Vol.1 / Issue 3

continuation and conclusion of
Duchamp at the Turn of the Centuries


The Soirée with Mr. Duchamp

With Remy de Gourmont, we return to the place where we started. Duchamp, decadent?

Remember, one more time, the portrait that Jules Romains drew of Strigelius for which the model was Paul Valéry. A Strigelius "satisfied, not with production, whose faults didn't escape him at all, but with mannerism, by which things happened. He wasn't tormented one moment, wasn't afraid of sterility, neither of failure […] Everything was given to the encounters between matter and mental instinct. Strigelius himself - such a responsible man, a director of "signature" - was restricted to being attentive and speaking his mind. He showed little pain. The game amused him."(88)

Leonardo's method, which would have fascinated Paul Valéry, and the Strigelius method that Jules Romains described are in effect one and the same method - the method of Duchamp, "le directeur qui a la 'signature'". The way to escape sterility and to ignore the angst of being a creator is to leave oneself to Chance, not to the game of the surrealists in which, in the shadow of the unconscious, there sparkles the meeting of words and graffiti, the promise of the sense and the accomplishment of desire. Nor is the way to escape by taking on "the automation of the sibyl" but, says Jules Romains very smartly, "a kind of automation of instinct" which permits him to "stay in agreement with his vision of the world, having crowned old dreams that it turns into a physical-mathematical culture (89)."

Within [the French] "insecte" there's the word "sec" ["dry"] and this key word to Duchamp's esthetic is the confession of a moral: beneath the sparkling of words there is nothing, nothing profound, nothing interior, nothing trembling, but a roll of the die forever tossed away. Perhaps there was only the fascination of the skeleton, "la mariée squelette" for Duchamp, in its geometrical purity and in its honest whiteness, a corpse which would always be refused the exquisite charm of existence…

The real work, like with Leonardo - like with Raymond Roussel whose approach to writing also gave rise to the Strigelius method (90)- was always sacrificed to a program of possible works. In default of mastering a creation, we see a dissemination of immense criticism. A poïétique, in the absence of a work.

Let's stick, however, to the ambition of creating art. Even a masterpiece. This ambition was that of Leonardo. Nothing less preoccupied Duchamp, nothing more concerted. Lazy but stubborn. He was, in this way, a classical mind: none of the small-mindedness or shortness of breath of the moderns who identified with him. Thirteen years to work on the Large Glass. Twenty years on Étant donnés. And the first notes for this enigmatic work, which was revealed in 1969, date back to...1915. Similarly, 1915 is the date of his notes about The Clock in Profile which wasn't seen until 1960. An astonishing perseverance, an astonishing production, focused, while everything around him fell to pieces. But a masterpiece, in the second half of this century, was it even possible?

* * *

In essence, more like Monsieur Teste than any other. "I was badly, sharply affected with perfection. I held onto an extreme desire incapable to comprehend, and I was searching inside myself for those areas critical to my ability to perceive.(91)" With a similar feeling of distance, we aren't any further from the "Painting of precision" or the "Beauty of indifference" which would define the esthetic of Marcel Duchamp.

And still, he who welcomed beginnings, ignored ends, who considered himself superb, as a "définitif inachèvement," how could he not have recognized himself as being in the faith profession like Teste: "The general results - and by consequence the work - interested me a lot less than the energy of the worker - the substance he trusts.(92)"

The treatise on chess that he wrote in 1932 with Halberstadt, Opposition and Sister Squares Are Reconciled, brings this interest to mind. From the author's own confession, the book was unusable. It features a problem which almost never happens in chess matches and would only serve a handful of persons. "These are possible situations at the of a match, but so rare that they are nearly utopian. Chess champions don't even read the book since the problem it raises only happens maybe once in a lifetime." It was Henri-Pierre Roché who would guess the profoundly hopeless horizon of such an enterprise. "A game," certainly, but an extreme one, which people no longer fancied. Would this have amused him too?

A Monsieur Teste of the domain of art - "It isn't a matter of demand for the same possibility. The worry can be about control. He observes himself, he maneuvers, he doesn't want to leave himself to maneuver. He only knows two values, two categories, those which are the underlying consciousness of his acts: the possible and the impossible….(93)

The Taboo of Modern Art

Having arrived at this point, I was seized with doubt. Monsieur Teste? But Monsieur Teste had nothing of the sarcastic about him. Nothing of this mordant irony, nor even the cynicism that we encounter in Duchamp. Moreover, wasn't it a matter of conserving art - Ars - by killing the artist himself, as if cutting the strings of a marionette? Or, on the contrary, since art was already dead in 1912 when Duchamp came upon the scene, was it about preserving the illusion of being an artist, sparing oneself the labor of having to do the work?

"Since 1923 I consider myself as an artist 'défroqué' [unfrocked]," he wrote in his own hand in the sixties(94). What religion of art did he serve as preacher? What liturgy did he celebrate? And in 1923, the unfinished state of the Large Glass - his failure? - what lay people did he show this to?

The expression of "unsatisfied relations" came to my quill when I attempted, simultaneously, to trace the process of exclusion which made Duchamp "a failure" and to deconstruct the genealogy of the readymade. "Il faut partire de ce qui a déjà été fait…comme l'ont fait son propre père et sa propre mère." An unexpected confession from the mouth of an iconoclast and an avant-gardist who had found himself also the youngest in a line of artists.

Click to enlarge
21. Marcel Duchamp, Ready-made, 1964

In 1964, Duchamp produced a twilight readymade from a photo of his family, ill. 21. Taken in 1899, it is found to have been cut - like the outline of Marcel Duchamp in M.D. dechiravit - along a certain curve. We see the father, Eugene Duchamp, seated on the right, and next to him the two sisters, Suzanne and Yvonne, while in the top half, the mother holds in her arms the newborn baby Magdeleine. Young Marcel is in the center. The two brothers, however, aren't visible in this cut-out of the photograph. Intentional? To avenge the insult from them at the Indépendants? "Incest, or the passion of the family.(95)” The last settling of an account of the child "born to rebel"?

Click to enlarge
22. Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917, photo by Alfred Stieglitz

The way the photo has been cut is unique, just like the hat of a doge is unique, with still another cut within, like the shadow of a needle. But the helix which opens a window within the photo shows also, precisely, another cut and another shadow: that of Fountain, in its canonic photo that was made by Stieglitz in 1917, ill. 22, to illustrate The Richard Mutt Case. The family portrait becomes, in a certain sense, a retouched photo, framed by the readymade Fountain.

In carefully choosing the angle from which it would be taken, and in designing the shadow in the urinal's cavity  - the same as the outline of the photo - Stieglitz gave the sanitary apparition the appearance of a mandorle or a Buddha, as some people have said. The sanitary object thus disposed - turned to a 90 degree angle,  photographed, of trivial use now as a public object - took on the allure of a porcelain talisman, pious, for private worship. The title even underlines the ambiguity: Fountain, with its connotation of lustrous water, of natural origins, of a clear rejuvenating spring.

It was Louise Norton, wife of the composer Edgar Varèse, who dubbed Duchamp's urinal "the Buddha of the Bathroom."  Relying on a passage from the authority, Remy de Gourmont - rightly, in his Essay on the Dissociation of Ideas - yet again doesn't hesitate to see, if one succeeds in breaking away from conventional bonds with which we link objects with functions and words, the "pure" example of an art of the future. A fountain to cleanse the face of prejudice.

Should we ask ourselves now about the significance of the signature: R. MUTT? We will here advance a hypothesis: "Mutt" in English is a pejorative word that means "imbecile, twit." Modern-day French would say "sale con." As for the letter R, rather than being the initial of a surname, doesn't it go back to an episode during preparations for the exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists where the urinal was going to be shown? Duchamp had been charged by the committee's director to preside over the hanging of the art. In order to decide how to choose the alphabetical order of the artists, he decided to do a drawing of lots. It was by chance that the letter R was drawn first and would determine the place of 2,125 works at the exhibition. As a result, R appears like the rank of the work and "mutt," its adjective.

Notice too, that to the eye of any student of German, like Duchamp, R. Mutt can be read as "Armut," German for "poor", "indigent," "destitute," "penurious," "incapable." Geistige Armut is poverty of the spirit.

In English, like in German, the word rings with lowlife, humiliation - confirming the use of the object which in modern society serves to evacuate urine.

An esthetic of the stercoraire

To inscribe the effigies of his own family in the inside of a urinal is to recall Inter urinas et faeces nascimur. To make it in the spirit of a readymade that more than any other was put at stake along with his relationship and his reputation, his "fame" as an artist. To compisser his family in the same action and to enthrone a urinal - this was to pursue a scatalogical and embarrassing eloquence that he often manifested. Recall, of the twenty examples of puns and Morceaux moisis [Moldy pieces] gathered by Michel Sanouillet, the "Fossettes d'aisances," the "Oh! do shit again…" "Oh! douche it again," the "de MA Pissotière j'aperçois Pierre de Massot" and, above all, the anagram so revelatory: "Ruiner, uriner" [Ruined, Urined].(96)

The useless public urinal, Fountain, appears at first glance like a perverse parody on the shell in which Aphrodite was born from the foam of the sea and the sperm of a god. The ejaculation stream and the urine stream are the insult made to the vénusté. Of the Beauty remains only "ruins." But for the semen to substitute waste is to advance that reproduction is no longer from Eros but has returned to its primitive cloak. "One has only: for female urinal and one lives by it…(97)”ss

The urinal also establishes, in contemporary history, that the museum, a closed and sacred place where the object of ancient ritual turns into the object of modern culture, is in shocking proximity to the pit of release, the public bathroom, the prostitute or the brothel(98).

At the opposite end of the spectrum of the positivistic thesis of Malraux on the metamorphosis of Gods in the imaginary muséal, Duchamp's museum is a place of cleaning out, of reducing, of desecrating art in "in every respect." A general draining of values.

* * *

Since the time of the ancients, the experience of the stercus has been linked to the birth of culture (99). Our ontological position faced with the concept of Beauty is first a scatological position. What, asked Goethe, do we make of this Erdenrest, of this inopportune "pit stop" by which man, like animal, marks out his territory(100)? Civilization, if one believes Freud, is subjected to a double unrest: when shed of an impulse to subjugate such dregs of the earth, it creates objects and values socially useful but it is constantly motivated by the need for "more juice" [tr. a play on the word for "orgasm"] which is never reducible to the dimension of the useful. Civilization is trapped between the reality of excreta and the necessity of waste which comes from the production of abundance, itself born of the triad - order, cleanliness, beauty - fruit of our education, which is to say the repression of instinct. In this way, waste is found to be sublimated to a gain in pleasure, an enrichment, of which a work of art would be the most noble image. The high degree of civilization of the Roman culture is measured as much for the construction of a Cloaca maxima as for the beauty of proportion in an aqueduct bringing water for bathing. From the mud of the stercoraire is born the treasure of our culture(101).

The arrival of Fountain does away with the fabric of society, or rather transforms its gold back into mud. The immense effort of transformation of the impulsive energy that establishes a culture is reduced by Duchamp to an action so lazy that it becomes an "infra-mince." In his sketch of the economy of minimal impulses, he draws up a list of "...slight, wasted energies such as...the growth of a head of hair, of other body hair and of the nails...the fall of urine and excrement...stretching, yawning, sneezingl...ordinary spitting and of blood...vomiting, ejaculation, [...] etc."(102) It's to draw an esthetic of the stercoraire and this perhaps is his last word.

Let's recall that Freud, in Civilisation and Its Discontents,s was exposing a curious theory, à propos of an interesting game of figures of "ambition, (of) fire, and (of) urethra erotica," in recalling the accomplished "exploits" of Gargantua and Gulliver, giants who, in extinguishing fire by urinating, affirm their virile (103) power. In the destiny of unfulfilled ambition, worse still, falling short in a duel with his own brothers, one could say in this respect that the urinal was playing its symbolic role.

But Freud above all was testifying in his essay which extended the introductory remarks in Totem and Taboo, his anxiousness in distinguishing, in the society of his time, the symptoms of the eclipse of the social Super Ego, of this Kultur Über-Ich, this idealization of Me (104) that cultivated society impresses upon us and art would be its highest (105) representation. He alone allowed, in channeling and domesticating ones impulses, in particular in mastering ones erotic instincts, anal and urethral, to establish a civilization.

The collapse of the collective Super Ego, such that we, stupefied and alarmed at this end of the century can record it, would verify even the pessimism of Freud, one of the last sages that the philosophy of the Enlightenment fathered. And Duchamp would be one of the most resounding symptoms of it.

An archaic sacer

In such a turnaround of values, such a transmutation à rebours, of gold into bones, because the work is defiled, because it can no longer be consecrated in the liturgy of a clergy elevated in the religion of art (thus was it still for the symbolists and the decadents) and because the artist is today necessarily, a "défroqueé of art", art can suddenly get strength and be reborn, by and in the waste, even.

It is the same filth, the same stercus taken as it is of the impure and untouchable, that revived a sense of the sacred, a sacred other, at the opposite end of the spectrum from the delicate fin de siècle mysticism.

To be taken in such ambivalence was to rediscover the sense of an essential and enigmatic figure that was the origin of a sense of the divine: the sacratio of the sacer.

It was discovered that at the same time of Duchamp's youth, the sacratio was defined, studied and discussed by the growing science of anthropology (106). The sacratio is the archetypal figure of the sacred as much as it is of the consecration of the infernal gods, analogous in its ambiguity to the ethnological notion of taboo, august and damned, both worthy of inspiring veneration and creating horror. The sacer manifests the impossibility of separating the sacred, the saint, and the sacrosanct as we know them from the impure, the damned, the abominable. Is sacer that which, with a being or an object, simultaneously raises the sacred and the profane, the taboo and the untouchable, the consecration and the outlawed, the secret to guard and the order to reject? In him veneration and horror get mixed up, same as disgust and sanctification, the holy and the unclean.

One could say it was discovered that between the end of the 19th century and during the first two decades of the 20th century that this theory of the ambiguous sacred, a sacred "faste" ["splendorous"] and a sacred "nefaste" ["harmful"], would meet its greatest fortune. Freud himself in Totem et Tabou, in 1912, referred to it. It coincided, as Giorgio Agamben (107) rightly noted, with this moment where the western religious tradition, at the end of the Victorian era, began to betray its own malaise, such that theology admitted its confusion before the riddle of the revealed word, such that religious sentiment had descended into the banal, a shudder, before the obscure and the impenetrable. Duchamp participated very much in the "malaise with religion" when he admitted to being "a défroqué of art."

The Extinction of the Christian Body

Such ambivalence touches the heart of the problem with art, work and creativity in the 20th century as they became the approximate substitutes for what was sacred in religious times. Art, in modern society, is the means of religion. It's the thing people listen to, but did we account for what this was signifying, if art was itself taking part in the failure of the sacer?

It's become common with young artists to use in their work blood, saliva, hair, and what Plato designated the most vile in man, also nasal secretions, excrement, sanie, pus. The use of the wound (Gina Pane), the manipulation of blood (Journiac, Hermann Nitsch), the experience of pain and self-mutilation (Schwarzkogler, Orlan), experimentation with risk (Chris Burden), and in more recent work, a return to the urolagnie, to the coprophilie (Andrès Serrano). In the beginning, never would artwork have been so derisive, never would it have linked itself with the scatological, the soiled and malodorous (108). But never - and this fact is extremely significant - would it have been set apart by the powers of the people from timid attempts at resistance, so much applauded, celebrated, encouraged (109). Everything has happened as if the public exhibition of excremental works will, from now on, outlive the social body (110). Everything has happened as if the cohesion of the socius, now impossible to maintain either in religion or in traditional art, is from this point forward, in the public manifestation of an accepted and celebrated scatology under the name of art, in fact, in the name of an archaic and violent sacer, the display of life stripped of its organs, a pure state of physiology, a sort of generalized affirmation of biological waste.

We seem to live at a time when the Christian body (111) is becoming extinct and while this body, in the domain of science, becomes the terrain of all experience, of all plasticity, of all hybridization, and of all disintegration. We no longer know if we're dealing with the living dead (in the case of the embryo) or the dead-living (in the case of the comatose, artificially kept alive). Contemporary art affirms the extinction and, in experimentation in this manner with such and such fragments of the new body which science proposes, reinvents a bloody and horrible ritual, approximating primitive sacrifices on which religion was established. In the general collapse of canons and normalcy, it seems that the body has become the immediate reference to creation. It's also the ultimate form of infantile regression, when all social taboos, little by little forged by the repression of instincts, which is to say by culture, have been lifted. The contemporary artist refers to his own body and in particular to the productions of his body that are exrecta, as if they were immediate proof of his existence, following the example of the infant who finds in his own body the first frontiers of his identity.

An esthetic of the stigmatized stercoraire like art at the turn of this century, in the same way that an esthetic of the quintessential marked the end of the last century. As its heir, Duchamp would have been responsible for it.

The phantasmagoria that he engraved in the Bride of the Large Glass, a new and incredible organism, with her organs stripped bare, skinned, turned inside out and like bursts in four-dimensional space, thus anticipate very well the affect of the new post-Christian body which is now affirmed at the end of the century. The urinal will have confirmed, as its symbolic role, not in accelerating the manufactured object to the rank of art, or in consecrating, according to Benjamin, the loss of the aura of the work, but even more radical, in bringing about a return to the archaic sacrifice of waste and the childish veneration of stercus.

As for the motive behind The Bride Stripped Bare, did not Duchamp attempt to throw the spectator towards a religious interpretation, in recalling that the stripped was first associated with Christ, whose clothes were stripped before his crucifixion? To Alfred Barr who asked him, after the war in 1945, if by chance the Bride of the Large Glass had something to say about the assumption of the Virgin, Duchamp responded no, but advanced on the other hand that the expression "stripped bare" could have well referred to the station of the cross where the clothes of Christ were torn off. Fourteen years later, in an interview with the BBC, on September 14, 1959, he would return to this theme ne varietur. "The stripped bare," he would say, "probably had even a naughty connotation with Christ. You know that Christ was stripped bare, and it was a naughty form of introducing eroticism and religion…" The Bride Stripped Bare, sarcastic parody of the Christian ritual, was directly establishing the ritual which we now face.

We will be able to say that there where neither religion nor traditional art can any longer guarantee the "cultural" existence of the body (the social body as much as civil society), the fin de siècle state has manifested into an absolute bipartisan power that needs contemporary scatological art in order to find esthetic and moral legitimization in the sacrificial practice as we know it. We're no longer dealing with a Christian redemption founded on the primitive death of the Father but a sacer per nefas that is exercised upon the naked body of every citizen.

Wasn't such ambiguity already at the heart, divinely demonic, of Marcel Duchamp's method? The urinal, in his time, was never exhibited. And there were Duchamp's own colleagues, artists, who opposed its participation in an exhibition. It's in revenge then, that the state of today, with its ministers, representatives, deputies, and officers who test the obscure need, no more violent than horrible, the sordid, the excremental, like extreme incarnations of a necessary sacer to hold society together, must be ritually presented.

Contemporary art, as exultation of waste and horror, became thus the post-modern liturgy of a society in quest of a new bond with the sacratio, a re-ligio in the proper sense. The acedia of the young idle dandy that Duchamp was at the beginning of the century is then shed, like in the melancholy ceremony, in the "black" mass, the religiosity "à rebours" of a des Esseintes who pretended to change the lead, of the saturnine individual that he was, into gold, into a sordid operation where the alchemist's kiln, in the form of a urinal, became emblematic of today's art, and transformed the gold of the spirit evermore into lead.

Duchamp the Apostle

To review the analyses of Marcel Gauchet, we see that a double standard seems to stand out during the course of the century in that he calls Duchamp's process a way out of religion. And Duchamp was present at the beginning of both of these restructurings.

The first time, around 1900, between the last decade of the last century and the first decade of ours, a premiere displacement began rebuilding religion outside of religion. Estheticism as the ersatz of religion and the will of the avant-garde to rebel as a messianic project then played this role of transfer. The second time - which we carry on today - would be the installation of a religious without religion (112).

The turn of the century, we've seen, participated in a grand moment of occultism and "physical research." This, which was formally regarded as the supernatural, phantom-like apparitions, miracles, revelations, was from then on indebted to the pursuit of science in piercing "the invisible." If the ancient religious bond with the world had expired, the belief in the powers of the beyond didn't just go out the door, since artists and intellectuals, physicians and poets, every explorer of the psychic realm grew to celebrate these powers. And every member of the avant-garde of the time, from Kandinsky and the those in Munich to Mondrian, from Malevitch to Kupka - this avant-garde that Duchamp, with his associations, his friendships, his readings and his trips confirm - participated in this religious science, fearful of optimism and the lay ideal for a better society, but no less swept over with the belief in the dimension of revelation. This dimension - for the ease, let's say, in occurrence, "symbolism" and "decadence," in their two contradictory but indissolubly bonded facets that are a modernizing or socializing symbolism that dreams of a better society, and a satanic symbolism, or "diabolic nature," like the opposite of symbolism, that wants an apocalypse and is fascinated by the fall of man - this in any case is the belief that art possess in itself a dimension of "unveiling" (to use the term of Schuré, Péladan and Blavatsky for the many "initiates") that compels its supporters to become the magi or, as Duchamp would say, the "mediums."

Thus, after 1923, came a time of disillusion and apathy. Duchamp défroqué. Duchamp idle. Duchamp the chess player. Duchamp the prophet of contemporary art. Duchamp the genius of American art. This other Duchamp, who spent his life commentating on his first gestures and giving them an often confusing meaning, at the last minute announced, in the 1960s, a second construction that had been underway beneath our very eyes during his last years: the installation of a religious without religion. The secular religion of art emptied of substance, extinguishing the faith in its transcendental powers of knowledge, abolishing in consequence the ideology of the avant-garde, is replaced with a religiosity without religion, which no more tests the need for an objectification of its belief but is contented with individual manifestations, idiotic configurations, self-celebrations, micro-experiences without validation, without sanction, without a church - other than the benediction of a State which, we've seen, was finally taken into account.

But had Duchamp wished for such evolution? Would he have accepted it? He had painted, in Munich, a tableau, Bride, which is in every respect his masterpiece. The chromatic finesse of the grays and the ochre, the declination of the reds and the greens, a lesson in anatomy without precedent, without posterity, makes this icon of cubism, irreducible to the things common to cubists, a work of infinite charm which placed Duchamp right away in the ranks of the great masters. He had established his supremacy.

Now, when he abandoned painting and decided to plunge himself into the sterility of the window of the Large Glass, was it a rebellion of dés mallarméen, the dizziness of a virgin in the Hérodiade? Abandoning the toil, its warmth, suppleness, and its organic life, abandoning the pigments and their bond with the earth, he chose the materials of a laboratory, the glass of test-tubes and vials. For a long time, crazy with powerlessness, he said he only bread dust, like others, and in the base of petri dishes, grew colonies of protozoa. The culture of melancholia. And it was lead, the metal of Saturn, that he chose for creating shapes and it was minium that he chose for covering surfaces, an oxide of lead, a preservative but also a preparation for color to come and which wouldn't come, an under-layer for a coat never to be found. Could one, more lucidly, more painfully, more cynically, choose the power of gray against the green of the tree of life and, in accordance with this theoria, with this intellectual view, this morose speculation, the preeminence of the practical and experience over the senses, sign a pact with the devil that thousands of lost children would sign after?

(from the last third of the article)

88. Jules Romains. "Strigelius applique sa méthode," Les Hommes de bonne volonté, op. cit., p. 835.

89.Ibid.,p. 827.

90. See Raymond Roussel. Comment j'ai écrit certains de mes livres. Paris: Lemerre, 1935.

91. Paul Valéry. Preface to "La soirée avec Monsieur Teste," Monsieur Teste. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1946. p. 7.

92.Ibid., p. 8

93.Ibid., p. 11-12.

94. Cited by J. Gough-Cooper and Jacques Caumont, Marcel Duchamp, op. Cit., p. 108. In two reappraisals, at least, other than this manuscript, Duchamp would explain his state of being "défroqué." The first time, in 1959, to G. H. Hamilton, he confided, "It's true that I really was very much of a Cartesian défroqué - because I was very pleased by the so-called pleasure of using Cartesianism as a form of thinking, logic and very close mathematical thinking." (Interview with the BBC, in London, September 14-22, 1959.) Such confidence confirms our analyzed notion of a Duchamp as prospector, spiritual son of the Minimes and of the father Athanasius Kircher (see the chapter "Thaumaturgus opticus"). A second time, in 1966, he confided in the critic Pierre Cabanne that, "Depuis quarante ans que je n'ai pas touchéun pinceau ou un crayon, j'ai été vraiment défroqué au sens religieux du mot…" (Entretiens avec P. Cabanne, "Je suis un défroqué" in Arts-Loisirs, Paris, no. 35, May 25 - 31, 1966, p. 16-17.)

95. Cited by Pierre de Massot, The Wonderful Book, 1924.

96. From a seeming sarcasm, under the same influence as a sacer that Caillois was going to define in 1939 (see note 106), Georges Bataille, in Le Bleu du ciel, établira l'équation: "Uriner: buriner."

97.Op. cit., note 14.

98. The surrealist tradition, Michel Leiris for example, in L'Âge d'homme, found pleasure in treating a museum like a brothel.

99. We certainly hear "culture" in a traditional sense of "the particular form of a civilization owing to its people." (Littré.) The pulverization of the concept in expressions like "consumer culture," "rap culture," or "media culture" make it lose all of its meaning.

100. "Und bleibt ein Erdenrest zu tragen peinlch…" (Goethe, The Second Faust.)

101. Freud. Le Malaise dans la culture (1930)[Tr. Civilisation and Its Discontents], Œuvres complètes, XVIII. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1994.

102. Cited in André Breton's, Anthologie de l'humour noir. Paris: Éditions du Sagittaire, 1940. p. 225.

103. Freud., op. cit., p. 37, note 3.

104. Ibid., p. 103.

105. Ibid., p. 25 sq.

106. For example, in these three fundamental works from the turn of the century: Hubert et Mauss, Essai sur le sacrifice, 1899; Émile Durkheim, Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse, 1912; Rudolf Otto, Das Heilige. Ueber das Irrationale in der Idee des Göttlichen und sien Verhältnis zum Rationalen, 1917; Le Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue latine  of Ernout and Meillet, in 1932, again, established that the notion of sacer "designates this or what can't be touched without being soiled or without soiling; from there the double sense of 'holy' or 'damned'" (p. 586). Roger Caillois, in L'homme et le sacré, in 1939, belatedly therefore will take into account this definition.

107. Girogio Agamben. Homo sacer. Le pouvoir souverain et la vie nue. Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1977, p. 85 sq.

108. If Duchamp used his stubble in the plaster mold With my Tongue in my Cheek, or even his own sperm for an homage to the Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins, he wasn't going to go as far as using what came out of his nose like the French Pierrick Sorin, celebrated in every manifestation of contemporary art in his country and beyond, neither would he use his excrement like the artist Chris Ofili (Turner Prize 1998).

109. For example, one will cite the enormous success brought in by the exhibition Sensations, put up at the Royal Academy of London in 1998, or its equivalent, put up at the Brooklyn Museum of New York in 1999, announced by a spread of advertisements from the department of health, where one could have read: "The contents of this exhibition may cause shock, vomiting, confusion, panic, euphoria, and anxiety. If you suffer from high blood pressure, a nervous disorder, or palpitations, you should consult your doctor before viewing this exhibition."

110. The Turner Prize of 1999, a prize of two hundred thousand francs, was given to the artist Tracy Ermin for her own bed, stained in urine, covered in used condoms, pregnancy tests, dirty underwear, and bottles of vodka, the bed where she would have spent a week in a state of depression leading to a breakdown.

111. In the sense that Jean-Louis Schefer gave to this expression in his Invention du corps chrétien (Paris, Éditions Galileé, 1975)

112. Marcel Gauchet. "L'inconscient en redéfinition," Essai de psychologie contemporaine, in Le Débat, no. 100, May-June 1998, p. 200 sq.