Vol.1 / Issue 3

continuation of Duchamp at the Turn of the Centuries


"L'iconographie de l'invisible fluidique"

The other infatuation at the fin de siècle which fed, one could say, the curiosity of Duchamp was the revival of occultism prodded by technical advances, in particular new methods of electricity and photographic recording.

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The "sparks" of The Bride, the "Draft Pistons," the "Milky Way," the "cinematic blossoming": each a word borrowed from chemistry, physics, astronomy, strewn about his notebook.

In 1900, electricity, magnetism, and electromagnetism had long since substantiated the idea of obscure energy, of radiation all the more powerful since it was invisible. How could one forget that one of the most ardent supporters of spirituality was none other than Sir William Crookes, the inventor of the cathode ray tube? Or that Camille Flammarion, an astronomer as celebrated in his time as Hubert Reeves is today, believed in the transmigration of souls on far away planets and very seriously featured in The Unknown(38), phenomena like apparitions of the dead, telepathy, seeing into the future? He wasn't the only one. Charles Richet, illustrious physicist and inventor of anaphyloxie founded the French Society of Metaphysics and went around the tables and interrogated spirits. The administrator of the Polytechnic School, lieutenant-colonel de Rochas d'Aiglun, took up where des Mesmer and des Puységur left off in studying the phenomena of "odiques" radiation of Baron de Reichenbach(39). Duchamp would remember, same as his brother, the sculptor Duchamp-Villon, to get an internship in the radiology department of the Sâlpêtrère, and probably brushed shoulders there with Albert Londe and Jean-Martin Charcot(40).

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8. Drawing of light "odiques," taken from Le Fluide des magnétiseurs by Albert de Rochas, Paris, 1891.
9. Luminous effects of high frequency, engraving by Poyet taken from Claude's L'Électricité à la portée de tout le monde, Paris, 1905.

When radio waves were discovered by Hertz in 1888, when the X-ray was discovered by Röntgen in 1895(41), and when, thanks to Becquerel in the following year, radioactivity brought proof of the mysterious power of the breath, current beliefs in the corporeal body, the astral body, in two halves to one person, in aura, in telekinetics, in ectoplasm were suddenly strengthened. In the hospital of Charity, Luys, neurologist, went so far as to photograph the dreams of his patients by applying sensory detectors to their foreheads. The photograph, which "reveals" and "develops " from "ultrasensitive" devices invisible phenomena for the naked eye, was in this way far ahead in the quest for the supernatural. ill 8,9.

If "retinal" art was displaying its inadequacy through impressionism, the photographic negative, already defined by Jules Janssen in 1875 as "the retina of the wise" would have well been the way. At least it would have been this technique which would have allowed art to regain the "science" that it appropriated during the time of its glory, opening it up now to the world of the never-before-been-seen. In 1904, in his book, Dans l'invisible, Léon Denis compares spirit photographs to X-rays and defines the negative as "this look onto the invisible.(42)"

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Des Esseintes, again, in his singular mixture of optimism and credulity, reveals the spirit of time. Did he not believe that "the eyes of certain animals will retain, up until decomposition, just like photographic negatives, the image of life and of things, from the time that they died, from their last glimpse.(43)" In 1870, in fact, a certain doctor named Vernois, member of the Legal Medical Society, had published an article on the "optogramme" in the Revue photographique des hôpitaux de Paris, entitled "Étude photographique sur la rétine des sujets assassinés," in the aim of discovering the identity of murderers.

The examples of scientific discoveries that serve to bolster the devotees of Allan Kardec are, between 1890 and 1910, innumerable. Every nebulous group was a mixture of the most renowned intellectuals and the most dubious magicians(44). And art, after having exhausted the resources of the visible world in naturalism and impressionism, put itself from this point forward in quest of the invisible, which Hyppolyte Baraduc, one of the most ardent proselytizers of the Beyond, was rightly going to name, "l'iconographie de l'invisible fluidique.(45)"

Munich, Capital of Occultism

We are far from having discerned all there is of Duchamp's trip to Munich, which I mentioned above. Why did Duchamp go there? Above all, why did he stay there so long, for four months? What could he have found in this town of six hundred thousand inhabitants, rustic and provincial under pretentions of grandeur? What was the charm in these Propylées put together in the Königsplatz, in these alignments of the fake Pitti Palace along the Maximilianstrasse, in the caprice of the Feldherrnhalle, clumsy copy of the Loggia dei Lanzi, in this secondhand architecture drawn from a Wagnerian opera? Instead of being the Athens of the North which she pretended to be, wasn't the city of Wittelsbach the biggest kitsch town in Europe? Would Duchamp, born into a cultured and satisfied bourgeoisie, have taken interest in the great masters which made huge and heavy paintings Munich's glory, like Hans von Marées, von Stuck?

Let's remember some coincidences. The town was, at the start of the century, a place to meet immigrants of every background, the marginal, as it were, who hadn't found a place for themselves in their own country. Munich was the rendez-vous of refugees from the East like Jawlensky, the brothers Burliuk, Kandinsky, and some Italians like de Chirico, ill at ease at home and who, nourished with Greek culture and German philosophy, were more arrested with the spirit of Sezession than with a Parisian modernism. The French, they were hardly headed for Munich(46).

The bohemian spirit, which welcomed all, also drew a certain number of anti-conformists of another nature. Twelve years before Duchamp, Munich had welcomed, under the name of Herr Meyer, a certain Vladimir Ilitch Oulianov who, in the tranquility of the students' and "artists'" quarter of Schwabing, would write under the alias Lenin manifestos destined to change the world. And, in May 1912, if one believes Mein Kampf and the account of the life therein(47), Hitler also landed in Munich and went to live a few steps from the domicile which accepted Lenin, on the Schleissheimerstrasse, in the north of town, at the edge of Schwabing. Hitler wrote that he was "full of enthusiasm," with the intention of putting to work his training as an Architekturzeichner, as a draftsman. However, Hitler never succeeded in getting accepted to the city's Academie des Beaux-Arts; it was more difficult in Munich to live as an artist than in Vienna(48).

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10. Heinrich Hoffmann, Marcel Duchamp, 1912

Is it possible that Hitler and Duchamp crossed paths in Munich, in the smoky cabarets of Schwabing or in the Festsaal of the Hofbrauhaus? It's slightly possible. When Apollinaire wanted a portrait of Duchamp to illustrate Les Peintres cubistes, Duchamp chose Heinrich Hoffmann, the #1 photographer of Munich who had come to immortalize the work of von Stuck and of Hildebrandt, ill.10. This is the same Hoffman who, eleven years later, would become Hitler's personal photographer(49). The photographs that he made of Duchamp, in the pose of a speaker with his mouth shut, were, it's been said, influenced by Erik Jan Hanussen, the famous European sage, seer, and astrologer, who would have taught Duchamp the art of body language(50).

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This reference takes us back to the ambiguous capital in which avant-garde artists and political adventurers plunged indiscriminately. In 1912, Munich had in effect become the Haupstadt, the European capital of occultism(51). The Gesellschaft für Psychologie, established by the official Baron von Prell and the doctor von Schrenck-Notzing, was then in full swing and multiplying its exchanges with the spiritual underworlds in England, Italy and France. Nor did the heart of the modernist scene in Munich pass unnoticed by Stefan George's circle. Moreover, in the plastic domain, along with vson Stuck and Marées, who carried the symbolist generation, one of the most celebrated painters in Munich was Gabriel von Max who painted portraits of sleepwalkers and spirits. His brother, photographer Henrich von Max, took photos of mediums in trance that Gabriel then used in his tableaus. Here, we notice a coincidence with the use of auras and halos which Duchamp tried his hand in with, for example, Portrait de Dumouchel. In 1907, the annual meeting of the Theosophical Society met in Munich and, between 1909 and 1913, the Mysteries of Rudolf Steiner were regularly played there. The great anthropology master(52), who in 1913 broke away to distinguish himself from the theosophy of Blavatsky, also promoted, during these years, conferences which were assiduously attended by Klee, Kandinsky, Jawlensky, Gabriele Münter and Marianna van Werefkin. Did Duchamp listen in? If this disciple was reading so attentively, to the point where he made particular notes in Du spirituel dans l'art, wouldn't he have been tempted to listen to the master? Did he go to see the Alchemy museum, in the future Deutsches Museum, with its cornues threaded one into the other like the sieves of the Large Glass? Without a doubt, and much more. It was in Munich in any case that he discovered the theme of his Grand Oeuvre and it was in a frenzy that he multiplied his approaches which would one day turn into the Large Glass : Virgin (No. 1), Virgin (No. 2), Mécanique de la Pudeur, Pudeur mécanique, Passage of the Virgin to the Bride, Bride.

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In search of a non-retinal art, capable of taking into account the invisible and its manifestations, Duchamp very naturally gravitated towards these "seekers" and found photography to be the new medium which would permit him to materialize these new phenomena. In 1922, on Christmas Day, in the Brevoort hotel in New York, he wrote to his brother Jacques Villon: "I know a photographer here who takes photos of the ectoplasm around a male medium - I had promised to help him in one of the seances and then got lazy but it would have amused me a lot."(53)"

"Metarealism" had never really stopped fascinating the man who, in the "Pistons de courant d'Air," had always meant to photograph ectoplasm.

It was this direction that I undertook to define in Duchamp et la photographie(54).

But the work, which appeared in 1977, had come too early. Enthusiasm for photography had not yet been born. Above all, in the Parisian climate, one wasn't disposed to admit that occultism, theosophy and spirituality had fed the imaginations of modern painters more than Lenin's work or the treatises of Rood or Chevreul. It would have to wait twenty-eight years and through a series of exhibitions that would begin in Los Angeles with The Spiritual in Art(55) and culminate in Frankfurt with Okkultismus und Avant Garde(56) in order to see this approach not only validated, but triumphing over others.

Much since then has appeared which reveals the immense influence of the irrational at the turn of the century on the birth of the avant-garde(57).

Two unpublished sources

A little more than twenty years ago, in 1977, I attempted to present the fertile ground of this vein without taking much risk and committing myself to it. To establish the approach of the avant-garde from its curiosity with the occult instead of its solidarity with the proletariat, this would have been too much of a shock for the doxa of modernism.

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11. The cover of the book by Louis Farigoule, La Vision extra-rétinienne et le sens paroptique, 1921

Even so, the indications poured in. While disappointing others, I discovered that in February 1919 - when Duchamp had moved towards the invisible, bought a small glass, To Be Looked at (from the Other Side of the Glass)..., and worked on the stereoscopic point of view of the anaglyphes - a certain Louis Farigoule, an old student of the École normale supérieure, destined to be celebrated under the name Jules Romains, had published in the NRF an essay entitled La Vision extra-rétinienne et le sens paroptique(58) [Extra-Retinal Vision and the Paroptical Sense], ill. 11. Featuring a sightless vision, the young doctor closely approximated some of Duchamp's ideas on the art of the non-retinal and Henri Poincaré's take on tactile space. With "paroptical" perception, hadn't he come across "a certain perception about optical conditions of the exterior environment apart from or in comparison to the mechanism of normal perception."(59)? The paroptical sense, according to the doctor, who conducted his experiences as if he were in a laboratory, had accorded him "tell-tale markings, microscopic organisms situated on the epidermis.(60)" Or, in other words, it's the entire body which, according to this theory of an extra-retinal vision, has the capacity of perceiving colors and shapes without using the ordinary mechanics of ordinary vision.

Did Duchamp know of Louis Farigoule's fantastic theory? The book was distributed among doctors but Duchamp neither shared in this, nor cited the book. The fact remains, however, that Jules Romain, later, in Les Hommes de bonne volunté, was going to create along the lines of Valéry/ Strigelius, a portrait in which Marcel Duchamp would have recognized himself: "These men never left the zone of general sublimation. Space, the dimension of space, the fourth dimension, pure form, absolute form, objectivity, creation, analysis and synthesis, total perspective, absolute plans. Here was what never ceased to burden my eyes. When they cited a particular name, it wasn't that of an artist. It was that of Henri Poincaré, Duhem, Gustave Le Bon, Riemann, Lobatchewsky….(61)"

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12. The cover of the book by Camille Revel, Le Hasard, sa loi et ses conséquence dans les sciences et en philosophie, Paris, 1909 (with the annotation by David Gascoyne)

Yet again, in 1977, had I known that Duchamp, in the ten years it took him to construct the Large Glass, was attentively reading another forgotten author today, Camille Revel, who in 1909 had published with the Chacornac press, a.k.a. "Librairie générale des Sciences occultes," and with the Durville press, a.k.a. "Librairie générale du magnétisme," a very large book called Le Hasard, sa loi et ses conséquences dans les sciences et en philosophie, suivi d'un essai sur la métempsycose basé sur les principes de la biologie et du magnétisme physiologique(62) [The Law of Chance and Its Consequences in Science and Philosophy, followed with an essay on metempsychosis based on the principles of biology and physiological magnetism] ill. 12.

Evidence of Duchamp's fascination for the occult is on the exemplary copy that he owned and which was entrusted to me by Jacqueline Matisse-Monnier. On the cover there is a handwritten inscription in ink: "One of the sources of the originality of Marcel Duchamp." It is written in the hand of the English poet David Gascoyne to whom Duchamp had previously entrusted the book(63).

I leave this unpublished source - decisive in so many ways - to the examination of future scholars.

A modern theophany

What does this continuous association with the unseen worlds mean? That, absolutely, there was never with Duchamp the will, despite the last go-round with Breton, to elevate found objects to the rank of art under the name "ready-made."

This definition, it's almost with regret that Duchamp accepted it and it was just barely at the end of the fifties that he consented to comment on who seemed to get the credit(64). Therefore, more than thirty years after having conceived and made them, he resigned himself, under the pressure of the neo-dadaists desiring to recruit him to their brotherhood, to side with the legions of the current avant-garde.

Ready-made? It underestimates the complexity, the finesse, and the material perfection of these enigmatic objects, so difficult to reproduce(65), and which seem to me rather like subtle traps with which to harness Chance, similar to the small curios of the American Indians, objects made of nets, shells and beads that they call dream-catchers.

However, what artist or critic in the fifties, in the middle of l'informel and existentialism, a fortiori in the sixties, in the age of spontaneity and provocation, would have been able to accept the spiritual and occultist arrière-fonds, the idealist philosophy and the quasi-religious (in the proper sense of the term) from which these objects, which were going to do so much to clarify matters, had been chosen and defined? It was necessary to find in their existence an explanation in accordance with the spirit of the time - something that Duchamp only barely supplied at last, a posteriori.

The theories of Jouffret and Poincaré, which concern the mathematical representation of the world, and invisible radiation - which by means of the negative brings proof of a reality other than that perceived by our senses - as a technique of representing the world, are the same expression, yet again, of a non-retinal vision. If we go along with this perspective, we must understand then that the fourth dimension which renders itself visible in the third dimension is for us the geometric metaphor of that which was in ancient times the metaphor of God, hidden, rendered visible in the carnal image of Christ.

And, suggesting the mystery of the creation of the image, which has preoccupied every artist, the ready-made, an object of encounter, of the "rendez-vous," is measured in varying degrees. Like Duchamp said, "this snapshot effect" of "on such a day, such a date such a minute" where the hand of the artist does not interfere would be the equivalent in our time of that which was the image achéiropoiète of the Byzantines in which Chance, to use the capitalization of Camille Revel, would play the role of God.

Far from the tabula rasa of the avant-garde which supposes a creation ex nihilo, it goes against a strange dream of logical relationships and of the necessary continuity of a creation - "that rules from age to age," which Duchamp abandoned when he said: "So a man can never expect to start from scratch; he must start from ready-made things like even his own mother and father.(66)"

The ready-made isn't therefore a manifestation of a new absolute, it is the re-emerging effect of an obscure area which reappears at a given moment according to a "clockwork" firmly fixed. It is that which manifests itself in the line between the present and the past immemorial, the hic et nunc that reflects upon the whole history of the species, along with its eternal riddle. It would be a modern véronique, an apparition in our space of appearance - to use the same words as Duchamp - similar to the apparition of the face of Edess on the two-dimensional canvas that is an appearance of the divine, passage then from a universe of n + 1 dimensions to a universe of n dimensions, vera icona, in three dimensions. It is the indication of the hidden face of an invisible multidimensionality which, under certain conditions, is revealed in the "infra-mince" of the cut between the two worlds.

This is to say also that, with such an esthetic, the act replaces the work. The ready-made is the effect of a blind date, just as good Fortune hangs in the balance of its counter, and, in effect(67), veils the eyes: taste has nothing to see. The eye, which makes an artist, serves nothing. Neither discernment nor judgement. A method of feeling one's way, "like a medium," "towards a clearing...beyond space and time." The blind abandon of Chance. The "rendez-vous" isn't dictated by sight of another, by attraction to another: it is decided according to calculations where the esthetic judgement doesn't enter in at the beginning. In reviving the traditional iconography of Occasio calva that we rip our hair out for only as long as she is bald and her eyes blindfolded. Chance according to Duchamp is a game of metaphysics below nothingness(68). An encounter with the ready-made, the clockwork of the "rendez-vous" creates a vertigo that simple attraction, taste for a thing or a being, wouldn't know how to produce. Games of Love and Chance, the roll of the die and the eroticism of the libertine: Eros and Tyché would be the directors of the Duchamp pantheon.

It dawned on me to compare Leonardo da Vinci with the author of the Large Glass at a conference held in Cerisy in 1978(69). In relation to succeeding generations of love and the chance of ossicles running into one another (which already speaks of the beyond), Leonardo remarked, "We'll see the bones of the dead, in rapid movements, deciding the fate of those who killed them."ss

a succession of generations of love and chance, noted "On verra les ossements des morts, par leurs mouvements rapides, décider de la fortune de ceux qui les meuvent.(70)"

This is as far from the marvelous encounters of the surrealists as it is from the scraps of the hand-me-down dadaists. No hermeneutic of the Freudian type in this business of randomness and shadows. To Alfred Barr who asked him why he made use of chance, Duchamp responded that with chance there were two means of eluding "the human element unconscious in art" (the other being, in technique, the use of a purely mechanical drawing)(71).

As a result, no way out of the unconscious dear to surrealism. But worse still, none of the clinical. No willingness to wait for charity. There was nothing to cure.  "Given that...; if I suppose I'm suffering a lot" (72): the "Tender of gravity" would not soothe the lead soles of the saturnine being which Duchamp was…It was better to choose anesthesia, in order not to suffer. The absence of all sensation. An ataraxie esthetic. A suspension of judgement and taste.

From "elementary parallelism" to sexual duality

Eros, then, but a restless eros. The myth of the androgynous haunts Duchamp's creative process. There's no point though in looking back like we did with alchemy. The androgynous figure was familiar to the decadents of the turn of the century, even central with Péladan, the biographer of Leonardo, and Duchamp, yet again, behaves like his heir.

When in 1919, on a return to France, he adds a moustache and beard à la Napoleon III to the Mona Lisa on a postcard to make it appear more masculine, he accomplished, just like he said, "un geste de provocation," destined to show sympathy with the Dada movement that Tzara had just created in Zurich in 1916 and which had begun to spread in Paris. Perhaps what he said was true. Dadaist or not, the provocation would inscribe itself in a strongly established tradition of caricature and pleasantry in the spirit of turning things upside down which had been flourishing in December 1913, when the Mona Lisa was returned to the Louvre, after having been stolen two years before. André Chastel has brilliantly recreated the story of these derivations and vulgarities, to which Duchamp's farce appears, all in all, rather modest in comparison(73).

However, curiously, while his book contains reproductions of Italian newspapers where the name of the Mona Lisa is correctly spelled, Chastel pays no attention to the Italian spelling and doesn't comment on the name being misspelled by the French:  "Mona Lisa" when it should have been written "Monna Lisa" (Monna being the Italian diminutive of Madonna). Or that the expression "mona lisa" could have only made our Italian neighbors laugh (74). The word mona, in a popular dialect from the north of Italy, means vagina. The poems of Baffo are an interminable ode to the mona. "Cara mona, che in mezzo a do colone" ; "Gran beni che la mona al mondo fa!" As for the adjective lisa, which is the feminine of liso, it means threadbare. A mona lisa, then, to speak rigorous French, is a vagina that's losing its hair(75). The Mona Lisa as Duchamp presented her, with a moustache and beard(76) has been given back some luster and some hair. Against better judgement: the "L.H.O.O.Q. rasée," that he signed in 1965, is the Mona Lisa as Leonardo had painted her, without this hair. 

But the word liso, wasn't it also, in a strict parallel, the plucked penello  that was Duchamp himself when, in renouncing art, he went without this "little brush" crowned with a tuft of hair that is the sign of the painter and the symbol of his power?

Duchamp's so-called Leonardo "ready-made" shows only a little Dada provocation. It introduces a return to a sarcastic reflection, not without finesse, on the precariousness, the possibilty and finally on the reversibility of a secondary sexual characteristic and, as a result, on the dividing "infra-mince" between the two genders which make up the species.

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13. Montage by Jean Toche according to La grande Fortune by Albrecht Dürer and Moulin à Eau by Marcel Duchamp, for the cover of the third volume of Marcel Duchamp, edited by Jean Clair, Paris, 1977
14. Klein bottle, Paris, Palais de la Découverte

When I wrote, in the article "Éroticism" in the Abécedaire  for Duchamp (77)ill. 13, an essay on the complimentary anatomical shapes of Female Fig Leaf and Objet-Dard [Dart-Object], it was the strangeness of a topology which they represented which caught my attention. The two figures, in their necessary male/female reversibility, were also two possible projections, in a three-dimensional world, of a four-dimensional entity, and Klein's bottle, well known to mathematicians, could offer a sensible approximation of this.

Without a doubt, Duchamp knew of this bizarre object, a one-surface, unilateral volume which represented, along with Möbius' ribbon, a number of objects which were kept at the Henri Poincaré Institute (which surrealists assiduously frequented) and which Breton collected on occasion, ill. 14. At the start of the sixties, when Duchamp met up with François Le Lionnais, mathematician and member of the Pataphysics College, there were again the topological mysteries of the Möbius ribbon and the Klein bottle that, one would think, intrigued them.

This Klein bottle, born from the twisting of a spout turning in on itself, a spout reminiscent of a gloved finger, which so to speak invades itself(78), this strange cornue whose mouth plunges into its belly, with neither an inside nor an outside, was in effect a perfect illustration of the following note from the Green Box - the only time where it appears beside the mention of a learned four-dimensionality(79): "The interior and exterior (in a fourth dimension) can receive a similar identification." If this series of imprints of the female sex, molds of a vulva and a vagina, gave birth to some of the "dards" and "d'art" objects, such an enterprise responded well to the curiosity about genitalia, a mystery as old as time. In my article, I reproduced for the first time, a tableau which, twenty years later, would set a lot of pens in motion - Courbet's L'Origine du monde(80) - and I cited the analyses of Sandor Ferenczi who, in returning to Haeckel, established an ontogeny and phylogeny parallel in noting the perfect relationship between the phallus and the vagina, organe-fée, organe-Mélusine, sometimes developed in depth and sometimes on the surface according to the needs of space(81).

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15. The vagina represented like a penis, engraving taken from the work of Vésale, De humnai corporis fabrica, Bâle, 1543

The studies of Thomas Laqueur on the representations of the different sexes didn't appear in the United States until 1990. Dwelling on the representation that Vésale made of the vagina in Fabrica, imagined like a penis fitted back inside its glove, Laqueur analyzed the chance that such a "phallic" representation would have in successive images of the female genitals throughout the Renaissance and even, in the imagination of our minds, up to our time(82)ill. 15.

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It was hardly necessary, however, at the time I did so, to trace back to the analyses of Lacan and Laqueur in order to talk about Duchamp's sexual molds. I needed to go back only so far to get what Duchamp in his youth would have been able to read, during the first years of the century, in the way of Remy de Gourmont(83). A Norman like Duchamp (originally from Orne), a man of taste, a curious mind, passionate about the erotic, anarchistic, and admirably individual, Remy de Gourmont would hardly have gone unobserved in the eyes of his neighbor in Blainville.

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In 1903, his Physiology of Love was published. Chapter VIII, dedicated to the "organs of love" spoke of "sexual duality and sexual parallelism" as the title of the chapter implied. Gourmont, giving in to the Age of Industrialism, remarked that the male and female genitals were very much "like gears which must hook together with exactitude." But even more, citing Galien, it was the similarity in the difference that got his attention: "Every part of man is found in woman; there is only a difference in point of view, it's only that parts of the woman are internal and those of the man are external, from the region of the perineum. Take into account whichever first gets your attention, either one, and then think of the outside of woman, and think of the inside of man, and you will find everything the same…"(84)

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16. Marcel Duchamp, Dart-Object, 1951, galvanized plaster
17. Marcel Duchamp, Female Fig Leaf, 1950, galvanized plaster
18. Marcel Duchamp, Female Fig Leaf, Cover for the review, Le Surréalisme, même

This turning about - inversely - of the male and female was carried out initially with molds of the female sex (85), first of the external part in the object Not a Shoe, then of the hollow of the vagina in Objet-Dard. Then it was carried out with a photographic inversion, negative/positive, of an imprint that Duchamp made of the female sex with Female Fig Leaf for the cover of issue no. 1 of Surréalisme, même that Duchamp was going to carry out according to a "cut" which, following the teaching of Poincaré, passes through a superior dimension to the three-dimensional one of an anatomical organ. We could then be able to say that, as always, it passed systematically from the flat, two-dimensional representation of the genitals to a three-dimensional representation and, in the declination of the four works that we've cited, it passes to apprehending a four-dimensional sexuality. This sublimates the very blow that comes with the notion of a cut or "section" that the term sex implies - ill. 15 - 18 - by demonstrating that the "gender," the male or the female, was never, as with perspective, only a question of a point of view, given [étant donné ], from a certain distance, from a fixed eye-level, etc.

It was Gourmont again, who, citing Diderot in D'Alembert's Dream, fournished a description that underlines what the masculine sex possesses, a particular shaft within that resembles, said he, "a tacked on vulva": "There is in man, from the anus to the scrotum, an interval that we call the perineum, and from the scrotum to the tip of the penis, a vestige that seems to be leftover from a vulva, tacked on…"(86)

If we keep in mind that the singular technique of the Objet-Dard with its curious hard metal shaft running the length of it, we can't miss the parallel. The sewing, the network of "stoppages," the m of metal are familiar terms in the Duchamp vocabulary.

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19. The "androgynat alchimique" and copulation of the two "alambics," engraving drawn from a work of Giambattista della Porte, De Distillationibus, Strasbourg, 1609

The topological particularities of the Klein bottle could also lead to other reflections. I have even compared this last with the figures of the androgynat alchimique such as the ones represented by Giambattista della Porta, ill. 19. The figure of the Klein bottle devouring itself in a continuous movement which develops on the outside its internal surface and, conversely, which folds back in on the interior surface that which outlines it on the exterior, this movement of inversion would find itself very much in the figure of the two alambics maintaining between them a continuous motion of supply and demand. Della Porta, inventor of the camera oscura, invokes a telling premonition of modern analysis situs. Hadn't he made it in light of the image of a pelican devouring itself, of which the torsion of its beak plunging into its stomach in order to nourish itself is the same as the Klein bottle, a kind of esophagus continuum inverting its contained with its containing?

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20. Marcel Duchamp, Paris Air, 1919, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.

Now, the movement articulating the interior and exterior of the same volume around a unilateral surface is also found in another Duchamp object, Paris Air, ill. 20. The small glass vial, sealed and terminating in a slender neck, sketches the movement of the Klein bottle and poses in a certain way the same problem. What is "outside" in Paris, the air one breathes, becomes, when transported to New York, "inside," contained in a small bottle, a pocket of 50cc. The so-called readymade is now a strangely poetic object, largely meditative, a trap for dreaming, banal in appearance, that opens up one's mind to the reversibility of phenomena according to the point of view of the observer.

To be a man or a woman is a question of point of view, which expands or envelopes the surface of one and the same Objet-Dard. To breathe is also a question of point of view, whether it's about inhaling the air around us or considering the air just captured from where we were. This infinitesimal difference, that the transparent wall of a capsule of air creates, is what will resume for us the notion of "infra-mince." Duchamp had said, "When the tobacco smoke smells also of the mouth which exhales it, the odors marry by infra-thin."(87)

And when he calls himself a "breather" and lets go of his last breath, again, the question of "infra-mince" comes into play. The inscription on his tomb reads: "Besides, it's always the others who die." Besides, which is to say seen from another side, considered from another place, an unreal death. Death is only an "appearance." It is seen from the eyes of those who are on this side of the world, but it isn't a matter of ours. We will never be the eye-witnesses of our own death. As we approach it, the last breath separates us from it. We believe we can grasp it, from the other side of the glass, but it escapes us, belonging in the very act to another dimension that is where we will remain. It is not hidden from life but follows along the same unilateral surface and continues, like the Bride's love, and recovers from the act of enveloping and expanding one and the same reality. It is also in a dimension other than the continued three-dimensional, the continued succession of appearances that alone the infirmity of our experiences prevents us from entirely grasping just as it keeps us from understanding the end. From this side of things, we will never be the observers of our death. This "Besides" that separates us from the "infra-mince" frontier, from an invisible window, isn't it also the glass through which Alice, in a mathematician's fantasy, stepped into another world?

One last thing, in this moment when Thanatos rejects Eros, Duchamp, the great melancholic, noticed that our judgements and our affections always depend on the angle from which we absorb space and time in the world here below. And this world will forever be just a simple reflection taken from a superior reality that always remains inaccessible to us...

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38. Camille Flammarion. L'Inconnu et les problèmes psychiques. [Tr. The Unknown.] Paris: Éditions Flammarion, n.d.

39. De Rochas. Le Fluide des magnétiseurs. Précis des expéeriences du baron de Reichenbach sur ses proprétés physiques et physiologiques. Paris: Éditions Georges Carré, 1891.

40. It was between 1888 and 1914 that Albert Londe undertook to write the Nouvelle Iconogarphie de la Salpêtrière.

41. Röntgen. Eine neue Art von Strahlen. Würzburg, 1895.

42. Léon Denis. Dans L'invisible: spiritisme et médiumnité. Paris, 1904.

43. Joris-Karl Huysmans. À rebours, op. cit., p. 312.

44. One recalls that the most ferocious critic of this phenomenon who, born in the quietest Anglo-Saxon age of empiricism, had acquired the most dubious mysticism, was none other than Friedrich Engels. In the Dialectique de la Nature, he talks of the same spiritual plan as William Crookes who improved the laboratory's experimentation with phantasmagoria, and the approach of Zöllner, mathematician who "discovered that a lot of things that are impossible in a space of three dimensions come suddenly into being in a space of four dimensions […]. The spirits prove the existence of the four dimension, at the same time the fourth dimension guarantees the existence of the spirits." An interesting point of the criticism of Engels, which concerns Duchamp and his desirable four-dimensional Bride, brings about the inevitable material quality of these spirits "who breathe, are fertile, have lungs, a heart, and an apparent circulatory system and body […] and, like the most of these spirits are young women of a marvelous beauty who are neither distinguishable nor from nothing, all these maidens of the earth, according to their supernatural beauty, how could they miss being 'for men who resent love' […] In the same way the fourth dimension opens itself up to natural selection, a dimension where it will never have to fear being confused with the cruel social democrat."  (Friedrich Engels. "La science de la nature dans le monde des esprits" in Dialectique de la nature. Paris: Éditions Sociales, 1975, p. 57 sq.)

45. Hippolyte Baraduc. L'Âme humaine, ses mouvements, ses lumières, et l'iconographie de l'invisible fluidique. Paris: Éditions Ollendorf, 1896.

46. A sizable exception, however: Henri-Pierre Roché, in 1907, in the company of Franz Hessel, sojourned in the Bavarian capital. He would visit la bohème of Schwabing, the capricious comtesse Franziska von Reventlow.

47. The registry of police says, though, that he wouldn't have left Vienna before May 1913.

48. See Ian Kershaw. Hitler 1889 - 1936. Paris: Éditions Flammarion, p. 141.

49. See Rudolf Herz. Hoffmann und Hitler. Fotografie als Medium des Führer-Mythos. Munich: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1994.

50. John Toland. Hitler. Paris: Laffont, 1983. p. 211.

51. See V. Loers and P. Witsmann. Okkultismus und Avant-Garde - Von Munch bis Mondrian, 1900-1915. Frankfort: Schirn Kunsthalle, 1995. p. 238 - 241.

52. Joseph Beuys posseded the whole of his writings, must be a hundred volumes.

53. Unpublished document, graciously supplied by Hector Obalk.

54. Taken from the last chapter in this book, under the title, "La boîte magique."

55. Maurice Tuchman (under direction of). The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890 - 1985I. New York: Abbeville Press, 1987.

56.Okkultismus und Avant-Garde, op. cit.

57. Among the most recent works, one will notice: Rolf H. Krauss, Jenseits von Licht und Schatten. Die Rolle der Photographie bei bestimmten paranormalen Phänomenen. Ein historischer Abriss. Marbourg: Jonas Verlag, n.d.; Andreas Fischer and Veit Loers, Im Reich der Phantome - Fotografie des Unsichtbaren, exhibition catalog, Cantz, 1997; Angela Schneider and Joachim Jäger, Geist und Materie - Das XX. Jarhrhundert, ein Jarhundert Kunst in Deutschland exhibition catalog, Berlin, 1999: And last, appropriate to the influence from the science-related photographs and spirit photos of Edvard Munch, Arne Eggum, Munch and Photography, Yale University Press, 1989. Etc.

58. Louis Farigoule (alias Jules Romains). La Vision extra-rétinienne et le sens paroptique. Recherches de psychophysiologie expérimentale et de physiologie histologique. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1919.

59.Ibid., p. 39.

60.Ibid., p. 140.

61. Jules Romains. Les Hommes de bonne volonté,  chapter XVI. "Les créateurs." Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont, "Bouquins" collection, 1985. p. 848.

62. [Translation of title: "Chance, its laws and its consequences in the sciences and in philosophy, followed by an essay on the metempsychosis based on the principles of biology and physiological magnetism."]A first edition of the book appeared in 1890 under the title of Esquisse d'un système de la nature fondé sur la loi du hasard. A revised edition, published in 1909, was owned by Duchamp.

63. David Gascoyne, born in London in 1916, was the introducer of surrealism in Great Britain and himself a great surrealist poet. Established in Paris in 1932, he translated Péret, Unik, Tzara, Dali, Qu'est-ce que le Surréalisme? by André Breton, and wrote his own Premier Manifest anglais du surréalisme that was published in 1935 by Les Cahiers d'art. The following year, he organized in June, in London, the international exhibition on surrealism. He was all these years a close friend with Duchamp before turning his back on surrealism and engaging himself in a spirituality spurred by the readings of Kierkegaard, Chestov, and Benjamin Fondane.

64. Dominique Chateau.Duchamp et Duchamp. Paris: L'Harmattan, 1999.

65. We know, for example, that the bird cage of Why not Sneeze? contains, in its original version, hidden under the blocks of marble, two cups of porcelain in the shape of a cone (the moules mâlics  having themselves been designed from cone-like shapes, as Linde would show), a reservoir of grain and a reservoir of water, that was strictly the same theme as the two grindstones of the Broyeuse de chocolat. In the replicas made by Schwarz, this particular volumetric was evidently not respected.

66. Interview with Katharine Kuh, "MD," March 29, 1961, in K. Kuh's The Artist's Voice with seventeen artists. New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, 1962. p. 81-93.

67. Linde, with his intuition, made it happen such that La Grande Fortune by Dürer was on the cover of one of the volumes of the Duchamp catalog for the exhibition of 1977 at the Centre Georges Pompidou.

68. Remember that [the French word for Chance], "Hasard," written "hasart," only first appeared in the 17th century, taken from an arabic word that meant the game of dice. The sliding of its sense towards "le coup heureux dans un jeu de dés" [the happy roll in a game of dice], the happy chance, is going to replace its current sense of risk, chance, luck. (See Émile Littré. Pathologie verbale ou lésion de certains mots dans le course de l'usage, Paris, 1986, p. 53).

69. Jean Clair. "Duchamp, Léonard et la tradition maniériste" in Colloque Duchamp. Paris: U..G.E., 1979, p. 117. Taken from chapter IV in this book, entitled "Spectacula paradoxa rerum."

70. Cited by André Chastel, "Léonard et la pensée artistique du XX siècle" in Fables, formes, figures. Paris: Éditions Flammarion, 1978. Vol. 11, p. 267.

71. Discussion with Alfred Barr on December 21, 1945. Cited by J. Gough-Cooper and Jacques Caumont. Marcel Duchamp, exhibition catalog. Milan: Bompiani, 1993.

72.La Boîte de 1914.

73. André Chastel. L'Illustre incomprise. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1988, p. 51.

74. Pierre Lartique was the first, to my knowledge, to raise this anomaly. He must be thankful.

75. Pierre Guiraud, in his Dictionnaire érotique, gives the word moniche [vagina] the etymology of moune, female monkey. Let's add to this the old existing French term of mine in order to explain the mop of hair (of a cat, a mine [pussycat]), which was substituted in the popular expression "faire minette" which is to say, cunnilingus.

76. Today, "le barbu" ["bearded man"], dear to Annette Messager, is the feminine sex.

77.Abécédaire, op. cit., p. 52 sq. Taken from chapter V in this book, entitled "Moules femâlics."

78. It was the same action of modification that began L'Objet-Dard, otherwise incomprehensible.

79. Hector Obalk is the only one, to my knowledge, to have remarked upon this exception.

80. With the ancient legend of the Hatvany collection, in the museum of Beaux-Arts in Budapest.

81. Ferenczi. Thalassa, psychanalyse des origines de la vie sexuelle, 1928.

82. Thomas Laqueur. Making Sex. Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud. Harvard, 1990. French translation: La Fabrique du sexe. Essai sur le corps et le genre en Occident. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1992.

83. Ulf Linde was the first, as of 1977, to draw attention to Gourmont.

84. Cited by Remy de Gourmont. La Physique de l'amour. Paris: Éditions Georges Crès, 1917. p. 77-78.

85. It remains well known, the entire problem of material realization of such a molding. We would be able instead to speak of a "collapsible approximation," to the same degree that we can of the Objet-Dard, in fact, having served the function of supporting the arms of the Étant donnés.

86. Remy de Gourmont, op. cit., p. 79.

87. Published in View, special number on Marcel Duchamp, V, no. 1.


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