Investigations on the relative permanence of chromatic memory retention
by Prof. Karl Gegenfurtner of Giessen University in Germany may throw
light on Duchamp’s very conservative use of color in his mature work.
summary account, The visual memory better and longer stores images
in ‘natural color’ than either in black & white or bright, primary
tints. The work in Germany was placed in an evolutionary context:“If
stimuli are too strange, the system simply doesn’t engage as well,
or deems them unimportant” (see: Franz, V.H., Fahle, M., Bülthoff,
H.H. & Gegenfurtner, K.R. "The effect of visual illusions
on grasping." Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception
& Performance, vol. 27, nr. 5 (October 2001), pp. 1124-1144).
in Duchamp’s concern must have been a realization that his complex
and inference rich constructions might not linger long enough in memory
to permit recall at prolonged leisure and reflection. Anticipating
much later research, he deliberately avoided the use of any means
which could possibly hinder the visual memory’s work. Thus a characteristic
natural effect was sought in his color schemes.
the final work, Given: The Water Fall, 2. The illuminating Gas,
(Fig. 1) Duchamp went out of his way to obtain colorations
of light, landscape and flesh, that caused some critics to questions
such an apparent reversion of a revolutionary artist to mere ‘naturalism’
as practiced by the 19th century realists. The explanation
may lie in another direction entirely. The writer believes Duchamp
intuitively was aware of the phenomenon described by the German researcher
and employed it cunningly in a major and little understood work.