My involvement with Marcel Duchamp started early. Growing
up in Manhattan, I first went to the Museum of Modern Art when I was eleven
or twelve. I was understandably attracted to the machine imagery of the
Bicycle Wheel in their permanent collection. The subversive nature
of the work left a strong imprint. My first artbook was Arturo Schwarz’s
original Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp. By 1969 I was in art school,
and it was there that I stumbled into my future work with Indeterminacy
in a piece that came from life. It was titled Plain Air.
Click to enlarge
Dove Bradshaw, Plain Air, 1969-91
PS1 Institute of Comtemporary Art
Cycling home from school, I came across a discarded bicycle
wheel. I hung it horizontally in my studio as a perch for a pair of doves.
At the time I let them fly free. The birds picked up pieces of wire and
string from the studio to make a nest. Then I placed a Zen archery target
below the wheel on the floor. This piece has been recreated three times
since: at Sandra Gering and PS 1 Institute of Contemporary Art in New York
and at The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh.
my partner William Anastasi was offered three evenings at the Clocktower
in which to perform versions of You Are, a piece from 1967. He
wanted a writer, a painter and a composer each to serve as narrators.
The narrators described ad libitum the viewers. This was taken
down by a court reporter and transcribed by a typist; the pages were then
pinned to the wall. Because of my involvement with the philosophy of chance,
(and remembering that Bill had met John Cage in the 1960s) I suggested
Cage as the composer. Cage agreed; a friendship developed and through
him we met Teeny Duchamp.
We were invited for dinner with Teeny at Cage’s house in
1982. John, as he often did, had asked us to arrive at five for a round
robin of chess. Chance placed me across from Teeny. We had not met before
and had barely said a few words before beginning.
It was an intense game. Chess has the capacity to be more
revealing than small talk. The play went on for about two hours and I
had the sense that neither of us wanted the other to lose, although perhaps
neither wanted to throw the game. Teeny, the stronger player, won. This
was the beginning of our friendship; we kept a correspondence until her
Bill and I often traveled to Europe for our work. On a number
of occasions, we stayed with Teeny for a couple of weeks at her home in
Villiers-sous-Grez. In 1984, on such a visit, Teeny had driven us to Paris
where she had things to do. She put us up in the apartment/studio in Neuilly
that she had shared with Duchamp. She returned for us the next day. It
was a marvelous unplanned experience.
The Neuilly studio was the place where Duchamp died. Although
fifteen years had passed, it looked as if he had just left. The books
and folios on the shelves gave the impression of constant use. The room
seemed filled with a beautiful spirit.
Among many of the readymades were the Bottle Dryer,
Fresh Widow and Fountain. The next morning I asked Bill to
photograph me Praying for Irreverence.
That night, we took off for Cadaquès, Spain, where Teeny
and Marcel had summered. Our host was Richard Hamilton who was responsible
for the typographic version of the Green Box notes. Hamilton's
house (formerly the Governor’s) is a medieval building made of local flint
stone. Richard had gathered a rare mix of Antonio Gaudí and seventeenth
century furniture. We arrived in January during the month of the Mistral
(a cold violent wind which whips off the Mediterranean). Its incessant
howling rang through Richard’s vaulted stone corridors. And each house
we entered made a different sound. It was known to have set a native’s
mind mad. We left this place after a week. I was grateful to quietly reclaim
my thoughts. To this day, I associate the wail of the Mistral with
that land of Duchamp, Dalí, and Buñuel.