This project begins an investigation of
Marcel Duchamp and his relationship to the Woolworth building as a readymade.
click to enlarge
a note from Ŕ l'Infinitif, 1916/1967
Asked to create a project for our residency at the Woolworth building, we
began to research Duchamp's relationship to the building. We found only
a note (Fig. 1) referring to the Woolworth building
as a possible readymade. As we continued to explore the meaning of the note,
we discovered Tout-Fait online and contacted Rhonda Shearer. Our
initial conversation with her, about what a ready-made is or could be, was
so intriguing that we interviewed her to learn about her relationship to
Duchamp research and what led her to her current thinking on the origin
of the ready-made. The discussion led us down a rabbit hole of excitement
and wonder as we explored and began to assimilate more of Duchamp's thinking,
culminating in a four-part exhibition at the Woolworth building, riffing
on Duchamp and the building.
We made a video (Fig.
2) in which we asked 52 artists to send us two seconds of tape.
Then, using a random method, we edited together those 52 two-second pieces.
For the audio track we used Rhonda Shearer's voice from the interview
we conducted. As an experimental piece, it is very successful because
the audio and images are not in synch, yet the viewer moves between the
two, trying to make an illustrative sequence or connection when in fact
it is all random.
click to enlarge
Performance by Elena Bajo and Jillian McDonald, Snoop-Snoop Fate (2004)
On one evening we hired four performance artists, including Elena Bajo (Fig.
3) and Jillian McDonald (Fig. 4), to
create prankish performances, but we also were being prankish with them.
These performers were not to be identified. The task of their performance
was to alter their behavior so as to present themselves as someone slightly
different than who they perceive themselves to be. The result is a nearly
invisible performance that encourages everyone to question what is authentic
in the gestures of person-to-person communication.
course this proved to be impossible, so we had to work with each person
to create a performance uncharacteristic of himself or herself. For example,
a transvestite performer decided to perform in a suit, as a straight man.
As he performed, it was so emotionally difficult for him that after a
short time he angrily left. Another artist decided his performance would
be to yawn in people's faces even though he normally likes to chat people
up. This performance was also too difficult for him; failing, he too left
early. The two women performers did succeed (Fig.
5). One artist (Jillian Mcdonald) who normally gave props away
to her audience—kept them instead. She walked around with a tray
of chocolates talking to people and when they reached for one, she would
say, "No, I'm not sharing," eliciting reactions of surprise
and sometimes horror. The other woman (Elena Bajo) came disguised as a
wealthy dealer and found artists, trying to schmooze her, talking in ways
she's never heard!
Part Three and Four
The first two parts, the videotape and the
performers, illustrate concepts related to Duchamp's work. The second
two parts are the diagrams of four-dimensional space, a hanging sculpture
of hyper cube titled Terra Studiy #1 by Rhonda Roland Shearer,
three watercolors on the wall (Fig. 6), and
a website (Tout-Fait)
for further reading. In part, this project reflects the role of math in
the history of art. The diagrams and watercolors illustrate a favorite
notion of Duchamp, that he hated "retinal art" and preferred
the "non-retinal beauty of grey matter." On the wall are three
watercolors by Praxis (retinal) as well as a simple explanation of a four-dimensional
object that can only be seen in the mind's eye (non-retinal). An installation
view can be seen in this short video. (Fig. 7)
click to enlarge
Praxis, Watercolors, 2004
(on the wall);
Rhonda Roland Shearer,
Terra Study #1, 1990
of the installation view, Snoop-Snoop Fate (2004)