Edward D. Powers
"passage" may literally be the anatomical route...
In Apprentice, then, although figuration is inherently opposed to the space of musical notation, nevertheless, the ascending figure of the bicyclist is, at once, conceptually assimilated to the ascent of the musical scale itself. For "sol" refers not only to the title sun ["soleil"] of the drawing--the very precondition of what is given to sight--but also to the rising ground ["sol"] which the bicyclist ascends, exactly as the musical scale does also ["sol" = key of G(22)]. In the relationship of its imprint ["empreinte"] to its sheet-music paper as ground ["sol"], Apprentice in fact revisits another work of just the prior year, Musical Erratum (1913) (Fig. 13), which Duchamp scores for three voices, and whose lyrics he exactly appropriates from a dictionary definition of imprint ["imprimer"].(23) In this "musical mistake", both the aleatory lyrics themselves, as well as the equal value of the notes, and their arbitrary order and range, all participate in the artist's contemporary experiments with objective chance. Most telling of all, however, are the respective relationships of the "imprints", or "figures", in Musical Erratum and Apprentice to their otherwise identical "ground". However unconventional the lyrics and notes in Musical Erratum, nevertheless, their relationship as musical notation to their sheet-music paper as ground is entirely conventional. In Apprentice, by contrast, that relationship--analogizing the ascent of the bicyclist to that of the musical scale and, therefore, the figure to the ground--has been entirely conceptualized. As Duchamp explains, "before the Nude my paintings were visual. After that they were ideatic":(24) not only in how they convey the "passage" from figure to ground, however, but also in how they figure the ascent of a bicyclist, like the descent of a nude, and movement more generally.
The male-ish gender of the second Nude, whose title is admittedly neutral on this score,(27) is further confirmed by Duchamp's inscription of the third Nude (1916) (Fig. 16) as the son ["fils"], presumably, of the second: "Marcel Duchamp [Fils] / 1912-1916", as the third Nude reveals at recto. Doubtless, "daughter" would have better served the same filial purpose, were not the second Nude male; the third Nude a replica of the second; and both, in this sense, a reprise of another nude young man, from just the month before the second Nude: Duchamp's Sad Young Man on a Train (1911) (Fig. 17). Sad Young Man is a painting of "two parallel movements corresponding to each other" which, Duchamp elaborates, are those of the train and of the sad young man passing through its corridor.28) However, the artist also provides us with two further and frankly anomalous details: the nude young man is a self-portrait--"Marcel Duchamp / nu (esquisse) / Jeune homme triste dans un train...", as he inscribes the picture at verso--in which he is smoking a pipe.(29) An entire series of only barely symbolic, yet closely related "parallel movements" thus emerges, according to which everything rather starts to resemble the phallus: from the erect young man penetrating the train's "corridor"; to the train, itself, surely entering the tunnel of his symbolic; where the pipe he smokes is no longer one--for, "faire une pipe" is not to make a pipe, as Magritte's picture famously disavows (Fig. 18), but rather "to give a blow job". Indeed, the "parallel movements" of Sad Young Man and, separated by only a month, the second Nude are entirely comparable: the nude young man, who at first penetrates a venerably Freudian corridor, in turn, descends an equally venerable staircase:(30) exactly the psycho-sexual Passage which the title work nominally regenders. No differently, the swing of his "pipe" in Sad Young Man, at first replaced by that of his "pendu"(lum) in the second Nude, Duchamp analogously regenders as "Le Pendu Femelle" in both Passage and Bride. Rather, the salient difference between Sad Young Man and the second Nude is the use of chronophotographic cues in the latter -- to supplement the similarly chronophotographic process of successively doubling the figure in both works--in a way which specifically isolates and identifies "Le Pendu Femelle". The source of these chronophotographic cues--in the time-lapse imagery of the foils Marey's fencers wield -- exactly re-emphasizes the phallic aspect of "Le Pendu Femelle" by transforming Marey's fencers' foils into the "phallic barbs" which, as John Golding observes, everywhere proliferate throughout Duchamp's first stab at The Bride Stripped Bare By The Bachelors (1912) (Fig. 19).(31) >>Next
18. De Duve, Pictorial Nominalism, pp. 96-118. See also Anne d'Harnoncourt, Kynaston McShine, eds., Marcel Duchamp (N.Y.: Museum of Modern Art, 1973) 263, where Duchamp refers to Munich as "the scene of my complete liberation", albeit without explanation.
19. Marcel Duchamp, Affectionately, Marcel: The Selected Correspondence of Marcel Duchamp, ed. Francis Naumann, Hector Obalk, trans. Jill Taylor (Ghent: Ludion Press, 2000) 26. But it's also unclear how Duchamp's defining gestures -- not only the famous fracas caused by the second Nude at the Armory Show, but also the scandalous submission of Fountain to the New York Independents exhibition -- betrays even the slightest influence of German "Secession", rather than the specifically discontinuous model of Parisian avant-garde rejection, to which de Duve opposes it.
21. See Ades, Cox, Hopkins, Marcel Duchamp, p. 55. Cézanne, therefore, is not only the "retinal" painter whom Duchamp consistently excoriates, but also the "father" of Modernist art (in de Duve's sense) whom Duchamp, by instead conceptualizing the "retinal" figure-ground problem, both overthrows and, at once, becomes.
23. Duchamp's lyrical definition reads: "Faire une empreinte; marquer des traits; une figure sur une surface; imprimer un sceau sur cire" [Make an imprint; mark with lines; a figure on a surface; impress a seal in wax] (DDS 52-53; WMD 34).
25. E.g. Duchamp, Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, p. 34; Roberts, "Interview with Marcel Duchamp", p. 46; Katherine Kuh, The Artist's Voice: Talks with Seventeen Artists (N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1962) 83.
27. In a 1916 interview, Duchamp circumvents the question of the second Nude's gender as follows: "'Is it a woman?' this young but very world-weary Frenchman repeated after me... 'No. Is it a man? No... The Nude descending a staircase is an abstraction of movement'". Dawn Ades, "Duchamp's Masquerades", in The Portrait in Photography, ed. Graham Clarke (London: Reaktion Books, 1992), pp. 102-3. For a balanced reading of the second Nude's possible gender(s), see Ades, Cox, Hopkins, Marcel Duchamp, pp. 48-51.
31. See John Golding, Marcel Duchamp: The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (N.Y.: Viking Press, 1973) 41. Duchamp's title Disk Inscribed with Pun (1926) makes the connection between foil and phallus explicit: "Avez vous déjà mis la moëlle de l'épée dans le poêle de l'aimée?" [Haven't you already put the stem of the foil in the stove of the goil?] (cf. DDS 153; WMD 106).