Traveler's Folding Item
Pliant de Voyage
1916, New York
Not even a photograph of the original version of this Readymade exists.
When asked in 1953 why Traveler's Folding Item was selected, Duchamp responded, "I thought it would be a good idea to introduce softness in the Readymade - in other words not altogether hardness, porcelain or iron, or things like that... So that's why the typewriter cover came into existence" (Schwarz 646). It is true, just as the title suggests, that this Readymade can be packed up, folded, and brought on a trip. Also, "Pliant" conveys allusions to the work being "flexible" and "folding" (Moffitt 233).
On the most basic level, Traveler's Folding Item stands as a typical Readymade. It demonstrates the clear displacement of an everyday object from its original context and function. A cover with no typewriter for it to protect is utterly useless. Ittempts the viewer to look underneath its skirt, and suddenly it takes on some very sexual meanings. Museums often strategically display the typewriter cover in a manner so as to tempt the viewer in this manner as if it were a woman's skirt. Joselit explains, "This item, which Duchamp identifies with a feminine skirt, should be exhibited on a stand high enough to induce the onlooker to bend and see what is hidden by the cover" (90). In this way, this Readymade acts as an invitation to voyeurism. There is of course nothing actually underneath the skirt; the viewer's imagination must complete the artwork. As Duchamp always believed, "The onlookers are the ones who make the picture" (Moffitt 233).
To take this sexual interpretation one step further, some suggest that this piece borrows ideas from Duchamp's highly sexual Large Glass. In this well known work, as art of her orgasmic blossoming, the bride produces "alphabetic units," similar to those made by a typewriter (Joselit 90). The typewriter cover may then be seen as the garment covering the female body (particularly that part that produces these units). The term "Pliant" in the French version of the title further supports this sexual interpretation; Moffitt points out that this term is in fact the English equivalent of "compliant" (233).
2) 1964, Milan
Edition of eight replicas made under artist's supervision
Two outside the edition for the artist and publisher, and two more for the museum exhibition.
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