts to an intervention, rather than a sellable or recoupable object. Asked whether art is dead, Duchamp explained that rather than singularizing art as an entity, he had attempted to open up its meaning by universalizing it: “I . . . by the fact that it would be universal . . . it would be a human factor in anyone’s life to be an artist but not noticed as an artist. Do you see what I mean?”⁹ Attesting to the dispersal of the idea of art, authorship, and the creative act, the legacy of Duchamp’s works will foreground the assumptions implicit in modern art in order to set its critical determinations into play. The activation of spectatorship will delineate a new, postmodern horizon for activities that draw upon but are no longer classifiable as art. The collaborative nature of these endeavors that “draw” on art and artists become emblematic of a new way of thinking about artistic production, one defined dynamically as intersubjective exchange, interplay, and appropriation.¹⁰ Even as the forces of the art market and art institutions conspire to reclaim and enshrine the idea of art within the walls of the museum, they cannot undermine the appeal and productive force implied in the activation of spectatorship: an open invitation to the spectator, and by extension to posterity, to lend a hand to the creative act.

Concluding Remarks The idea of “drawing” on art by treating its conventions and institutions as critical resources that would open up and fuel the possibility

Concluding Remarks

/ 227

of challenging its definitions has proven to be not just fruitful but inexhaustible. Not only do we see deliberate and conscious examples of artists relying on works of the past in order to redraw their meanings, but, more importantly, we see them appeal to the idea of art as a source for inspiration. Such works push the bounds of art insofar as they reveal the necessary conflation of artistic and critical activities, thereby questioning the traditional roles assigned to art, the artist, and the spectator. In this study, the idea of “drawing” on art has also been examined as a function of the way artists draw on each other in the production of their works. The idea that the processes of art making necessarily imply an engagement with the works of others presents a radical challenge to our conventional ideas of the artist (as unique origin and supreme creator of the work) along with the creative act (mystified as an enigmatic and unknowable process). Indeed, these developments imply overturning the traditional roles of the maker-creator as opposed to the spectator-consumer, opening up the idea of artistic process to collaborative endeavors. If, as this study has shown, the idea of art itself can become the critical fuel for artistic impetus, and if the artists of the past can be used as a resource where their works function as the springboard for the development of new ideas, does such an appropriative model of creation merely imply the monotonous repetition of the same gesture? In engaging with the idea of art or the artists of the past, do the artists of the present merely repeat rather than innovate? Can the meanings of artworks change or be redefined altogether depending on their capacity to produce critical engagement and debate? In 1965, Enrico Baj collaborated with Duchamp on a new version of the Mona Lisa entitled Homage to Marcel Duchamp (1965; Figure 46), which was shown at La Fête à la Joconde (Celebration of Mona Lisa) exhibition at the Mathias Fels Gallery in Paris in 1965. He borrowed and superimposed Duchamp’s features with eyeglasses on the Mona Lisa, thereby not only appropriating Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. but also enlisting Duchamp in a deliberate parody of his authorship. Framed by medals disposed like a crown around his head, thus reprising Baj’s critique of figures of authority in such series as the Generals (from 1959 onward), this “Mona Lisa” bearing Duchamp’s features appears


/ Concluding Remarks

Figure 46. Enrico Baj, Homage to Marcel Duchamp, 1965. Collage: medals, rope, photograph; elements pasted on fabric glued to wooden panel, 55 × 46 cm. Courtesy of Roberta Baj.

strangely stiff and ponderous. The ephemeral charms of her enigmatic smile and femininity that constituted her seductive “look” are effaced, since Baj substitutes Duchamp’s bespectacled countenance, shown as looking at the viewer rather than holding back in a gesture of reserve. Usurping the female referent of the masterpiece, Baj’s portrait of the

Concluding Remarks

/ 229

artist as Mona Lisa seems somewhat off-putting when compared to her customary manner of display. He presents Duchamp in the guise of an effigy, whose overbearingly mannish looks despite the female attire allude to the monumentalization of the artist’s image. The draped ribbons framing the image like a halo mock the sense of sanctity associated with both art and the artist. Baj redirected Duchamp’s gesture of exposing the assimilation of art and commodity in L.H.O.O.Q. to that of raising the specter of the artist’s image as a commodity in its own right. Baj did not need to “shave” the Mona Lisa, since Duchamp had already done so in January 1965, when he issued, as an invitation to his exhibition Not Seen and/or Less Seen of/, an unaltered playing-card reproduction of the Mona Lisa with the added words “L.H.O.O.Q. rasée” (“shaved”; Figure 47). Rather, Baj ended up giving Duchamp “a shave,” which also means “to fleece, cheat, or drive a hard bargain with.” Of course, he did so not literally—Duchamp, unlike his L.H.O.O.Q., had always been clean-shaven—but figuratively, by appropriating Duchamp’s work and his image in order to renegotiate the scam at play in the glorification and commodification of the artist. The spectator’s “look,” eroded by Mona Lisa’s overexposure as a masterpiece, is reassigned to the artist’s image, to his portrait presented in the guise of the ostensible subject matter of art. Like L.H.O.O.Q. Shaved, which faithfully reproduced the Mona Lisa but failed to restore her to her prior artistic condition, Baj’s Homage to Marcel Duchamp reproduces his bespectacled face without, however, securing the artist’s image as a legitimizing force. In addition to alluding to the impossibility of defining art and to the fate of the readymade as an object of critical dissent, Baj upped the stakes by putting the artist’s image into play not as an object of representation but as an object of critical debate. By substituting wholesale Duchamp’s aged features for Leonardo’s renowned female subject (and also artistic counterpart, as Lilian Schwartz showed), Baj was also challenging the referential power of authorship as validating source.¹¹ His gesture was all the more ironic given that it came in the wake of other appropriations such as the portrayal of Dalí as Mona Lisa. Redirecting the indices of the appropriation of the work back

Figure 47. Marcel Duchamp, L.H.O.O.Q. Shaved, New York, 1965. Playing card mounted on folded paper, 8¼ × 5½ inches. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Collection of Mrs. Alice Saligman. Copyright 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/Succession Marcel Duchamp.

Concluding Remarks

/ 231

toward the artist as maker, Baj drew on these prior appropriations in order to figure his own intervention in the guise of homage—a gesture of deference or respect that honors someone or something through an offering. His intervention conflated the acts of taking and giving, thereby compelling us to interrogate the idea of appropriation as a figure for art making in general. In a photograph of the show’s opening (Figure 48), Duchamp is shown smiling, enthroned in a chair right underneath Baj’s work, next to his wife, along with Baj and his wife, among others. The photo records not only his willing collaboration and complicity with Baj’s appropriation but also his artistic sanction of this act, insofar as his presence legitimizes Baj’s attempt to draw on his work. Do these gestures of collaboration and multiple layers of appropriation (as appropriations of appropriation) reveal the hard bargain at issue in all gestures of making art? Insofar as they draw on Duchamp’s work and its later incarnations, do they also imply cheating and stealing along with giving? Renzo Piano mused on this idea in an interview on the occasion of his addition to Richard Meier’s High Museum of Art in Atlanta: “The fact that art is robbery is well known—robbery without masks. In some way that’s good. It’s robbery where you give back, like Robin Hood.”¹² Piano suggested that while artistic appropriation may be readily figured through the bias of robbery, it is misleading to mistake it for mere theft. Represented as a robbery that implies giving along with taking, appropriation is redeemed by Piano as a gesture that has ethical implications. Instead of indiscriminate taking, which would court the opprobrium due crime, it suggests a form of borrowing where the spectator or artist takes on the work provisionally only to redeploy it, thus enhancing the critical horizon of its meanings. The meaning of appropriation is thus redefined as a provisional act whose validation is only secured upon its redeployment as a critical act fueled by engagement and debate. Understood in these terms, appropriation emerges as a dynamic gesture, one that transfers and critically redeploys meaning, rather than securing, consolidating, or foreclosing its play. In order to further elucidate the critical act at issue in spectatorship, we briefly turn to Thierry de Duve’s claim in “The Readymade


/ Concluding Remarks

Figure 48. La Fête à la Joconde (Celebration of Mona Lisa), 1965. Group photograph by André Morin at the exhibition’s opening at Mathias Fels Gallery, Paris. Left to right: André-Pierre Arnal, Lucio Del Pezzo and his former wife Milvia Maglione, Marcel Duchamp, Alexina “Teeny” Duchamp, Guido Biasi, Enrico Baj, and Roberta Baj. Courtesy of Roberta Baj.

and the Tube of Paint” (1986). He assessed the heritage of modernism in terms of its legacy of judgment in regard to the idea of art, claiming that “it should be everybody’s and anybody’s business to judge art.”¹³ De Duve was not making a statement about viewers’ qualifications; rather, he was pointing out that such critical judgment is called upon and is part and parcel of the experience of the work. He argued that without this capacity for questioning art’s premises and modes of functioning embedded in the development of modernism, the engagement with the idea of art would risk oblivion, courting the loss of its defining history. Opposing parody and irony as the two defining strategies of modernism, he distinguished between them by interrogating

Concluding Remarks

/ 233

their capacities to address history in critical terms as a locus for dissent rather than myth: Irony, contrary to parody, is a reminder that authorship includes spectatorship, or that spectatorship entails authorship, not through fusion and empathy, but through decision and debate. What the producers and the consumers of culture share is not a myth but a responsibility, that of judging and interpreting their culture. Irony recycles history just as much as parody does but it never takes history for granted, it never assumes the past by convention. Its caustic effect is in fact to open the case of history as a locus of dissent and jurisprudence. What irony confronts is precisely the given fact that conventions are shattered, that criteria are uncertain, that judgments are undecidable. This is the common ground of “post-Modernism,” our sensus communis, when universality cannot be postulated anymore except as a utopian horizon. And this is the heritage of Modernism that needs to be guarded. Irony is, as Søren Kierkagaard said, the passage from esthetics to ethics.¹⁴ De Duve’s discussion of irony elucidates the conceptual implications that come to frame the question of art and its implied ethical legacy to postmodernity. Unlike parody, which risks reinforcing through mockery the very codes and institutions it seeks to challenge, irony opens up the space of contestation to active exchange, inviting discussion and dissent. It brings into view a different way of thinking about the idea of art and authorship, one that in the wake of Duchamp explicitly brings into play notions of artistic production and consumption. Drawing on Duchamp’s legacy that authorship includes spectatorship and spectatorship entails authorship, de Duve cautions against their facile assimilation to forms of identification “through fusion and empathy” as opposed to critical difference sustained “through decision and debate.” The fact that universality can no longer be posited other than by convention or myth implies that both producers and consumers of culture must take on the responsibility of addressing the idea of


/ Concluding Remarks

art by judging and interpreting its premises, qualifications, and modes of functioning. This study has shown that the modernist lack of consensus as regards the meaning and destiny of art, serving to mark the loss of its utopian horizon, does not merely imply art’s negation or loss. The fact that art cannot sustain an autonomous position that would transcend historical and social determinations does not constitute an impoverishment or an end to the idea of art. The loss of art’s autonomy, and thus of its distance from the “praxis of life,” does not herald, as Peter Bürger suggested in his Theory of the Avant-Garde, the loss of its capacity for critique, be it of art or life.¹⁵ On the contrary, I have argued that it is precisely the erosion of art by its circulation in the public sphere as a commodity that opened up avant-garde inquiry into its nature. Duchamp neither negated nor desecrated the Mona Lisa; he simply pointed out that in the age of mechanical reproduction and public exhibitions, even the masterpiece could not escape the destiny of being subject to the forces of mass-consumption and the market. The readymade diagnosed and made visible this tension between art and the commodity (life) as a dynamic with no issue or resolution— in short, an impasse or draw. Thus, at issue is not the sublation of art in the praxis of life through the denial of their differences but, rather, the emergence through this dynamic play of a set of critical questions regarding art and its relation to life. The impossibility of defining art once and for all may finally convince us of the viability, and indeed the necessity, of no longer trying to do so. If one accepts that not trying to define art is legitimate, then the denial of the possibility of defining art will not foreclose but in fact will invite and drive debate and dissent over its nature. The deactivation of the visual mandate of art that emerged from a critique of commodification and market forces opened up the possibility of questioning art’s founding premises along with its social and cultural manifestations in the public sphere. Disillusioned with painting and with art in general, Duchamp, along with his Dada friends and collaborators Picabia and Man Ray, sought new strategies for challenging art’s inability to resist the forces of commercialization. Whereas

Concluding Remarks

/ 235

Duchamp with Man Ray, and later Dalí, moved from the ocular to optics, seeking to activate a new understanding of the conceptual considerations that determine the production of visuality, Picabia along with Duchamp explored the potential of spectatorship as a force for taking on the pressures of consumption. Their critique of painting as a visual experience was extended to the film medium in order to short-circuit, through conceptual considerations, its advent as mere visual spectacle and mass expression. The emphasis on the dynamics of play in chess, on its at once adversarial and yet also by necessity collaborative logic, functioned both for Duchamp and for Dalí as a privileged vehicle for figuring a new way of thinking about artistic making, one that emphasized the dynamics of play rather than the production of objects. As many of the artistic figures and examples chosen in this study show, the erosion of ideas, of artists, and of their works by commercialization did not simply lead to the foreclosure of art and its possibilities. The more facile attempts to simply negate art or to pretend to abandon it altogether in order to move on, as if it had become extinct or was simply obsolescent, were doomed to failure. Other efforts to challenge the nature of art resulted in drawing on it, thus inviting a deeper reflection on its nature, its implications, and its players. What Duchamp, along with his Dada coconspirators Picabia and Man Ray and his Surrealist counterpart and sometime collaborator Dalí, preserved and indeed reserved for postmodernism is an idea of art understood no longer as visual essence or expression but as locus of dissent and disparity of opinion. It is this modernist legacy that later collaborators such as Baj or postmodern appropriators such as MattaClark and Wilson drew upon and critically took to task. The emphases of their works shifted away from the production of objects to the critical manipulation of the contexts that frame the idea of art in order to deliberately expose the institutional scaffolding that set up and prop up the possibility of meaning ascribed to works of art. Such an understanding of art, however, no longer belongs to the realm of aesthetics alone, since it brings into play, through its activation and engagement with spectatorship, questions of critical responsibility and ethics.

This page intentionally left blank


Introduction . My title is inspired by Duchamp’s comment in a letter to Picabia in 1924, in The Writings of Marcel Duchamp, ed. Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson (New York: Da Capo Press, 1989), 187; henceforth cited in text as Writings of Marcel Duchamp. Duchamp used the term “to draw” (dessiner) in order to suggest that even after he had moved on to other activities, his manipulation of chance still recalled his origins as a painter. . Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, trans. Ron Padgett (New York: Da Capo Press, 1987), 48; henceforth cited in text as Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp. . See Martin Jay’s influential critique of the history of modern vision in Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-century Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), chaps. 3 and 4, and especially his critique of Clement Greenberg and Duchamp, 160–70. For a discussion of Greenberg’s modernist privilege of the visual, see Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), xv–xviii, 9–15, and 303–44. . In the first of his six interviews with Georges Charbonnier, Duchamp critiqued the idea of painting and its emergence at the beginning of 1900 in the public and commercial domains. See selected comments reprinted in Ephemerides on and about Marcel Duchamp and Rrose Sélavy: 1887–1968, texts by Jennifer Gough-Cooper and Jacques Caumont, in Marcel Duchamp: Work and Life, ed. and introd. Pontus Hulten (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1993), December 9, 1960, no page number; henceforth cited in text as Ephemerides. . Affectionately, Marcel, ed. Francis M. Naumann and Hector Obalk (Ghent-Amsterdam: Ludion Press, 2000), 168; henceforth cited in text as Affectionately, Marcel. . Quoted in Herbert Molderings, “Zwischen Atelier und Ausstellung,” introduction to Sarkis Kriegsschatz (Münster: Westfallischer Kunstverein, 1978), 7; also cited and translated in Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Neo-Avantgarde and the Culture Industry: Essays on European and American Art from 1955 to 1975 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003), 285. . For an analysis of the impact of commodification on art and modernist strategies for resistance, see Walter L. Adamson, Embattled Avant-Gardes: Modernism’s Resistance to Commodity Culture in Europe (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2007), 27–78. . Quoted in Calvin Tomkins, The Bride and the Bachelors: Five Masters of the Avant-Garde (New York: Penguin Books, 1976), 40.



/ Notes to Introduction

. For an influential analysis of Duchamp’s legacy in bringing into play modes of presentation and display and their ideological underpinnings for the meaning of the work of art, see Thierry de Duve, Look, 100 Years of Contemporary Art, trans. Simon Pleasance and Fronza Woods (GhentAmsterdam: Ludion Press, 2001), 19–39. Also see Jacques Rancière’s discussion of de Duve and the three forms of “imageness” (as modes of coupling/ uncoupling the power of showing and signifying) in The Future of the Image, trans. Gregory Eliott (London: Verso, 2007), 22–30. . My formulation here relies on Karl Marx’s claim that consumption produces production insofar as a product attains its reality through consumption; see Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, trans. and with a foreword by Martin Nicolaus (London: Penguin Books, 1973), 91. For an influential elaboration of Marx’s ideas in modern critical discourse, see Janet Wolff, The Social Production of Art (London: Macmillan, 1982), 95–116. . For a historical analysis of the myth of artistic genius, see Penelope Murray, ed., Genius: The History of an Idea (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989). . For an overview of appropriation that refers to the conscious use of materials derived from a source outside the work, see the entry “Appropriation” by Crispin Sartwell in The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, ed. Michael Kelly (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998): 68–70. For an account of appropriation in its historical forms and development, see David Evans, “Introduction: Seven Types of Appropriation,” in Appropriation, ed. David Evans (London: Whitechapel Gallery; Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009): 12–22. . Using Duchamp as an example, Marjorie Perloff considered the question of how the contributions of individual artists are to be viewed in relation to mass movements in the modern period; see Perloff, “Dada without Duchamp / Duchamp without Dada: Avant-Garde Tradition and the Individual Talent,” Stanford Humanities Review 7, no. 1 (1999): 1–7; also available online at http:// epc.buffalo.edu/authors/perloff/dada.html. . Some recent critical studies attest to a renewed interest in Picabia, Man Ray, and Dada and their relations to Duchamp, from not just a historical but also a theoretical perspective; see George Baker, The Artwork Caught by the Tail: Francis Picabia and Dada in Paris (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007); and Jennifer Mundy, ed., Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia (London: Tate Publishing, 2008). . Lewis Kachur examined Duchamp’s collaborative exhibition spaces and activities with the Surrealists and Dalí in particular; see Kachur, Displaying the Marvelous: Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dalí, and Surrealist Exhibition Installations (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), 8–9. Sheldon Nodelman noted that collaborative works feature prominently in the second half of Duchamp’s oeuvre; see his review in “Disguise and Display: Recent Publications Detail a Long Neglected Aspect of Marcel Duchamp’s Seminal Oeuvre—Installation Design as a Work of Art,” Art in America, March 2003: 2–18. . Hans Richter, Dada: Art and Anti-art (New York: McGraw Hill, 1966), 9. . Stephen C. Foster noted Man Ray’s concurrence with Duchamp in

Notes to Chapter 1

/ 239

regards to their almost “anti-avant-garde position”; see Foster, “Man Ray: Instruments of Insight,” in Paris Dada: The Barbarians Storm the Gates, ed. Elmer Peterson (New York: G. K. Hall, 2001), 179. . Some notable examples include Renato Poggioli’s blanket claim that the “avant-garde looks and works like a culture of negation,” in The Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Gerald Fitzgerald (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1968), 107; Peter Bürger’s position that the avant-garde negates the category of individual production and reception and his reduction of the readymade to an act of provocation, in Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. Michael Shaw, foreword by Jochen Schulte-Sasse (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984); and Joseph Beuys’s critique of “Duchamp’s anti-art concept,” quoted in Caroline Tisdall, Joseph Beuys (New York: Guggenheim Museum; London: Thames and Hudson, 1979), 92. . Quoted in Arturo Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, rev. and exp. pbk. ed. (New York: Delano Greenidge Editions, 2000), 256. . Quoted in Octavio Paz, Marcel Duchamp: Appearance Stripped Bare, trans. Rachel Phillips and Donald Gardner (New York: Seaver Books, 1978), 81. . For an insightful analysis of collaboration as pairing up in conceptual and postmodern art, see Charles Green, The Third Hand: Collaboration in Art from Conceptualism to Postmodernism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001). . For an analysis of the legacies of collectivism, see Blake Stimpson’s and Gregory Sholette’s comments in their preface and introduction to Collectivism after Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination after 1945, ed. Blake Stimpson and Gregory Sholette (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007), xi–xvii and 4–12. . See Tomkins, The Bride and the Bachelors, 49. For a comprehensive account of Duchamp’s interest, professional development, and career in chess, see Arturo Schwarz, “Precision Play: An Aspect of the Beauty of Precision,” in Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 63–78. . Nodelman, “Disguise and Display,” 25. . The categories evoked here rely on Jean-Louis Baudry’s groundbreaking study of the “cinematographic apparatus,” which refers to the mechanisms involved in the production and consumption of cinematic vision as social and cultural fact; see Baudry, “Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus,” in Cinematographic Apparatus: Selected Writings, ed. Theresa Hak Kyung Cha (New York: Tanam Press, 1980), 25–37.

1. Critiques of the Ocular . William S. Rubin, Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1977), 61. . Richter, Dada, 171. . Ibid. For a comprehensive account of the Paris Dada movement, see Michel Sanouillet, Dada à Paris (Paris: Jean-Jacques Pauvert, 1965). For a more recent assessment, see Janine Mileaf and Matthew S. Witkovsky, “Paris,”


/ Notes to Chapter 1

in Dada, ed. Leah Dickerman (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 2006), 346–73. . Richter, Dada, 170. Francis Picabia, who was one of the leaders in the New York Dada movement (1915–1920), was also responsible for bringing Dada to Paris. He exhibited Richter’s paintings at the 1919 Salon d’automne and in April 1921 at the gallery Au sans pareil. For Picabia’s activities in Paris, see William A. Camfield’s comprehensive study Francis Picabia: His Art, Life, and Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), 123–82. . Calvin Tomkins’s insightful biography of Duchamp provides a detailed account of his visits to Paris and his contacts with the figures associated with the Dada movement; see his Duchamp: A Biography (New York: Henry Holt, 1996), 214–67. . Duchamp, “The Great Trouble with Art in This Country,” interview by James Johnson Sweeney, Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art 13, nos. 4–5 (1946): 19–21; reprinted in Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 125. . For Duchamp’s distinctions between Dada and Surrealism, see his third interview with Georges Charbonnier (Ephemerides, December 23, 1960). . This analysis will attempt to reconsider Matei Calinescu’s description of the avant-garde movements of the 1920s as a “hysterical negation”; see Calinescu, Faces of Modernity: Avant-Garde, Decadence, Kitsch (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977), 140. . Jean-François Lyotard, in Les Transformateurs Duchamp (Paris: Galilée, 1977), 66–68, suggests that Duchamp’s efforts to undermine vision reflect his critique of sensation and the phenomenological body. . For instance, he exhibited Richter’s work at the 1919 Salon d’automne and in April 1921 at the gallery Au sans pareil. For Picabia’s activities in Paris, see Camfield, Francis Picabia, 123–82. . For an analysis of Duchamp’s activities in the New York Dada movement, see Michael R. Taylor, “New York,” in Dickerman, Dada, 277–88 and 292–96. . Stephen C. Foster and Rudolf E. Kuenzli, introduction to Dada Spectrum: The Dialectics of Revolt (Madison, Wisc.: Coda Press; Iowa City: University of Iowa, 1979), 9–10. . Richter, Dada, 25. For a critical analysis of the emergence of Dada in response to World War I and the postwar years, see Foster and Kuenzli, Dada Spectrum, 4–12. For its relations to capital and to purposive rationality, see Aleš Debeljak, Reluctant Modernity: The Institution of Art and Its Historical Forms (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1998), 144–45. . Marcel Duchamp, “Amicalement Marcel: Fourteen Letters from Marcel Duchamp to Walter Pach,” ed. Francis M. Naumann, Archives of American Art Journal 29, nos. 3–4 (1989): 40. . For an analysis of the development of Duchamp’s antiart position in relation to World War I, see my article “Duchamp’s ‘Luggage Physics’: Art on the Run,” Postmodern Culture 16, no. 1 (September 2005): 1–24; also available at http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/pmc/toc/pmc16.1.html. . Duchamp’s ideas about the readymade crystallized around In Advance

Notes to Chapter 1

/ 241

of the Broken Arm (1915), a galvanized snow shovel with its title inscribed on the bottom; see his letter to Suzanne Duchamp, circa January 15, 1916, in Affectionately, Marcel, 43–44. For a discussion of the term “readymade,” see André Gervais, “Note sur le terme readymade (ou ready-made),” Étant donné, Marcel Duchamp, no. 1 (1999): 118–21. . The question whether some readymades may be handcrafted rather than mass-produced is interesting and merits consideration, but it does not alter the scandal of their reception as commodities; see Rhonda Roland Shearer, “Marcel Duchamp’s Impossible Bed and Other ‘Not’ Readymade Objects: A Possible Route of Influence from Art to Science,” parts 1 and 2, Art and Academe 10, no. 1 (Fall 1997): 28–82; 10, no. 2 (Fall 1998): 76–95. . For an examination of Duchamp’s puns as verbal and visual machines, see my Unpacking Duchamp: Art in Transit (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 75–157. . Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984), 3. . De Duve, Look, 29. . Quoted in Anne d’Harnoncourt and Kynaston McShine, eds., Marcel Duchamp (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1973), 289. Duchamp distinguished his own reproduction of the Mona Lisa from Picabia’s reproduction in the magazine 391, which included the moustache but left out the goatee (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 63). . Jennifer Blessing, “Rrose Is a Rrose Is a Rrose: Gender Performance in Photography,” in Rrose Is a Rrose Is a Rrose: Gender Performance in Photography, ed. Jennifer Blessing (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1997), 20–21. . As Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson point out, the French homophones of the last two letters of the title, “O.Q.,” are puns linking the body and the eye, au cul (in the ass) or “ocul,” as in “ocular” or “oculiste” (au couliste), such as we find on Rrose Sélavy’s visiting card, which describes her as a specialist of “precision ass and glass work” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 105). It is interesting to note that this joke associating sight and ass is already present in one of Duchamp’s cartoons for the newspaper Le Courrier français (Ephemerides, November 13, 1909). . Fredric Jameson alluded to this shift in his discussion of Andy Warhol; see Jameson, Postmodernism; or, The Cultural Logic of the Late Capitalism (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1991), 9. . The issues were first raised by Walter Benjamin in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations, ed. and introd. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1978), 217–26. Also see John Berger’s elaboration of Benjamin’s ideas as regards the reification of the image through its public consumption via posters, postcards, and the like in his Ways of Seeing (London: BBC and Penguin Books, 1981), 19–30. . Interview transcribed by Robert Cowan, in “Dada,” Evidence, no. 3 (Fall 1961): 36–38. . In his notes on the “infrathin” Duchamp reflected on the impact of


/ Notes to Chapter 1

mass consumption on the viewing subject, suggesting that an artwork’s overexposure leads to the glazing over of the spectator’s look. See Marcel Duchamp, Notes, arrang. and trans. Paul Matisse (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1983), note 10; henceforth cited in text as Marcel Duchamp, Notes. This note is discussed in detail in chapter 5. . See John Berger’s analysis of the commodification of the masterpiece and of femininity as object of the male gaze, as instantiated in the “nude” as pictorial genre, in his Ways of Seeing, 21–24 and 47–57. For photography as a crucial agent of commodification in the nineteenth century, see Abigail Solomon-Godeau, “The Legs of the Countess,” October 39 (Winter 1986): 65–105. . For an analysis of Duchamp’s and Man Ray’s experiments with hair and masculinity, see David Hopkins, Dada’s Boys: Masculinity after Duchamp (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 59–63. . Quoted in Herbert Crehan, “Dada,” Evidence 3 (Fall 1961): 36–38. Also see Seymour Howard’s discussion of Duchamp’s comments and Freud in “Duchamp, Dalí, Tzara, and Dadaist Coprophilia,” Source: Notes in the History of Art 10, no. 1 (Fall 1990): 28–30. . Arnauld Pierre considers Picabia’s work an attempt to neutralize through accumulation the power of the signature; see Pierre, “Dada Stands Its Ground: Picabia vs. the Return to Order,” in Peterson, Paris Dada, 149. Baker interprets Duchamp’s appeal to “dressing up Picabia” as an attempt to steal back Picabia’s misreading of Duchamp’s denial of authorship with the readymade; see Baker, The Artwork Caught by the Tail, 153–54. . For the distinction between use and exchange values, see Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, trans. Ben Fowkes (New York: Vintage Books, 1977), 1: 125–31. . Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 676. . Duchamp’s gesture playfully assimilates two modalities of exchange— commodity and gift exchanges—that are considered to be not just opposing but mutually exclusive; see Arjun Appadurai, “Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value,” in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in a Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 11–15. . For an analysis of the souvenir and nostalgia, see Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993): 132–39. . For a study of tourism and the semiotics of nostalgia, see John Frow, Time and Commodity Culture: Essays in Cultural Theory and Postmodernity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 64–101. . Stewart, On Longing, 133. . De Duve evokes the idea of a “vaccine” to describe Édouard Manet’s loss of faith in art and also Duchamp’s idea of the readymade “against the leveling of aesthetic categories” that put the artist and public on the same footing; see de Duve, Look, 27. . See Duchamp’s critique of the prefix “anti” and the problems attendant

Notes to Chapter 1

/ 243

on a rhetoric of negation as quoted by Schwarz in The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 256, and preliminarily broached in my introduction. . D’Harnoncourt and McShine, Marcel Duchamp, 291. . Roland Barthes, S/Z (Paris: Seuil, 1976), 54 (my translation). . Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 634. . Duchamp’s discussion of the illuminated picture anticipates his treatment of light in Given: “The picture illuminated from within / by a very / strong artificial light / preventing the picture from ‘standing out’ / against the background of natural light” (Marcel Duchamp, Notes, note 171). . See Marcel Duchamp, “I Propose to Strain the Laws of Physics,” interview by Francis Roberts, Art News, no. 8 (1968): 46. . Jean Clair, “Duchamp and the Classical Perspectivists,” Artforum, March 1978: 40–50. This is a revised version and translation of an earlier article by Clair, “Duchamp et la tradition des pérspecteurs,” in Marcel Duchamp: Abécédaire: Approches critiques, ed. Jean Clair with Ulf Linde et al. (Paris: Musée national d’art moderne, Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou, 1977), 3: 124–59. This essay was reprised as “Thaumaturgus Opticus,” in Sur Marcel Duchamp et la fin de l’art (Paris: Gallimard, 2000), 63–110. . Hubert Damisch, The Origin of Perspective, trans. John Goodman (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), 101–2. Also see Erwin Panofsky, Perspective as a Symbolic Form, trans. Christopher S. Wood (New York: Zone Books, 1991). . Antonio di Pietro Averlino was dubbed “Filarete” (“lover of virtue” in Greek). For a general discussion of these treatises, see John White, The Birth and Rebirth of Pictorial Space (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 1987), 121–26. . Kim H. Veltman, “Perspective and the Scope of Optics,” paper, Toronto 1992; available online at http://www.mmi.unimaas.nl/people/Veltman/ veltmanarticles/199220Perspective20and20the20Scope20of20 Optics.pdf, 9. . David Hopkins discusses the importance of veils and veiling in Duchamp’s works in terms of the conflation of scientific and religious discourses; see Hopkins, Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst: The Bride Shared (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 19–28. . It is important to keep in mind that during the Renaissance, clear distinctions had not yet been established between “theories of seeing and methods of representation.” Veltman pointed out that these terms were largely interchangeable, reflecting perhaps their shared Latin etymology, from perspectiva, which referred to both optics and linear perspective; see Veltman, “Perspective and the Scope of Optics,” 1. . For a discussion of vision in Duchamp in terms of the mechanisms of desire it entails as a system of projection and identification, see Rosalind E. Krauss’s seminal study The Optical Unconscious, pbk. ed. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1994), 95–142. David Joselit interprets the shop window as embodying an image of erotic frustration that marks the alienation and cyclical nature of desire, thus prefiguring the problem of the commodity in The Large Glass;


/ Notes to Chapter 1

see Joselit, Infinite Regress: Marcel Duchamp, 1910–1941 (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), 137–39. . This link between optics and erotics is also evoked in Duchamp’s Rotary Glass Plates (Precision Optics) (1920). Executed in collaboration with Man Ray, this motorized optical device has a subtitle that recalls Rrose Sélavy’s calling card, giving her double specialties as “Precision Oculism” and “Complete Line of Whiskers and Kicks” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 105); see Rosalind Krauss’s analysis of precision optics in The Optical Unconscious, 135–37. . Albert Cook, “The ‘Meta-Irony’ of Marcel Duchamp,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 44, no. 3 (Spring 1986): 263–70. . The Battle of Austerlitz, also called the Battle of the Three Emperors, was fought in Moravia in 1805 and was one of Napoleon’s great victories. Also see Duchamp’s comments in d’Harnoncourt and McShine, Marcel Duchamp, 295. . In his notes to The Green Box, Duchamp discussed the possibility of a “hinge picture”: “Perhaps make a hinge picture” (Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 27). This reference may also imply an allusion to Duchamp’s Glider Containing a Water Mill in Neighboring Metals (Glissière contenant un moulin à eau en métaux voisins; 1913–1915), which is a semicircular glass pane that turns about a hinge. . Jean Clair suggested that it may contain references to Leonardo’s sketches on the production of perspective through the manipulation of the gaze; see Clair, Sur Marcel Duchamp et la fin de l’art, 66–69 and 152–53. . D’Harnoncourt and McShine, Marcel Duchamp, 295. . Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 205. . Tomkins, Duchamp, 231. . For an insightful examination of Duchamp’s and Picabia’s homosociality and collaboration, see Hopkins, Dada’s Boys, 15–33; for a more general account of their masculinist positions along with Man Ray’s, see David Hopkins, “Male Poetics,” in Mundy, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, 77–87. . Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 684. . Dickran Tashjian observed that Rrose in this work became a composite, androgynous figure, both male and female; see Tashjian, “ ‘Vous pour moi?’: Marcel Duchamp and Transgender Coupling,” in Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism, and Self-Representation, ed. Whitney Chadwick (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998), 44. . For an analysis of Duchamp’s play with the indices associated with self-portraiture, see my Unpacking Duchamp, 114–17, 143–46, 154–57, and 175–81. . For a cultural-historical analysis of femininity as a function of masquerade in art, see Sarah Wilson, “Femininity-Masquerades,” in Blessing, Rrose Is a Rrose Is a Rrose, 135–51. Also see Amelia Jones’s account of Duchamp’s masquerade in Postmodernism and the En-Gendering of Marcel Duchamp (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 146–60. . The perfume bottle has a fabricated label bearing Rrose Sélavy’s initials, “RS,” with the “R” reversed. The inversion of the “R” inscribes allusions

Notes to Chapter 1

/ 245

to the optical, mirrorlike dimension of this work. The cardboard box containing the bottle was inscribed (after 1945) with a gold label that read “Rrose / Sélavy/ 1921.” . This allusion to originality as the evanescent scent of perfume can be found in Duchamp’s letter to Jean Crotti, August 17, 1952, reprinted in French in William A. Camfield and Jean-Hubert Martin, eds., Tabu Dada: Jean Crotti and Suzanne Duchamp, 1915–1922 (Bern: Kunsthalle Bern, 1983), 8. It also references the condition of painting as it passes from its wet to dry condition, leaving behind the residue of turpentine. . While Amelia Jones emphasized Duchamp’s deliberate appropriations of femininity, my study suggests that such appropriations represent merely one instance of his general attempts to deauthorize and multiply the notion of artistic identity by dislodging it from its essentialist, referential functions. For Jones’s analysis, see Postmodernism and the En-Gendering of Marcel Duchamp, 184–90. . Duchamp’s apparently arbitrary association of having nothing to expose and to marry also recalls the fortuitous coincidence of the theft of the Gioconda from the Louvre (where it had been hanging since 1804) with the date of the first marriage of his sister Suzanne Duchamp (August 23, 1911). . Elmer Peterson points out that in French, pode bal means “nuts to you” (peau de balle et balai de crin); see Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 180. . This passage is quoted in Tomkins, The Bride and the Bachelors, 29–30. . Robert Lebel, Marcel Duchamp (New York: Grove Press, 1959), 68; see also Joselit, Infinite Regress, 138. . Duchamp specified that this work is neither a “painting” nor “literary,” since it is defined by the interplay of verbal and visual associations (Ephemerides, December 8, 1961). . For a detailed examination of The Large Glass in terms of issues of mechanical reproduction and a critique of painting, see my Unpacking Duchamp, 52–73. . Linda Dalrymple Henderson noted Duchamp’s interest in oculist charts, as evidenced in his correspondence with Walter and Louise Arensberg. She observed that the patterns of the Oculist Witnesses are characteristic of those used to test astigmatism (a defect of the eye where rays of light do not focus on the same point in the retina); see Henderson, Marcel Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the “Large Glass” and Related Works (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 311 n. 10. . Ulf Linde noted this pun in “MARiée CELibataire,” in Marcel Duchamp: Readymades, Etc. (1913–1964), ed. Arturo Schwarz (Milan: Galleria Schwarz; Paris: Le Terrain Vague, 1964), 54. . My account of this window is based on Richard Hamilton’s “The Large Glass,” in d’Harnoncourt and McShine, Marcel Duchamp, 65. Schwarz, however, describes the window as being open so that the netting is deformed by the movement of outside air; see his The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 617. . Duchamp’s response to a question by Arturo Schwarz about his


/ Notes to Chapter 2

predilection for the number three, in Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 128. . For a detailed analysis of the logical, narrative, and poetic conundrums of this title, see Lyotard, Les Transformateurs Duchamp, 108–24. . Rosalind Krauss reads the Glass as a self-portrait in which the scission of Marcel’s name “attests to the self projected as double”; see Krauss, “Notes on the Index: Part I,” in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1987), 202. . See Duchamp’s description in his note to The Large Glass in his Green Box. See also the title page of The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, typographic version by Richard Hamilton of Marcel Duchamp’s Green Box, 3rd ed., trans. George Heard Hamilton (Stuttgart: Hansjorg Mayer, 1976). . Commenting on the title, Duchamp underlined his own interest in the word “even,” même: “Even is an absolute adverb; it has no sense. All the more the possibility of stripping bare. It’s a ‘non-sense’ ” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 40). . Craig Adcock argued that Duchamp’s emphasis on the mental attests to his interest in vision as bound no longer to a perceptual, three-dimensional world but, instead, to conceptions elaborated in a virtual, four-dimensional world; see Adcock, Marcel Duchamp’s Notes from the Large Glass: An N-Dimensional Analysis (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1983), 87–136. . André Breton, “Marcel Duchamp,” reprinted from Littérature, October 1922, trans. Ralph Manheim, in The Dada Painters and Poets, ed. Robert Motherwell, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press/Harvard University Press, 1989), 209. . See Georges Hugnet’s discussion of Tristan Tzara’s Bulletin Dada, no. 6 (Paris, 1920), in “The Dada Spirit in Painting,” in Motherwell, The Dada Painters and Poets, 171; and Tristan Tzara, “Lecture on Dada” (1922), in Motherwell, The Dada Painters and Poets, 95. . Tzara, “Lecture on Dada,” 246. . Marcel Duchamp, “To Change Names, Simply,” interview by Guy Viau on Canadian Radio Television (July 17, 1960), trans. Sarah Skinner Kilborne, in Tout-Fait: The Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal, “Interviews” (2002), www.Toutfait.com, 2. . Bürger questions the desirability of sublating the autonomy of art, since he argues that the distance between art and praxis is a requisite for the elaboration of critical alternatives; see Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, 53–54. . Paz, Marcel Duchamp, 27.

2. The Spectacle of Film . See Peterson, “Paris Dada: Publications and Provocations,” in Peterson, Paris Dada, 27–29. . Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes, “History of Dada,” in Motherwell, The Dada Painters and Poets, 117–19.

Notes to Chapter 2

/ 247

. Georges Hugnet, “The Dada Spirit in Painting,” in Motherwell, The Dada Painters and Poets, 187. . André Breton, “Three Dada Manifestoes,” in Motherwell, The Dada Painters and Poets, 205. . Richter, Dada, 194. . Ibid. . Breton, “Three Dada Manifestoes,” 205. . As Thomas Elsaesser noted, these films defy Dada chronology because they largely overlap with the Surrealist period; see Elsaesser, “Dada/Cinema?” Dada/Surrealism, no. 15 (1986): 15. This issue of Dada/Surrealism was entitled “Dada and Surrealist Film” and was edited by Rudolf E. Kuenzli; it was later reprinted as Dada and Surrealist Film, ed. Rudolf E. Kuenzli (New York: Willis, Locker, and Owens, 1987) and then reprinted again by the MIT Press in 1989. . Other experimental films during this period include Hans Richter’s Rhythmus 21 (1921), Rhythmus 23 (1923), and Filmstudie (1926) and Victor Eggeling’s Symphonie diagonale (1924), representing efforts to transpose questions of pictorial abstraction to cinema. Some combine elements of Cubist abstraction with the Dada spirit, such as Fernand Léger and Dudley Murphy’s Ballet mécanique (1924) and Richter’s Ghosts before Breakfast (1927–1928), while Man Ray’s Les Mystères du château du dé (1929) marks his transition to Surrealism. For an analysis of these films in relation to Dada, see my “Dada Cinema: At the Limits of Modernity,” Art and Text, September 1989: 46–63. . For a helpful study of Picabia’s, Man Ray’s, and Duchamp’s friendships, collaborative endeavors, and experiments with art as an expression of the mind, see Jennifer Mundy, “The Art of Friendship,” in Mundy, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, 9–57. . See the analysis by Mileaf and Witkovsky in their “Paris,” 361–64. . This formulation evokes and relies on Guy Debord’s seminal account in The Society of the Spectacle (Detroit: Black and Red, 1983), chap. 1, section 4. . For Picabia’s description of the ballet program and the film, see his “Programme de Relâche,” La Danse, November 1924; reprinted in Francis Picabia, Écrits (Paris: Belfond, 1978), 2: 167. . Mimi White, “Two French Dada Films: Entr’acte and Emak Bakia,” Dada/Surrealism, no. 13 (1984): 37–47. . See references to program notes in “Avertisement” in 391, no. 19 (October 1924): 4. . Noël Carroll interprets this game sequence as a commentary on Paris; see Carroll, “Entr’acte, Paris, and Dada,” Millennium Film Journal 1, no. 1 (1977): 9. . Baker considers the second part of the film, which explicitly thematizes movement, to be an exploration of motion in its own right; see Baker, The Artwork Caught by the Tail, 319–20. . See Foster, “Man Ray,” 193. . See “Flying Fish” (November 24, 1924), which is a pun on Breton’s “Soluble Fish,” in Picabia, Écrits, 2: 161. . Camfield, Francis Picabia, 211.


/ Notes to Chapter 2

. Picabia denounced Breton’s misappropriation of Dada, saying that Breton, unlike Picasso, was unable to “transpose,” “digest,” and “assimilate” past artistic traditions, thus transforming their meaning and import; see his “L’Art moderne,” in Picabia, Écrits, 2: 148. . Steven Kovács, From Enchantment to Rage: The Story of Surrealist Cinema (London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1980), 88. . René Clair, “Picabia, Satie, and the First Night of Entr’acte,” in “À Nous la Liberté” and “Entr’acte”: Films by René Clair (New York: Classic Film Scripts/Simon and Schuster, 1970), 110. . Picabia, “Programme de Relâche,” 2: 167. . Based on Elsaesser’s analysis, Baker argues that cinema served to conceptualize the artwork as event rather than as object and also to introduce new symbolic possibilities through its logic of assemblage; see Baker, The Artwork Caught by the Tail, 292. . Elsaesser noted that the screening conditions of the film in the context of the larger performance that invited audience participation rendered the film Dada; see Elsaesser, “Dada/Cinema?” 19–20. . Mundy contended that in 1918 Picabia had already experimented with the idea of a female alter ego called “Udnie,” who signed a preface to a poetry anthology in 1919. Moreover, she also noted that Picabia was photographed at balls in fancy dress; see her “The Art of Friendship,” 31–32. . Buchloh argued that parody implies complicity and thus the possibility of reconciliation with dominant ideology; see Buchloh, “Parody and Appropriation in Picabia, Pop, and Sigmar Polke,” in Neo-Avantgarde and the Culture Industry, 350–53. . J. L. Croze, “Entr’acte,” Comoedia (Paris), December 5, 1924: 4. . See Claude Beylie, “Entr’acte: Le Film sans maître,” Cinéma, February 1969, 116. . For a detailed description of these two versions, see Barthélemy Amengual, “Entr’acte et ses mystères,” L’Avant-scène: Cinéma 281 (February 1982): 20. . Quoted in Camfield, Francis Picabia, 211. . Picabia warned his fellow artists that Breton was not playing for the sake of the game but was trying, by furthering his own reputation, to ensure he would always win; see Picabia, “Poissons volants,” in Écrits, 2: 161. . Man Ray, “Is Photography an Art?” interview by Jean Galotti, reprinted in Arturo Schwarz, Man Ray: The Rigour of Imagination (New York: Rizzoli, 1977), 228. . Man Ray, Self-Portrait (Boston: Little Brown, 1988), 221. . Man Ray, “Tous les films que j’ai réalisés . . . ,” in “Surréalisme et cinéma,” ed. Yves Kovacs, special issue, Etudes cinématographiques 38–39 (1965): 45. . Gianni Rondolino, L’occhio tagliato (Turin: Martano, 1972), 277. . Man Ray’s comments as reported by Jean Galotti in “La Photographie, est-elle un art?” (1928), L’Art vivant, no. 103 (April 1929): 282–83. . Man Ray’s comments in his letter to Ferdinand Howard (April 5, 1922), quoted in Francis. M. Naumann, Conversion to Modernism: The Early Works

Notes to Chapter 2

/ 249

of Man Ray (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 215; also quoted in Mundy, “The Art of Friendship,” 38. . For a discussion of Man Ray’s photographic experiments and their relation to painting, see Dawn Ades, “Camera Creation,” in Mundy, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, 91–92 and 99–111. . Barbara Rose argues that Man Ray considered films as “moving pictures” and thus an alternative to painting, a position that would circumscribe his cinematic engagement; see Rose, “Kinetic Solutions to Pictorial Problems: The Films of Man Ray and Moholy-Nagy,” Artforum 10, no. 1 (September 1971): 69–73. My analysis focuses on Man Ray’s redefinition of cinema as a function of his critiques of visual consumption and activation of notions of spectatorship. . Inez Hedges suggested that this sequence is a figure for Man Ray’s photographic project, accentuating the idea of celluloid as skin (péllicule in French); see Hedges, “Constellated Visions: Robert Desnos and Man Ray’s L’Étoile de mer,” Dada/Surrealism, no. 15 (1986): 99. . Barbara Rose suggested that the title Emak Bakia may be a pun combining references to Ballet mécanique and Anemic Cinema; see her “Kinetic Solutions to Pictorial Problems,” 70. . For an analysis of the look as cinematic signifier, see Pascal Bonitzer, “It’s Only a Movie,” Framework 14 (1981): 14–23. . See Kovács’s interpretation of the opening eyes as an awakening to desire in his From Enchantment to Rage, 130. . Cf. Standish Lawder’s comments on the glancing eyes as a “metaphor of vision” in “Ballet mécanique,” in The Cubist Cinema (New York: New York University Press, 1975), 147. . Fernand Léger, “Ballet mécanique,” in Functions of Painting, trans. Alexandra Anderson, ed. and introd. Edward F. Fry (New York: Viking Press, 1973), 49. . Man Ray’s gesture evokes an incident in 1922 when he had photographed Henri Matisse by taping his eyeglasses in front of the camera to substitute for a missing lens; see his Self-Portrait, 171. . Man Ray, Self-Portrait, 273. . Cf. Rudolf E. Kuenzli’s comments in “Introduction,” Dada/Surrealism, no. 15 (1986): 7–10. . For a comprehensive study of the Impressionist avant-garde and the question of photogénie, see David Bordwell, French Impressionist Cinema: Film Culture, Film Theory, and Film Style (New York: Arno Press, 1980), 98–128. Also see Gianni Rondolino’s assessment of the relation between Surrealism and Symbolism in L’occhio tagliato, 285. . P. Adams Sitney’s analysis has drawn attention to Man Ray’s intertitles in relation to visual elements, focusing on their psychoanalytical implications; see Sitney, Modernist Montage: The Obscurity of Vision in Cinema and Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990), 26–33. . See “Robert Desnos’s and Man Ray’s Scenario for L’Étoile de mer,” trans. Inez Hedges, Dada/Surrealism, no. 15 (1986): 209–15.


/ Notes to Chapter 2

. Sitney also remarked on this pun, which he interprets as “fusing the optical and verbal aspects of the film”; Modernist Montage, 31. . Hedges argues that the evocation of female nudity in what appears to be the context of an erotic encounter is frustrated, since this projection of eroticism cannot be sustained given the lack of psychological interest that this couple manifests in each other; see Hedges, “Constellated Visions,” 102. . For instance, Sitney elaborates the image of the woman’s thighs coupled with the teeth as an allusion to the vagina dentata; see his Modernist Montage, 29. . These intertitles did not appear in Desnos’s manuscript, which bore annotations by Man Ray, but seem to have been added later; see “Robert Desnos’s and Man Ray’s Scenario for L’Étoile de mer,” 209–15. . Kovács, From Enchantment to Rage, 141. . Kuenzli, “Introduction,” 10. . Elsaesser, “Dada/Cinema?” 25. . See Duchamp’s comments in the interview by Roberts, “I Propose to Strain the Laws of Physics,” 46. . For an analysis of Duchamp’s optical machines and images as an erotic theater and its psychoanalytic implications, see Krauss, The Optical Unconscious, 128–42. . For a general study of Duchamp’s experiments with optics, see Clair, “Duchamp et la tradition des perspecteurs,” 124–59; and also Adcock’s remarks in Marcel Duchamp’s Notes from the Large Glass, 130–36. . Film critics have generally regarded Anemic Cinema as an early instance of abstract film representing a series of verbal puns. See David Curtis, Experimental Cinema (New York: Universe Books, 1971); Jean Mitry, Le Cinéma experimental: Histoire et perspectives (Paris: Seghers, 1974); and Malcom Le Grice, Abstract Film and Beyond (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1977). . The word “pun” is derived from the Italian puntiglio, “a small point or quibble”; a pun is a play on words that are similar in sound but different in meaning. . Jean Clair, “Opticeries,” in special issue on photography, October 5 (Summer 1978): 111. . My analysis here is quite different from my initial approach to this film, which, in an early essay, was more psychoanalytic: “Anemic Vision in Duchamp: Cinema as Readymade,” Dada/Surrealism, no. 15 (1986): 46–57. My current focus is on Duchamp’s attempts to challenge the commodification of cinema through the elaboration of conceptual interventions that free it to engage with questions regarding the nature of art. . Annette Michelson, “Anémic Cinéma: Reflections on an Emblematic Work,” Artforum 12, no. 2 (October 1973): 65. . Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 709. . Cf. Sitney’s claim that the anemia Duchamp ascribes to cinema is symptomatic of its dependence on the figurative meaning derived from the interplay of the optical and the verbal: “The culminating reflex of the viewer’s mind reads the figurative meaning of one part into the other”; see his Modernist Montage, 25. However, this analysis will show that the film

Notes to Chapter 2

/ 251

questions the pretensions to reference and meaning endemic to both the visual and the verbal domains. . Clair, “Opticeries,” 111. . Toby Mussman, “Marcel Duchamp’s Anemic Cinema,” in The New American Cinema: A Critical Anthology, ed. Gregory Battcock (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1967), 153. . Jean-Hubert Martin noted Picabia’s use of screwlike forms in his early mechanistic paintings; see Martin, “Funny Guys,” in Mundy, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, 123. Thus, Duchamp’s use of this device in Anemic Cinema may signal yet another instance of appropriation and interface between cinema and painting. . Toby Mussman interprets the film as the metaphorization of female sexuality in “Anemic Cinema,” Art and Artists, no. 4 (July 1966): 50–51. . For an analysis of the rotoreliefs and their optical and psychological effects, see Krauss, The Optical Unconscious, 96–103. . See Schwarz’s discussion in The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 800. . Hopkins interpreted “Dust Breeding” as a figure for male mourning (based on the image’s resemblance to reconnaissance photography) and male procreation; see Hopkins, “Male Poetics,” 87. . Jean-Hubert Martin noted Duchamp’s love for humor, a love he shared with Picabia and Man Ray; “Funny Guys,” 117–22. . “Marcel Duchamp,” in The Artist’s Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists, interviews by Katharine Kuh (New York: Harper and Row, 1962), 83. . Ibid., 88–89. Duchamp’s approach to puns reflected an understanding of language as producer rather than bearer of meaning, and hence incapable of being limited to its communicative function. . Reproduced in 391 (July 1924), as quoted by Elmer Peterson in Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 106. . As Arturo Schwarz pointed out, Duchamp’s making of the readymade cannot be reduced to his choice and signature of an ordinary object, since it entails many other operations that involve decontextualizing, titling, and delimiting the frequency of the act as a “rendez-vous” between the artist and the object; see Schwarz, “The Philosophy of the Readymade and Its Editions,” in Mundy, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, 126. Based on a critique of the commodity, my reading tries to shift attention away from the readymade as an object and toward its dynamic function as a mechanical/conceptual device created to interrogate the meaning of art. . Spelled out phonetically in French, “r” is pronounced like “er” or “air,” and in English as “are,” which sounds like the French word for art, thereby conflating Duchamp’s concerns with air and art. . Katrina Martin, “Marcel Duchamp’s Anémic-Cinéma,” Studio International 189, no. 973 (January–February 1975): 53–60. . In a letter from Duchamp to Michel Sanouillet (1958); see Marcel Duchamp, Duchamp du signe, ed. Michel Sanouillet with Elmer Petersen (Paris: Champs/Flammarion, 1994), 161.


/ Notes to Chapter 3

. See Roman Jakobson, “Shifters, Verbal Categories, and the Russian Verb,” in Selected Writings, vol. 2, Word and Language (The Hague: Mouton, 1971), 132; and Emile Benveniste, “La Nature des pronoms,” in Problèmes de linguistique générale (Paris: Gallimard, 1966). Also see Rosalind Krauss’s analysis of Duchamp’s use of shifters in Tu m’, in Krauss, “Notes on the Index: Part I,” 197–200. . This allusion to “aspirate” is figured on the disk through the use of aspirant “h”-sounds in the French words (habite and l’habite). . Jones, Postmodernism and the En-gendering of Marcel Duchamp, 160. . The difference between the copyright and the artist’s signature is that the former, like a patent, is only valid for a certain time, whereas the artist’s signature is supposedly valid for all time. . Rrose’s ostensible thumbprint may be a comment on the filmmaking process, since the lack of an appropriate machine and other mechanical failures led Duchamp to painstaking work on the film: “A return to the hand, so to speak” (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 68).

3. Endgame Strategies . For a rapid overview of Duchamp’s artistic career, see Joseph Masheck, “Chance Is zee Fool’s Name for Fait,” in Marcel Duchamp in Perspective, ed. Joseph Masheck (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1975), 1–24. . Ibid., 19. . Paz, Marcel Duchamp, 103. . This work was accomplished with both the complicity and the occasional help of his wife, Alexina Sattler, who kept up pretenses that not much was going on at all, while helping gather some of the materials for the installation. . Hubert Damisch, “The Duchamp Defense,” trans. Rosalind Krauss, October 10 (Fall 1979): 8. . Larry List develops the analogy of chess and art, but he does not take into account the seminal role played by chance in redefining the nature and meaning of art in Duchamp’s works; see List, “Chess as Art,” in Mundy, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, 132. . Jean Huizinga was first to suggest play as the common denominator of art, poetry, law, and war in Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (Boston: Beacon Press, 1955). . For a detailed discussion of Duchamp’s interest and professional development in chess, see Arturo Schwarz’s comprehensive account “Precision Play,” 63–78; also see Frank R. Brady, “Duchamp, Art, and Chess,” in Chess Life, no. 6 (June 1961): 168–69. . Marcel Duchamp and Vitaly Halberstadt, L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont réconciliées (Brussels: L’Échiquier, 1932); henceforth cited in text as Opposition and Sister Squares. For an analysis of Duchamp’s chess treatise, see Francis M. Naumann, “Marcel Duchamp: A Reconciliation of Opposites,” Dada/Surrealism, no. 16 (1987): 33–36. This issue of Dada/Surrealism was

Notes to Chapter 3

/ 253

entitled “Duchamp Centennial” and was edited by Rudolf E. Kuenzli; it was later reprinted as Marcel Duchamp: Artist of the Century, ed. Rudolf E. Kuenzli and Francis M. Naumann (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989). . I am relying here on David A. Ross’s definition in his preface to Endgame: Reference and Simulation in Recent Painting and Sculpture, ed. David A. Ross (Cambridge: Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, and M.I.T. Press, 1986), 7. Ross considers Duchamp a precursor of postmodernism who dissimulated his aesthetic strategy within the role of the chess master, thereby creating vital links between the struggle of late modernism and the chess ethos. . The Box of 1932 bears the label of a French department store in Paris called Old England. Duchamp’s use of this department store label to mark the compilation and storage of his manuscripts, notes, and ideas related to the development of chess strategy may not be incidental: it serves to remind the viewer of the power of commercialization and commodification to swallow up everything in their path. . This rapid survey of Duchamp’s chess activities is based on Arturo Schwarz’s biographical and analytical study in The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 63–74. Also see Alexander Cockburn’s account in Idle Passion: Chess and the Dance of Death (New York: Village Voice/Simon and Schuster, 1974), 182–96. . Cockburn pointed out that “modern art, nominally antibourgeois, was the object of bourgeois desires and was appropriated by the rich. Chess, on the other hand, while nominally bourgeois as a pastime, could not be appropriated by the bourgeois”; see Cockburn, Idle Passion, 193. . See Duchamp’s interview with Truman Capote in Richard Avedon, Observations, with comments by Truman Capote (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1959), 55. . Brady, “Duchamp, Art, and Chess,” 168. . Duchamp, interview by Roberts, “I Propose to Strain the Laws of Physics,” 63. . Ibid. . Sweeney, “Regions Which Are Not Ruled by Time and Space . . . ,” in Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 136. For an analysis of Duchamp’s reconfiguring of notions of organism into mechanism and their crossover into chess, see Gary Banham’s insightful study “Duchamp’s ‘Mechanistic Sculptures’: Art, Nudes, and the Game of Chess,” Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities 4, no. 3 (1999): 181–90. . Damisch points out that chess is what painting ought to be—that is, a mental thing; see Damisch, “The Duchamp Defense,” 10. . Quoted by Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 68. . Duchamp, interview by Roberts, “I Propose to Strain the Law of Physics,” 63. . Duchamp, “The Great Trouble with Art in This Country,” interview by Sweeney; reprinted in Writings of Marcel Duchamp, 125–26. . D’Harnoncourt and McShine, Marcel Duchamp, 302. . Ernst Strouhal, “A Game within the Game: L’Opposition et les cases


/ Notes to Chapter 3

conjuguées sont réconciliées par M. Duchamp and V. Halberstadt,” in “Marcel Duchamp and Salvador Dalí,” special issue, Étant donné, Marcel Duchamp, no. 5 (2003): 157. . See Pierre de Massot’s description, “Lu le soir,” Orbes (Paris) 2, no. 2 (Summer 1933): 15–16. Joselit describes this operation as a symptom of Duchamp’s efforts to distinguish between the “appearance and the apparition”; see his Infinite Regress, 236. . Naumann also drew attention to this feature by noting that the letters are presented as “seen from a raking angle, showing the letters fading off into perspective space” and that this allusion is reinforced by their reproduction on a strip of paper that wraps around the book; Francis M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (New York: Abrams, 1999), 111. . Duchamp’s gesture also implies an analogy between painting and chess, given the resemblance of the checkerboard to the grid of Albertian perspective and the chessboard. For an analysis of the chessboard and Renaissance perspective, see Jean Clair, “L’Échiquier, les modernes et la quatrième dimension,” Revue de l’art, no. 3 (1978): 59–62. . Joselit points to these mirror effects, noting the existence of the book’s two spines, one binding the pages and a virtual spine that binds the title and its authors; see Infinite Regress, 235. . Letter to Katherine S. Dreier, December 18, 1930, in Affectionately, Marcel, 172. . It is interesting to note that whereas in his artworks Duchamp relied on language, on the poetic play of puns, in order to disrupt the hegemony of vision and the spectator’s look, in the chess book he adopted an opposing strategy, relying on extensive visual diagrams in order to supposedly shed light on the chess terminology and reveal relationships hidden to the naked eye. . François Le Lionnais, interview by Ralph Rumney, in “Marcel Duchamp as a Chess Player and One or Two Related Matters,” in Duchamp: Passim: A Marcel Duchamp Anthology, ed. Anthony Hill (London: Gordon and Breach Arts International, 1994), 128. . David Hooper and Kenneth Whyld noted that zugzwangs occur only in endgames and that they are finite, occurring most frequently in pawn endings, but occasionally in knight endings and even more rarely in endgames with line pieces; see their The Oxford Companion to Chess (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 386–87. . Joselit also emphasizes the mirrorlike overlap and parallelism of these moves without referring explicitly to zugzwang: “ ‘opposition’ and ‘sister squares’ . . . refer to two related types of impasse at the end of a chess match, where the ‘principal domains’ of possible safe moves for each king mirror one another, locking them in a fruitless symmetry of parallel maneuvers”; see his Infinite Regress, 174. . Pierre de Massot contended that Duchamp and Halbertstadt’s discovery consists of their identification of this synchronicity based on heterodox opposition as the basis of their system; see his “Lu le soir,” 15–16.

Notes to Chapter 3

/ 255

. Le Lionnais, interview by Rumney, 128. . The mechanism that establishes equilibrium transforms the opposition between the kings into disinterested play (since only a draw can be achieved), thereby establishing an analogy between endgame chess strategies and the readymades. . For a discussion of hypermodern chess school as opposed to the classical, see Hooper and Whyld, The Oxford Companion to Chess, 300–301. It is interesting to note that the succession of chess styles or schools resembles developments in pictorial style and movements. . Francis Naumann commented, “These two systems [opposition and sister squares] are, as Duchamp points out, simply different ways of looking at the same thing”; see Naumann’s comments in the discussion session, in The Definitely Unfinished Marcel Duchamp, ed. Thierry de Duve (Halifax: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; Cambridge: MIT Press, 1991), 78. . Naumann interprets “reconciliation” in terms of the Hegelian dialectical triad, that is, the ideas of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, in “Marcel Duchamp: A Reconciliation of Opposites,” 31. However, Duchamp’s use of “reconciliation” does not lead to the overcoming or sublation of the opposition of thesis and antithesis in synthesis. . Duchamp’s reference to accounting is not surprising, given his artistic experiments with various financial species such as checks, bonds, and the like. Moreover, it is important to keep in mind attempts at “reconciliation” made by Duchamp’s father (who was a notary), since he kept accounts on the financial allotments to his children during his lifetime, which were scrupulously deducted from their future inheritances (Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 33). . Duchamp, interview by Roberts, “I Propose to Strain the Laws of Physics,” 62. . Erich Köhler, Der literarische Zufall, das Mögliche und die Notwendigkeit (Munich: W. Fink, 1973), 81; quoted in Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, 64. . Duchamp, interview by Roberts, “I Propose to Strain the Laws of Physics,” 62. . Ibid., 47. . Duchamp exhibited 2 Ready Mades at the Modern Art after Cézanne exhibition at the Bourgeois Gallery in New York, April 3–29, 1916, cat. no. 50, without identifying them as individual works. . Unpublished interview with Harriet Janis (1953), quoted in D’Harnoncourt and McShine, Marcel Duchamp, 283–84. . Duchamp, interview by Roberts, “I Propose to Strain the Laws of Physics,” 63. . Ibid., 62–63. . Derek Attridge, The Singularity of Literature (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 26. . Ibid. . Kuh, “Marcel Duchamp,” 81. . Duchamp, interview by Roberts, “I Propose to Strain the Laws of Physics,” 47.


/ Notes to Chapter 3

. Pierre Macherey, “Improvisation, Structure, and Necessity,” in A Theory of Literary Production, trans. Geoffrey Wall (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 47. . See Machery, “Creation and Production,” in A Theory of Literary Production, 77. . Masheck, “Chance Is zee Fool’s Name for Fait,” 11. . Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production, trans. and introd. Randal Johnson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1993), 108. His argument challenges Clement Greenberg’s contention that the avant-garde’s search for novelty undermines the notion of tradition; see Greenberg, “Counter Avant-Garde,” in Marcel Duchamp in Perspective, 122–24. . Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production, 61. . Ibid., 60–61. . Letter to Jean Crotti, August 17, 1952, in Camfield and Martin, Tabu Dada, 8. . Duchamp, interview by Roberts, “I Propose to Strain the Laws of Physics,” 62. . The rareness of such quotation in Duchamp’s writings marks the importance of Eliot’s essay; see T. S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” in Selected Essays, 1917–1932 (London: Faber and Faber, 1932). . Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author,” in Image, Music, Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 148. . See Lauri G. Nelson’s informative account of Duchamp’s presentation and its reception in “ ‘This Kind of Circus, All in Cordiality’: Marcel Duchamp’s Speech ‘The Creative Act’ ” (M.A. thesis, Rice University, 1994, under the direction of William Camfield), 6–24. . Larry List suggests that the use of pins may be a punning allusion to “pinning” and “skewering”—that is, to chess tactics for immobilizing the opponent’s pieces; see List, “The Imagery of Chess Revisited,” in The Imagery of Chess Revisited, ed. Larry List (New York: Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum and George Braziller, 2005), 23. . List interprets the addition of the rubber glove as a final gesture in the transmutation of this object into a “useless” work of art; see his “The Imagery of Chess Revisited,” 24. . Buchloh mentions Jasper John’s Target (1960) as an instance of Duchamp’s claim regarding the completion of the work of art in the act of reception, thereby questioning through collaboration and partiality the totalizing myth of artistic production; see Buchloh, Neo-Avantgarde and the Culture Industry, 564–66. . See Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 778; and Naumann, Marcel Duchamp, 272. . As Damisch observes: “In each successive state, the same laws that regulate these permissible transformations produce a finite group of possible choices, a move, as defined by game theory, being only the totality of legitimate transformations among which the choice determining the next state occurs”; see his “The Duchamp Defense,” 12.

Notes to Chapter 4

/ 257

. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” 40. For an analysis of Duchamp and T. S. Eliot, see Eric Cameron, “Given,” in de Duve, The Definitely Unfinished Marcel Duchamp, 1–8 and 24–26. . Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” 38. . Quoted in Hershel B. Chipp, ed., Theories of Modern Art (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968), 287. . See Naumann’s presentation of the circumstances surrounding this work in Marcel Duchamp, 272–73. . List briefly touches on the importance of interaction in chess; see his “Chess as Art,” 133. . Philip E. Lewis pointed out that games of strategy require that the player assume a role, conceived and acted out in regard to other players; see Lewis, “La Rochefoucauld: The Rationality of Play,” Yale French Studies, no. 41 (1968): 133–47; reprinted in Game, Play, Literature, ed. Jacques Ehrmann (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971). . Roger Caillois suggested the possibility of combining these two contradictory forms of gaming: agon (competition) and alea (chance); see Caillois, Les Jeux et les hommes (Paris: Gallimard, 1958), 179–83. Damisch contended that Duchamp wanted to blur the distinction between these two types of games, one based on a calculation of probabilities and the other on a calculation of strategy; see his “The Duchamp Defense,” 19. . Moira Roth and William Roth, “John Cage on Marcel Duchamp: An Interview,” in Masheck, Marcel Duchamp in Perspective, 154.

4. Pointing Fingers . This chess set was cast in 1971 in a set that includes thirty-two pieces in silver and vermeil executed by F. J. Cooper Jewelers in Philadelphia. Following the production of several sets, the American Chess Foundation later sold the rights for mass manufacture of the chess set in plastic. The rights were eventually reacquired by the owner of the Barclay Gallery, who wanted to go back to Dalí’s original prototypes by reproducing them in valuable metals. But this idea was not realized, thus leaving only the original five or six chessboards in existence. For a preliminary study of this work and the Dalí–Duchamp relations, see my “La Mise en échecs de la deixis: Dalí rend hommage à Duchamp,” Revue des sciences humaines 262 (April–June 2001): 59–88. . See chapter 3 for a detailed analysis of this work. At the exhibition’s opening, Duchamp and Dalí played chess. . Commenting on Duchamp’s friendship with Dalí, John Cage observed that Duchamp admired Dalí’s paintings and “took a listening attitude” in his presence: “It almost appeared as if a younger man were visiting an old man, whereas the case was the other way around”; Roth and Roth, “John Cage on Marcel Duchamp,” 161. . For a chronology of their meetings, see Robert Radford, “ ‘There Is No Art; There Are Only Artists’: Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp, Modernism and Individualism,” Étant donné, Marcel Duchamp, no. 5 (2003): 56–65. For


/ Notes to Chapter 4

representations of Duchamp in Dalí’s works, see Pilar Parcerisas, “Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp: A Game of Chess (with Raymond Roussel, Georges Hugnet, André Breton, and Man Ray as Voyeurs),” in Dalí: Elective Affinities, ed. Pilar Parcerisas (Barcelona: Fundació Gala–Salvador Dalí, 2004): 135–75. . Dalí included The Box in the Valise in his Room of the Masterpieces, in his Theatre Museum Dalí in Figueres. For a detailed analysis of the history and meaning of this work, see my “Duchamp’s ‘Luggage Physics,’ ” 1–24. . Dalí’s obsession with hands and fingers coincides with the Surrealist interest in the Battaillan “formless” (l’informe), specifically with JacquesAndré Boiffard’s fetishistic photographs of fingers and toes in the late 1920s. For a definition of this term, see www.radicalart.info/informe. For an analysis of Boiffard’s photography in the Surrealist context, see Rosalind Krauss, “Corpus Delicti,” in L’Amour fou: Photography and Surrealism, ed. Rosalind Krauss and Jane Livingston (New York: Abbeville Press, 1986), 64–65. Also see Dawn Ades’s discussion, “Photography and the Surrealist Text,” in Krauss and Livingston, L’Amour fou, 165. . Quoted in Karin von Maur, Salvador Dalí: 1904–1989 (Stuttgart: Gerd Hatje, 1989), 387. The translation from German is by Stephanie Harries. . Salvador Dalí, “The Liberation of the Fingers” [“. . . L’Alliberament des dits . . .”], L’amic de les arts (Sitges, Spain) 31, no. 31 (March 1929): 6–7. For an analysis of Dalí’s critique of art and its relation to Surrealism during this period, see Fèlix Fanés, Salvador Dalí: The Construction of the Image, 1925–1930 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 79–95. . Dalí’s anxiety in regard to his isolated thumb that appears cut off from the rest of the hand captures the sense of disproportion and découpage that Georges Didi-Huberman isolated as features of the Bataillan formless; see Didi-Huberman, La Ressemblance informe: Ou le gai savoir visuel selon Georges Bataille (Paris: Éditions Macula, 1995), 56 and 67–74. . Stuart Liebman suggested that Dalí’s reference to teeth (dents) may be a pun on Jan Vermeer’s The Lacemaker [La Dentelière]; see Liebman, “Un Chien andalou: The Talking Cure,” Dada/Surrealism, no. 15 (1986): 153. Dalí described Antoni Gaudi’s church Sagrada Familia as a “giant rotten tooth”; see Dalí, The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dalí (New York: William Morrow, 1976), 147; henceforth cited in text as Unspeakable Confessions. Given Dalí’s admiration both for Vermeer and Gaudi, the association of the tooth with a crown is not surprising. . But this pointing finger may also be interpreted in vulgar terms, as a gesture of defiance or provocation. For a discussion of Duchamp’s and Dalí’s shared enjoyment of puns and scatological references, see Howard, “Duchamp, Dalí, Tzara, and Dadaist Coprophilia,” 27–35. . James Thrall Soby, Salvador Dalí (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1968), 9–10. Karin von Maur noted that overall, too little consideration has been given to the importance of photography in Dalí’s work prior to the 1970s; see Maur, “Dalí, from Eros to Cosmos: Dalí’s Paintings in the Context of His Ideas,” in Parcerisas, Dalí, 61.

Notes to Chapter 4

/ 259

. Dalí elaborated this idea as follows: “My painting—in the formula I have engraved once and for all—is the hand and color photography of the latent, superfine, extravagant, hyperaesthetic images of concrete irrationality” (Unspeakable Confessions, 238). Dawn Ades remarked that Dalí’s appreciation of photography was prompted not by Surrealism but by Bauhaus publications such as Moholy-Nagy’s Painting, Photography, Film; see Ades, “Morphologies of Desire,” in Salvador Dalí: The Early Years, ed. Michael Raeburn (London: Thames and Hudson, 1994), 142. . Dalí in fact relied on photographic documents to produce his works: “I almost always use photographic documents. It’s traditional. Praxiteles made direct casts of legs, arms, and anything that he was going to reproduce. For someone who draws as I do, a photograph is an extremely useful element”; quoted in Alain Bosquet, Conversations with Dalí, trans. Joachim Neugroschel (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1969); henceforth cited in text as Conversations with Dalí. . Salvador Dalí, “Photography, Pure Creation of the Mind” (1927), reprinted and translated in Raeburn, Salvador Dalí, 216. . Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, trans. Richard Howard (London: Vintage Books, 1993), 5; henceforth cited in text as Camera Lucida. . From “Photographic Fact,” quoted by Ades in “Morphologies of Desire,” 54. . Barthes has noted that “the photograph always carries its referent with itself. . . . In short the referent adheres” (Camera Lucida, 5–6), but this adherence of the referent for Dalí may appear as surprising or even magical insofar as it points at something not immediately visible. . Krauss, “Notes on the Index: Part 1,” 203. . Dawn Ades linked Dalí’s interest in film and photography with a new pictorial manner evidenced in his paintings starting in 1927. She noted that these works seek to achieve in paint effects associated with the camera and such photographic techniques as superimposition, montage, fades, and dissolves, as well as “the objective mystery of the close-up or x-ray”; see her “Morphologies of Desire,” 142. . Benday is a mechanical process for producing shaded backgrounds for printing and lithographs using fields of dots. . Dalí recounts that in May 1955, while attempting to copy Vermeer’s The Lacemaker, he discovered the affinity between this work and the rhinoceros horn, a theme that he will continue to explore in his works (Unspeakable Confessions, 231–33). . Salvador Dalí, Diary of a Genius, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Doubleday, 1965), 127. . Salvador Dalí: Rétrospective, 1920–1980 (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, 1980), 202. Dalí was referring to Vermeer’s painting Woman with a Pearl Necklace (1664–1665), which he described as “the most authentically spectral painting that was ever painted,” 202; henceforth cited in text as Salvador Dalí: Rétrospective. All translations are by Jenny Davis.


/ Notes to Chapter 4

. Dalí’s interest in the spectral can be seen in the titles of such works as Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used as a Table (1934) and The Specter and the Phantom (1934) and in his writings, such as “The New Colors of Spectral Sex Appeal” (1934) and “Aerodynamic Apparitions of ‘Being-Objects’ ” (1934). For an analysis of the psychoanalytic and sexual connotations of the specter or phantom, see Haïm Finkelstein, Salvador Dalí’s Art and Writing, 1927–1942 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 152–59. . Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 31–32. . Dalí noted Vermeer’s use of an “optical mirror” (Unspeakable Confessions, 255) to generate his images. It is unclear, however, whether he was aware of Vermeer’s use of the camera obscura. . Dalí approached Buñuel in 1959, seeking reconciliation in order to procure from him the sequence in the film where The Lacemaker appears. Dalí wanted to show that certain symbols were a constant in his work; see Agustin Sanchez Vidal, “Andalousian Beasts,” in Raeburn, Salvador Dalí, 204. . “Film-art, fil antiartistique,” La gaceta literaria (December 15, 1927), reprinted in Salvador Dalí: Rétrospective, 63. . As Finkelstein has noted, it may be impossible to sort out Dalí’s and Louis Buñuel’s specific contributions to this film, except to note that their collaboration “reaches its apogee in the period of writing the script”; see Finkelstein, “Dalí and Un Chien andalou: The Nature of a Collaboration,” in Dada/Surrealism, no. 15 (1986): 128. He connects Dalí’s use of hands and fingers in his paintings to his figural contributions to this film; ibid., 138–40. . Later, the young man’s hand covered with ants reappears again, painfully cut off in a door held closed by the young woman. Kovács interprets this iconic figure in terms of its emphasis on the tactile and as a punning stand-in for “itching desire”; Kovács, From Enchantment to Rage, 208. . Radford observed that Dalí’s use of patinated bronze made to look like plaster was an attempt to surprise the spectator with the weight of the piece as Duchamp had done in Why Not Sneeze Rrose Sélavy? (1921); Radford, “ ‘There Is No Art; There Are Only Artists,’ ” 58. . For Dalí’s comments on Duchamp’s Mona Lisa’s mustache, see Diary of a Genius, 144. . Robert Descharnes, Salvador Dalí: The Work, the Man, trans. Eleanor R. Morse (New York: Abrams, 1976), 199. . See Suzanne Ramljak’s comprehensive account in her “Survival of the Fittest: The Reproductive Triumph of Venus de Milo,” in A Disarming Beauty: The Venus de Milo in 20th Century Art, catalog, curated by Suzanne Ramljak (St. Petersburg, Fla.: Salvador Dalí Museum, 2001), 11–49. . The mink buttons may contain an allusion to yet another Venus, the Austrian novelist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s novel Venus in Furs (1870). . There is even a kinetic dimension to this sculptural work, as suggested by the open drawers. Thus, Dalí seems to be violating one of his own criticisms directed against Alexander Calder: “The least one can ask of a piece of sculpture is not to move”; Diary of a Genius, 144.

Notes to Chapter 4

/ 261

. James Thrall Soby noted Bracelli’s influence on Dalí’s painting Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition (1934) and his ink drawing Figure of Drawers (1937); see his Salvador Dalí, 19. . Carleton Lake, In Quest of Dalí (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1969), 25. . William Jeffett argued that Dalí’s Venus de Milo with Drawers represents the “always impossible psychic object of desire”; see Jeffett, “An Obscure Object of Desire: The Venus de Milo, Surrealism, and Beyond,” in Disarming Beauty, 67–68. . Salvador Dalí, “The Specter of Sex Appeal” (1934), in Oui 2: L’Archangélisme scientifique (Paris: Denoel/Gonthier, 1971), 36. . Descharnes, Salvador Dalí, 198 . Dalí, Oui 2, 95. For an analysis of Dalí’s paranoic-critical method and its reliance on Freud, see Naomi Schor, “Dalí’s Freud,” in Reading the Detail: Aesthetics and the Feminine (New York and London: Methuen, 1987), 101–9. . Salvador Dalí, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí (New York: Dial Press, 1942), 248n. . For an insightful analysis of the psychoanalytic and artistic implications of Dalí’s representation of hands in this work, see Claire Nouvet, “Salvador Dalí: Fleur de mort, main coupée,” Revue des sciences humaines, no. 262 (April–June 2001): 37–57. . Finkelstein observes that Dalí presents the viewer with the “two end points of the metamorphosis, one alongside the other, and demanding of the viewer as in any other form of the double image, to experience a kind of oscillatory movement between the two”; “The Metamorphosis of Narcissus and the Dialectics of Fragmentation and Wholeness,” in Finkelstein, Salvador Dalí’s Art and Writing, 232. . Mieke Bal suggested that the knee stands in for the illusion of bodily wholeness; see Bal, “The Knee of Narcissus,” in Looking In: The Art of Viewing, introd. Norman Bryson (Amsterdam: G + B Arts International, 2001), 246–49. . Carlos Rojas extensively examined representations of sexuality in Dalí’s work, especially in reference to masturbation; see Rojas, Salvador Dalí; or, The Art of Spitting on Your Mother’s Portrait, trans. Alma Amell (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993), 131–32. I am indebted to Carlos Rojas for his help in launching my research into Dalí’s relationship to Duchamp. . Leon Battista Alberti, On Painting, trans. John R. Spenser (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977), 64. . Jacques Lacan, Écrits: A Selection, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: W. W. Norton, 1977), 4; quoted in Finckelstein, Salvador Dalí’s Art and Writing, 235. . For Dalí’s poem, see Salvador Dalí: Rétrospective, 288. Also see Fiona Bradley’s remarks on Dalí’s poem in “Doubling and Dédoublement: Gala in Dalí,” Art History 17, no. 4 (December 1994): 622. . Bradley, “Doubling and Dédoublement,” 628. Whitney Chadwick also mentions Dalí’s psychological absorption of Gala as a way of bypassing


/ Notes to Chapter 4

the Freudian duality of male and female; see Chadwick, Myth in Surrealist Painting, 1929–1939 (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1979), 39. . Chadwick devotes an entire chapter to an analysis of the role of the Surrealist muse; see his “Metamorphosis of the Surrealist Muse,” in Myth in Surrealist Painting, 77–86. . Quoted in Chadwick, “Metamorphosis of the Surrealist Muse,” 82–83. . Carlos Rojas has underlined the exceptional impact of Dalí’s dead brother on his psychological and artistic development in Salvador Dalí, 5–23. . Salvador Dalí, Dalí par Dalí de Draeger (Paris: Draeger Éditeur, 1970), v. All English translations are by Jenny Davis. . For a comparison of Duchamp’s and Dalí’s procedures to move beyond retinal painting, see Dawn Ades, “Dalí’s Optical Illusions,” in Dalí’s Optical Illusions, ed. Dawn Ades (New Haven: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2000), 11–12 and 16–24; also see Pilar Parcerisas, introduction to Dalí, 33. . See Robert Motherwell’s introduction to Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 8. For the circumstances of the preface’s production, see Paul B. Franklin’s introduction to Salvador Dalí, “L’Échecs, c’est moi” [Chess, it’s me], trans. Albert Field, Étant donné, Marcel Duchamp, no. 5 (2003): 120. . Salvador Dalí, “L’Échecs, c’est moi” [Chess, it’s me], preface to Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, 14. . For an analysis of how the commercialization of culture causes the erasure of the difference between culture and practical life, see Theodor W. Adorno, “The Schema of Mass Culture,” in The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, ed. J. M. Bernstein (London and New York: Routledge, 1991), 67–86. . Duchamp’s dedication on the left reads, “For Leonard Lyons / my daily den / et affecteusement / Marcel Duchamp / 1961.” For a reproduction of this work, see Étant donné, Marcel Duchamp, no. 5 (2003): 90. . Elena Filipovic, in Étant donné, Marcel Duchamp, no. 5 (2003): 91. . Dalí, “L’Échecs, c’est moi,” 14. . See Philippe Halsman’s account in his postface to Salvador Dalí and Philippe Halsman, Dalí’s Mustache: A Photographic Interview (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1954), 121. The photograph is labeled “A paragon of beauty” (111), and the interview query preceding it is, “Dalí, what do you see when you look at the Mona Lisa?” (109). . For Breton’s comment on Dalí, see Nicolas Calas, “New York Interview with André Breton,” Arson, no. 1 (March 1942): 3–4. . According to the “Publisher’s Notes,” Halsman substituted a photograph of his hands holding coins for Dalí’s because the Treasury Department objected to the proofs due to issues of photographic forgery, and in the meantime Dalí had gone abroad; see Dalí and Halsman, Dalí’s Mustache, 126. . Dalí, “The King and Queen Traversed by Swift Nudes,” Art News 58, no. 2 (April 1959): 22–25; reprinted in Étant Donné, Marcel Duchamp, no. 5 (2003): 109. For Dalí’s discussion of the Mona Lisa, see Dalí, “Why They Attack the Mona Lisa,” Art News 62, no. 1 (March 1963): 36 and 63–64.

Notes to Chapter 5

/ 263

5. The Apparatus of Spectatorship . Okwui Enwezor considers the deretinalization of art a legacy of conceptual art building on Duchamp’s idea; see Enwezor, “The Production of Social Space as Artwork,” in Stimpson and Sholette, Collectivism after Modernism, 227. . See Paz, Marcel Duchamp, 4–60; Thierry de Duve, Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp’s Passage from Painting to the Readymade, trans. Dana Polan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), 31–44; de Duve, Kant after Duchamp (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996), 174–96 and 378–81; and also my Unpacking Duchamp, 24–26, 56–73, and 230–31. . See Martin Jay’s influential account in Downcast Eyes, and particularly his comments on Duchamp, 160–70. . Such debates include the issue of the art object and its replica in the mode of the commodity, as Arthur C. Danto discussed in The Wake of Art: Criticism, Philosophy, and the Ends of Taste, selected and with a critical introduction by Gregg Horowitz and Tom Huhn (London: Routledge, 1998), or the loss of the aesthetic through its redefinition as a social act, as Donald Kuspit claimed in The Ends of Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 21–30. . See Horowitz and Huhn’s introduction to Danto, The Wake of Art, 23–24. . For an analysis of exhibition as a system of display, see Mary Kelly, “Re-viewing Modernist Criticism,” in Art after Modernism: Rethinking Representation, ed. Brian Wallis (New York: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1984), 99–101. For questions of consumption and art audience, see Martha Rosler, “Lookers, Buyers, Dealers, and Makers: Thoughts on Audience,” in Wallis, Art after Modernism, 312–23. . See Clement Greenberg, “Counter Avant-Garde,” in Masheck, Marcel Duchamp in Perspective, 123–24. . For an analysis of postmodernism in the arts, see Jean-François Lyotard, “Answering the Question: What Is Postmodernism?” in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 79–82. . See Svetlana Alpers’s analysis of the museum as a way of seeing and mode of display in “The Museum as a Way of Seeing,” in Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. Ivan Karp and Steven D. Levine (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991), 25–32. Also see Michael Baxandall, “Exhibiting Intention: Some Preconditions of Visual Display of Culturally Purposeful Objects,” in Karp and Levine, Exhibiting Cultures, 33–41. . As Pierre Bourdieu pointed out, the consecration of art objects in the confines of the museum corresponds to both their economic and their visual “neutralization”; see his Distinction, 273. . For a more detailed account of the distinction between vision and visuality, see Hal Foster’s preface to Vision and Visuality, ed. Hal Foster for Dia


/ Notes to Chapter 5

Foundation, Discussions in Contemporary Culture, no. 2 (New York: New Press, 1988), ix. . To invoke the notion of apparatus here is to draw attention not just to the physical processes but also to the mechanisms involved in the production of vision both as perceptual and social fact; see, for example, Baudry’s “Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus,” 25–37. . De Duve, Look, 222–28. . See Jonathan Crary, “Modernizing Vision,” in Foster, Vision and Visuality, 29–32. . For the influence of Duchamp’s gestures on the development of installation art, see Nicolas de Oliveira, Nicola Oxley, and Michael Petry’s preface to Installation Art: With Texts by Michael Archer, ed. Nicolas de Oliveira, Nicola Oxley, and Michael Petry (London: Thames and Hudson, 1994), 11. Also see Julie H. Reiss, From Margin to Center: The Spaces of Installation Art (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), 6–7. . Corinne Diserens noted that Duchamp’s readymades and the Dadaist disruptions of convention were an important source of inspiration for MattaClark; see Diserens, “The Greene Street Years,” in Gordon Matta-Clark, exhibition catalog (Valencia: IVAM Centre Julio González, 1993), 359. Wilson acknowledged his interest in the works of both Matta-Clark and Duchamp; see Wilson’s interview by Lynne Cooke in Heatwave (Birmingham, Ala.: Ikon Gallery, 1986), 10; also see his interview by Steve Rushton on the World Wide Web (1994), “By Digging You Discover,” 2–3 and 5, www.bak.spc.org/everything/e/hard/text/ wilson.html; henceforth cited in text as “By Digging You Discover.” . One could also consider in this context the interventions of Marcel Broodthaers in the late 1960s, Michael Asher and Hans Haacke in the 1970s, or Daniel Buren in the 1980s, as discussed by Benjamin Buchloh in NeoAvantgarde and the Culture Industry, 65–117, 1–40, 203–42, and 119–39. . See Benjamin’s Buchloh’s seminal account in Neo-Avantgarde and the Culture Industry, 269–79, 288–93, 370–75, 493–98, and 536–37. . See Calvin Tomkins’s description of Duchamp’s involvement in finding a museum for the Arensberg Collection and the final arrangement with the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Duchamp, 371–73. . See B. Krasne, “Profile of Marcel Duchamp,” Art Digest, January 15, 1952: 24. . In 1916 Duchamp exhibited 2 Ready Mades at the Modern Art after Cézanne exhibition at the Bourgeois Gallery in New York, April 3–29, cat. no. 50, without identifying them individually. . Roger Dadoun, “Rrose Sschize: Sschize d’un portrait théorie de Marcel Duchamp en Jésus Sec Célibataire,” L’Arc, no. 59 (1974): 25. Arthur C. Danto understood that this perfect likeness between the object’s ordinary and artistic condition was crucial to redefining the meaning of art independently of visual criteria; see his “The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art,” in The Wake of Art, 74–75. . See Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” 221.

Notes to Chapter 5

/ 265

. Benjamin observed that the value of ceremonial objects is defined by their “existence, not their being on view”; ibid., 224–25. . This analysis of Sculpture for Traveling relies on my earlier discussion in Judovitz, “Duchamp’s ‘Luggage Physics,’ ” 9. . See Roché’s account as quoted in Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 747. . Brian O’Doherty noted the anomalous nature of Duchamp’s activation of the ceiling; see O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, exp. ed. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986), 67–69. In its “naturalizing” effect, the floor display brought into play allusions to Gustave Courbet’s eroticized pictorial depictions of pools as originating sources. The title served as yet another allusion to the exhibition’s erotic subtext. . It is interesting to note that on the exhibition’s opening night, the dancer Hélène Vanel performed a dance entitled “The Unconsummated Act” in and around the pool; Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 748. . Man Ray noted that the painters were upset with him because the flashlights were directed more at the viewer’s faces than at the works; see Man Ray, Self-Portrait, 233; quoted in Kachur, Displaying the Marvelous, 73. . Cf. T. J. Demos, The Exiles of Marcel Duchamp (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007), 226. For a comprehensive analysis of Duchamp’s use of threads, patterns, and other sewing motifs in his works, see W. Bowdoin Davis Jr., Duchamp: Domestic Patterns, Covers, and Threads (New York: Midmarch Art Press, 1997). . Larry List suggested that Duchamp’s use of twine embodies the principles of chess play, creating lines of connection as well as opposition and obstruction between one’s own pieces and the other player’s; List, “Chess as Art,” in Mundy, Duchamp, Man Ray, Picabia, 134. . The critics and the public, however, appeared to have taken this idea in stride, recognizing the installation as a work in its own right. See Lewis Kachur’s helpful discussion of the circumstances and reception of this work in his Displaying the Marvelous, 171–88 and 189–91. . Harriet, Sidney, and Carroll Janis, unpublished interview with Duchamp, 7–16; also quoted in Kachur, Displaying the Marvelous, 189–90. . O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube, 72. . Benjamin Buchloh examined Duchamp’s appeal to obsoleteness as a reflection on problems of cultural institutionalization and reception in his “The Museum Fictions of Marcel Broodthaers,” in Museums by Artists, ed. A. A. Bronson and Peggy Gale (Toronto: Art Metropole, 1983), 46. . Bourdieu made an important distinction between, on the one hand, the museum as a consecrated space that presents objects that are withheld from private appropriation and thus “predisposed by economic neutralization” to a neutralizing gaze, and on the other, the space of the commercial art gallery that offers objects for view in the context of a luxury emporium; see his Distinction, 273. . William Seitz, “What’s Happened to Art? An Interview with Marcel


/ Notes to Chapter 5

Duchamp on Present Consequences of New York’s 1913 Armory Show,” Vogue 141 (February 15, 1963), 130–31. . Quoted in Ecke Bonk, Marcel Duchamp: The Box in a Valise, trans. David Britt (New York: Rizzoli, 1989), 186. The text of Duchamp’s reply was cabled by Walter Hopps to Ecke Bonk in 1988. For an analysis of Duchamp’s work to Cornell’s boxes, see Walter Hopps, “Gimme Strength: Joseph Cornell and Marcel Duchamp Remembered,” in Joseph Cornell/Marcel Duchamp . . . In Resonance, introd. Anne D’Harnoncourt (Houston: Menil Collection; Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1998), 63–77. . Like Hoogstraten’s box (now in the National Gallery, London), Duchamp’s Given reproduces a compendium assemblage of pictorial traditions and conceptual strategies used to question the traditions and conventions of picturing; see my “Rendez-vous with Marcel Duchamp: Given,” Dada/Surrealism, no. 16 (1987): 187–98. . See Svetlana Alpers’s discussion of this work in the context of experiments with optical illusion in her The Art of Describing, 58–64. For a further elaboration of the analogy of vision and painting as image-making processes, see Celeste Brusati, Artifice and Illusion: The Art and Writing of Samuel Van Hoogstraten (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 169–201. . Alpers, The Art of Describing, 62. Also see Brusati’s analysis of the camera obscura as a paradigm for painting in her Artifice and Illusion, 70–71. . It is important to note that the terms of agreement of this work specify that no photographs of the interior construction or of the notebook of instruction were to be published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art for at least fifteen years. . See the facsimile reproduction in Marcel Duchamp, Manual of Instructions for “Étant Donnés” (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1987), title page. . Jean-François Lyotard emphasized the directive nature of Duchamp’s instructions for the reassemblage of Étant Donnés in Les Transformateurs Duchamp, 126–27. . For a more detailed discussion of issues of visual consumption and spectatorship in this work, see my Unpacking Duchamp, 199–208. . Roth and Roth, “John Cage on Marcel Duchamp,” 155. . Ibid. . For a more detailed account of these photographic analogies, particularly as they are referred to in related notes to The Large Glass, see Lyotard, Les Tranformateurs Duchamp, 130–33. Also see Rosalind Krauss’s elaboration in “Notes on the Index: Part 1,” 205–6. . See Masheck’s description of Given in “Chance Is zee Fool’s Name for Fait,” 23, which reflects his discomfort with what he calls the “veristic” aspects of this work. . For an extensive analysis of Duchamp’s critique of essentialist representations of sexuality, see my Unpacking Duchamp, 205–11. . My reading emphasizes the staging of look, rather than the content of the scene. For the intimations of violence, and/or love of this scene, see

Notes to Chapter 5

/ 267

Juan Antonio Ramirez, Duchamp: Love and Death, Even, trans. Alexander R. Tulloch (London: Reaktion Books, 1993), 248. . For an analysis of the nude and issues of commodification for modernity, see Joselit, Infinite Regress, 37–43. Also see Laura Mulvey’s groundbreaking analysis of the woman as image and man as bearer of the look in “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Screen 16, no. 3 (Autumn 1975): 11–18. . For an examination of the opposition of these two terms, see Lyotard, Les Transformateurs Duchamp, 130–35. . Candace Lang noted, in regard to Kierkegaard’s Socratic irony, that it “concealed no positive content,” since it presents “an incessant questioning, a perpetual remise-en-cause, a nondialectical negation of existing modes of thought”; see Lang, Irony/Humor: Critical Paradigms (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988), 3. . Quoted in Tomkins, The Bride and the Bachelors, 17. . Thomas McEvilley has attributed Duchamp’s ironic approach in continuing to question and doubt to the early Greek philosopher Pyrro of Ellis; see his insightful analysis in “Empyrichal Thinking (and Why Kant Can’t),” Artforum 27, no. 2 (October 1988): 120–27. . Elaine A. King, “Architecture/Art,” in The Architect’s Dream: Houses for the Next Millennium, by Elaine A. King and Daniel Friedman (Cincinnati, Ohio: Contemporary Arts Center, 1993), 2. However, her interpretation of Matta-Clark’s works as prototypes of postmodern architecture overlooks his radical critique of architecture in the temporalized modality of the ruin. . Cf. Yves Alain-Bois, “Threshole,” in “Formless: A User’s Guide to Entropy,” ed. Yves Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss, special issue, October, no. 78 (Fall 1996): 60–61. . Martin Heidegger, “Building Dwelling Thinking” (1951) in Basic Writings, ed. and with an introduction by David Farrell Krell (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), 337. . For an elaboration of the social in Matta-Clark’s works, particularly as regards loss of community and social memory, see my “Unpacking the House: Architectural Transformers,” Art Papers, March–April 1996, 22–25. . Jerry Hovagimyan explained that the idea for this piece came from Anthony McCall’s film Line Describing a Cone, which began with a dot of light that the throw of the projector enlarged into a cone of light; see his comments in Gordon Matta-Clark: A Retrospective, exhibition catalog (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1985), 88. . See Jean-Hubert Martin’s comments in Gordon Matta-Clark: A Retrospective, 89. . Jean Baudrillard described the destruction of the surrounding neighborhood as an attempt to create a protective zone; see Baudrillard, “The Beaubourg Effect: Implosion and Deterrence,” in Simulacra and Simulation, trans. Sheila F. Glaser (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994), 61. . For Matta-Clark’s comments, see Gordon Matta-Clark, exhibition catalog (Antwerp: Internationaal Cultureel Centrum, 1977), 12. . Matta-Clark’s intervention constitutes a bridge between the Pompidou


/ Notes to Chapter 5

Center, the rising new monument to French architecture and culture, and the nineteenth-century monumentality of the Eiffel Tower, with which it is visually aligned. . The phrase “sun and air for lodgers” recalls the reaction of a Parisian concierge to Matta-Clark’s work. See Matta-Clark, “Matta-Clark’s Building Dissections,” interview by Donald Wall, Arts Magazine, May 1976, 79. . For Matta-Clark’s comments, see his interview by Judith Russi Kirshner in Gordon Matta-Clark (Valencia: IVAM Centre Julio González, 1993), 367. . Hovagimyan, in Matta-Clark: A Retrospective, 88–89. Joan Simon described in her note the punning play of “Quel Con” (what a cunt!) with “quel con” (What a cone!) with “quel conque” (whatever; more or less) in MattaClark: A Retrospective, 89. . For an analysis of this work in reference to Leonardo’s masterpiece and the institution of the museum, see my Unpacking Duchamp, 142–48 and 169–73. . See Joshua Decter’s comments in “Gordon Matta-Clark,” Arts Magazine, February 1991, 104–5. . See Gordon Matta-Clark, exhibition catalog (Marseilles: Musées de Marseilles, 1993), 376. . Cf. Anthony Vidler’s discussion of the “modern unhomely,” documenting the incongruence between building and home, between a space intended for habitation and a place for dwelling, in his Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992), 4–16. . For an insightful analysis of the tension and possible conflation of the phenomenological and conceptual readings of Matta-Clark’s works, see Pamela M. Lee, Object to Be Destroyed: The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001), xix and 135–42. . Brian Hatton observed that Matta-Clark’s works were increasingly “aimed at museums”; see Hatton, “Anarchitect,” Art Monthly 169 (September 1993): 15. . Quoted in Matta-Clark: A Retrospective, 94. . For a detailed analysis of Office Baroque and Circus; or, The Caribbean Orange, see Pamela M. Lee’s study in Object to Be Destroyed, 220–32 and 142–60. . See Douglas Crimp’s elaboration of the mortality of the museum and the end of modernism in On the Museum’s Ruins (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), 44–64. . I am referring here to the installation at the first Saatchi Gallery located at 28 Boundary Road in North London. The relocation of this work at the Saatchi Gallery’s second site in London’s County Hall in 2003 provided a totally different viewing experience, since the lack of skylights, the play of reflections, and the sensory overload was dramatically contained. Further “reincarnations” of this work through its reinstallation in yet future spaces will invite further commentary. . For a critique of the gallery space as spatial design and setup for visual consumption, see Heidi Tikka, “The Space of the Gallery: Undoing the Place

Notes to Chapter 5

/ 269

of the Spectator,” in Haunted Spaces, ed. Eeva Kurki, working papers, F12, UIAH (Helsinki, Finland, 2000), 15–25. . Michael Archer noted that this had the effect of dematerializing space, since whether one looked up or down, “one simply looked at light”; Archer, “Review of Richard Wilson at Matt’s Gallery,” Artforum, no. 10 (Summer 1989): 158. . My discussion of Wilson’s use of depth and issues of reversibility is informed by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind,” in The Primacy of Perception, ed. James M. Edie and trans. Carleton Dallery (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1964), 178–80. . See Hans Blumemberg, “Light as a Metaphor for Truth: At the Preliminary Stage of a Philosophical Concept Formation,” in Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision, ed. David M. Levin, trans. Joel Shapiro (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993), 45. . Wilson’s allusion to sculptural techniques of casting liquid metal into dies in order to achieve solid form recalls Duchamp’s explorations of the “mould” as a mode of impression. For an analysis of the mold as cast and imprint in Duchamp, see Georges Didi-Huberman, L’Empreinte (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1997), 115–79. For Wilson’s comments on casting, see “Richard Wilson: Interview by Lynne Cooke,” in Heatwave, exhibition catalog (Birmingham: Ikon Gallery, 1986), 8. In 20:50, the casting of the oil into the mold preempts solidification, thus breaking up the sculptural analogies that it stages. . James Roberts contends that Wilson’s architectural works involve two related issues: the interplay between the way things appear and are actually built, on the one hand, and the function of architecture as creator of space, on the other; Roberts, Richard Wilson, ed. Friedrich Meschede (Berlin: DAAD, 1993). . I am referring here to the oil’s dilatory presence as both liquid and gas that for Duchamp marked the legacy of painting. For Wilson’s interest in Duchamp, particularly as regards questioning the idea of sculpture and notions of process, see Wilson’s comments to Morrissey in Michael Archer, Simon Morrissey, and Harry Stocks, Richard Wilson, ed. Iain Ross (London: Merrell, 2001), 101. . See Douglas Crimp’s analysis of the political implications of site specificity in his “Redefining Site Specificity, in On the Museum’s Ruins, 150–86. . Many of Wilson’s later works, like Matta-Clark’s, enacted this strategy of deterritorialization outside the museum; see Simon Morrissey, Richard Wilson (London: Tate Gallery Publishing, 2005), 75–81. Like Matta-Clark’s Conical Intersect, Turbine Hall Swimming Pool (2000) was a “counter-model” to the society of the spectacle and consumption embodied by the opening of the Tate Modern in the Bankside Building; see Michael Archer, “Richard Wilson,” in Archer, Morrissey, and Stocks, Richard Wilson, 19. . Thierry de Duve underlines Duchamp’s break with the spectatorial gaze as phenomenological support and founding premise of aesthetic experience by noting that “Paul Klee’s ‘visible’ is not Duchamp’s viewable”; de Duve, Kant after Duchamp, 407.


/ Notes to Concluding Remarks

Concluding Remarks . Grace Glueck, “Duchamp Opens Display Today of ‘Not Seen and/ or Less Seen,’ ” New York Times, January 14, 1965; also quoted in Naumann, Marcel Duchamp, 257. . De Duve convincingly argues for Manet’s influential use of mirrors as devices that stage the position of the beholder as that “other” to whom works of art are presented and addressed; see his Look, 123–40. . Schwarz, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp, 841. . Buchloh pointed out that the mirror’s “capacity to reduce the image to the degree zero of representation” has made it, throughout the history of Western painting, “the instrument and iconic subject of the painter’s craft and of pictorial depiction”; see his “Knight’s Moves: Situating the Art/Object,” in Neo-Avantgarde and the Culture Industry, 302. . For an analysis of the history of mirrors as optical devices, see Jurgis Baltrušaitis, Le Miroir: Essai sur une légende scientifique (Paris: Elmayan, Le Seuil, 1978), 15–39, 95–121, and 237–46. . For a groundbreaking analysis of the myth of Narcissus (and Echo), see Claire Nouvet, “An Impossible Response: The Disaster of Narcissus,” Yale French Studies 79 (1991): 103–34. . John Knight’s Mirror Series (1986) appropriates the idea of using mirrors but frames them so that they resemble corporate logotypes. According to Buchloh, these mirrors function as a reminder of the corporate reality that subtends and determines even the most private and domestic forms of interior reflection; see Buchloh, “Knight’s Moves,” 304. . See Duchamp, “The Late Show Line Up,” interview by Joan Bakewell, BBC, June 5, 1968; reproduced in Naumann, Marcel Duchamp, 306. . Ibid. . See Green, introduction to The Third Hand, ix. . Based on computer studies, Lilian Schwartz suggested that the Mona Lisa is Leonardo’s self-portrait as inverted in a mirror: see Schwartz, “Leonardo’s Mona Lisa,” Arts and Antiques, January 1987: 50–55. . Richard Meier and Renzo Piano, “Lovely Museum. Mind If I Redesign It for You?” interview by Ted Loos, New York Times, October 30, 2005, Arts and Leisure section. . De Duve, “The Readymade and the Tube of Paint,” Artforum 24 (May 1986): 121. . Ibid. . See Bürger’s discussion in Theory of the Avant-Garde, 50–54.


Page numbers in italics refer to figures. Adcock, Craig, n Ades, Dawn, n, n Adorno, Theodor,  “Aerodynamic Apparitions of ‘Being-Objects’ ” (Dalí), n aesthetics, , –, , n agency, , , , , , ; artistic, xxviii, , , ; divine, ; reassigning, ; suspension of,  Alberti, Leon Battista, ,  À l’infinitif (Duchamp),  Allégret, Marc, , , , ,  Alpers, Svetlana, , , n, n American Chess Foundation, , , , n American Federation for the Arts,  anartist, –, , , ,  anartistic reflections, –, , , ,  Andalusian Dog, An (Dalí and Buñuel), ,  anemic: cinema and, , , ,  Anemic Cinema (Duchamp), xix, , , , –, , , , , , , , , , n, n, n; disks of, , ; faucet in, ; film and, ; Man Ray and, ; optics in, ; retinal presuppositions and, ; sexual allusions in, ; signature and, ; visual consumption and,  Anthropomorphic Cabinet, The (Dalí), 

antiart, xxii, , , , , , n, n; art and, xix, , , ; critique,  antimonument, ,  Apolinère Enameled (Duchamp),  apparition, , , n appropriation, xxiv, , , , , , , , , , , , –, ; appropriations of, ; collaborative, xxix, xxx; legacy of, xxix Aragon, Louis,  Archer, Michael, n architecture, , ; art and, ; positivist ethos of,  Arensberg, Louise, n Arensberg, Walter, , , , n Arnheim, Rudolph,  art: abandonment of, , , ; assimilation of, ; challenging, , , ; commodification of, xxiii, xxvii; defining, xix, , , , , , ; destiny of, ; disillusionment with, , ; drawing on, xvi, xix, xxv, –, –; emergence of, ; foreclosure of, ; high, , ; idea of, xx, ; inspiration from, ; life and, ; logic of, ; making, , ; pleasure and, ; possibilities of, , –; redefining, xvii, xx, ; rejection of, ; rethinking, ; retinal, , , ; role of, , ; supremacy of, ; universalizing, ; visual nature of, xxvii, , , ,  artist: commodification of, ;



/ Index

creative act and, –; as creator, , ; de-deifying, ; depersonalized condition of, ; erosion of, ; as founding origin/mythic referent, ; glorification of, ; as individual, ; as interactive interval, ; as medium, , , , ; spectator and, , ; understanding of,  artistic creation, , , , , , ,  artistic origins: demystifying, – Asher, Michael, n Association for the Study of the Dada Movement,  authorship, , , , , , ; critique of, –; designating, ; fiction of, ; hegemony of, ; interpretation of, ; parody of, ; priority of, ; redefining, xxx, ; signatures and, ; signing dissemination of, –; spectatorship and, , ,  avant-garde, xvi, , , , n, n, n Averlino, Antonio di Pietro, , n Baj, Enrico, xxi, xxiv, xxv, , ; appropriation by, ; collaboration by, ; Duchamp and, –; intervention and, ; work of,  Bakewell, Joan,  Bal, Mieke, , n Ballet mécanique (Léger and Murphy), , n, n Barthes, Roland, , n; on photography, ; on punctum, ; on window frame, ; on writing,  Battista, Leon,  Battle of Austerlitz, , n

Baudrillard, Jean, n Baudry, Jean-Louis, n Beautiful Breath, Veil Water (Duchamp), , , , , ,  Benjamin, Walter, , n, n Berger, John, n, n Beylie, Charles,  Bicycle Wheel, The (Duchamp),  Bizzarie (Bracelli),  Blessing, Jennifer,  Blind Man,  Boiffard, Jacques-André, , n Borlin, Jean, ,  Bourdieu, Pierre, , , n, n Box, The (Duchamp),  Box in a Valise, The (Duchamp), , , , , n Box of , The (Duchamp), –, n Bracelli, Giovanni Battista, , n Bradley, Fiona,  Braque, Georges, xv,  Brawl at Austerlitz, The (Duchamp), , , –, , , , , , , ; double signature of, ; window/door of,  breathing, , , , ,  Breton, André, , , , , , , , , ; Congrès de Paris and, ; Dada and, , , ; Picabia and, , , n, n Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, The (Duchamp), , , , , , –, n Brisset, Jean-Pierre,  Broodthaers, Marcel, n Buchloh, Benjamin, n, n, n; dominant ideology and, n; on mirrors, n Buñuel, Luis, , n, n Buren, Daniel, n

Index Bürger, Peter, , n, n Burning Giraffe, The (Dalí),  Cabanne, Pierre, , , , , , , – Cage, John, , , n Caillois, Roger, n Caïssa, ,  Calder, Alexander, , n Calinescu, Matei, n camera, , ,  Camera Lucida (Barthes), ,  camera obscura, , , , n, n Capote, Truman, –, n Capricci (Bracelli),  Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da,  Cézanne, Paul, , n, n Chadwick, Whitney, , n, n chance, xxviii, , ; art and, ; chess and, , ; drawing on, –; logic of, ; readymades and,  Charbonnier, Georges, n, n Charchoune, Serge,  Chastel, Yvonne,  chess, , , n, n, n, n, n; adversarial/tactical character of, ; allusion to, ; art and, xxix, xxviii, , , –, –, , ; chance and, , ; Dalí and, xxix, , –, , , ; drawing on, –; Duchamp and, xxiv, xxv, , , –, , , –, , –, , , , –, –, , , , n, n, n, n, n, n; dynamics of, ; gamesmanship of, , ; honoring muse of, –; logic of, , ; manual dimension

/ 273

of, ; metaphors about, xxviii, , ; painting and, , , n, n; plastic dimension of, –, ; potential significance of, xxvi, xxvii; styles, , , n; terminology, , , n Chess Set (Dalí), , , , , , –, – Chinese Lantern (Duchamp),  Chomette, René-Lucien,  cinema, , , , , , n, –n; anemia and, , , , ; as art form, ; illusion and, , , , ; painting and, n cinematic vision, , , , , , , n cipher, , , ,  Circus; or, The Caribbean Orange (Matta-Clark),  City of Drawers, The (Dalí),  Clair, Jean, , , , n Clair, René, –, ; spectacle and, –; work of, ,  Cockburn, Alexander, n collaboration, xxiii, xxiv, xxvi, xxix, xxx, , , , n, n, n, n; Dada and, xx, , ; Duchamp and, xxvii, ; space of play and,  Collin, Philippe, , ,  commercialization, xv, xvii, xviii, xx, xxiv, , , , , , n, n commodification, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  commodity, xviii, xxvi, , , , n, n; art and, , ; artist’s image as, ; assimilation of, ; emergence of, ; operative, ; revalorization of,  communication, , , , , n; puns and, –


/ Index

conceptual considerations, xxvi, xxvii, , , n Congrès de Paris,  Conical Intersect (Matta-Clark), , , , , , , – consumerism, , ,  consumption, xxviii, xxx, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ; act of, ; artistic, , ; commercial, ; cultural, ; display and, , , ; of femininity, , , ; influence of, ; institutional conventions and, ; libidinal dimension and, ; logic of, ; museum and, , , , ; objects of, xxvi, , ; production and, , –, n, n; public, , , ; radicalizing notion of, ; reception and, ; spectatorship and, ; visual, , , , , –, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , n Conversations with Dalí (Dalí),  Coordinating Council for French Relief Societies,  copyright, –, –, , n Coupeaux, Philippe,  Courbet, Gustave, n Crary, Jonathan,  creative act, , , –, , ; artist and, –; mystification of, ; recognition of, ; spectator and, , ,  Creative Act, The (Duchamp), , , – creativity, , , ,  Crehan, Herbert, ,  Crevel, René,  Crimp, Douglas, n Crotti, Jean, ,  Croze, J. L., 

Cubism, xv, xvi, xxi, , , ; Dada and, n; Duchamp and, , , ; Surrealism and,  cultural ideology, , ,  culture, , , , ; collapse of, ; commercialization of, n; consumption of, –; production of, – Cybele,  Dada, xv, xvi, xxi, xxv, , , , , , , ; artistic movements and, xxii; death of, xx, xxvii, , , , , –, –, , , ; Duchamp and, , , , , , , n; freedom and, ; iconoclastic, ; legacy of, , , ; origins of, , n; revolt, , , , , ; rise of, xx, ; Surrealism and, –, , , –, , , , n; telegram, , ; trademarks of, . See also Paris Dada Dada: Art and Anti-Art (Richter), xxi,  Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage (exhibition),  Dalí, Gala, xxix, , , , , , , –n; dedication to, ; hands of, ; thumb of,  Dalí, Salvador, xxi, xxiii, xxv, , , , n, n; anxiety of, n; Duchamp and, xxix, , –, , –, –, , , n, n, n, n; legacy of, ; paranoic-critical method of, n; personality of, xxix; quote of, , , ; work of, , , , , , n, n, n, n Dalí/Mona Lisa (Halsman), xxix, ,  Damisch, Hubert, –, , n, n, n

Index Danto, Arthur C., n Debord, Guy, , n de Duve, Thierry, , –, , n, n, n, n deixis, , , , ; photography and, –; pictorial/ photographic,  Delaunay, Robert: Léger and,  de Massot, Pierre, n Derain, André,  Descartes, René,  Desnos, Robert, ,  Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp (Cabanne), , ,  Diary of a Genius (Dalí), –,  Didi-Huberman, Georges, n Diserens, Corinne, n Disk Bearing Spirals (Duchamp),  disks, , ; erotic movement of, ; rotating, –, ,  Disks Inscribed with Puns (Duchamp), , –, , , , , , –,  display, xxx, , , , –, n; consumption and, , , ; spectatorship and, ; techniques of,  Door: , rue Larrey (Duchamp),  Door for Gradiva (Duchamp), ,  dots, , , , ,  doubling, ,  Doucet, Jacques,  “Draft Pistons” (Duchamp), , ,  drawing, xv, xvii, xviii, xx, , , n; on art, xvi, xix, xxv, –, –; on chance, –; on chess, –; on light, – dualism, , , , ,  Duchamp, Alexina Sattler “Teeny,” , n Duchamp, Marcel: Dada and, , , , , , , n; Dalí and,

/ 275

xxix, , –, , –, –, , , n, n, n, n; death of, , , , ; legacy of, xxv, xxx, –, , –, –, –, , , n; Man Ray and, , , , n, n, n; quote of, , , , , , , , ; work of, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  Duchamp, Suzanne, , , , , n, n “Dust Breeding” (Man Ray), , , , n Echo, , , , n Eggeling, Victor, n Eliot, T. S., xxviii, , , , ,  Elsaesser, Thomas, , –, n, n Éluard, Paul, , ,  Emak Bakia (Man Ray), , –, n endgames, xxviii, , , , , , ; in chess/art, –; readymades and, , n; strategy of, ,  Entr’acte (Picabia and Clair), –, , , ; beginnings of, –; criticism of, ; Dada and, ; end of, –; Man Ray and, ; production/showing of, ; scene from, , ; success of,  Enwezor, Okwui, n Ephemerides (Duchamp), , , ,  Ernst, Max,  eroticism, , , , , n essentialism, , ,  Evening of the Bearded Heart, 


/ Index

Everling, Germaine, ,  exhibitions, xxx, , –, n Exposition internationale du surrealisme,  expression, , ,  Fauvism, xvi, , , ,  femininity, , , , –, , n; allusions to, , ; as cinematic representation, ; construction of, ; consumption of, , , ; Dalí and, , ; illusion of, ; masquerade and, , n; objectification of, , ; redefinition of, ; verbal/visual conventions for, ,  fetishizing, ,  Field of Cultural Production, The (Bourdieu),  Figure of Drawers (Dalí), n Filarete,  Filipovic, Elena,  films, –, , –, n; abstract, n; Dada and, –, , , n, n; experimental, –, , n, n; optical, –; silent, ; stripped bare, –; Surrealist, ; as visual medium, ,  Filmstudie (Richter), n fingers, , , , ,  First Papers of Surrealism Exhibition, ,  First Surrealist Manifesto (Breton),  F. J. Cooper Jewelers, n Foster, Steven,  Fountain (Duchamp), , , , ,  “Fountain of R. Mutt, The” (Stieglitz),  Fraenkel, Théodore,  Framing (Duchamp),  fresh paint: Duchamp on, , , 

Fresh Widow (Duchamp), xix, , , , , , , , , ; Duchamp strategy in, –; painting and, , ; Rrose Sélavy and, , , ; signature on, ; visual access of, ,  Freud, Sigmund, , , n Galotti, Jean,  gamesmanship, –,  Gas Heart, The (Tzara),  Gaudi, Antoni, n gaze, , , , ; cinematic, ; circuit of, ; dynamics of, , ; female, ; male, , n; mechanical, ; spectators, , , , , , , , , , , ; technical construction of,  Genauer, Emily, – Generals (Baj),  Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be Used as a Table (Dalí), n Ghosts before Breakfast (Richter), n Given: . The Waterfall . The Illuminating Gas (Duchamp), xix, xxx, , , , , , , , , , , n; exhibition of, , , –; gaze and, , ; irony and, ; perspective boxes and, ; retinal and, ; visibility of,  Glueck, Grace,  Gradiva, Gala,  Greenberg, Clement, , n, n Green Box, The (Duchamp), , , n, n “Greene Street Years, The” (MattaClark),  Haacke, Hans, n Hahn, Otto, 

Index Halberstadt, Vitaly, xxviii, , , , , n; strategies of, –; work of, , ,  Halsman, Philippe, xxiii, xxix, , , n; work of,  Hamilton, George Heard, , , – hands, ; Dalí and, , n, n; virtual, –, –, – Hatton, Brian, n Hedges, Inez, n, n Heidegger, Martin,  Henderson, Linda Dalrymple, n hinge pictures, , n Homage to Caïssa (Duchamp), , , , , ,  Homage to Marcel Duchamp (Baj), xxiv, ,  Hoogstraten, Samuel Van, , , n Hooper, David, n Hopkins, David, n, n Hopps, Walter, , n Horowitz, Gregg,  Hovagimyan, Gerry, , n Hugnet, Georges,  Huhn, Tom,  hypermodernism, , n Idea as Model show,  identity, , , , ; actualization of, ; apparition of, ; artistic, , , , , , , n; gender, ; logic of, , ; nonessentialist representation of, ; spectral,  ideology, social, ,  illumination, , , n illusionism, , , , , , , , ,  Imagery of Chess group exhibition,  Impressionism, xvi, , , , , , , n

/ 277

In Advance of the Broken Arm (Duchamp), –n infrathin, , ,  inspiration, , ,  installation art, , n; circumvention of, –, – “Instantaneism” (Picabia),  Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies,  International Exposition of Surrealism,  intervention, xxviii, , , , , , , , –n; artistic, ; conceptual, , , ; consumption and, xxix; Dada and, , ; Duchamp and, xxii, , –; legacy of, xxx; optical, ; spectator, –, – irony, , , , , n “Is Photography an Art?” (Man Ray),  James, Sir William,  Jameson, Fredric, n Jay, Martin, , n Jeffett, William, n Johns, Jasper, n Jones, Amelia, , n Joselit, David, n, n, n Jouffroy, Alain, ,  Julien Levy Gallery,  Kachur, Lewis, n, n Kierkegaard, Søren, , n King and Queen Traversed by Swift Nudes, The (Dalí),  Klee, Paul, n Knight, John, n Kohler, E.,  Kovács, Stephen, , n Krauss, Rosalind, , n, n Kuenzli, Rudolf, ,  Kuh, Katharine, , –, 


/ Index

Lacan, Jacques,  Lacemaker, The (Vermeer), , , , , n, n, n La Fête à la Joconde (exhibition),  Lang, Candace, n language, , , n Large Glass, The (Duchamp), xix, xxvi, , , , , , , –, –, , , , , , , , , , , , n, n; cipher in, ; conceptual perspective to, –; dynamics of, ; enigmatic description of, ; interventions in, ; irony and, ; Large Glass (Hamilton) and, ; Man Ray photo of, ; retinal aspect and, ; as self-portrait, n; transparency of,  Large Glass, The (Hamilton),  L’art vivant (Crevel),  Lebel, Robert, , , ,  L’École des beaux-arts,  Le Courrier français, , n Léger, Fernand, , , , n L’Église de la Madeleine,  le Lionnet, François,  lenses, – Leonardo da Vinci, xx, , , n, n, n; commercial reproduction of, xv; Duchamp and, ; legacy of,  Le Rire,  Les Halles district,  Les Mystères du château du dé (Man Ray), n L’Étoile de mer (Man Ray), , , , , , ,  Lewis, Philip E., n L.H.O.O.Q. (Duchamp), xv, , , , , , , , , , , ; art/commodity and, ; gender reversibility of, ; Matta-Clark and, ; Mona Lisa in, ;

Picabia and, , ; visual violence of, – L.H.O.O.Q. Shaved (Duchamp), xxiv, ,  “Liberation of Fingers, The” (Dalí),  Liebman, Stuart, n light: drawing on, – Line Describing a Cone (McCall), n List, Larry, n, n, n Little Review,  L’Oeil cacodylate (Picabia), – look, –, , ; as cinematic signifier, n; circumvention of, –, –; commodification of, ; demystification of, ; feminine, ; interrogating, –, –, ; seductive, ; spectator, , , , ; visual consumption and, – Lyons, Leonard,  Lyotard, Jean-François, n, n Macherey, Pierre, – Macrophotographic Self-Portrait with Gala Appearing as a Nun (Dalí),  Manet, Édouard, n, n Man Ray, xxi, xxv, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , n, n; Anemic Cinema and, ; annotations by, n; antidialectical approach of, xxii; chess and, , ; collaboration by, xxvii, n; on creativity/ reproduction, ; Dada and, xxiii; Duchamp and, , , , n, n, n; films by, , , –, n, n; hair/masculinity and, n; intervention by, , ; lenses and, –; look and, –; notoriety for, ;

Index signature of, ; vision and, , ; work of, , ,  Manual of Instruction for the Assembly of “Étant donnés” (Duchamp), ,  Marcel Duchamp (Paz),  “Marcel Duchamp as Belle Haleine” (Man Ray),  “Marcel Duchamp as Rrose Sélavy” (Man Ray),  Marcel Duchamp Cast Alive (Duchamp), , –, ,  Marcel Duchamp Fund,  Marcel Duchamp: Readymades, – (Schwarz),  Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso,  Martin, Jean-Hubert,  Marx, Karl, n masculinity, , , , , , n Masheck, Joseph, ,  masquerade, , , , , n Mathias Fels Gallery,  Matisse, Henri, n Matta-Clark, Gordon, xxv, xxx, , , , , , n, n, n, n, n; anarchitectures of, –, –; architecture and, ; interventions by, , –n; museum and, , , ; social and, n; work of, ,  Matt’s Gallery,  McCall, Anthony, n McEvilley, Thomas, n Meander (Matta-Clark),  medium: artist as, , ,  Meier, Richard,  Mèlies, Georges,  metamorphosis, , , , ,  Metamorphosis of Narcissus (Dalí), –, , 

/ 279

Michelson, Annette,  Minotaure,  mirrorical return, , , ,  mirrors, –, –, –, , n, n Mirror Series (Knight), n Mito Art Tower,  modernism, xxiv, , , , , , , ; chess ethos and, n; commodification of, n; essential principle of, ; heritage of, ; historical specificity of, –; shift from, , n; trademarks of,  Mona Lisa: Dalí and, , n; Duchamp and, ,  Mona Lisa (Duchamp), xxiii, xxiv, xxix, ; Dalí and, n; feminine appearance in, , ; look/ air of, , ; overexposure of, ; reproduction of, n Mona Lisa (Leonardo), , , n; Baj and, , ; Dalí and, ; Duchamp and, xxiii, xxvi, , , , , , , , –, ; playful desecration of, ; reproduction of, xv, xx,  Montaigne, Michel de,  Monte Carlo Bond (Duchamp), ,  movement, , , , , , ,  Mulvey, Laura, n Murphy, Dudley, , n museum, ; consumption and, , , , ; deterritorialization of, ; institutional ambitions of, ; institutional logic of, –; institutional space of, ; as ruin, –, –; seeing/display and, n; social/institutional presuppositions of, –; violence against,  Museum of Contemporary Art, 


/ Index

Museum of Modern Art, ,  Mussman, Toby, , n narcissism,  Narcissus, , , , , , n Narcissus (Caravaggio),  Naumann, Francis M., , , n, n, n Negative Dialectics (Adorno),  Nesbit, Molly,  “New Colors of Spectral Sex Appeal, The” (Dalí), n New York Armory Show,  New York Chess Club,  New York Dada, n, n New York Dada,  New York Daily News,  New York Herald Tribune, – New York State Chess Association,  Nodelman, Sheldon, xxvi, n nonart, ,  “Notes on the Index: Part ” (Krauss),  Note to Leonard Lyons (Dalí and Duchamp), ,  Nude Ascending a Staircase: Homage to Marcel Duchamp (Dalí),  Nude Descending a Staircase (Duchamp),  nudity, , , , n ocular, , , , , , , n; critique of, –; dismissal of, , ; gender illusionism of, ; optics and, ; overdependence, , ; seduction of, , , ; transparency of, ; vision, ; visual consumption and,  oculist charts, –, n Oculist Witnesses, , , –, –,  Oculist Witnesses (Duchamp), xix, , , , , , n

O’Doherty, Brian, , n Office Baroque (Matta-Clark),  “Of Thumbs” (Montaigne),  Olympiads, ,  Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled (Duchamp and Halberstadt), , , , , , , , , , ; chess strategy and, ; Duchamp on, ; endgames in,  opposition squares, , , , , ,  optical, ; devices, , , n; projection, ; protection, ; reflection, ; truth, – Optical Disks (Duchamp), , ,  optical illusion, , , , , , n optics, , , , , , n, n; erotics and, n; ocular and,  originality, , , , , n; myth of, ,  “Originals Graphic Multiples” (Man Ray),  overexposure, , , ,  Pach, Walter,  painter, windower and,  painting: abandonment of, xvii, , , , , , , ; chess and, , , n, n; Dalí and, , , n, n; deictic nature of, , , , ; Duchamp and, xvii, , , , , , , ; eye and, ; fingers and, ; indexical markers of, ; legacy of, , n; materiality of, , , ; metamorphic/ hallucinatory dimension of, ; mimetic impulses of, ; ocular destiny of, ; photography and, , –, , , ;

Index readymades and, , ; retinal aspects of, , , , , , , n; seduction of, ; thumbs and, , ; as visual experience, , , , n “Painting as Model” (Barthes),  “Painting . . . at the Service of the Mind” (Duchamp),  Painting, Photography, Film (Moholy-Nagy), n Paris Air (Duchamp), , , , , , , , ; as antidote, ; ocular overdependence and, , ; production of,  Paris Biennial,  Paris Dada, xxvi, , , , n; Duchamp and, , , –, ,  Paris qui dort (Clair),  parody, , ,  participation, , , , n Pasadena Museum of Art,  Pasadena Retrospective,  Paz, Octavio, , , ,  peepholes, , ,  Perloff, Marjorie, n perspective, , , ,  Perspective Box with Views of a Dutch Interior (Hoogstraten),  Peterson, Elmer, , –, , , n Philadelphia Museum of Art, , , n, n photography, xxix, , , , n; art and, ; Dalí and, , –, , , n, n; deixis and, –; Duchamp and, ; handmade, ; indexical markers of, ; as luminous trace, ; Man Ray and, , , n, n; painting and, , –, , , ; pointillism and, ; reaction against, xvi–xvii; as technical device, ,  Piano, Rienzo, 

/ 281

Picabia, Francis, xxi, xxii, xxv, , , , , , ; Breton and, , , n, n; on cinema, ; collaboration by, xxvii, n; Dada and, xxiii, , , –, n; Duchamp and, –, , , n, n, n, n, n; films by, –, , ; L.H.O.O.Q and, , ; playful desecrations by, ; Rrose Sélavy and, ; spectacle and, –; Surrealism and, , –; work of, ,  Picasso, Pablo, xv, , n Pierre, Arnauld, n Pocket Chess Set (Duchamp),  Pocket Chess Set with Rubber Glove (Duchamp), –,  Poggioli, Renato, n pointillism, ,  Pompidou Center, , ,  Portrait of My Dead Brother (Dalí), –,  postmodernism, , , , n; Duchamp and, –, n; shift to, xx,  “Price and Meaning” (Paz),  production, xxviii, , , , , , , , , , –, , ; architectural/artistic modes of, ; cinematic, ; consumption and, , –, n, n; Duchamp and, , , ; literary, –; nature/meaning of, xxvii; social, , ; strategy for, ; techniques of,  punctum,  puns, , , , , , , n, n, n; communication and, –; Dalí and, ; Duchamp and, , , , , , n, n, n; faucet of, –; love of, ; mental dimension and, ;


/ Index

mirrorical implosion of, ; mirroring play of, , ; movement of, , , ; multiple meanings of, ; poetic potential of, , ; proliferation of, ; readymades and, ; rotating, – Radford, Colin, n “Readymade and the Tube of Paint, The” (de Duve), – readymades, xvi, xvii, xviii, xxv, xxvi, xxviii, , , –, , , , , , , , , , , , , –, , n, –n; art and, , , –; chance and, ; commercially produced, ; as commodity, ; conceptual potential of, ; definition of, ; Duchamp and, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ; dynamics of, , ; endgames and, , n; explorations of, ; genealogy of, –; logic of, ; looking at, ; painting and, , ; provoked, ; visual aspect of,  reception, , , , , , n; consumption and, ; social modalities of,  reconciliation, , , n, n redeployment, , , , , , , , ,  Relâche (Picabia), , ,  reproduction, xx, , , , , , , n; commercial, xv; mechanical, ; print, ; rights,  retina, ,  retinal, , , , , , , , ; critique of, ; painting and, , , , , , , n; resistance to,  retinal destiny, , 

retinal illusion, ,  retinal seduction, , , , , , , ,  Retour à la raison (Man Ray), , ,  reversibility, , , , , ; gender, , , ; mirrorlike, ,  Rhythmus  (Richter), n Rhythmus  (Richter), n Ribemont-Dessaignes, Georges, ,  Richard Wilson (Wilson),  Richter, Hans, , n, n, n; on antiart, ; Dada and, , ,  Rigaut, Jacques,  Roberts, Francis, , , , –,  Roberts, James, n Roché, Henri-Pierre, ,  Rojas, Carlos, n, n Rose, Barbara, n, n Ross, David A., n Rotary Glass Plates (Precision Optics) (Duchamp), ,  Rotoliefs (Duchamp),  Roussel, Raymond,  Rubin, William S.,  Rushton, Steve,  Saatchi, Charles,  Saatchi Gallery, , , n Salon Dada,  Sanouillet, Michel,  Satie, Erik, , , –,  Schwarz, Arturo, , , –, , , , –n, n Schwarz, Lilian, , n Schwitters, Kurt, xv Sculpture for Traveling (Duchamp), , , , , n Seitz, William, , – Sélavy, Rrose, , –, , , , , , , , , , ; copyright and, –, ; death

Index of, –; Duchamp and, , , , ; femininity of, –; Fresh Widow and, , ; identity of, , ; photographic representations of, ; Picabia and, ; precision oculism and, ; puns and, ; signature of, , , , ; tea baths and, ; thumbprint of, , n self-expression, , ,  self-purgation, – self-reflection, –, – sexuality: Dalí and, n; essentialist representations of, n; female, , n Sheer Fluke (Wilson),  signatures, , , n; authorship and, ; copyright and, n; Dalí and, , ; double, ; Duchamp and, , , ; Rrose Sélavy and, , , ,  simulation, ,  sister squares, , , , , ,  Sitney, P. Adams, n, n, n Sixteen Miles of String (Duchamp), , ,  Soby, James Thrall, , n Society of the Spectacle (Debord),  Soupault, Philippe,  space: collaboration and, ; dematerializing, n; transformers, –; transparency of, ; virtual,  spectator, , , , , ; artist and, , , ; author and, , , ; birth of, , ; creative act and, , , , ; engagement of, ; gaze of, , , , , , , , , , , ; harassment of, ; intervention of, –, –; look of, , , , ; narcissistic conceit of,

/ 283

; participation by, , ; as performer, ; position of, , ; reflection by, ; role of, , ; work and, ,  spectatorship, xx, xxiii, xxix, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , –, ; activation of, xxvi, xxx, , , , ; aesthetics and, ; construction of, ; display and, ; indeterminacy of, ; notion of, , n; premises of, ; questioning, –, ; reconfiguration of, ; spatial/social scaffolding of, ; valorization of, –; visual and, ; voyeuristic nature of,  Specter and the Phantom, The (Dalí), n Splitting (Matta-Clark), – Stauffer, Serge,  Stereoscopic Film (Duchamp and Man Ray),  Stettheimer, Ettie,  Stewart, Susan,  Stieglitz, Alfred, xviii; work of,  strategies, , , ,  Strouhal, Ernst,  Sur Marcel Duchamp (Lebel),  Surrealism, xv–xvi, xxi, xxv, xxvi, , , , , , , , n, n, n, n, n; Cubism and, ; Dada and, –, , , –, , , , n; Dalí and, n; Duchamp and, , , ; emergence of, xx, , , , n Sweeney, James Johnson,  Symphonie diagonale (Eggeling), n S/Z,  Target (Johns), n Tashjian, Dickran, n Tate Gallery, , n


/ Index

tea baths, ,  Theory of Literary Production, A (Macherey),  Theory of the Avant-Garde (Bürger),  Thirteenth Milan Triennial,  Three Draft Pistons,  Three Mirrors (Duchamp), , , , ,  Three Standard Stoppages (Duchamp), , , , ,  thumbs, , ; painting and, ,  Tomkins, Calvin, , n Top Inscription, The, ,  “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (Eliot), xxviii, , , ,  Trap (Duchamp), , , , ,  Treasury Department, n , Bags of Coal (Duchamp), ,  : (Wilson), , , , –, ,   Ready Mades (Duchamp), n, n Tzara, Tristan, xxii, , , , , ,  unart,  Un Chien andalou (film),  Unconsummated Act, The” (Vanel), n unity, , , ,  Unpacking Duchamp: Art in Transit (Judovitz), xxv Unspeakable Confessions (Dalí), ,  urinals, ,  urns, –,  Urn with Ashes of Duchamp[’s Cigar] (Duchamp), –, , 

Vanel, Hélène, n Velasquez,  Veltman, Kim H., –, n Venus de Milo, – Venus de Milo with Drawers (Dalí), , , , –, n Venus in Furs (von Sacher-Masoch), n Vermeer, Jan, –, n, n, n, n, n Viau, Guy,  Vidler, Anthony, n View of Delft (Vermeer),  virtual hand: return of, –, –, – visible, n; “Givens” of the, –, –, –, – vision, , n, n; decentering priority of, ; erotics of, –, –, –; fracturing, ; as image-making process, n; immediacy of, ; kinetic mechanisms of, ; logic of, ; physical versus social interpretations of, ; poetic, ; projection of, ; transparency of, , ; visuality and,  visual, , , , , , , , n visual consumption, , , , –, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , n; critique of, ; look as form of, –; objectifying power of,  visual exposure, ,  visual images, , , , ,  visuality, , , ; vision and,  von Maur, Karin, n von Sacher-Masoch, Leopold, n voyeurism, , , , , 

Index war: art/artistic milieu and, ,  Weaning of Furniture-Nutrition (Dalí), n Western Round Table on the Modern Arts,  Whitelaw Reid mansion,  Whyld, Kenneth, n Why Not Sneeze Rrose Sélavy? (Duchamp), n Wilson, Richard, xxv, xxx, , , , , , n; exchange with Simon Morrissey regarding Butterfly, ; illusionism and, ; sculptural techniques and, n; space transformers of, –; work of, 

/ 285

window, –, –, –, ,  window dressing, , , , –, – With My Tongue in My Cheek (Duchamp),  Wolkenberg, Alfred,  Woman with a Pearl Necklace (Vermeer), n wordplay, , , , , , , , , , n Writings of Marcel Duchamp (Duchamp),  zugzwang, , , , n

Dalia Judovitz is National Endowment for the Humanities Professor of French at Emory University. She is the author of Unpacking Duchamp: Art in Transit, Subjectivity and Representation in Descartes: The Origins of Modernity, and The Culture of the Body: Genealogies of Modernity, and the coeditor of Dialectic and Narrative.