Vol.1 / Issue 3


Why the Hatrack is and/or is not Readymade:
with Interactive Software, Animation,
and Videos for Readers to Explore

by Rhonda Roland Shearer with Gregory Alvarez, Robert Slawinski, Vittorio Marchi and text box by Stephen Jay Gould

* Please note this essay contains 8 videos,
10 animations and 3 interactive presentations.



Duchamp's readymade hatrack only
exists in the mind
not in factual nature.

After duly noting the geometric distortions in Duchamp's six hatrack representations, we must conclude that the simple history and definition of the hatrack that everyone believed -- that a readymade is an unaltered, mass-produced object -- must be completely reassessed and rewritten.

Click to enlarge
Illustration 19A.
Illustration 19B.
Studio photograph (1916-17) with Duchamp's ghost image found in 1960's © 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris
Photograph of Duchamp's studio by Man Ray with Duchamp as ghost image, 1920

We can return to the six representations of the hatrack and explore some of the issues now raised such as to how Duchamp generated the six depictions? Did he alter hatrack objects or doctor photographs or both? We are presently working with forensic scientists to help us determine more about the exact nature and type of photographic or physical manipulations that Duchamp may have used. Duchamp, obviously, put us all on notice that he was doing the photographic tricks well known in the late 19th and early 20th century by both amateur and professional photographers, see illustrations #19A, B. In both photographs 19A and B, Duchamp himself appears to be a ghostly apparition, a typical photo trick of the time.(13)

Click to enlarge
Illustration 20A.
Original Studio Photograph, 1916-17
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

Forensic experts that I have consulted also noted that the scale, shadows and light directions in many of Duchamp's photographs are inconsistent throughout the whole image.(14) As an example, strong shadows will, inconsistently, be cast from one object but not from the other object directly next to it. (Closely examine illustration 20A, Note that the stick leaning against the wall cast a shadow and yet the Bicycle Wheel does not! Moreover, the pillows in the foreground cast strong shadows and yet the Coatrack does not!)

For another example, look at illustration 20A, B and C. A full size snow shovel could not possibly be hanging physically from a height indicated in these studio photographs. We discover that the wood shaft would have to be too short when we compare the shovel's size to the ceiling.
Click all images to enlarge
Illustration 20B.
Illustration 20C.

Photograph of Duchamp's studio
used for making print for
the Box in a Valise, 1941
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp,
ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris
Note: circle is for clarity added by author

Note that shovel could not be hanging at its full length from the ceiling. Photograph of Duchamp's studio with Duchamp's ghost image, 1916-1917
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris
Note: circle is for clarity added by author

Click to see video
Illustration 21A.
Marcel Duchamp, In the Manner of Delvaux, 1942 © 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris
Note: arrows are for clarity
added by author
Click to enlarge
Illustration 21B.
Mathew Brady used composite techniques in the earlist days of photography.
From Dino A. Brugioni, Photo Fakery: The History and Techniques of Photographic Deception and Manipulation, Virginia: Brassey's, 1999, p. 34
Note: circles are for clarity
added by author

Our resulting hypothesis must be that the shovel's wood shaft and handle have been somehow cut off. Duchamp (or someone in his behalf) shortened the wood shaft either physically or photographically. In the later case of trick photography, instead of hanging a short snow shovel in his studio, Duchamp, or someone at his behest, could have; 1); taken a photograph of a snow shovel and carefully trimmed away the background; 2), Next, this snow shovel shaped photograph part (with short wood shaft) would then be inset into a precisely sized and shaped cut out receptacle in the studio photo's emulsion
Click all images to enlarge
Illustration 22A.
Marcel Duchamp, Trébuchet, 1917
Illustration 22B.
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, photograph by Alfred stieglitz from Blindman
No. 2, 1917
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris
(similar to putting a cut out cookie back into its negative space within the rolled out dough); 3), the studio background and shovel fragment now appear as one photograph that is rephotographed and printed for the final resulting composite that we see. Examine here the video of the work, In the Manner of Delvaux (1942) which documents only one example among many of the expert skill Duchamp (or someone at his request) demonstrated in creating photographic composites. (See Illustration 21A) Adding or subtracking subjects from photos was done with numerous techniques from the earliest days of photography. Mathew Brady seamlessly added an eighth Civil War general in illustration 21B.

The aforementioned studio photographs (19A, B and 20A, B) present many other instances of photographic manipulations that I will leave for future discussions. However, please see Stephen Jay Gould's text box here to read his observations and discovery regarding Duchamp's studio photograph, illustration 19B. For now, I will limit myself to analysis of two studio photographs of readymades to continue my argument (see illustrations 22A and 22B that show Duchamp's "original" 1916 coatrack and "original" 1917 urinal.)



Did Duchamp Give Us a Ghostly and
Partial Seventh Cut of His Hatrack?

Stephen Jay Gould

Click to enlarge
Photograph of Duchamp's studio by Man Ray, 1920

Man Ray's 1920 photograph of Duchamp's Rotative plaque de verre (with one plate broken and scattered on the floor) raises many questions that have never been addressed by art historians. In particular, although the photo, at first glance, might seem to be a casual snapshot of a messy studio, even a cursory examination reveals complex changes, careful placements, and interpolations - particularly to imbue the entire composition with a "circle" theme (understandable since the centerpiece Rotatitive plaque is a device made of glass rectangles that, when spun, produces the appearance of a set of rotating circles.)
Click to see video
Click to see video
Animation of the Rotary Glass Discs in stationary position (top),
and in motion (bottom), 1920

But note all the other circles, not so casually placed or imported into the composition: the "target" beneath the chess pieces on the wainscotting, the circle cut out of glass in front of the frame on the floor next to the crate, the bicycle wheel to the left (but not resting on the stool that should be visible if the famous readymade roue de bicyclette just happened to be present in its reality and entirety, and, especially, the blurred circular forms that look like cooking pots with handles at the upper and lower right, and that create such an interesting triangular composition with the bicycle wheel at center left. (Thomas Girst suggests that these large circles may be parts of the lighting equipment that Man Ray set up to take the photo). One can go on ad infinitum: why, in an otherwise complete chess set of white pieces on the wainscotting, is a single pawn missing? Why is the Russian eye chart hanging upside down?

Click to enlarge
On left, second example from the bottom matches carpet beater Duchamp displayed.
Logan-Gregg Hardware Company, Pittsburg, 1912, p. 631
Click to enlarge
Carpet Beater like the one in Duchamp's studio photo from the ASRL Collection.

But moving to the main point of this note, look just to the left of the large wheel at the left end of the rotative plaque. Here we see a ghost figure of the top half of a man's body, perhaps Duchamp's. We can hardly make out the head, but we see the right arm fairly clearly, even including the creases of the shirt. The figure then cuts off abruptly at the waist, but we can easily be fooled into missing the cutoff because the photo includes what seems to be an old-style carpet beater, business end pointing down and handle pointing up, extending just where the man's right leg would be. (Why?)

Click to enlarge
See Coatrack hook in photograph of Duchamp's studio by Man Ray (detail), 1920
Note: circle added by author

Now, look above the right forearm just behind the shirt cuff. The image is blurry, but I'm fairly sure that I see a single full hook of a Thonet hatrack (the presumed original for Duchamp's series of manipulations and redoings). I originally thought that the ghost man was cradling the hook in the crook of his arm. But I now think that the hook just lies in front of the arm. The hook seems to be tied to a string extending rigidly upwards and affixing nowhere. The hook then curves around to the right, passing over the figure's arm, and then completing its curve just under the arm and towards the waist. A second string seems to emerge from the top, under the first, and to run downwards and slightly to the left, finally passing over the figure's arm just to the left of the hook itself.

Click to enlarge
Outline surrounds ghostly hook. Wooden base added to illustrate the position of this hook in an unaltered Thonet hatrack model with three "S" shaped curves.
Note that string is tied to the top hook as in the two studio photos below.

Click to enlarge
Photograph of Duchamp's studio by Man Ray (detail), 1920
Click to enlarge
Photo to make print for
Boite-en-valise (detail)
Note: String tied on the top hook
(found in 1960s)

Studio Photo (detail)
Note: String tied to the top hook

Now, both Duchamp's 1941 Boite print of a 1916-17 studio photo and a second studio photograph of the hatrack show the entire device hanging from the ceiling, affixed by a similar string tied near the upper end of a hook in positions comparable to the tie of the single hook in the ghost photo. (Duchamp, by the way, produced several photos with ghost images of himself emplaced into an interior scene). However, one of the two studio photos of the "full" hatrack in the 1941 Boite print seems to be missing one of the three large hooks. Did Duchamp remove the hook from this photo and then give it back to us as a single ghostly item in this later photo? Hooking and roping us in yet again; pulling our leg with his legless ghost; kicking us in the pants with a rug beater acting as a surrogate for a leg?


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