Why the Hatrack is and/or is not Readymade: |
With Interactive Software, Animations, and Videos for Readers to Explore
Shearer, Rhonda Roland with Alvarez, Gregory, Slawinski, Robert, Marchi, Vittorio |
and text box by Gould, Stephen Jay
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The "snapshot effect"(2) of this timing of the readymade, to which Duchamp refers in this note, makes sense when we examine Duchamp's readymades with his mathematical notes (written 1911-15 but held back for publication by Duchamp until 1967, a year before his death.)(3)
First, let us begin by "looking" at Duchamp's readymades through time. Since Duchamp claims that he "lost" most of his original readymade objects, Duchamp's 1915 hatrack, as well as his urinal, snow shovel, coatrack, bottlerack and bicycle wheel and stool, exist only in a series of varied representations given to us by Duchamp over an extended period of time.
As an example, the following time-line illustrates the sequence of appearances of Duchamp's "lost" hatrack. We see "the serial characteristic of the Readymade" just as Duchamp described in a presentation of his "Readymade" (the title he used for his hatrack in the 1941 representation, see illustrations 2A, B, C, D, E, and F below).
Thus the tally of Duchamp's hatrack representations is as follows:
2 2D shadows
2 2D photographic images
1 2D blueprint (1964)
In effect, Duchamp gives us only 6 "snapshots" in time of his Hatrack Readymade (with "all kinds of delays")(4).The limited total of information that we have, obviously, does not equal the quantity of data that we would have if we had access to the lost 3D original or if we suddenly possessed many more 2D photographs that carefully depicted the original 3D hatrack "in the round."
Indeed, with the paltry set of data that Duchamp provides, the only physical or mental construction we can make, based upon the hatrack's original form, is by fusing or averaging and filling in among the 6 representations previously listed -- 5 images in 2D and 1 model in 3D. This procedure can be done mentally via visualization, or physically via model-making, with conscious effort on the part of spectators. However, interpreting 2D depictions, mentally translating them into 3D, and then rotating and joining them (with visual filling in), is not a skill equally possessed by everyone and has, in fact, been frequently used as one measure of intelligence.(5)
Alternatively, if we do not help ourselves by consciously combining the 6 hatrack depictions, the result is an ad hoc, automatic conclusion or assumption-generated "readymade" from the unconscious mind. A single depiction -- such as the first Duchamp hatrack that we see in a photograph or a print, or the 3D Schwarz model, or any one of a combination of Duchamp's 6 particular depictions -- has served to evoke in our minds a "general idea of a Duchamp hatrack" that is surely derived from an uncertain mixture taken from among Duchamp's 6 hatrack representations and our prior experience with hatracks.
Herein lies the key to Duchamp's insight, conveyed within his In the Infinitive [a.k.a. the White Box](1967) mathematical notes (1911-15). After identifying the 6 representations that Duchamp has given us as 6 distinct and separate snapshot views of his original hatrack, we have, essentially, a set of 6 "cuts" or 2D parts taken from a larger set of information, or the hatrack as a 3D whole. These 6 "cuts" are, in essence, 6 perspective views or observations. Each cut is also, itself, an "aggregate" (made of parts) of additional "cuts" or observations -- ad infinitum. In other words, to add more cuts to our set of 6 hatrack representations, we must simply repeat our previous operation. Just as we took 6 cuts (parts), beginning from our generality of Duchamp's hatrack, we must now take these 6 cuts (now themselves a set or whole) and cut each of these cuts into more cuts.
Illustrations 4A and 4B show how the schematic diagram of Duchamp's two mental operations contained in illustration 3A and 3B apply to his hatrack. Illustration 4A matches the relation of the single perspective in 3A (Here Duchamp's hatrack in particular, and prior experience of hatracks in general, are fused together), whereas illustration 4B matches the relation of a series of perspectives taken over time as in 3B (Where Duchamp's hatracks are reduced to multiple but discrete snapshots in a time-series). Illustration 4C depicts a possible series of mental steps that could occur immediately after 4B. This series illustrates how we now cut each of the 6 cuts from step 4B into more cuts, at an even finer scale of observation, ad infinitum.
Step 4 of illustration 4C above answers the challenge previously mentioned: how do we add more cuts to our limited set of 6 representations of Duchamp's hatrack?
Our expectations are not fulfilled upon examining the 6 hatrack snapshots. Not only are the curvatures of the hooks different in all 6 representations, but we must conclude that even the number of hooks varies after we count them. For example, the Schwarz 3D model, (the "corrected" second version) has 6 equal length hooks, symmetrically placed as 3 on one side and 3 on the other side of the base's circular form. In contrast, the blueprint (approved and signed "okay, Marcel Duchamp") has a weird tangle of 2 long and 3 short hooks.####PAGES####
Interactive Software Instructions:
Please test out the interactive hatrack software that we have installed(6). To select a hatrack click on one of the 5 icons shown on the upper left. Hold the left side of the mouse down. Making sure the cursor's hand icon switches on (while the arrow is moving) roll the mouse on the hatrack's round base and "pull" the 3D model off its fixed position in the 2D representation. Interactive challenges include; the 1941 print of a studio photo (and an early stage of our hatrack 3D computer model), the 1917-18 studio photo (and an early stage of our hatrack 3D computer model), the 1964 Schwarz blueprint (with a computer model of the Schwarz 3D version), the 1964 Schwarz blueprint (with an early stage of our hatrack 3D computer model) and, a 1904 Thonet hatrack catalogue diagram (and equivalent 3D computer model)(7). To explore these 5 models, keep the left side of the mouse down, (always beginning with the hatrack's base) and roll the mouse in various directions, and compare the 3D shape of the hatrack to the 2D representation. Rotate each of the 5 hatrack 3D models in all x, y and z directions that are possible in 3D space (north, south, east, west, up and down). Try to visualize the 2D representation that you choose as a 2D slice (cut), or only one fixed perspective view of the 3D hatrack form. Also, practice placing the 3D models back into the best possible position matching the 2D depiction you have chosen.
The 5 computer models shown in the hatrack interactive design result from early stages of our geometric analysis of the 6 hatrack representations in combination with our research of available mass-produced hatrack models in the historical record (found in period catalogues, patents, museum collections and design books).
The order of occurrences and the quantity and choice of 5 interactive models above differs from the earlier illustrations #2A, B, C, D, E, and F that I originally sited as Duchamp's 6 hatracks cuts. For clarity, I will discuss each of the 5 interactive models separately starting with the 1904 Thonet catalogue image and 3D model.
What To Look For:
1. 1904 Thonet Hatrack - Interactive Model
After examining Duchamp's 6 hatrack representations, and after canvasing the historical record, I concluded that; A. Six different 3D hatracks were described by Duchamp's 6 representations (five 2D, one 3D); B. No duplicate, mass produced, readymade store-bought hatrack matched any of the five 2D representations or the one 3D Schwarz model. C. The closest possible mass-produced hatrack circa 1915 or before that I could find (after considering the varied deviations within the five 2D depictions and the one 3D model), was the common Thonet bentwood hatrack (a design still commonly found today in both metal and wood).
See illustrations and videos 7A, B, C, and D showing lab members hanging hats on four hatracks from the Art Science Research Lab collection. The first wood model below is the closest one that we have found that has characteristics common to all six of Duchamp's hatrack representations, and appears similar to Thonet bentwood style #11022. Thonet Brothers mass-manufactured and shipped their original Bentwood designs throughout the world. See illustration #8A, B showing the title page for the 1904 catalogue and the page for hatrack #11022. Try the Thonet 1904 interactive 3D model. Note how symmetrical the hatrack appears and how it matches the catalogue drawing.
The patented technology that allowed Thonet to permanently shape wood for furniture without carving (hence bentwood), became immediately recognizable by the "S" curve module units. Note too, that the illustration 7A Thonet hatrack has three "S" curves on a round base. The 7B and 7C Thonet-style hatracks, one in metal and the other in wood, also have 3 "S" hooks. Click to see videos of each hatrack in the ASRL collection. The illustration 7D video shows the official Thonet paper label on the back. As you can see from all 4 videos, each of the hatracks are wall units, and each can easily hang hats. Both Thonet catalogue pages illustrations #9 and 8B show examples of the common bentwood hatrack/coatrack free-standing models still in use today.
2. 1917 Hatrack (2nd Interactive hatrack model from bottom)
away from the 2D photo underneath and compare the differences. Note that the 3D model's second "S"'s long curve is not open and soft like the second "S"'s long curve in the photograph(8). Yet, the second "S"'s long curve in the 3D model approximately matches the first "S"s long curve in the photograph.
Moreover, the 2nd "S"'s bottom, small hook is a wider shape and less curved when compared with the first "S"'s bottom small hook. Finally, the third small hook is missing the top, long hook part of the "S". In order to represent Duchamp 1917 2D depiction in 3D, we had to cut off the long curve from the "S" hook and leave the bottom small hook curve in yet a different angle from the first and second "S"'s two bottom small hooks. See illustration #10 that shows a front view of this hatrack with its cut off long hook. and then go back to compare the Thonet 1904 3D model. Importantly, try to place this Thonet 1904 into similar positions as the first or second "S" hooks in the 1917 Duchamp 2D depiction. (The 3D Thonet model here is slightly squatter than Duchamp's 1917 hatrack.)
3. 1917 Hatrack (3rd Interactive hatrack model from the bottom)
This studio photograph immediately appeared to be a more promising match for both the Thonet 1904 model and the 1918 shadow in the Tu m' painting (see illustration 2A). However, all attempts to match a 3D model with three identical and symmetrical "S" curves to the depiction that Duchamp provides failed, . Again, return to the 1904 Thonet 3D model and try to place each of the model's three "S" hooks into similar positions as the 1917 hatrack "S" hooks found here. As observed in the previous 1917 photo (2nd hatrack from bottom), the Thonet 3D computer model has tighter curves and shorter hooks then in our actual wooden Thonet 3D model from the ASRL collection shown in #7A.####PAGES####
4. 1964 Blueprint with Interactive 3D model of lost version, Schwarz 3D Hatrack model
This blueprint turns out to be a poor interpretation made by an anonymous draftsman while tracing the 1917 Boîte en Valise (see illustration 11A, showing overlay of 1941 Boîte hatrack [placed on its side] with the blueprint. See the circled section on #11B and compare this to the circled part of #11C, instead of interpreting the first small hook (from the right) making a continuous "S" shape moving from the first long hook on the right, the blueprint indicates that the 1st short hook is a separate piece awkwardly sticking out from within the side of the first long hook. It is interesting to note that there is no indication of the draftsman having had a conception that the hatrack was made of "S" shapes anywhere in this muddle of 3 small and 2 long hooks, (with each hook having its own size and unrelated curved shape).
My examination of other 1964 blueprints for other Schwarz readymades might be helpful to mention here. Also signed "Marcel Duchamp, okay," the bicycle stool blueprint is similarly ambiguously and inaccurately drawn (most likely because Schwartz's draftsman did not know how to interpret the broken legs and rails as depicted in the 1941 Boite-en-valise print of the bicycle wheel (also showing the coatrack). See illustration #12A, B and C, notice that the two most right horizontal rails in the blueprint go in two different directions and are cut off oddly, as depicted in the original studio photograph (12C). In addition, the 3 legs are not evenly spaced as one would expect in a blueprint (and the fourth leg is missing completely) and yet in the final Schwarz edition (12D), all legs are completely symmetrical. Note that illustration 12B also contains the within 3D model we made using the information contained in the 1964 stool Blueprint (also 12B).
The shovel blueprint indicates that the handle was literally traced from a well known Man Ray photograph that captured the shovel hanging high above eye level, (see illustration 13A and B). At this height, as the eye looks up the shovel's wooden shaft's outside edges appear to converge (and get narrower with more distance.) To create a blueprint, perspective distortion must be accounted for (and discarded) if you use a photograph as a source to recreate an accurate 3D model. See the shovel blueprint illustration 13B, the front and side elevation views both depict the converging lines that were later, amusingly translated in the construction of Schwarz's 3D model. The shovel's wood shaft, literally gets progressively more narrow from metal blade to the handle. See illustration 13C showing the final Schwarz 3D model built from the blueprint as a much smaller 3D model on the left than the shovel on the right that was built from measurements of actual example of the Schwarz edition of 8 snow shovels)(9).
Let us return to the hatrack blueprint 1964 and the 3D model. If Schwarz's 1st version of the hatrack 3D model, indeed, looked like the geometry in this blueprint, it's no wonder why Duchamp insisted upon throwing it out and felt he had to redesign it.. . and yet his 2nd and final version of the Schwarz hatrack looks even less like the photographs of the "original" 1916-17 hatrack in his studio! (I will later discuss the likely reason why Duchamp approached his hatrack in this technique of "information" that decays in a series of snapshots over time).
5. 1964 Blueprint with Interactive version of 3D Schwarz model
Compare 5 Interactive Models with Tu m' and Cast Shadows Depictions
The Tu m' shadow's 2 long hooks and 3 short hooks, in particular, (see illustration 15A, B) if viewed upside down and then compared to the 1904 Thonet model when rotated into similar position, can readily be seen as fragments of 3 "S" shape hooks (albeit, that the 3 "S"'s in Tu m' are incorrectly and asymmetrically angled in relation to each other and the top of one is cut off when compared to the Thonet 1904 3D model below).
The 1918 Tu m' painting brings us back to the issue, previously mentioned, of the difference in making objects in 3D, versus interpreting what these same objects look like, due to distortions, in a photograph, or in perspective drawings. Just as a bicycle wheel can objectively be perfectly round in shape and yet appear in a photograph as an ellipse, the same is true of any object's representation. Representations must be interpreted. We, in fact, because of a prior experience, can safely guess that the bicycle wheel is round but only appears to be an ellipse due to perspective distortions. However, an alternative hypothesis could be true, though not as likely -- that the bicycle wheel is not round but shaped like an oval. How can we know? The answer is two-fold. If we have access to the original wheel, we can test it (roll it and see if it smoothly and evenly rolls) and measure it (and see if the axis is in the middle of the circumference of a circle).
In the case of Duchamp's hatracks and other readymade objects, we are in the same position of discovering that a bicycle wheel that we assumed was round in a photograph was, in fact, oval. Since we only had a set of photographs of the second version of the Bicycle Wheel, and not the actual object, the only thing we could do was to take measurements from the 2D representations, fuse and build 3D models (both physically and in computers) based upon the group of photographs, and then test and measure again.
Duchamp's readymade hatrack only
After duly noting the geometric distortions in Duchamp's six hatrack representations, we must conclude that the simple history and definition of the hatrack that everyone believed -- that a readymade is an unaltered, mass-produced object -- must be completely reassessed and rewritten.
We can return to the six representations of the hatrack and explore some of the issues now raised such as to how Duchamp generated the six depictions? Did he alter hatrack objects or doctor photographs or both? We are presently working with forensic scientists to help us determine more about the exact nature and type of photographic or physical manipulations that Duchamp may have used. Duchamp, obviously, put us all on notice that he was doing the photographic tricks well known in the late 19th and early 20th century by both amateur and professional photographers, see illustrations #19A, B. In both photographs 19A and B, Duchamp himself appears to be a ghostly apparition, a typical photo trick of the time.(13)
For another example, look at illustration 20A, B and C. A full size snow shovel could not possibly be hanging physically from a height indicated in these studio photographs. We discover that the wood shaft would have to be too short when we compare the shovel's size to the ceiling.
The aforementioned studio photographs (19A, B and 20A, B) present many other instances of photographic manipulations that I will leave for future discussions. However, please see Stephen Jay Gould's text box here to read his observations and discovery regarding Duchamp's studio photograph, illustration 19B. For now, I will limit myself to analysis of two studio photographs of readymades to continue my argument (see illustrations 22A and 22B that show Duchamp's "original" 1916 coatrack and "original" 1917 urinal.)
One, might think at this point, "So what. I can already see that Duchamp probably altered, physically or photographically, his readymade objects -- what difference does this make?" Let's set aside the fact that all books of art history or cultural criticism (and even cookbooks! See illustration 22C) state, as their premise, that Duchamp's readymades are unaltered, store bought mass-produced objects - and that this claim can now be dismissed as factually incorrect.(15) I will use illustrations 22A and 22B to show that Duchamp's original coatrack and urinal help explain why I believe Duchamp altered readymade objects in his photographs in the first place. Since the quality and approach that Duchamp used for his numerous distorted "readymade" representations are similar, such a frequency of occurrence suggests that Duchamp was applying a single geometric system. Perhaps this system that I have been observing throughout Duchamp's readymade works is the new and mathematically rigerous "rehabilitated perspective" geometry Duchamp spoke about in interviews. Moreover, I also found evidence that Duchamp used this new geometry in the Large Glass, just as he had claimed.
Let's look at the Coatrack (see illustration 23A, B, C, D, and E) as a series of snapshots in time, just as we did to examine Duchamp's hatracks, as he instructed us to do in his notes (refer again to illustration #1).
Note that the geometries of the coatrack series (as we also found in the hatrack series), is different in every 2D and 3D representation. (For example, the iron hooks are straight in the 1964 Schwarz 3D model and 2D blueprint, whereas they lean backwards in the original 1916-17 studio photograph and in the 1941 Boîte print. And as in our treatment of the hatrack series, we must mentally visualize or, alternatively, make literal 3D models of the coatrack 2D representations, in order to observe the differences among all of the 5 coatrack representations (four 2D and one 3D).
The particular distortions contained within the original studio photograph provide the greatest interest for our immeditate discussion. Again, as we found in the hatrack, the coatrack hooks bend and turn in unanticipated ways. (We expect mass-produced objects to have characteristics of the factory-made, traits that include standardization and regularity of form -- the very opposite of custom-made variations). Look at the last hook of the 4 (moving from left most hook to right), the top small sub-hook (the middle of the three sub-hooks) bends so far up and in that it reaches the top largest sub-hook. Duchamp told us that he nailed the coatrack to the floor after having "kicked it around" his studio. However, this trauma to the coatrack (that he aptly titled "trap" or Trébuchet -- a term from a move in chess where a player sacrifices one of his own pieces to trap an opponent's piece) the physical properties of cast iron determine that such a hook would crack and break before bending. This rigidity of material proves useful for withstanding the stress of hanging heavy coats. Duchamp, on the 1964 blueprint, even specifies that his 3D 1964 Schwarz hooks must be made of iron -- not soft copper.
Note the shapes and count the holes in hook 24A and 24B and contrast these to the general form and number of holes found in Duchamp's original Coatrack hooks in the studio photo and in the Schwarz model in 24C
In fact, when Robert Slawinski and I began working on creating a coatrack 3D computer model (equivalent to the information contained in the 1915-16 2D studio photograph) we quickly recognized that the hooks used by Duchamp were; a) a common type readily found in the historical record (see illustrations 24 A and B); b.) that his 3D Schwarz model of the coatrack looked nothing like the "original coatrack" found in the studio photograph of 1915-16 (for example, note that the hooks are straighter in the 3D model and that the wood board bottom extends too far past the hooks on each end in comparison to what we find in the original 1915-16 2D studio photograph, see illustration 24; c) not only is the last hook (moving from right to left) distorted in the original studio photo above (in 24C) (its top small sub-hook with an impossible upward curve), but the other 3 main hooks of the four, and the wood board itself, are also distorted. In other words, we cannot take the matching historical hooks (as in illustration 24B), place them evenly on a symmetrically rectangular wood board and then find one single perspective viewpoint to make a projection that matches all the shapes of the coatrack, as Duchamp has depicted them in the original studio photograph (see illustration 23A).
Illustration 25A depicts the perspective found in photography -- one fixed eye sees a continuous and related set of distortions from the perspective of this one eye. (The four different cube descriptions in 25A are what the eye sees from 4 different fixed positions). Illustration 25B, however, more accurately depicts how we actually see objects, as our two eyes, head and bodies must continually move around 3D objects to fully see their forms, as shown with this cube. And yet, despite what must be the truly fragmented nature of the visual input, the mind and eyes work seamlessly together to create the appearance of discrete and fixed objects.
The two cube examples (25A and B) directly relate to the earlier discussion of Duchamp's White Box note, which, as I argued, describes 2 mental operations (see illustration 26A and B). The single fixed eye perspective of 26A is like the fixed eye looking at the cube in 25A; whereas the moving eye of 26B operates like the multiple perspectives described in 25B.
The notable difference between illustrations 25A,B and 26 A,B is the dimension. Using Duchamp's terminology, 25A,B describes an eye in 3D space ("eye3") looking at a 3D cube; whereas, 26A,B represents an eye in 3D space making observations of a 2D plane. Both 25B and 26B require time and movement in 3D space of the 3D eye ; whereas, 25A and 26A illustrate what Duchamp describes as the "vision" of the "same eye from a fixed point of view (linear perspective)."1
We made both physical and computer models here in the lab. Our computer animation diagrams the 6 cuts we believe that Duchamp made from 6 separate photographs taken in 6 different perspective positions. Robert Slawinski and my analysis concludes that Duchamp used 3 whole hooks, 1 hook split into 2 parts and 1 whole wood board as the 6 parts (from 6 different photos) as he assembled into what appears to be the single, whole and readymade coatrack in his studio photograph. See Illustrations 28A, B, C, D, E, F, the 6 coatrack parts that Duchamp cut out and later assembled together are color coded (in these still images taken from the computer animation) to emphasize the separation of the part selected by Duchamp from the rest of the coatrack (that he then discards, and that follows the same perspective geometry of the targeted part.)
Illustration 29A and B show a comparison of the parts that Duchamp selected (in color coding) with an image that assembles the 6 whole coatracks, in their 6 different perspectives, together into one event simultaneously seen (using the same color coding).
Examine illustration 30, a close up view of Duchamp's original coatrack photo, revealing what a photo trick book calls the "fluffy edges" that can easily appear as a soft whitish outline around a photo cut-out after being pasted, if special measures are not taken. Forensic experts look for tell-tale signs -- such as fuzzy contours -- as indicators that photo prints have been combined. See illustration 31A and B,two pages from "The Secrets of Trick Photography" by O.R. Croy discussing this particular problem within the cut and paste method.
Our second example of internal evidence for our hypothesis that Duchamp altered his original coatrack photograph by combining parts returns us to illustration 23E. Only after making our animation analysis of the geometries in the coatrack did I notice the potential importance of Duchamp's "working" prints of the coatrack first published in 1983 by Ecke Bonk. These prints were described by Bonk as preliminary stages of Duchamp's 1940 process in preparing pochoir prints for his publication of 300 copies of the Boîte-en-valise, (see illustration 32A and B). Bonk does not explain what the method was, or why Duchamp was cutting and pasting a separate paper cutout of the coatrack onto the background studio photo (where 3 hooks are masked out of the scene with white). Illustration 32B indicates an attempt to position only the first hook of the cutout onto the coatrack underneath. This "working print" also suggests (as judged by their two positions) that the paper cut-out coatrack is in one perspective view and the coatrack underneath, imbedded into the studio photo background, is in another perspective.
Compare this working print (32B) to our still from the video animation, where we concluded that Duchamp used 6 different viewpoints (cutouts of hooks and a wood board from 6 photographs), see illustration 32C. The similarity between 32B and C is striking. Was Duchamp using the same method of compositing multiple viewpoints into one coatrack for his pochoir print that he had used earlier to create his original coatrack in the studio photograph?
I believe that this working print serves as a "smoking gun" in our case. Not only is the cut and paste method and the geometries of the forms similar between the alterations in the studio photograph and in Duchamp's Boîte pochoir print, but his separate white-out and maskings of the wood board and the hooks now makes sense. For what purpose would the separate masking and treatment of the 4 hooks and the wood base serve (as is clearly indicated in his "working print") other than as a matrix for creating a composite image?
Before discussing the potential importance of this particular photograph, and its delayed appearance for spectators, let us again examine, as we did with the hatrack and coatrack, the consistent approach that Duchamp uses to present his readymades -- as a series of snapshots over time -- now applied to Duchamp's urinal.
As we discovered when examining Duchamp’s hatrack and coatrack, the above set of urinal depictions in 2D and 3D do not describe one consistent 3D urinal. For example, our analysis of the studio photo 1916-17 (illustration 34D found in the 1960's), the 1941 print (illustration 34C created from a 1916-17 photograph) and the 1st version of the stieglitz photograph (illustration 34A published in the Blindman #2) reveals an inescapable conclusion -- namely, that two different urinals were represented in 1917. Again, our key question involves casualty -- did Duchamp change urinals literally or photographically? Evidence for both hypotheses exists. Duchamp did make his original 3D miniature urinal model in 1940, and he did commission others to manufacture the full edition of 300. Surprisingly, after Duchamp authorized Schwarz to make editions of 14 of his "readymades," Schwarz failed, despite intensive search, to find even one of the 14 mass produced objects close enough to Duchamp’s originals in 2D or 3D to serve as prototypes for the editions. Therefore, Schwarz had to organize the manufacture of all 14 editions himself. Stranger still, no duplicate urinal has even been found in any catalogue, including the literature from the very company that Duchamp specifically named his source for his urinal -- the Mott company.####PAGES####
Just as one hatrack studio photo, found in the 1960's, provided a closer match (but no cigar) to the Thonet historical model than any of Duchamp's other 2D or 3D hatrack depictions, his urinal in two studio representations (34C and 34D) provide a close, but not exact, match to the Mott historical model (see illustration 35B,C and D,E). Duchamp’s two studio photo urinals are here compared to the Bedfordshire urinal with lip from the ASRL collection, placed in a similar position. The general appearance is similar among 35B,C and D,E. However, the "side ear-like" brackets are larger and different, both from each other and from the Mott model, as are the pipe connections at the urinals’ top and bottom. Moreover, we have concluded from our analysis that one should be able to see Duchamp’s "R. Mutt 1917" signature and date (and one cannot) on a urinal when placed in both positions 35B and 35C, if the inscription were indeed there.
However, when we examine 35B,C,D,E various attempts to place the Bedfordshire model in a position to match the stieglitz photo 36A completely fail. Only when we composite together the top part of the urinal from one photograph, the bottom part from another and the drain holes and pipe hole from yet others in different perspectives, does the urinal begin to look vaguely like the stieglitz urinal 36A. Note that the bottom and top of the urinals in 35B,C and 35D,E easily appear similar in size, scale and perspective view, whereas, in 36A, the stieglitz original photograph appears to be in one perspective view in the top half and in yet another camera viewpoint in the bottom half where the pipe connection rests. Moreover, when you look at our actual Urinal, 36D for example, the upper half with the drain holes looks further away from us in the photo; whereas, the bottom pipe hole part appears closer to us, in the foreground. Curiously, no similar "near and far" positions are transmitted by the forms in 36A, Duchamp's 1917 stieglitz photograph. In fact,in our Bedfordshire urinal photos, 36B,C,D,E, the drain holes appear smaller, and therefore further away, and the pipe hole reads larger and therefore closer to us than in the 36A stieglitz photograph -- giving credence to my observation that the stieglitz photograph, strangely, does not depict the significant distance between the back of the urinal and the front (as clearly indicated in 36B).
We provide the 2D Interactive Presentation below to allow the spectator to experiment with the cutting up and pasting together of different urinal photo parts. There are 9 possible combinations. One combination matches the stieglitz photo. Also, try placing the pipe in the middle as we suggest. One can begin to see how pieces that do not originally go together can be moved and will there appear to be better, or at least, equally correct in their form, when in a new position -- especially if you had the ability to fill in gaps with even more cut-out parts then we provide in this presentation.
Beyond "cut and paste" -- what other photo tricks did Duchamp use?
As previously described, I had suspected that the Stieglitz partial urinal photo represented a step in Duchamp’s photo compositing process, and that this photographic part, was itself, perhaps, made of photo parts. Illustration 40B suggests that, indeed, the drain holes were added within the Stieglitz partial photo, which, as a subtle but visible vestige, remains in the original Stieglitz photo, see illustration 40A.
Note that in illustration 40B, when the contrast of light and shadow are amplified, the drain holes reveal a distinct boundary that is, unexpectedly, and without apparent reason, lighter in value, thus giving the literal appearance of having been added as a patch.
The urinal in the Stieglitz photo, shown close up and large, created a greater technical challenge for hiding alterations than in our previous examples of the hatrack or coatrack, that are depicted as farther away and small, and therefore creating less expectation of perceiving visible detail. Since hatracks and coatracks are, literally, made of parts (the hooks and wood base are all physical parts put together), photographic cutting and pasting of parts can naturally exploit these predetermined and expected joinings, whereas, the urinal’s smooth and continuous, singular form does not offer such easy opportunities.
Illustration 40C depicts yet another important piece among numerous pieces of evidence (pun intended). Porcelain urinals are molded forms that produce clean, clearly unambiguous lines and edges as shown in illustration 40D, E, F, (depictions of Bedfordshire type urinals taken from Mott, Crane and Trenton Potteries catalogues of the period [circa 1917]). Examine the circled area in illustration 40C. The indefinite shadows and discontinuous lines and edges suggest this lower left corner as a likely site of photographic compositing and retouching.
We are presently working, along with forensic experts, on a substantial list of other oddities found within the Stieglitz photo (40A) including: (1), more precise determination of the nature of the distortions, first noted by William Camfield, between the urinal in the foreground as depicted in relation to the painting in the background. We will also analyze and try to relate the seemingly strange scale differences among objects in the Stieglitz photo; such as the size of the urinal itself in comparison to the gauge of the string tied to the left "ear-bracket"; or the relatively too large appearance of the rough hewn texture of the wood pedestal; (2), testing the feasibility of placing the urinal (whose actual form, not shown, is hollowed out underneath) so off center on the pedestal, as depicted on the photo; and (3), studying the strange shadows, lighting, as well as the peculiar reflections (reminiscent of pooling urine), in the top upper lip of the urinal -- a pooling that appears to be defying gravity. (If these reflections were actually urine, we would have to be standing above, strattling a normally installed urinal in a novel orientation -- with our backs against the wall looking down into the pool of urine and facing out to whoever would be peeing.)
A second compositing method, beyond cut and paste, is suggested within the two studio photo depictions of Duchamp’s urinal, see illustrations 41A, B, C, D. A common but more difficult method of combining photo parts uses a dark or black background (cardboard or cloth) placed into a scene with a corresponding space left blank on the photographic plate in the camera. In this blank space, a second image (not in the immediate scene) can then be seamlessly added into both the plate, and also into the (formerly) plain black background.
Illustrations 42A, B, C, D show a few early examples from a 1898 book written for the general public, and titled, Magic; Stage Illusions, Special Effects and Trick Photography. Compare these four illustrations to illustrations 41 A, B, C, D, Duchamp’s two studio photos that depict his urinal. Carefully note the general blackened area behind the urinal in illustration 41B and 41D and the dark cloth hanging directly behind the urinal in illustration 41A and 41C. Not only do the other photo alterations, as previously discussed, exist in these two studio depictions (remember, the ghost figure in 41A and the likely cutting and pasting of the hatracks and shovels in 41A and B) but the urinal appears to be "applied" to the scene using the classic black background composite technique as the device. Look at our animation analysis in illustration 43A and 43B.
The irregular shadowing, unsure line and edges of the urinal’s silhouette (especially prominent in 43A) indicate a careful but, imperfect, masking and transfer of the urinal onto the blackground placed in the scene. Note, in the animation, that the studio depictions of the urinal’s interior lip shape, when outlined, comes very close to matching the form of our standard Crane/Mott/Trenton Potteries Bedfordshire model; whereas form of the interior lip on the ideal Stieglitz urinal (that is, when the drain and pipe holes are corrected to be centered) is very different, see animation 43C. Of course, these data conform with my prediction (derived from my hypothesis) that the two studio photos are slightly altered representations of an actual Bedfordshire urinal (and, therefore, that a Bedfordshire model would predictably almost match.) However, a 3D model -- even a corrected one -- based upon the geometry in Stieglitz photo would not match either the two studio photo urinals or the Bedfordshire model. As I have argued, the Stieglitz image is not representing, factual urinal different from either the 2 studio urinals or Bedfordshire model. I believe that the Stieglitz urinal is a photo composite made of varied parts taken from photographs of an actual Bedfordshire 3D urinal from different perspectives and at different scales).
Looking back at the historical examples of the black background method of photo compositing, in 42C and D (now circled and labeled as illustrations 44A and 44B), we see how the compositing of separate images can play havoc with scale (when we see multiple images of the same figure taken at two different distances, we interpret these figures in the final photograph as small and large sizes.) Other cues reinforce our interpretation of small and large figures standing side by side (as opposed to the small figure suggesting greater distance, and the larger figure as the same size standing in the foreground). In illustration 44B, for example, the table’s position in space (directly opposite to the larger standing figure), along with the feet of the small figure physically happening to meet the table’s horizontal plane, immediately evokes our most absurd and impossible interpretation -- a real Tom Thumb!
According to forensic experts, the only way to get a better grasp on why and how the scales of urinal parts, and other objects in the Stieglitz photo look out of whack, is to determine as much as possible about actual sizes. For example, how large are the tags used at the 1917 Exhibition? (see illustration 45A, of the Stieglitz photo with its tag circled.) The urinal looks disturbingly small in comparison to the string, hang tag, and wood pedestal texture. We have already determined, by our prior analysis, that the "ear-brackets" as depicted in the Stieglitz photo appear too large when compared to the actual Bedfordshire models of the period. Perhaps the ear-bracket [with the string and tag] are from a single photo taken at a different distance, a photo that was then fused with the rest of the urinal parts?)
Moreover, our forensic expert’s initial analysis echos my suspicion that the urinals in the two studio photos (45B, 45C) are, in addition to our sense that the scale of the urinals’ size is off, in comparison to the rest of the room, most likely composited in, and also do not seem to hang according to gravity, (We need to try to measure Duchamp’s old studio room. If any original woodwork exists, we can learn a lot more about Duchamp’s photos.)
A closer examination of Duchamp’s 1964 urinal etching shows that, although Duchamp did base his tracings on the Stieglitz photograph to create this etched image, he, also and importantly, added a separate and specific extra part -- in a yet another perspective view, more radically different from the rest. Note, when comparing illustration 46A, B and C with 47A and 47B, the extreme leftward position that the whole urinal would have to occupy (47B) for us to see this one urinal part in the upper right side (47A). Why else would Duchamp move so far away from traditional perspective in one exaggerated and isolated part of this drawing, if not from a desire to push his point further, probably because we are likely not yet again to notice his new rehabilitated perspective system based upon fusions of multiple points of view in his drawings, models or photographs. Remember this etching was done at the end of his life, in 1964. Duchamp had already exposed his new perspective system to the world since his 1912 Chocolate Grinder painting and no one noticed. Moreover we continue to not notice because the mind creates and depends on such composites of information that Duchamp was presenting as perspective all the time.
Given Duchamp's claim that he studied the entire section on perspective at the Paris’s main library, and that, it is a "no-brainer" to trace the basic shape of the Stieglitz urinal without mistakes, it would be difficult to believe that this extra and distinct perspective part added by Duchamp to his urinal etching, would have occurred through accident or incompetence. We are especially encouraged to conceive of Duchamp's extra perspective piece as intentional, since the rest of the etching captures the spatial relations of the Stieglitz photo so well, including the pipe hole offset to the left, and so forth.
I must add one final point to buttress my case about the urinal. In the quotation on perspective that I cited at the beginning of this essay, Duchamp claimed that he added language, in addition to anecdote, in his rehabilitated form of perspective. Bonnie Garner suggested that when Duchamp signed his urinal Mutt, he, in effect, communicated linguistically the same structure that he used geometrically (with his fusing of multiple perspective parts into one whole). For what else is a "mutt" than an entire mongrel dog composited of many dog breeds (or parts) put together in time -- an entity that only appears to be, in a traditional perspective, a low quality whole.
I argue that this placement of the Chocolate Grinder painting with the Blind Man heading relates directly, in meaning, to Duchamp’s similar positioning of his urinal. For as spectators in 1917, we would have been specifically blind to Duchamp’s new rehabilitated perspective used in both his Fountain urinal and Chocolate Grinder forms, as well as generally blind, as a consequence our foolish dependence (as Duchamp believed) on conventional perspective and "retinal vision" for determining factual reality.
My discovery that the strangely distorted Chocolate Grinder uses the same systematic characteristic approach also found in the hatrack, coatrack and urinal (and a large set of other examples not discussed in this essay) returns us to Duchamp’s words that I used at the beginning of this essay -- a quotation that now bears repeating.
Duchamp’s claims in this interview (albeit cryptically) that he has done something rigorous and different to rehabilitate perspective, and that he has embodied this novelty in his new geometry in the Large Glass -- with the Chocolate Grinder as one part!
In 1956 Duchamp stated "I was already beginning to make a definite plan, a blueprint for the Large Glass. All of this was conceived, drawn, and on paper in 1913-14. It was based on a perspective view, meaning a complete knowledge of the arrangement of the parts. It couldn’t be haphazardly done or changed afterwards. It had to go through according to plan, so to speak." In the Cabanne interview Duchamp further claims that "I had worked eight years on this thing, (the Large Glass) which was willed, voluntarily established according to exact plan. . ."
Duchamp carefully provided us with his "Sears Roebuck-like" catalogue of notes and drawings describing his Large Glass project. Mostly written between 1911-15, these notes include a separate plan view and a side elevation of the lower "bachelor half" of the Large Glass, (but no 3-D model) and a perspective drawing illustrating measurements at 1/10 scale of the final Large Glass work, see illustration 49A, B, C,D.
Architects or engineers depend upon similar plan views and side elevations as Duchamp’s Bachelor half to manufacture 3-D projects and small scale 3-D models. As discussed earlier, perspective drawings, in contrast, indicate the relative position of a particular observer in visual relation to the object or building. A "precise and exact aspect" in the science of perspective (an "aspect" that Duchamp said he was interested in following), dictates that the perspective in the lower half of the Large Glass drawing should relate to the geometry of the "blueprint" plan and elevation. In other words, if you make a 3-D model following Duchamp’s plan view and side elevation blueprints, you should readily be able to find and replicate the perspective view that Duchamp depicts in his perspective drawing by using this very same 3-D model.
Most Duchamp scholars have either accepted or praised Duchamp’s perspective skills. The problem remains, however, that I and a few other scholars have actually made 3-D models from Duchamp's plans -- and none of us can find any one perspective projection view that matches Duchamp’s perspective drawings! Moreover, the process of trying to recreate the Large Glass perspective drawing from what a viewer would see of the 3-D model via perspective (equivalent to what one eye or camera lens sees) quickly becomes maddening. When you fit one part of the Large Glass model to its projection in Duchamp’s perspective drawing (say; part A, the ellipse in one wheel of the Chocolate Grinder, for example -- see illustration 49A), the rest (parts B through Z) immediately fall out of place. We lose the fit of part A, and all the other parts C through Z, once part B is matched -- etc.
We may then be tempted to somehow change the plans so that the perspective projection, as laid out in Duchamp’s actual Large Glass, can be generated from the 3-D model (built from the plan and elevation view) -- which is, in fact, what some scholars have done. But that’s cheating, and such a providence also assumes that Duchamp was incompetent, or did not care about accuracy of perspective, although he claimed otherwise in earlier interviews, as well as to Cabanne.
If both the plan view and side elevation construct a consistent 3-D model of the Chocolate Grinder and the overall Large Glass itself, how and why have I and other scholars failed to generate a similar, if not exact, perspective drawing from this 3-D Large Glass model? I will argue that the reason why we cannot generate a single perspective view (in duplicating, what should has been the process that Duchamp followed to create his perspective drawing) must be Duchamp himself did not used perspective geometry, but, rather his new rehabilitated perspective -- the method that created his perspective drawing and the Large Glass (a.k.a. The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even 1915-23.)
Illustration 51A, B, C present three animations from our analysis of Duchamp’s Chocolate Grinder and Large Glass in 2D and 3D. The first animation (51A) shows the camera’s perspective while moving around a 3D model of the Chocolate Grinder in 3D space. Colors highlight the part that corresponds to the equivalent section of the 2D Chocolate Grinder in the Large Glass perspective drawing. In other words, the animation shows a position that both the camera and 3D Chocolate Grinder would have to occupy to create the particular 2D Chocolate Grinder part shown in color code.
The next animation sequence, 51C, illustrates the cut and paste method that Duchamp probably used to create not only his Chocolate Grinder (and also his coatrack, urinal, hatrack, etc.), but the entire bottom half of the Large Glass itself. As any one photograph yields a single perspective view (with its own particular distortions), Duchamp’s selection of one part from each snapshot, after he pastes them together, creates a multiple fusion of varying perspectives. The last frame, showing the Large Glass in color coding, indicates each of the (approximately) 43 parts that live in their own perspective world, see Illustrations 51D and 51E. Due to perspective constraints, we would have to move one eye or lens 43 times in 3D space to actually see the same information that Duchamp shows us in his single Large Glass work! Illustrations 51F and 51G map the 43 camera positions in relation to the Large Glass 3D model that produced the 2D color coded projections in 51D and 51E.
Duchamp’s Revolutionary Alternative
Within the larger Victorian framework of technological mania, the human desire to develop a better system of representation for expressing how we see the world evolved into a frenzy of public interest and private invention. The advent of stereoscopic drawings quickly led to a whirl of experiments among the expanding developments in stereo photography and moving picture images. Stereoscopic devices depend upon the mind’s ability to fuse together two 2D images that, when seen side by side at the same time, create an impressive 3D effect. (One 2D image is drawn and seen in the perspective of the left eye, and the second 2D image rendered and then seen when displayed in the position of the right eye). Seemingly endless variants and extensions of stereoscopic concepts and equipment were developed and patented into the early 20th century. The use of various prisms, or mirror systems, in numerous combinations, led to even more unusual attempts to create stereo fusion with, for example, the use of three images, instead of two, for two eyes. (See illustrations 52A,B,C,D,E and F.)
The limitations of human perception and cognition lie at the center of our illusionary experiences evoked by 3D stereo vision or even by "moving pictures," where projections of film, when speeding by fast enough, appear continuous because our eyes and minds are, literally, too weak to detect separations between the 2D images. Moreover, it requires no great leap, for someone as intelligent as Duchamp, to understand that these 19th century optical experiments expose not only this retinal weakness, but (and more importantly) also suggest, in general, how perception and cognition work. We learn that our eyes and minds take bits of information (from the past and present) and seamlessly fuse them together. However, what we actually think we see, unless we become directly analytical and override this automaticity, is much more dominated by a mental construction than we consciously realize.
For example, when we view a depiction of a cube, we are essentially guessing that this object is a cube, based upon both the direct information that we have in illustration 53 and upon prior experience. The idealized construction of "cubeness" in our minds completely erases the additional information of the cube that our two eyes literally see. In illustrations 54A,B, and C, two views of the same cube are separately represented as seen by the left and right eyes (54A,B), whereas 54C is the amount of information that both eyes actually see. Illustration 54D shows a schematic plan (in bird’s eye view) of two eyes’ field of vision and fusion when looking at a cube.
We obviously see more information with stereovision’s two eyes than in photography and perspective’s "one-eyed vision." The mind’s action of fusing two 2D images into a single 3D experience has also raised the dimension of our perception and, therefore, also increases the information available to our senses, as shown in illustration 54C. Not everyone possesses the ability to see representations in stereo. Severe astigmatism, or blindness in one eye makes the 3D fusion of two 2D images impossible. In early books on stereo vision, 19th century experiments that tested the possibility of an optical device that would allow a single 2D image to be seen as 3D with only one eye were cited and ridiculed as obviously fated to fail. The research of Stephen Jay Gould and me reveals that Duchamp himself was the first person, even before any scientist succeeded, to develop a system and a device (1923) that produced a 3D stereo fusion in the mind with a single 2D image seen by a single eye. Try the Interactive Presentation in illustration 55. Duchamp’s Rotorelief Discs (1935) surprisingly produce an even greater 3D effect when seen by one eye than by two. Click on any disc to select. Control speed by clicking on bar and dragging bar up and down (with depressed clicks) between fast and slow. Duchamp first made his Rotorelief Discs for phonographic record playing speeds, 78 or 33 3/1.
Duchamp created many other experiments using stereoscopic pairs. He included two examples in his Boîte-en-Valise miniature museum (Figs. 56A and 56B). These two stereoimages were made by Duchamp in 1918 and 1920 but not published until 1941. As I discussed at the Harvard symposium Methods of Understanding in Art and Science: The Case of Duchamp and Poincaré, Duchamp’s previously unrecognized stereo experiments, as detected by my studies, include one work, the Wanted Poster (1921), that was (since 1941) viewed as a "readymade" object that Duchamp only altered by personalizing the object with photos and text referring to himself. (See illustration 57A and 57B, the Wanted Poster print, first seen by spectators in the Boite-en-Valise (1941), as the original Wanted Poster (1921) work is "lost."
Using what Duchamp called a 4D eye [eye4], only 4D space allows us to see 3D objects 360° in the round in one instant; whereas, in 3D space a 3D eye (eye3) must move in time around a 3D object to collect 2D observations (thus reducing an object from 3D to a series if 2D shapshots). Only after these cuts are fused together, can we recreate in our minds a sense or approximation of any actual 3D object in the round (thus increasing the dimension when transforming a series of 2D cuts into a 3D object). Duchamp’s note, illustration 59, uses the fist’s ability to hold and experience the form of a 3D object, all at once, as analogous to what would occur in 4D vision. Illustration 60, a portrait photograph of Duchamp, also mimics what could only be simultaneously seen in 4D space. This portrait is also similar to the experience evoked when seeing the two Wanted Poster heads and lined boxes in a stereo viewer. Significantly, Duchamp selected this very photo (60) as the cover for his own catalogue raisonné design in 1958.
With Duchamp’s underground experiment in the Wanted Poster, we may have increased our information with a 4D experience, but the data provided by Duchamp’s head are still incomplete. Panoramic painting and photography represented yet another 19th and 20th century experiment and approach to packing even more 3D information into 2D images. Illustration 61 shows a "panoramic" view of a woman’s head. The photo uncomfortably reads as if a 360° view of the woman’s head were rolled out, like cookie dough, onto a 2D plane. Such a panoramic photograph, by allowing us to see a 3D object (such as a head) on all sides at once, certainly yields more 3D information in
Cubism, in addition to its status as the beginning of one of the two biggest revolutionary departures in art (the other being the advent of perspective itself in the Renaissance), emerged, for Duchamp and others, as yet another experiment and alternative to static perspective representation in the larger cultural context of the early 20th century (see illustration 61, a cubist painting by Picasso).
* Part IV through VI will be published in Tout-Fait, Perpetual 2005.
Illustrations 2A-2F, 12A-D, 13B, 14A, 15A, 16A, 17, 18A-B, 19A, 20A-C, 21A, 22A-B, 23A-E, 32A, 34A-H, 41A-D, 46B, 49A-D ©2005 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris. All rights reserved.