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.



One of the nice twists of history's perversity is that, while the Duchamp Fountain exists in numerous replica versions, a surviving example of the original type of urinal has proven impossible to locate. If it exists at all, it is now an item of exquisite rarity.

Kirk Varnedoe, Adam Gopnik,
High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture, MOMA Catalogue, 1990


Click to enlarge
Illustration 35A.

Urinals were purchased by Mott, Crane and other plumbing companies from Trenton Potteries in Trenton, NJ.
The Bedfordshire urinals in the ASRL collection are all stamped Trenton potteries.

Art historians William Camfield and Kirk Varnedoe report that they strenuously searched the historical record for urinal models that matched the geometry of Duchampís urinal. My own research agrees with their conclusion -- that the closest urinal to Duchampís is a model called the "Panama" or "Bedfordshire with Lip." In the early 20th century, Mott, Crane and other distributers purchased urinals from Trenton Potteries, Trenton, NJ (a.k.a. "the sanitary pottery capital of the U.S."). Models of urinals and other pottery products, such as toilets, were so basic and so infrequently changed that only freelance workers were needed to serve as modelers for the entire sanitary pottery industry. ASRL owns three of the Bedfordshire urinals, and all are stamped, "Trenton Potteries," NJ; see illustration 35A. The duplication of shape among these urinals speaks both to the minimal variation that occurs among urinals, and to the easy standardization of form resulting from their mold making process.

Just as one hatrack studio photo, found in the 1960's, provided a closer match (but no cigar) to the Thonet historical model than any of Duchamp's other 2D or 3D hatrack depictions, his urinal in two studio representations (34C and 34D) provide a close, but not exact, match to the Mott historical model (see illustration 35B,C and D,E). Duchampís two studio photo urinals are here compared to the Bedfordshire urinal with lip from the ASRL collection, placed in a similar position. The general appearance is similar among 35B,C and D,E. However, the "side ear-like" brackets are larger and different, both from each other and from the Mott model, as are the pipe connections at the urinalsí top and bottom. Moreover, we have concluded from our analysis that one should be able to see Duchampís "R. Mutt 1917" signature and date (and one cannot) on a urinal when placed in both positions 35B and 35C, if the inscription were indeed there.

click each image to enlarge
2 studio photos (35B, C) look similar
to the Mott/Crane Bedfordshire
with lip in 35D,E below;
Compare with detail images below

35B detail
35C detail
The 35B position would show the signature "R. Mutt 1917" if it were there in the above studio photo -- as indicated by our 3D computer model when placed in a similar angle.
The 35C position would show the "R. Mutt 1917" inscription if it were there in the above studio photograph -- as indicated by our 3D computer model placed in a similar angle.
ASRL Bedfordshire urinals placed in similar positions to urinals in Duchamp's studio photos look easily similar, see 35B, 35C

However, when we examine 35B,C,D,E various attempts to place the Bedfordshire model in a position to match the stieglitz photo 36A completely fail. Only when we composite together the top part of the urinal from one photograph, the bottom part from another and the drain holes and pipe hole from yet others in different perspectives, does the urinal begin to look vaguely like the stieglitz urinal 36A. Note that the bottom and top of the urinals in 35B,C and 35D,E easily appear similar in size, scale and perspective view, whereas, in 36A, the stieglitz original photograph appears to be in one perspective view in the top half and in yet another camera viewpoint in the bottom half where the pipe connection rests. Moreover, when you look at our actual Urinal, 36D for example, the upper half with the drain holes looks further away from us in the photo; whereas, the bottom pipe hole part appears closer to us, in the foreground. Curiously, no similar "near and far" positions are transmitted by the forms in 36A, Duchamp's 1917 stieglitz photograph. In fact,in our Bedfordshire urinal photos, 36B,C,D,E, the drain holes appear smaller, and therefore further away, and the pipe hole reads larger and therefore closer to us than in the 36A stieglitz photograph -- giving credence to my observation that the stieglitz photograph, strangely, does not depict the significant distance between the back of the urinal and the front (as clearly indicated in 36B).

Click each image to enlarge
The original stieglitz 1917 photo of Duchamp's urinal, unlike Duchamp's two other studio photos, could not be easily approximated when we photographed our Bedfordshire urinals. The Bedfordshire is the only urinal model, circa 1917, that appears close to, but not identical to, the original urinal depicted in the stieglitz photo.

36 B,C,D,E are a series of photographs of our ASRL Bedfordshire models that show our attempts
to reproduce a shape
similar to the urinal
in the original
1917 stieglitz photo.


Click to enlarge

Illustration 37A,B,C,D.
We combined four different photographs to create 37A,B,C,D -- as our Bedfordshire urinal's drain holes, pipe hole, urinal top and bottom parts could not be captured in one photograph with positions that match the drain holes, pipe hole, and top and bottom parts
in the stieglitz photo (36A).

We provide the 2D Interactive Presentation below to allow the spectator to experiment with the cutting up and pasting together of different urinal photo parts. There are 9 possible combinations. One combination matches the stieglitz photo. Also, try placing the pipe in the middle as we suggest. One can begin to see how pieces that do not originally go together can be moved and will there appear to be better, or at least, equally correct in their form, when in a new position -- especially if you had the ability to fill in gaps with even more cut-out parts then we provide in this presentation.


To download Flash Player plug-in, click here
Partial stieglitz photo found in 1980s is combined with part cut from stieglitz 1917 photo (see part below)
This bottom part is cut from the original
stieglitz photo, 1917

Click each image to enlarge
Illustration 38A.
Illustration 38B.
In 1917, Duchamp places, what I believe to be, a composited photograph, in a journal titled The Blind Man
The Blind Man No. 2: P.B.T., May 1917

More specifically, this Interactive Presentation places together the bottom part, cut from the entire Stieglitz original photograph (36A), with the mysterious partial version (also printed from an original negative) as the top. Perhaps, as in our coatrack example, where the working print probably revealed Duchampís methodology for compositing his coatrack together from a series of photos in different perspectives, perhaps this partial photo of the urinal, printed and left as a complete image, represents the smoking gun, also found to reveal similar evidence of being a photo composite. For if we can, (1), easily create a likeness of the two 1917 photos of Duchamp urinals using the Bedfordshire 3D models and yet, (2), run into difficulty when doing the same experiment by trying to recreate the 1917 Stieglitz original urinal photo with the same Bedfordshire 3D model (the main difference being that the top part of the urinal, as in the partial Stieglitz photo, lies in one perspective and the bottom part in another), then perhaps the partial photo discloses itself as a step that Duchamp used in a process of creating his final photo composite, then aptly published in The Blind Man as he realized that we would not readily see his alterations. (see illustrations 38A and B.)

Click to enlarge
Illustration 39A.

Is the Partial Stieglitz photo itself a photo composite?

Is this partial Stieglitz photo itself, that we see in illustration 39A, also made of parts? And is the complete version of the Stieglitz photo (38A) essentially a fusion of yet more parts added to parts already composited in the top photo of the partial version (39A)? Moreover, is the fusing of different perspectives passing as one perspective in Duchamp's urinal, hatrack and coatrack, the same "rehabilitated perspective" geometry that he claims to have been using in his Large Glass?



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