Vol.1 / Issue 3


Why the Hatrack is and/or is not Readymade:
with Interactive Software, Animations,
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.



Click to see video
Illustration 27.
Video of Coatrack
animation analysis

In order to actually see all of the coatrack information seen in Duchamp's original studio photograph in real 3D space, our eye would need to be moving in time -- see Illustration 27 showing a video of Robert Slawinski and my animation. Our analysis of the original coatrack depiction reveals that Duchamp used a common composite photo trick to "cut and paste" together his "whole" coatrack. Using 6 different photographs from 6 different fixed eye viewpoints, we believe that Duchamp cut out one section of the coatrack from each photo and then carefully fused these parts together for the final appearance of only one readymade coatrack. The spectator would only "see" this actuality of multiple points of sight "non-retinally," with conscious effort via mental visualization or actual model-making.

We made both physical and computer models here in the lab. Our computer animation diagrams the 6 cuts we believe that Duchamp made from 6 separate photographs taken in 6 different perspective positions. Robert Slawinski and my analysis concludes that Duchamp used 3 whole hooks, 1 hook split into 2 parts and 1 whole wood board as the 6 parts (from 6 different photos) as he assembled into what appears to be the single, whole and readymade coatrack in his studio photograph. See Illustrations 28A, B, C, D, E, F, the 6 coatrack parts that Duchamp cut out and later assembled together are color coded (in these still images taken from the computer animation) to emphasize the separation of the part selected by Duchamp from the rest of the coatrack (that he then discards, and that follows the same perspective geometry of the targeted part.)

click each image to enlarge

This series of stills shows each of the 6 coatrack positions
from which Duchamp selected parts to composite
(Note: The selected parts are color-coded)

Click each image to enlarge
Illustration 29A.
A color-coded diagram showing the 6 parts Duchamp composited together taken from 6 photos.
Illustration 29B.
This still from our coatracks from which Duchamp selected parts to composite (as in 29A).

Illustration 29A and B show a comparison of the parts that Duchamp selected (in color coding) with an image that assembles the 6 whole coatracks, in their 6 different perspectives, together into one event simultaneously seen (using the same color coding).

In addition to the evidence resulting from our analysis of the perspective geometries, 2 other examples of internal evidence indicate that Duchamp used both "masking" and "cut and paste" techniques from the photo alterations used in hobby and trade.
Click to enlarge
Illustration 30.
A photo trick book points to the problem of "fluffy contours" created by the unintentionally cut and paste method, revealing that photo compositing has been made.

Examine illustration 30, a close up view of Duchamp's original coatrack photo, revealing what a photo trick book calls the "fluffy edges" that can easily appear as a soft whitish outline around a photo cut-out after being pasted, if special measures are not taken. Forensic experts look for tell-tale signs -- such as fuzzy contours -- as indicators that photo prints have been combined. See illustration 31A and B,two pages from "The Secrets of Trick Photography" by O.R. Croy discussing this particular problem within the cut and paste method.

Click each image to enlarge
Illustration 31A.

Illustration 31B.

Here are two pages from a photo trick book discussion about the "cut and paste" method used for creating photo composites.

Our second example of internal evidence for our hypothesis that Duchamp altered his original coatrack photograph by combining parts returns us to illustration 23E. Only after making our animation analysis of the geometries in the coatrack did I notice the potential importance of Duchamp's "working" prints of the coatrack first published in 1983 by Ecke Bonk. These prints were described by Bonk as preliminary stages of Duchamp's 1940 process in preparing pochoir prints for his publication of 300 copies of the Boîte-en-valise, (see illustration 32A and B). Bonk does not explain what the method was, or why Duchamp was cutting and pasting a separate paper cutout of the coatrack onto the background studio photo (where 3 hooks are masked out of the scene with white). Illustration 32B indicates an attempt to position only the first hook of the cutout onto the coatrack underneath. This "working print" also suggests (as judged by their two positions) that the paper cut-out coatrack is in one perspective view and the coatrack underneath, imbedded into the studio photo background, is in another perspective.

Click each image to enlarge
Illustration 32A.

Marcel Duchamp, Boite-Series F, 1966
© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

Illustration 32B.
Working print used by Duchamp to create his 1941 pochoir print for the Boite-en-valise
Illustration 32C.
A still from our coatrack analysis that appears strikingly similar to Duchamp's working print above
Compare this working print (32B) to our still from the video animation, where we concluded that Duchamp used 6 different viewpoints (cutouts of hooks and a wood board from 6 photographs), see illustration 32C. The similarity between 32B and C is striking. Was Duchamp using the same method of compositing multiple viewpoints into one coatrack for his pochoir print that he had used earlier to create his original coatrack in the studio photograph?

I believe that this working print serves as a "smoking gun" in our case. Not only is the cut and paste method and the geometries of the forms similar between the alterations in the studio photograph and in Duchamp's Boîte pochoir print, but his separate white-out and maskings of the wood board and the hooks now makes sense. For what purpose would the separate masking and treatment of the 4 hooks and the wood base serve (as is clearly indicated in his "working print") other than as a matrix for creating a composite image?

Related to evidence of photo compositing, as found within Duchamp's "working print" of the coatrack, is a curious 2nd version of a photograph of Duchamp's Fountain urinal taken by stieglitz in 1917, and shown in illustration 33A and B. William Camfield's 1989 book, a chronicle of the odd history of Duchamp's Fountain urinal, presented this second stieglitz photo for the first time after it quietly appeared within the archive of Duchamp's main patrons, the Arensberg's, in the 1950's.

Click each image to enlarge
Illustration 33A.
Known stieglitz version of Duchamp's Fountain urinal published in
N. 2,1917

Illustration 33B.

Second version of stieglitz's Fountain photo (1917) -- not publicly known until 1989

Before discussing the potential importance of this particular photograph, and its delayed appearance for spectators, let us again examine, as we did with the hatrack and coatrack, the consistent approach that Duchamp uses to present his readymades -- as a series of snapshots over time -- now applied to Duchamp's urinal.
As we discovered with his snow shovel, hatrack, coatrack, bicycle wheel and stool, Duchamp's original 1917 urinal does not exist today. Historians such as William Camfield and Michael Betancourt have documented the contradictions and conflicting stories that leave us with effectively no definitive evidence about the urinal's existence -- including any potential witnesses of the object (the few testimonies that exist conflict); who photographed it (stieglitz himself, who supposedly photographed the urinal for the 1917 Blindman publication, only briefly mentions the urinal in writing, and no negative or print was ever found in his archive); or how it quickly the urinal vanished into thin air in 1917. I will not go into the details here, for they are so well pursued and documented by Camfield and Betancourt. All that we do have, as for Duchamp's hatrack, coatrack, and other readymades, is a series of urinal representations in 2D and 3D that we can put together in a set (as in step A of Duchamp's mental operation). We can then examine each depiction as its own snapshot or cut (as in Duchamp's step B, where we take separate observations over time). Since the original 3D urinal is "lost" as a source for collecting more information, we must depend upon our ability to average among, and compare differences between, each urinal representation, see illustrations 34A, B , C, D, E, F, G and H. The tally of our representations, encompassing what we know of Duchamp's urinal, follows:

3   2D photographs of 1917 original
(two by stieglitz and one by unknown photographer)
2   3D models
(one miniature and one full size)
2   2D prints
(one in 1941 Boîte, one 1964 etching)
3   2D Blueprints
(two side views, one plan view)

Total cuts

    10 snapshots of the urinal
(eight 2D, two 3D)


click each image to enlarge
Time Line of Readymade Series of Urinals -- As Seen
by Spectators


(made 1916-17
found in 1960s)
(found 1950s
published 1989)
2D photo by stieglitz from Blindman #2 journal, 1917
model in
2D print
made from
photo in
2D photo, studio photo
2D etching,
edition of 100
3D pottery model Schwarz edition of 8,
second corrected version by Duchamp
2D set of blueprints
(first 3D model,
based upon blueprints, lost)
2D photo fragment published by William Camfield
(original dating not known)

Note: This time line excludes urinal versions that Duchamp did not originate.

© 2000 Succession Marcel Duchamp, ARS, N.Y./ADAGP, Paris

As we discovered when examining Duchampís hatrack and coatrack, the above set of urinal depictions in 2D and 3D do not describe one consistent 3D urinal. For example, our analysis of the studio photo 1916-17 (illustration 34D found in the 1960's), the 1941 print (illustration 34C created from a 1916-17 photograph) and the 1st version of the stieglitz photograph (illustration 34A published in the Blindman #2) reveals an inescapable conclusion -- namely, that two different urinals were represented in 1917. Again, our key question involves casualty -- did Duchamp change urinals literally or photographically? Evidence for both hypotheses exists. Duchamp did make his original 3D miniature urinal model in 1940, and he did commission others to manufacture the full edition of 300. Surprisingly, after Duchamp authorized Schwarz to make editions of 14 of his "readymades," Schwarz failed, despite intensive search, to find even one of the 14 mass produced objects close enough to Duchampís originals in 2D or 3D to serve as prototypes for the editions. Therefore, Schwarz had to organize the manufacture of all 14 editions himself. Stranger still, no duplicate urinal has even been found in any catalogue, including the literature from the very company that Duchamp specifically named his source for his urinal -- the Mott company.



1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10