Duchamp and the Aesthetics of Chance: Art as Experiment (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)

Duchamp and the Aesthetics of Chance: Art as Experiment (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)

Herbert Molderings

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 0231147627

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Marcel Duchamp is often viewed as an "artist-engineer-scientist," a kind of rationalist who relied heavily on the ideas of the French mathematician and philosopher Henri Poincaré. Yet a complete portrait of Duchamp and his multiple influences draws a different picture. In his 3 Standard Stoppages (1913-1914), a work that uses chance as an artistic medium, we see how far Duchamp subverted scientism in favor of a radical individualistic aesthetic and experimental vision.

Unlike the Dadaists, Duchamp did more than dismiss or negate the authority of science. He pushed scientific rationalism to the point where its claims broke down and alternative truths were allowed to emerge. With humor and irony, Duchamp undertook a method of artistic research, reflection, and visual thought that focused less on beauty than on the notion of the "possible." He became a passionate advocate of the power of invention and thinking things that had never been thought before.

The 3 Standard Stoppages is the ultimate realization of the play between chance and dimension, visibility and invisibility, high and low art, and art and anti-art. Situating Duchamp firmly within the literature and philosophy of his time, Herbert Molderings recaptures the spirit of a frequently misread artist-and his thrilling aesthetic of chance.

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became absolutely scientific.” It was no longer a “realistic perspective” but rather “a mathematical, scientific perspective” that was based primarily “on calculations . . . and dimensions.”75 Besides the “Idea of the Fabrication” for the 3 Standard Stoppages, the Box of 1914 also contains the following note on perspective: “Linear perspective is a good means of representing similarities differently, i.e., the equivalent, the (homothetically) similar and the same merge in perspectival

the arrangement of the capillary tubes on the canvas of the largeformat painting Jeune homme et jeune fille dans le printemps (Young Man and Young Girl in Spring), after having first made a pencil sketch of the Large Glass on the canvas to the scale of 1:2 (see fig. 3.6). In order to make the routes taken by these lines of connection clearly visible, Duchamp painted their adjacent surfaces white. The partial admixtures of red and cerulean blue certainly did not solely serve the purpose of

geometry. While he was experimenting in 1913 and 1914 with the absurd geometry behind his 3 Standard Stoppages, Duchamp was—as some of his surviving notes prove—also working on an “absurd algebra.”31 Unlike the non-Euclidean definitions of curves, the 3 Standard Stoppages are entirely useless for scientific purposes. They are of use only to the artist, for the creation of his own imagined world of forms. Paradoxically, however, the 3 Standard Stoppages need not avoid the critical eye of the

aim, “negative irony,” and with particular reference to the Dadaists. “Dada was a negation and a protest. I was not particularly interested in it. One’s own ‘no’ merely makes one dependent on what one negates.”48 “I wished to show man the limited space of his reason, but Dada wanted to substitute unreason. The substitution was not a great improvement. By adding ‘un’ they thought they changed a great deal, but they had not.”49 Duchamp had realized that mere negation does not take one beyond the

changed his plans during the execution of the painting and painted only two lines, a red one and a black one, as confirmed by his own description of the painting on a questionnaire sent to him by the surrealist painter and essayist Marcel Jean in 1952 during their preparations for the book Le Surréalisme et la peinture. Referring to Tu m’, Duchamp writes: “The right section of the picture is a muddle of more or less artificial calculations with compasses and the standard-stoppages whose 4 double

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