Pulled at Four Pins

Main Readymade
Copper plate, 1964
Original Version:

1915, New York
unpainted tin chimney cowl
no dimensions recorded

No photos were taken of this round revolving "ventilator" before it was lost (Adcock 73). Only a copper plate etching and a print pulled from it in 1964 survive (Oliva 178-9). This object's normal function is to turn in the wind to make a chimney draw better. However, there was a confusion concerning this for quite some time. Schwarz points out that this piece was mistaken for a weathervane; Andre Breton mistook it for one in 1935 (635).

This Readymade was found very close to the time In Advance of the Broken Arm was. As Tomkins relates, it was "purchased a week or so after the snow shovel" (160). Once selected, it may very well have been hung in Duchamp's apartment with the rest of his Readymades. Breton explains, "the ceiling of Duchamp's studio in 1915 was bristling with objects such as coat hangers, combs, weathercocks, all accompanied by some discordant inscription that served as a title or caption" (Schwarz 635).
Etching, 1964

Duchamp gave Pulled at Four Pins to his friend Louise Varese, who unfortunately misplaced it years later. All that remains are the scant notes on the piece and a plate and print. With little to work with, today one must turn his attention to the mysterious. The literal English translation of the French phrase "tire a quatre epingles," which means "Dressed to the Nines" in French, this phrase has autobiographical overtones. Duchamp was known to be a sharp dresser, always looking his Sunday best whatever the occasion or day of the week.

Other possible meanings of this title prove more complex. First of all, in English, the phrase "Pulled at Four Pins" means nothing at all; and this may be exactly what Duchamp intended. It may not be meant to make sense, just like the jumbled word phrases and complex puns used in other Readymades. Tomkins explains, "This was what Duchamp liked about it - the words, making no sense and having no relation to the visual image, could lead the mind in unpredictable directions" (160).

Second, Duchamp's interest in complexity was reflected in a love of mathematics and inquiry into advanced geometric ideas concerning "n-dimensional [or four-dimensional] and non-Euclidean geometries" (Adcock 73). As Adcock suggests, the "Four Pulls" may refer to what the artist termed the,

"four directions of the four-dimensional continuum... He did not bother to reverse his writing when he etched his plate and, when the print is pulled, the result is a mirror-reversed image. This had to have been intentional [Duchamp was an accomplished artist who was versed on the reversal inherent in printmaking]. Duchamp meant to refer to certain characteristics of four-dimensional geometry, namely, that when an object is rotated through the fourth dimension, it is mirror-reversed" (73).

This interpretation provides for a greater understanding of Duchamp's repeated incorporation of mirrors and reversals in other Readymades including Apolinere Enameled, Belle Haleine, and Waistcoat. These mirrors not only implicate the viewer, but also make him think on a higher philosophical and mathematical level.

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