Thursday, February 22, 2018

1959 Interview with Marcel Duchamp

“Marcel Duchamp’s classic Nude Descending a Staircase was a major manifesto of the electric age. The industrial hardware of the assembly-line had been enveloped by the new environment of the Magnetic City and the wired planet. As soon as the machine went inside the electric circuit, the mechanical forms of the industrial world that emanated from the Gutenberg technology of uniform, repeatable, and moveable types became transformed into 'art'. New technologies in supplanting their predecessors translate them into 'art' forms. The old form is enhanced by obsolescence. Ruins and antiques nourish the creative imagination of artists and poets.

Duchamp's nude reveals the fragmented, analytic abstractions of the industrial process as a skeletal charade, a retrieval of the ancient rituals of le danse macabre. Far beyond any process known to the medieval world, the dance of the machines during the past two centuries represents the most violent and lethal expression of human somnambulism and self-hypnotism. Duchamp's nude is a comic mime of the descent of a somnambulist robot world, via the stages of a precisely etiolated rational pattern of relentless progress. The breaking up of visual continuity in the Nude enables other tactile-kinesthetic values to be asserted, and in this way the painting is enormously more rich and involving than photographic representation. Duchamp's work thus figures at once the death of the mechanical age and the birth of the new electric age of quanta: quantum mechanics returns to the unvisualisable universe of instant speeds and sub-visual resonance.... Duchamp's nude is the ghost of the old mechanical world tripped to its iconic pattern. Humanism and ruins are synonymous.”
Marshall McLuhan


George Heard Hamilton, Richard Hamilton & Charles Mitchell
take turns interviewing Duchamp, 1959

Below is an except from the 1959 audio interview.

George Heard Hamilton: In spite of the fact that one thinks of you as sitting right on top of Cubism, you felt a need, after just one or two years' experience of Cubism, to find a new path for yourself. I take it that this is the way in which you found it—by an exploration of intellectual and conceptual terms juxtaposed to the physical configurations that you made?

Marcel Duchamp: Yes, very soon I felt impatience, so to speak, with Cubism—at least, impatience in that I couldn't see any future for me in it. In fact, I touched Cubism rather a little, The Nude Descending a Staircase from 1912 is in a style like Cubism, naturally, but the addition of movement in it, which seems to be Futuristic, is so only because the Futurists were speaking of movement at the time. That doesn't make it a new idea of theirs—movement was in the air. There was something more important that the Futurists for me in that case, which was the publication of photos of men fencing or of horses galloping and so forth...

George Hamilton: All through The Glass [The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)], you use fairly clear-cut symbology of a very direct kind—man and woman are identified, and the operations, the functions, of the machinery are all explainable in terms of sexual relationships, which is the work's basic preoccupation.

Marcel Duchamp: Yes, eroticism is a very dear subject to my life, and I certainly applied that love to my Glass. In fact, I thought the only excuse for doing anything was to give it the life of eroticism, which is completely close to life in general, and more so than philosophy or anything like that. It is an animal thing, which has so many facets that it is pleasing to use it as a tube of paint, so to speak, to inject in your production. It's there. It's in the form of fantasy. Stripped Bare had even a naughty Connotation with Christ. You know, Christ was stripped bare. It introduces eroticism and religion... I am ashamed of what I am saying. Continue reading at Artspace

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