J. Kiesler and Marcel Duchamp,
center fold-out tryptich for View (ed. Charles Henri Ford),
vol. 5, no. 1 (March 1945), various details
Sometimes we tell each
other Duchamp stories, which might surprise you since, you would reasonably
point out, there is practically nothing about old Marcel that hasn’t
been told, already, to death. Yet if God is in the details, the endlessly
ironic touches in Duchamp´s narrative are also, even in their apparent
irrelevance, the source of a strong exhilaration and brilliance.(1)~Rosalind Krauss
and Marcel Duchamp met in the mid-1920s in Paris and stayed in contact
until the early 1950s when, for reasons still unknown, their friendship
suddenly seems to have fallen apart. During those 25 years, Kiesler
and Duchamp worked within the same vein, both occupied with predominant
themes like perception and mechanisms of visions. They shared the same
friends in Paris and frequented the same intellectual circle in New
York. In 1937 Kiesler published his first article on Duchamp´s Large
based on the extensive use of photomontage and on a free association
of images. Five years later, Duchamp rented a room in Kiesler´s apartment
for twelve months. Also in 1942, Kiesler designed the gallery Art
of This Century for Peggy Guggenheim in which he installed a Vision
Machine(3) to look at a series of reproductions from Duchamp´s Bôite en
During the 1940s Kiesler and Duchamp collaborated on several projects
such as the cover of the 1943 VVV Almanac and the exhibition
Imagery of Chess at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. In 1947
they worked together again in Paris at the Exposition Internationale
du Surréalisme for which Kiesler designed the Salle des Superstitions.
A few months later, Kiesler executed a portrait in eight parts of Marcel
Duchamp which can probably be considered the last collaboration between
the two artists.(5)
The Archive of the Frederick Kiesler Center in Vienna preserves a photocopy
of some handwritten notes(6)
J. Kiesler, picture of Marcel Duchamp used for View-tryptich,
1945 (Archive of the Kiesler Center, Vienna, Austria)
Frederick Kiesler recording various events of Marcel Duchamp´s life. This
copy came to our attention half a year ago. As far as we know, an excerpt
from this manuscript has been quoted only by Jacques Caumont and Jennifer
Gough-Cooper in their remarkable text on Marcel Duchamp and Frederick
, in which they have reported a passage regarding Raymond Roussel and
chess. In their text they did not specify the provenance of the source(8)
but they date it to 1945, when Kiesler provided a triptych-photomontage
published in View.(Figs. 1-3, 5, 6)
The issue included several other texts on Marcel Duchamp, while Kiesler’s
photomontage combine photos of Duchamp´s studio at 210 West 14th
Street with reproductions of his works(9)
. Furthermore, the Archive of the Kiesler Center preserves some of the
pictures which used to compose the triptych. (Fig.
4) Those images - in combination with the manuscript -
help to complete the puzzle of the complex relationship between the two
artists and they reflect Kiesler´s ability in transforming real images
in surreal visions where the borderline between reality and fiction fades.
Three books inspired the
decision of presenting this text in a typographical version: the Green
Box by George Heard Hamilton and Richard Hamilton; Á l´Infinitif
by Ecke Bonk, and last but not least Affectionately, Marcel by
Francis M. Naumann and Hector Obalk. We have tried to follow this tradition
in a sort of divertissement which helped us to approach the world
of the »Emeritus for Chronic Diseases of the Arts«, as Kiesler once
described Marcel Duchamp(10).
Duchamp, front cover for View, vol. 5, no. 1 (March 1945)
Duchamp, back cover for View,
vol. 5, no. 1 (March 1945)
J. Kiesler and Marcel Duchamp, center fold-out tryptich for View
(ed. Charles Henri Ford), vol. 5, no. 1 (March 1945), animated
Anyone who has information on the original
manuscript, please contact the Kiesler Center at: firstname.lastname@example.org
[The typeface used for Kiesler´s handwriting
is Baskerville Old Face; for Lillian Kiesler´s it is Zapf Calligraphic
and for the footnotes it is Times New Roman.]
to browse through
1. R. Krauss,
The Optical Unconscious, London/Cambridge 1996, p.95.
2. F. Kiesler, Design Correlation
in: »Architectural Record« May 1937, pp.53-60.
3. For more information about
Vision Machines see Y. Safran, »L´angle de l´œil« in: Frederick
Kiesler. Artiste Architecte, Paris 1996 and D. Bogner »Frederick
Kiesler et la Vision Machine« in: Vision Machines, Nantes 2000.
4. For more information on
the gallery Art of This Century see E. Kraus; V. Sonzogni a.o.,
Friedrich Kiesler: Art of This Century, Ostfildern 2002.
5. In the 1950s no more trace
of communication between them can be followed, not even through Kiesler´s
wife Steffi, also a good friend of Duchamp. A reason for the end of
their friendship could have been the so-called »Affaire Matta« which
involved several surrealist artists following Gorky´s death in 1948.
6. The manuscript is composed
of five pages numbered later by Lillian Kiesler. Lillian gave it a title
pertaining to the possibility that those papers could contain some notes
written by Kiesler during an interview with Duchamp.
7. J. Gough-Cooper and J. Caumont, »Kiesler und Die Braut von ihren Junggesellen nackt entlößt, sogar« in: D. Bogner a.o., Friedrich Kiesler 1890-1965, Wien 1988, pp.287-296.
8. »Kiesler schrieb
mehrere undatierte Seiten über das Große Glass, auf die er auch
einige interessante biographische Notizen kritzelte, Informationen über
Duchamp, die er zweifellos schon in der Zeit vor der Veröffentlichung
in View gesammelt hatte.« (»Kiesler
wrote several undated pages on the subject of the Large Glass
onto which he also scribbled some interesting biographical information
on Duchamp, no doubt collected prior to the publication in View«)
J .Gough-Cooper and J. Caumont, ibid. p.293.
9. Kiesler used a photomontage technique in combination with double exposure
of the film in order to achieve, in a sort of ghostly effect, a vision
of the Large Glass superimposed to a wall of Duchamp´s studio.
10. See the notes to the triptych in View (ed. Charles Henri Ford), vol.
5, no. 1, March 1945 (Marcel Duchamp number).