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A dead writer asks you to help him kill.

While Tammy, a teenage soccer star and budding writer, contemplates her adolescent problems and waits for her flaky mom to pick her up from practice, a stranger takes a secret picture of her. Then her life begins falling apart. Things could be better. But they could also be worse. Just as he summons the will to put down his cup and leave, a group of traders barge in and loudly discuss the latest developments in the religious war between the followers of Jonders and Jenowade. Bad move: this hooker is a time machine.

No, really. Shortly thereafter, Aliah starts to experience the past of every artifact she touches. This unasked for ability quickly entangles her in one of the greatest Who Dunnits? Jason flees the hospital just in time to avoid the final, violent implosion Unwilling saviors, fumbling gods, speechless leaders, helpless villains, misguided detectives, abandoned heroes, misled daughters, repentant adulterers, murdered authors, jilted conquerors The studio should not be confused with an art institution, but I mention the latter because such institutions and their legitimizing function are of concern to Duchamp at precisely this moment.

The exhibition never materialized. Almost from the start, Duchamp maintained a shifting position between interest in and antipathy for institutions of artistic judgment and exhibition: salon, gallery, museum.

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Of course, there was his early history of salon participation and rejection, but he also served as board member and president of the hanging committee for the Society of Independent Artists exhibition in New York in the same one that rejected Fountain and, in that position, proposed hanging the works according to chance, alphabetically, beginning with the first letter selected from a hat. Exhibitions and the questions of public display were far from unproblematic for Duchamp. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the commercial gallery and the museum would be, with increasing insistence over the years, important sites of intervention and critique for Duchamp.

Duchamp had contributed works to previous collective Surrealist exhibits, but the artist famous for his detachment never officially belonged to that movement or any other. He installs an iron brazier in the center of the main hall and hangs artworks on uprooted department store revolving doors. The coal sacks are what he is perhaps most proud of. In their inversion of interior and exterior, of up and down, the 1, sacks Could there have really been so many? And why that excessive number? Perhaps more pointedly even than the Dada or Surrealist exhibitions that preceded it, this exhibition responds to the conventional space and experience of an art exhibition, constructing an elaborate answer to both on an architectural scale.

At the newly organized modern museums and display spaces, so in vogue in Paris in the s, the spectator was choreographed to keep a safe distance, to look disinterestedly, and to forget his or her body. For Duchamp, the interrogation of the autonomy of vision went hand-in-hand with a rethinking of that site so invested in maintaining it—the Cartesian exhibition space. Having acquired sixteen miles of ordinary white string for the installation, the artist engaged the help of several friends to erect a criss-crossed webbing in the end, using only a fraction of his overzealous purchase.

A Museum That is Not - Journal #4 March - e-flux

Several of the artist-participants were disappointed that spectators could not properly see their artworks. That was precisely the point. Chronologically, the two projects overlapped, with the labor on the albums beginning several years before the Surrealist exhibition and continuing in the years after.

Following the publication of the boxed facsimiles of the sketches and notes that document the conceptual development of Large Glass , Duchamp conceived another project, this one archival in nature. He rejected the reproduction of works through color photography, in part, it seems, because the burgeoning technology could not yet faithfully reflect the colors of the original. But one suspects that Duchamp may not have employed such a method even if it had proved exact enough. Labor-intensive years passed.

Simple mechanical reproduction be damned. Duchamp selected a total of 69 works to be reproduced and, in keeping with the magnitude of the edition he envisioned, he made as many as copies of each item. He worked undauntedly, with the first few models completed around the time of his wartime migration to the United States, and a slow but steady trickle of more appearing during the subsequent decades.

These deluxe models, destined for friends and select patrons, were the first of the group to be constructed. But, if we know that is too late to ascribe to the beginning of this retrospective project either in terms of conception or of work on its various reproductions, it does seem to mark the beginning of the conception of the album as a three-dimensional space.

Had Duchamp continued in this manner, he might very well have ended up with a mere loose-leaf collection of paper and celluloid reproductions in a box. Indeed, by , Duchamp had made a number of reduced-size copies of his paintings and pieces on glass, but he had also reproduced several three-dimensional objects, including the Bottle drier and Why not Sneeze? In the early months of , Duchamp replicated the contours of his store-bought piece of plumbing entitled Fountain. The reproduction of two other reduced-size three-dimensional objects Air de Paris and Pliant.

The reasoning is simple: the introduction of a three-dimensional object to the project entails a three-dimensional space to hold it. Therefore, even if he may not have yet determined the exact nature of the container for his reproduced artworks, in making the tiny sculpted model of the urinal—and, more importantly, in thus returning to the questions of institutionalization that the Fountain and its scandal ineluctably recalled—Duchamp seems to have decided that the container for his reproduced corpus should take on an architectonics of some sort, what would quickly become an exhibitionary configuration.

A Museum That is Not

And with that simple act, Duchamp effectively inserted Fountain —the readymade object that few even knew was by him—into his official oeuvre. More than twenty years after its original rejection and non-exhibition, it finally had an exhibition place—all the better to allow it to eventually enter and shake the museum and history.

Instead of painting something new, my aim was to reproduce the paintings and objects I liked and collect them in as small a space as possible. I did not know how to go about it. I first thought of a book, but I did not like the idea.

Then it occurred to me that it could be a box in which all my works would be collected and mounted like in a small museum, a portable museum, so to speak. Art historian Benjamin Buchloh underscores the ways in which the work was true to that description:. For Duchamp, reproduction was not ever an affair of practical publicity or dissemination and never a mere mechanical process. Neither was it a simple replica of something but, rather, a displacement—a temporal and perceptional shift.

In , the artist turned to one of those little photographs of his New York studio. He enlarged the image and completely covered over the object that was the explicit subject of the reproduction: in this case, the ready-made coatrack he had nailed to the floor and entitled Trebuchet. After whiting out the object, Duchamp made a line drawing of the coatrack in which he exactly replicated the photographic detail he had covered over in white. The result, a new order of the image—neither fully photographic, nor fully documentary, nor fully other—introduced a perceptual slippage that hardly fools anyone, betraying as it does its lack of verisimilitude and uncomfortably declaring its incongruousness.

Why would Duchamp go to so much trouble?


Why so meticulously and exactly redraw an element already clearly visible in a photograph? The privileged status of the photograph as guaranteed witness of the actuality of objects or events it represents a direct transcription of the real long made the photograph part of a regime of truth.

As Duchamp works to undermine truth, he shatters assumptions about both the reality of the photograph and the real in the photograph. For Duchamp, the transformation of art into merchandise is a different program from either the Art Nouveau or even the Bauhaus agenda in which the utilitarian and the aesthetic are to be subsumed.

If there is something dysfunctionalizing about the usurping of a real toilet to claim it as a work of art, there is something wantonly reckless in reducing its size, in making it toy-like, and casing it up with other items typewriter cover, comb, bottle drier.

And, the serial multiplications of Duchampian boxes claim that the museum and industry, and the museum and the commodity, have something profoundly in common. The information on labels, the wall text, the exhibition title, the overall organization: Duchamp understood well that this apparatus determines how and what we see.

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The grouping of works follows no perceptible logic of chronology, medium, or theme; the selection is unjustified why those sixty-nine items in particular? Knowledge is unstable; information is contradictory; logic is defied. Duchamp marshals the seemingly empirical nature of the archive and museum—and their various classificatory systems—in order to loosen our grip on knowledge and question what is really possible to know about the ideas or objects before us. Whereas monumental armatures and visual primacy, taxonomies, and clear chronologies constitute the foundational givens of the museum, Duchamp orchestrates the destabilization of museal spaces and the reorganization of display logics.

He constructs approximate retrospectives of reproductions in unstable structures.

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But, he neither recuperates nor obliterates the museum through his project; rather, he subjects its idea, rules, and operational givens to a series of questions and pressures. Can a museum be a work of art? Can one make more than works that are museums? Is a box filled with works of art, then, a museum? Can one make a museum that is not? A museum that is not. Artworks are spaced, arranged, and composed so as to permit the taking up of proper stances: positions for the subject. One enters a white room, at its end a battered Spanish door with eye-holes that reveal for those who dare to look a broken brick wall behind which one spies a diorama of a nearly life-sized naked female body covered in pig skin.

She lays atop a layer of dead twigs and holds aloft a gas lamp—all set against a pacific, photorealist background of sky, mountains, waterfall, clouds, and light.

Brenna Holeman: Insights from 14 years of blogging

At the same time, in order to do so, he deploys photography to deceptive ends—one last time—and on a grand scale: what you see is not what you see, indeed. And yet, rather than either an incongruity in his oeuvre or a return to order, it might be read as the perfect culmination of a lifetime of persistent concerns and, as such, a biting commentary on the visual and the institutions that implicitly uphold it.

The artist met with several museums and finally with the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the display of the extensive collection of art.

In Duchamp drew several sketches that convey the proportions and layout of several possible exhibition galleries in the museum. The Arensberg collection was installed in with Duchamp directing the placement of each of the works—a regular museum curator, you might say. The experience of the work is entirely circumscribed by the fact that it is in an art museum—no negligible detail—and yet the question is rarely posed amongst critics as to how exactly to read the effort that went into securing its place there.

His postmortem delayed-release installation appeared one day in a small dark room of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it was permanently installed adjacent to the rooms in which he had already set up so many of his pieces. An official museum decree prevented reproduction by the public and the Philadelphia Museum of Art did not itself release any photos of the piece.

Once reproduced, he wanted it to represent as accurately as possible what the spectator actually sees. Duchamp also went to considerable lengths such as using black velvet to line the back of the Spanish door and cover sides of the structure from the front door to the broken brick wall to ensure that the viewer would not be able to see in by any other way than the two eye-holes provided. He framed and reframed the scene, with the splayed female body more or less covered by the bricks, and he added bricks here and there, first penning them in, then adding them to the actual construction.

He was experimenting, imagining what it would be like to be a viewer. But if the manual is to aid the museum in its job of reconstruction, why include all of these shots—the incorrectly aligned along with the final views—details, in short, not necessarily useful for the reassembly of the installation?