Urn with the Ashes of Duchamp['s Cigar]

Late Readymade
Original version, 1965
Original Version:

May 15, 1965, Paris
Michel Sanouillet, Nice
black clay urn
provoked readymade
18.2 x 12 cm

This Readymade contains the ashes of a cigar Duchamp smoked at a dinner organized by members of the Association pour I'Etude du Mouvemebt Dada at the Restaurant Victoria, Paris, in 1965. The ashes of the meeting's minutes were added and the urn was then sealed (Schwarz 851).

Urn With Ashes of Duchamp['s Cigar] embodies the container concept. With an object concealed within, it reminds the viewer of Hidden Noise, a Readymade from nearly fifty years earlier. This later Readymade, however, illustrates other new references to ideas of temporality and the inevitability of death.

The large signature of Duchamp's alter ego Rrose Selavy on this piece clearly adds to its possible meanings. Because the signature is so prominent on the piece, it seems to act like a label for its contents. Upon first glance, Urn with the Ashes of Duchamp['s Cigar] may seem to be an urn filled with the ashes of Rrose Selavy herself. It may refer to the sort of sexual death of Rrose. At the same time, the title begs for an autobiographical interpretation. The purposeful use of brackets suggests that the urn contains Duchamp's remains. This is also supported by the late date of this Readymade; Duchamp was getting older when he made this piece and perhaps coming to peace with the inevitability of his own death. But in the end, of course, it is all a joke.

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