appreciate the effort that you made to research the historical context
for Duchamp's alleged "Paris Air Medical Ampule."
Duchamp's contention that his objects were mass-produced readymades,
the fact remains that no exact duplicate exists for any of his productions
in the historical record. No scholar has ever found — in any museum
catalogue or collection, or dealers' storerooms — any exact object (urinal,
coatrack, hatrack, etc.) that, according to Duchamp's claims, was mass
produced, store bought and readymade. Is this not strange? If an object
is mass produced, by definition and logic, the attempt to find a duplicate
design should not be analogous to searching for a needle in a haystack
or scraping the bottom of a barrel, as has been the case.
evidence exists for the art historical othodoxy's assumption — namely,
that readymades are mass produced, and were therefore readily found
in stores. Therefore, a reversal of the typical question of evidence
about the status of Duchamp's objects must be proposed. We should be
persuaded by, and judge only by, direct evidence any claim that Duchamp
objects are, in fact, readymade.
three illustrations of infusion devises, your letter lists three criteria
met by Duchamp's ampule in your judgement.
1. A closed vessel for sterilization
2.It can be used as an infusion system (with a bottom to break for connection
to a tube)
3."Convenient apparatus to hang over the patient's bed because of the
I look at your three illustrations, I fail to follow your conclusion
that the Paris Air ampule "combines all three functions in one piece
made of the same uniform material."
does not have a glass hook and, like Figure 2, is safely and securely
held by a metal clasp. Therefore the hook and the ampule are separate,
not uniform materials as in Duchamp's ampules. Indeed, Figure 3 is very
suggestive — but unlike Figure 1 and 2, which appear to be accurate
technical drawings from medical catalogues, Figure 3 with its inclusion
of a hanging curtain and rough, hand-drawn quality is unclear. Considering
Figure 3's earlier 19th century date, this device was replaced by more
practical and safe designs shown in Figure 1 and 2. The cylinder form
of Figure 2 shares, with the mass-produced ampules developed in France
during the first years of the 20th century, a shape that can be safely
packed into boxed rows (see my Illustration A of an early 20th century
ampule mass-production factory).
Click to enlarge
showing a factory mass-producing ampules, France, early 20th century
handled many European and American ampules and have "opened" them (see
video). It would have been very tricky to attach a hose to the jagged
end of an ampule. If indeed a glass hook was ever incorporated (as Figure
3 is unclear), the motion of a patient's arm would have led to stress
on a glass hook that would likely cause it to break or become dislodged.
Logic and practicality would lead to the further development of a metal,
not a glass hook — as shown by the historical chronology held within
your illustrations, beginning with Figure 3, then Figure 1, and Figure 2 as the most historically recent in the series.
say that you are correct and that Figure 3 was among the early experiments
in hand-made infusion devises that Duchamp saw hanging in a pharmacy
as an "old pharmaceutical/medical instrument for decoration" (as you
write). Is this one-of-a kind and obsolete hand-made infusion ampule
to be accepted by us as evidence of Duchamp's use of a mass produced,
easily found, store-bought readymade object?
size, I believe that the facts about sizes of infusion balls actually
used and made would be extremely important to know. For example, what
if infusion ampules — even early custom-made ones — were only more than
125 cc in volume? This fact would further indicate that Duchamp had
his own ampule made. Or on the contrary, if you discovered that infusion
ball ampules were only made in 35 cc and 125 cc in volume, this would
suggest that Duchamp exploited the two standard sizes for his original
1919 and 1941 Boite en Valise versions, etc. Furthermore, we
have testimony by experts that a pharmacist would not have needed unusual
skills to convert a mass-produced ampule into a custom-made version
similar to Duchamp's larger 1919 and smaller 1941 Paris Air objects.
In fact, Duchamp tells us that he had his 1941 ampules version custom
Click image for video
Click image for video
Click image for video
of the breaking of two antique ampules at the Art Science Research
(with thicker glass)
of various antique ampules at ASRL, NY
that the question of Duchamp's readymade ampule is very much aided by
your research, but must still continue! I would love to find out more
about infusion devices. If, in fact, infusion balls were "available
in a great variety of sizes for different medical indications," evidence
and images of mass-produced infusion balls matching Duchamp's Paris
Air (1919) should readily be found, and should now be in the historical
record in a duplicate form, not just as resemblances. A duplicate of
Paris Air (1919) (alas, for people who want to believe in readymades)
has not yet been found. We may be facing another Loch Ness monster or
Big Foot. People will believe that Duchamp's Paris Air (1919) ampule
was a mass-produced readymade even in the face of little or no evidence.