gallery 25    
  • © Milan Golob: Stefano Campana (1963-2013), 2016, oil on canvas, 18×19 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Imre Kertész (1929-2016), 2016, oil on canvas, 19×18 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Christine Urschler (1960-2013), 2016, oil on canvas, 26×23 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Ida Sossi (1921-2015), 2016, oil on canvas, 18×20 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Marija Orebić (1872-1879), 2016, oil on canvas, 19×20 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Käthe Hunscha (1913-1998), 2016, oil on canvas, 19×21 cm
  • Walter Conrad Arensberg (1878-1954), title of painting not created yet (© Milan Golob)
  • © Milan Golob: Valeria Rossi (1963-2002), 2016, oil on canvas, 27×24 cm
  • Mary Reynolds (1890-1977), title of painting not created yet (© Milan Golob)
  • © Milan Golob: Pasquale Logoluso (1903-1981), 2016, oil on canvas, 21×20 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Armando Rocchetti (1930-2008), 2016, oil on canvas, 21×19 cm
  • Umberto Eco (1932-2016), title of painting not created yet (© Milan Golob)
  • © Milan Golob: Hermine Fitz (1886-1983), 2016, oil on canvas, 26×23 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Elvira Sellingher (1882-1982), 2016, oil on canvas, 18×20 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Emilio Vedova (1919-2006), 2016, oil on canvas, 19×22 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Avguštin Štancer (1912-1990), 2016, oil on canvas, 22×20 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Winfried Böhm (1952-1995), 2016, oil on canvas, 21×19 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Ernest Daberdaku (1923-2013), 2016, oil on canvas, 26×23 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Emilia Veronese Bignami (1901-1999), 2016, oil on canvas, 20×19 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Carolina Sluga (1914-2013), 2016, oil on canvas, 20×18 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Tomo Blažek (1807-1846), 2016, oil on canvas, 19×21 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Herbert Deutsch (1965-1965), 2016, oil on canvas, 19×21 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Bonnie Bluh (1926-2008), 2016, oil on canvas, 26×23 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Etlya Misozhnik (1913-1999), 2016, oil on canvas, 21×20 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Elfriede Maurer (1928-2015), 2016, oil on canvas, 23×26 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Giobbe Sancin (1911-1981), 2016, oil on canvas, 20×19 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Frančiška Terdina Agrež (1926-2014), 2016, oil on canvas, 21×19 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Mario Mara (1921-2007), 2016, oil on canvas, 27×24 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Friederike Guttmann (1934-2014), 2016, oil on canvas, 20×22 cm
  • © Milan Golob: Doris May Edwards (1930-2006), 2016, oil on canvas, 18×20 cm
Stefano Campana (1963-2013), 2016, oil on canvas, 18×19 cm

 



 

 

 

Marcel Duchamp
Through the "Large Glass"

Pierre Cabanne - Dialogue with Marcel Duchamp (1966)*

*Pierre Cabanne; Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, (Translated from the French by Ron Padgett), De Capo Press, 1979, pp. 51-68.


Pierre Cabanne: By 1915 you were in New York. You were twenty-eight years old, and the famous author of a painting whose fame was no less great, the "Nude Descending a Staircase." On your arrival, you made the acquaintance of your principal American patron, who later brought together your life's work in the Philadelphia Museum: Walter Conrad Arensberg. How did you meet him?
Marcel Duchamp: When I arrived, Walter Pach was at the boat and took me straight to Walter Conrad Arensberg's. Walter Conrad Arensberg's had known that l was coming to America, and without knowing anything about me, he wanted to meet me. I stayed at his place for a month, during which our friendship was born (afterward, I took my own studio), a friendship which lasted all my life.
He was a very nice boy, originally a poet, a Harvard man who had enough to live on and who wrote Imagist poetry. In New York at that time, there was a school of poetry, the lmagists, who were part of a group of American poets I knew at that point. Walter Conrad Arensberg had a difficult character, poor man. He was a little older than I, though not much; and he wasn't recognized very quickly or very completely as a poet. He became disgusted with poetry and soon stopped writing around 1918-1919. He had a fantastic hobby: cryptography, which consisted of finding the secrets of Dante in the Divine Comedy, and the secrets of Shakespeare in his plays. You know, the old story: who Is Shakespeare, who isn't Shakespeare. He spent his whole life on it. As for Dante, Walter Conrad Arensberg did a book on him, which he published at his own expense since there was no question of a publisher's doing it. Then he founded a society, the Francis Bacon Foundation, or something like that, to prove that it was really Bacon who had written Shakespeare's plays.
His system was to find, in the text, in every three lines, allusions to all sorts of things; it was a game for him, like chess, which he enjoyed immensely. He had two or three secretaries working for him, and when he died, he left enough money for them to rent a small house in California and continue their research on Shakespeare.
That was Walter Conrad Arensberg.

Pierre Cabanne: Was his research really scientifically valuable?
Marcel Duchamp: I don't believe so. I think it was mostly the conviction of a man at play: Walter Conrad Arensberg twisted words to make them say what he wanted, like everyone who does that kind of work.
Pierre Cabanne: How did Walter Conrad Arensberg hear about you?
Marcel Duchamp: Through the Armory Show. When I arrived, he began buying my things, which wasn't easy, because those who had my things didn't want to sell them. He put in three years getting the "Nude Descending a Staircase"; he bought it in 1918 or 1919; in the meantime, he had asked me to make a photographic copy, which I retouched with pastels and India ink. It's not the work I'm proudest of ...
Pierre Cabanne: Did you meet Henri-Pierre Roché in New York?
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, when be came on I don't remember which war commission.
Pierre Cabanne: He was sent with a French mission.
Marcel Duchamp: Charged with a mission, that's it. I met him, and we were always very close. But he didn't live in New York very long.
I did stay, however. I didn't have much money. I wanted to work, so I got a job in the French military mission. Not being a soldier, I was simply a captain's secretary, which I assure you wasn't at all funny. It was horrible; the captain was an idiot. I worked there for six months, and then, one day, I just walked out, because making thirty dollars a week wasn't worth it.

Pierre Cabanne: How did you live In New York?
Marcel Duchamp: I had a studio for a long time on Broadway in a studio building, like the Ruche or something of that sort. It had everything, a drugstore below, a movie theater, etc. It was very cheap, forty dollars a month.
Pierre Cabanne: I believe that at Walter Conrad Arensberg's you met everybody who was anybody in New York.
Marcel Duchamp: Nearly. There where Barzun, Roché, Jean Crotti, the composer, Edgard Varèse, Man Ray, and, obviously, a lot of Americans. Then Picabia arrived ...
Pierre Cabanne: You must have met Arthur Cravan?
Marcel Duchamp: He arrived at the end of 1915, or in 1916. He made a very brief appearance. Because of his military status he must have had some reckoning to do. No one knew what he had done, and no one wanted to say much about it. Perhaps he scrounged up a passport and beat it for Mexico. These are things people don't talk about. He married, or at least lived with, Mina Loy, an English poetess of the Imagist school—also a friend of Walter Conrad Arensberg—who still lives in Arizona. He had a child by her, also in Arizona. Cravan took Mina to Mexico, and then, one day, he took off alone in a boat and was never seen again. She looked for him in all the Mexican prisons, and since he was a boxer, a very big fellow, she thought that he wouldn't be able to lose himself in a crowd, he would have been recognized right away.
Pierre Cabanne: He was never seen again?
Marcel Duchamp: Never, He was a funny type. I didn't like him very much, nor he me. You know, it was he who, writing about one of the Independents' salons, in 1914, horribly insulted everyone in wild terms, Sonia Delaunay and Marie Laurencin in particular. He made a lot of enemies with that ....
Pierre Cabanne: Did you see a lot of American painters?
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, they used to spend evenings at Walter Conrad Arensberg's, three or four times a week. They played chess—Walter Conrad Arensberg played a lot of chess—a fair amount of whisky was drunk. Around midnight, they'd eat some cake, and the evening would end around three in the morning; sometimes, it was a real drinking bout, but not always ... It was truly an artistic salon, rather amusing at that.
Pierre Cabanne: What did you represent for the painters?
Marcel Duchamp: I don't know. I was probably, someone who had changed the face of things a little bit, who had helped make the Armory Show. For them, that was important.
Pierre Cabanne: You were linked with the revelation of the Armory Show?
Marcel Duchamp: Oh, yes, completely. For all the artist. And they weren't just the ones who had "arrived"; there were young ones too, much younger than I, who were very interesting. A few were already forming a group of Abstract painters. The most interesting was Arthur Dove. Also there was Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer, whose main characteristic was being a philosopher, a sort of Socrates. He always spoke in a very moralizing way, and his decisions were important. He didn't amuse me much, and at the beginning I must say he didn't think much of me either; I struck him as a charlatan. He was very bound up with Picabia, whom he had met in 1913; then later he changed his mind about me, and we became good friends. These are things that one cannot explain.
Pierre Cabanne: Your firs American readymade was called "In Advance or the Broken Arm." Why?
Marcel Duchamp: It was a snow shovel. In fact, I had written that phrase on it. Obviously I was hoping it was without sense, but deep down everything ends up by having some.
Pierre Cabanne: It takes on sense when you have the object itself in front of your eyes.
Marcel Duchamp: Exactly. But I thought that, especially in English, it really had no Importance, no possible relation. An obvious association is easy: you can break your arm shoveling snow, but that's a bit simple-minded, and I didn't think that would be noticed.
Pierre Cabanne: In "With Secret Noise," a ball of string squeezed between two brass plates, joined by four long screws, were your intentions the same?
Marcel Duchamp: The name came after. I did three readymades—it was Easter 1926—and I have lost them. One of them stayed with Walter Conrad Arensberg, who put something inside, after loosening the plates. When they were screwed back down, the thing inside made a noise ... I newer knew what It was. The noise was a secret for me.
Pierre Cabanne: The first collaborative readymade came with engraved inscriptions, which were rendered intentionally incomprehensible.
Marcel Duchamp: They weren't incomprehensible at all; they were French and English words with letters missing. The inscriptions were like sign from which a letter has fallen off ....
Pierre Cabanne: At the very least it's incomprehensible in reading them: P.G. ECIDES DEBARRASSE LE.D.SERT. F.URNIS ENTS AS HOW V.R.COR.ESPONDS ...
Marcel Duchamp: One can be amused putting them back together, it's very easy.
Pierre Cabanne: In April 1916 you took part in a New York exhibition called "The Four Musketeers," the three others being Crotti, Metzinger, and Gleizes. You were also among the founding members or the Société des Indépendants, and at the first exhibition you presented a porcelain urinal called "Fountain," signed by R. Mutt, which was rejected.
Marcel Duchamp: No, not rejected. A work can't be rejected by the Indépendants.
Pierre Cabanne: Let's just say that it wasn't admitted.
Marcel Duchamp: It was simply suppressed. I was on the jury, but I wasn't consulted, because the officials didn't know that it was I who had sent it; I had written the name "Mutt" on it to avoid connection with the personal. The "Fountain" was simply placed behind a partition and, for the duration of the exhibition, I didn't know where it was. I couldn't say that I had sent the thing, but I think the organizers knew it through gossip. No one dared mention it. I had a falling out with them, and retired from the organization. After the exhibition, we found the "Fountain" again, behind a partition, and I retrieved it.
Pierre Cabanne: It's a little like the same adventure you had with the Indépendants in Paris, in 1912.
Marcel Duchamp: Exactly. I have never been able to do anything that was accepted straight off, but to me that wasn't important.
Pierre Cabanne: You say that now, but at the time ... ?
Marcel Duchamp: No. no, on the contrary! Still, it was rather provocative.
Pierre Cabanne: Well, since you were looking for scandal, you were satisfied?
Marcel Duchamp: It was, indeed, a success. In that sense.
Pierre Cabanne: You really would have been disappointed had the "Fountain" been welcomed ....
Marcel Duchamp: Almost. As it was, I was enchanted. Because fundamentally I didn't have the traditional attitude of the painter who presents his painting, hoping it will be accepted and then praised by the: critics. There never was any criticism. There never was any criticism because the urinal didn't appear in the catalogue.
Pierre Cabanne: Walter Conrad Arensberg bought it just the same ...
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, and he lost it.. A life-size replica has been made since then. It's at the Schwarz gallery, in Milan.
Pierre Cabanne: When did you hear about Dada for the lint time?
Marcel Duchamp: In Tzara's book, The First Celestial Adventure of Mr. Fire Extinguisher. I think he sent it to us, to me or to Picabia, rather early, in 1917, I think, or at the end of 1916. It interested us but I didn't know what Dada was, or even that the word existed. When Picabia went to France, I learned what it was through his letters, but that was the sole exchange at that time. Then, Tzara showed things by Picabia in Zurich, and Picabia went there before coming back to the United States. Picabia's story is very complicated from the point of view of his travels. He arrived in the United States at the end of 1915, but didn't stay more than three or four months before leaving again for Spain, for Barcelona, where he founded the magazine 391. It was in Lausanne, in 1918, that he made contact with the Zurich Dadaist group.
Pierre Cabanne: But in the meantime, hadn't he come back to the United States?
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, in 1917. He published two or three issues of 391 there.
Pierre Cabanne: These were the first manifestations of the Dada spirit in America.
Marcel Duchamp: Absolutely. It was very aggressive.
Pierre Cabanne: What kind of aggression?
Marcel Duchamp: Antiart. It was principally a matter of questioning the artist's behavior, as people envisaged it. The absurdity of technique, of traditional things ...
Pierre Cabanne: That gave you the idea of publishing, with the help of Walter Conrad Arensberg and Roché, two little magazines, The Blind Man and Rongwrong.
Marcel Duchamp: But, you know, it wasn't at all after seeing Dada things that we did it; on the contrary, it was at the moment of the Indépendants' exhibition, in 1917, in which Picabia was showing.
Pierre Cabanne: It was nevertheless in the Dada spirit.
Marcel Duchamp: It was parallel, if you wish, but not directly influenced. It wasn't Dada, but it was in the same spirit, without, however, being in the Zurich spirit, although Picabia did things in Zurich. Even in typography, we weren't extremely inventive. In The Blind Man it was above all a matter of justifying the "Fountain-Urinal." We published two issues, and, between them, there was this little bulletin. Rongwrong, which was different. In the whole magazine there was nothing, nothing. It was surprising. There were some little things, with the drawings of an American humorist who did pipes, inventions like a bent rifle for shooting around corners. Nothing extraordinary, simply things one can't describe, you'll be able to refer to them only when you have them before you. I don't have any here; I never kept them. I do know there are a few lying about in collections. Later, in March 1919, Man Ray published another magazine which, again, didn't last very long, TNT, The Explosive Magazine. He did it with a sculptor, Adolf Wolff, who was imprisoned as an anarchist.
Pierre Cabanne: Still, these magazines got results: your "Fountain" became as famous as the "Nude Descending a Staircase."
Marcel Duchamp: True.
Pierre Cabanne: Didn't this frame seem to have any commercial repercussions for you?
Marcel Duchamp: No, never!
Pierre Cabanne: You weren't looking for them?
Marcel Duchamp: I neither wished for nor looked for them, because it wasn't a question of selling things like that. I was working on my "Glass," which couldn't be sold before being finished, and since that took from 1915 to '23. you see ... Sometimes I sold paintings I had in Paris; Walter Conrad Arensberg bought them, one after another .... He also bought the "Nude Descending a Staircase" from Torrey.
Pierre Cabanne: Did you know how much he had paid?
Marcel Duchamp: No, I wasn't interested. I never knew the price. It's the same for "With Secret Noise" ... What's secret it the price! He must have paid a lot because of the to-do made about it, but all that money passed over my head.
Pierre Cabanne: You were giving French lessons for a living ...
Marcel Duchamp: At one time, I gave many; it wasn't lucrative, but one could live making two dollars an hour. The people I taught were charming. They took me to the theater, sometimes to dinner ... I was the French professor! Like Laforgue.
Pierre Cabanne: I think your behavior stupefied Americans.
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, because at the time, if they weren't as materialistic as they are now, they were still very much so. But there was a group of people it didn't surprise, some friends especially. I wasn't the kind of painter who sells, who has exhibitions every two years. Still, we had an exhibition with Crotti, Gleizes, Metzinger. as you said. It was in 1916, at the Montross Gallery. Gleizes was rather naive-he was hoping to find cowboys on Broadway! He stayed in New York a year and a half. Back then, there wasn't the kind of New York art market there is now. Painting weren't sold just like that. There were very few dealers, three or four, and that's all. There was none of today's feverish atmosphere.
Pierre Cabanne: One has the impression that you were both part of a certain fashionable life, and at the same time outside it.
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, that's true. Fashionable is exaggerated. Rather, salons, if you like, literary salons. There weren't many of them, but one would meet amusing people, like Katherine Dreier, with whom I got the Société Anonyme going. I met her in 1917. She helped organize the Indépendants. She was part of the jury, I think. She was German or at least of German origin, and that gave her some trouble.
Pierre Cabanne: This was when the United States was entering the war?
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, right in 1917. She bought some of my things, but she was particularly interested in the work of German artists, and after the war, when she went to Europe to form the collection of the Société Anonyme, she bought mostly German expressionists. Everybody who is anybody now—and they were completely unknown then. She also founded the Société Anonyme—Man Ray and I were vice-presidents—which formed an important collection of modern art, not very beautiful but representative of the time. Kandinsky and Archipenko were Included, four or five of us altogether.
Pierre Cabanne: Not Picabia?
Marcel Duchamp: No. He was shown, but he wasn't part of the Société.
Pierre Cabanne: Was the idea of the Société Anonyme yours?
Marcel Duchamp: No. Man Ray mode up the name. The idea was to create a permanent international collection that would later be left to a museum. Up to 1939, there were eighty-four exhibitions, and lectures, publications ...
Pierre Cabanne: What became of the collection?
Marcel Duchamp: During the second war it went to the Yale University Art Gallery.
Pierre Cabanne: The: idea of collecting art works for a museum was rather anti-Duchamp. Didn't you feel you were repudiating your own opinions?
Marcel Duchamp: I was doing it for friendship. It wasn't my idea. The: fact that I agreed to be a member of jury which determined what works were chosen didn't involve my opinions at all on that question.
And then, it was a good thing to help artists be seen somewhere. It was more camaraderie than anything else; I didn't think it was very important. Basically there never was a museum. It was expensive, too expensive to have private museum; thus the solution was to give the whole thing to Yale University.
Over years, Katherine Dreier took trips to Europe. From time to time she bought things and brought them back. But she was a victim or the 1929 crash, and she didn't have money for buying pictures any more.
Especially since their prices were going up then.

Pierre Cabanne: How did you live in New York?
Marcel Duchamp: You know, one doesn't know how one does it, I wasn't getting "so much per month" from anyone. It was really la vie de bohème, in a sense slightly gilded—luxurious if you like, but it was still Bohemian life. Often there wasn't enough money, but that didn't matter. I must also say that it was easier back then in America than now. Camaraderie was general and things didn't cost much, rent was very cheap. You know, I can't even talk about it, because it didn't strike me to the point of saying, "I'm miserable, I'm leading a dog's life," No, not al all.
Pierre Cabanne: You were more on the fringes in Paris before the war than you were in New York, where you were a foreigner,
Marcel Duchamp: Indeed, I wasn't on the fringes in New York precisely because of the "Nude Descending a Staircase." When I was introduced, I was always the man who had painted the "Nude Descending a Staircase," and people knew who they were talking to.
I knew no one in Paris: I barely knew Delaunay, and I only met him after the war. In 1912, I had been to see Braque once or twice, and Picasso I had met like that, but there were no exchanges of views among us. Obviously I stayed very much apart, being a librarian at the Sainte-Genevève Library; and then I had my studio in the rue Saint-Hippolyte, which wasn't really a studio, but a seventh-floor apartment with lots of light. I was already working on my "Glass," which I knew was going to be a long-term project. I had no intention of having shows, or creating œuvre, or living a painter's life.

Pierre Cabanne: Still you accepted the artist's life more easily in New York than In Paris.
Marcel Duchamp: I was considered an artist in New York, and I accepted it; they knew I was working on my "Glass," I wasn't hiding it; people came to see me at home.
Pierre Cabanne: In 1918, you left for Buenos Aires.
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, l left for a neutral country. You know, since 1917 America had been in the war, and I had left France basically for lack of militarism. For lack of patriotism, if you wish.
Pierre Cabanne: And you had fallen into a worse patriotism!
Marcel Duchamp: I had fallen into American patriotism, which certainly was worse, but before leaving the United Stales I had to ask for permission, because even there I was classified for military duty. There were various categories, A, B, C. D, E, F, and F was foreigners, who would have been called up in an extreme emergency. I was F, and that's why I had to ask permission to leave for Buenos Aires; they were very nice about it and gave me: permission for six months, and I left In June-July 1918, to find a neutral country called Argentina.
Pierre Cabanne: Carrying along what you called "voyage sculptures" ...
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, the voyage sculptures were really two things. One was the small "Glass," which is now in the Museum of Modem Art in New York, and which is broken. It's called "To Be Looked At with One Eye, Close to, for Almost an Hour"—this sentence was added to complicate things in a literary way—and then there were some rubber objects.
Pierre Cabanne: Actually they were pieces of rubber, of various dimensions and different colors, to be hung from the ceiling ...
Marcel Duchamp: Naturally, they look up a whole room. Generally, they were pieces of rubber shower caps, which I cut up and glued together and which had no special shape. At the end of each piece there were string that one attached to the four corners of the room. Then, when one came in the room, one couldn't walk around, because of the strings! The length of the strings could be varied; the. form was ad libitum. That's what interested me. This game lasted three or four years, but the rubber rotted, and it disappeared.
Pierre Cabanne: Before leaving for Buenos Aires, you did a canvas, your first in five years, for Katherine Dreier, called "Tu m'," It was to be your last painting. A note in the "Green Box" specifies that you were much preoccupied with the problem of shadows. ...
Marcel Duchamp: In that painting, executed the cast shadow of the bicycle wheel, the cast shadow of the hatrack, which is above, and then also the cast shadow of a corkscrew. I had found a sort of projector which made: shadows rather well enough, and I projected each shadow, which I traced by hand, onto the canvas. Also, right in the middle, I put a hand painted by a sign painter, and I had the good fellow sign it.
lt was a sort of résumé of things I had made earlier, since the title made no sense. You can add whatever verb you want, as long as it begins with a vowel, after "Tu m' ..."

Pierre Cabanne: Did you sell Walter Conrad Arensberg the "Large Glass" before it was finished so you could get money to live on?
Marcel Duchamp: I didn't sell it, strictly speaking, because I never touched Walter Conrad Arensberg's money. He just paid my rent for two years. And then he sold it to Katherine Dreier.
Pierre Cabanne: But didn't it belong to him?
Marcel Duchamp: Yes. It was understood that it belonged to him, and that he would settle with me by paying my rent monthly. He sold it for two thousand dollars, I think, which wasn't much at the time—or even now—since it wasn't finished; I still worked on it a lot, until 1923.
Pierre Cabanne: Every time you mention one of your works which has been sold, I have the impression that you never touched a dollar!
Marcel Duchamp: I never touched money, when that happened ...
Pierre Cabanne: What did you live on then?
Marcel Duchamp: I have no idea. I gave some French lessons, I sold a few paintings, the "Sonata" for example, one after another ...
Pierre Cabanne: Old paintings?
Marcel Duchamp: Old paintings. I even had the other "Glass" sent from Paris, the. half-circle "Glass"; I sold it to Walter Conrad Arensberg, too.
Pierre Cabanne: So basically it was your past that kept you alive.
Marcel Duchamp: Fortunately. I happened to make a little at that time. When one is young, one doesn't know how he lives. I didn't have a wife, a child, any "baggage," you see. People were always asking me how I lived, but one never knows, one gets along. Life goes on just the same. Certain people helped me. I never borrowed much money, except for some small amounts from time to time.
Pierre Cabanne: Notice that, back then, artists weren't ashamed of being supported.
Marcel Duchamp: One knew very well that there were people who made money and who understood that there were others, called artists or even craftsman, who couldn't make a living. So they helped. Helping artists was a virtue for rich people. It was a monarchical concept—every period before democracy has done it—to protect painters, to protect the arts, etc.
Pierre Cabanne: You lived in Buenos Aires for nine month, and it was during this stay that you learned of Duchamp-Villon's death, and of Apollinaire's.
Marcel Duchamp: Apollinaire's was in November 1918, and my brother Raymond's was, I think, earlier, around October 1918. From that moment on, I wanted to go back to France. I tried to find a boat, etc. My brother's death hit me hard. I knew he was very sick, but one never knows how sick. It was called blood poisoning; it lasted for two years, going from abscess to abscess, and it finished in uremia. But I wasn't briefed on the details. He was in Cannes, there was the war, and we didn't correspond much.
So, I came back in 1918.

Pierre Cabanne: No, you came back in July 1919.
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, that's right, I came back a long time afterward.
Pierre Cabanne: But before coming back, you learned of the marriage of your sister Suzanne to Jean Crotti, and you sent him what you called the "Unhappy Readymade."
Marcel Duchamp: Yes. It was a geometry book, which he had to hang by strings on the balcony of his apartment in the rue Condamine; the wind bad to go through the book, choose its own problems, turn and tear out the pages. Suzanne did small painting of it, "Marcel's Unhappy Readymade." That's all that's left, since the wind tore it up. It amused me to bring the idea of happy and unhappy into readymades, and then the rain, the wind, the pages flying, it was an amusing idea. ...
Pierre Cabanne: In any case, it was very symbolic for a marriage.
Marcel Duchamp: I never even thought of that.
Pierre Cabanne: You must have found Paris very changed?
Marcel Duchamp: Very difficult, very funny, very curious. I came via England—I don't remember if I saw my sister in London—I always arrived in Paris that way; I had Picabia's address, rue Emile-Augier. and it was the first thing I looked for, in Montmartre, or the seventeenth district. He wasn't there, it was hot, I was a sad sack, the streets were rather deserted, I had a hell of a time finding Picabia in his rue Emile-Augier. I knew him when he lived on the Avenue Charles-Floquet, in the Champ-de-Mars houses, which were new at that time.
Pierre Cabanne: Who were the first people you saw when you got back?
Marcel Duchamp: Mostly the ones I met through Picabia, because he had a literary salon, and be received the whole Cocteau bunch, etc. ... One saw everyone there. Tzara came a little after I did, I think, I'm not sure ... . Also there was Ribemont-Dessaignes, Pierre de Massot, Jacques Rigaud, etc. Rigaud was very sympathetic, he was very free and easy. He was Dada, if you like. It was then that I met Aragon too, on the boulevards, across from the Opera.
Pierre Cabanne: For you, Rigaud represented the young, postwar generation. His manner, his turn of mind, was rather near yours ...
Marcel Duchamp: We had a great sympathy for each other. Rigaud had none of Breton's strictness, that sort of desire to arrange everything into theories and formulas. Things were much gayer with him than with the others, who, in their enterprise of destruction, were very systematic.
Pierre Cabanne: What did you stand for, for the young people of that epoch?
Marcel Duchamp: Well, I don't know. I was ten years older, that's very important. Since I was ten years older, and Picabia was twelve or thirteen, we were the old men. Still, in the eyes of the young people, we represented a revolutionary element. Which we already were among the Cubists, who in 1912-13 didn't approve of us very much. We had, Picabia and I, gone through it with a certain freedom, without stepping on it, you see. I'm sure that's what they liked. They found that we represented the spirit that they, themselves, wanted to represent, and they were drawn to us.
Pierre Cabanne: You certainly had a notion of adventure too, which must have touched them. Your adventure in New York.
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, obviously, we had made something a little different from the other painters, from the practical point of view, from the point of view of the movement of words, etc. That's why there was an immediate exchange and correspondence, friendship.
Pierre Cabanne: And then, your "Mona Lisa" scandal had very clearly set a tone of revolt.
Marcel Duchamp: That was in 1919 ....
Pierre Cabanne: Just before leaving for the United States again.
Marcel Duchamp: October 1919. But what did I do with that "Mona Lisa?" Nothing. I drew a moustache and a beard, that's all. I didn't show it anywhere.
Pierre Cabanne: Your friends didn't know about it?
Marcel Duchamp: Breton probably saw it at that time. The things I was doing, three or four more. I took to Picabia's-Breton saw them there.
Pierre Cabanne: I think the "Mona Lisa" was at Picabia's. He reproduced it in 391, in March 1920.
Marcel Duchamp: That's not exactly the way it happened. I had brought my "Mona Lisa" over to pack it in my bag, and Picabia had taken the opportunity to put it first in 391; he reproduced it him self by putting on a moustache, but forgetting the goatee. That made the difference. Picabia's "Mona Lisa" is often reproduced as being mine.
He called it "Dada Picture by Marcel Duchamp."
Another time, Picabia did a cover for 391 with the portrait of Georges Carpentier, the boxer; he and I were as much alike as two drops of water, which is why it was amusing. It was a composite portrait of Georges Carpentier and me.

Pierre Cabanne: Do the letters "L.H.O.O.Q." have significance other than pure humor?
Marcel Duchamp: No, the only meaning was read them phonetically.
Pierre Cabanne: It was just a phonetic game?
Marcel Duchamp: Exactly. I really like this kind of game, because I find that you can do a lot of them. By simply reading the letters in French, even in any language, some astonishing things happen. Reading the letters is very amusing. It's the same thing for the Tzanck check. I asked him how much I owed, and then did the check entirely by band. I took a long time doing the little letters, to do something which would look printed—it wasn't a small check. And I bought it back twenty years later, for a lot more than it says it's worth! Afterward I gave it to Matta, unless I sold it to him. I no longer remember. Money was always over my head.
Pierre Cabanne: So you return to New York at the end of 1919, or the beginning of 1920, bringing with you the "Mona Lisa," and at the same time a bulb of "Paris Air."
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, that was amusing. It was a glass bulb a few centimeters high. "Physiological serum" was printed on the label. I'd brought it to Walter Conrad Arensberg, as a souvenir from Paris.
Pierre Cabanne: It was then you finished a "things" as you say, completely new for you, a machine—this time a real one—called "Precision Optics."
Marcel Duchamp: That was in fact one of the first "things" I made after I got back to New York. A series of five plates of glass on which I had traced black and white lines turning on a metal axle. Each plate was larger than the next, and when you looked at it from a certain point, it all fell together and made up a single pattern. While the motor was running, the lines gave the effect of continuous black and white circles, very hazy, as you can imagine.
Man Ray and I worked on the motor in the ground floor apartment I had then on West Seventy-Third Street. We just missed being seriously hurt. We had an idiotic motor which picked up speed rapidly—you couldn't control it—it broke one or the glass plates, which flew into pieces. We had to start all over. Four years later, I did the same thing for Jacques Doucet, a half sphere will spirals, which took off from the same idea. I even did some research on optics, which disappeared, black and white lines—I don't know what they were supposed to do, exactly, I can't explain it to you. I no longer remember. I did only the drawings, and they've disappeared.

Pierre Cabanne: You were moving from antiartist to proengineer.
Marcel Duchamp: Yes ... and, a cheap engineer!
Pierre Cabanne: Let's say "technician."
Marcel Duchamp: Everything I did as an engineer was with motors I bought. The idea of movement was what preoccupied me.
And then even so I was finishing work on my "Glass." I had taken it to a factory to have the right corner silvered, to a place where the "Oculist Witnesses" are. These witnesses were optical charts, for oculists, three: sort of round, superimposed shapes which I copied. To copy them, I had to have the "Glass" silvered, then transfer the drawing, and scratch away the rest. That took at least six months, because it was very tiny and demanded high precision. It was precision optics, in short.

Pierre Cabanne: Every time you made a new experiment, you integrated it into the "Large Glass." The "Large Glass" represented the successive sum of your experiments for eight years.
Marcel Duchamp: That's exactly right.
Pierre Cabanne: Rrose Sélavy was born in 1920, I think.
Marcel Duchamp: In effect, I wanted to change my identity, and the first idea that came to me was to take a Jewish name. I was Catholic, and it was a change to go from one religion to another! I didn't find a Jewish name that I especially liked, or that tempted me, and suddenly I had an idea: why not change sex? It was much simpler. So the name Rrose Sélavy came from that. Nowadays, this may be all very well—names change with the times—but Rrose was an awful name in 1920. The double R comes from Picabia's painting:, you know, the "L'Oeil cacodylate," which is at the Boeuf sur Ie Toit cabaret; I don't know if it's been sold—it's the one Picabia asked all his friends to sign. I don't remember how I signed it—it was photographed, so someone knows. I think I put "Pi Qu'habilla Rrose Sélavy"—the word "arrose" demands two R's, so I was attracted to the second R—"Pi Qu'habilla Rrose Sélavy."
All of this was word play.

Pierre Cabanne: You went so far in your sex change as to have yourself photographed dressed as a woman.
Marcel Duchamp: It was Man Ray who did the photograph. At the 1938 Surrealist exhibition at the Wildenstein Gallery in Paris, each or us had his own mannequin; me, I had a woman mannequin, to which I had given my clothes; it was Rrose Sélavy herself.
Pierre Cabanne: At that time in 1920 and 1921, what was important for you?
Marcel Duchamp: Nothing. Yes, my "Glass." That held me until 1923, the only thing I was interested in, and I even regret not finishing it, but it became so monotonous, it was a transcription, and toward the end there was no invention. So it just fizzled out. I left for Europe in 1923, and when I came back three years later, the "Glass" was broken ...
Pierre Cabanne: Why did you refuse to take part in the Dada Salon of 192O?
Marcel Duchamp: Only so I could make a pun. My telegram "Peau de balle," was spelled "Pode bal." It was addressed to Crotti. Well, what in the world could I send them? I didn't have anything especially interesting to send. I didn't even know what Dada was.
Pierre Cabanne: When you returned to New York, in 1920, I think, you did a readymade, "Fresh Widow," and the year after that "Why Not Sneeze?"
Marcel Duchamp: "Why Not Sneeze?" was ordered by Katherine Dreier's sister, who wanted something of mine. Since I didn't want to do a painting, in the usual sense of the word, I told her, "Fine, but I'll do whatever comes into my head." I look some little pieces of marble in the form of sugar cubes, a thermometer, and a cuttlebone, shut them up in a little bird cage, and painted the whole thing white. I sold it to her for three hundred dollars. I made some money there! The poor woman couldn't accept it, she was very, very upset by it. She sold it to her sister Katherine, who, after a while, couldn't stand it either. She gave it to Walter Conrad Arensberg, for the same price. I'm trying to say that no one really liked it. Still, I was very happy to have made it; I had to do the sugar cubes in marble; the whole operation wasn't exactly readymade, except for the cage. As for the "Fresh Widow" ...
Pierre Cabanne: It was another pun. Fresh, French, Widow, window.
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, "fresh" widow, meaning "smart."
Pierre Cabanne: Merry widow!
Marcel Duchamp: If you like. The combination amused me, with French window. I had the window made by a carpenter in New York. The little panes arc covered with black leather, and would have to be shined every morning like a pair of shoes in order to shine like real panes. All these things had the same spirit.
Pierre Cabanne: Robert Lebel said that, at that moment, you "had reached the limit of the unaesthetic, the useless, and the unjustifiable."
Marcel Duchamp: In any case, it's very pleasing as a formula. Did he write that in his book? Well, it's very nice—I congratulate him! You know, people have poor memories.
Pierre Cabanne: Not you. You have a fantastic memory.
Marcel Duchamp: In general, memory of the remote past is quite exact.
Pierre Cabanne: In 1921, you came back to Paris for eight months, until 1922. ...
Marcel Duchamp: I couldn't stay in New York more than six months at a time, because I had a tourist visa, or something like that. So after six months one had to ask for an extension, I preferred to leave. And come back later. It was In July 1921 that Man Ray arrived in Paris. I was living in the rue de La Condamine, and I had him move into a maid's room next door. He made his debut brilliantly by meeting Paul Poiret, the couturier, who took a fancy to him. Poiret bad him do fashion photography, so Man Ray earned something right away with his photographs.
Pierre Cabanne: In October 1922, Breton published an article on you in Littérature, a very eulogistic one which created a lot of excitement. ...
Marcel Duchamp: Yes. At that time there was a very real exchange between us. He was a very pleasant friend. He had enormous weight in the literary world, and it was odd that he was so far ahead of people like Aragon and Eluard, who were only his lieutenants. I don't remember where we saw each other—there have been so many cafés in our lives—I no longer remember where we got together. From 1923 to 1926, I lived in a small room in the Hotel lstria, rue Campaane-Première. At first I had a studio in the rue Froidevaux, but it was so cold, ... It was so awful in that hotel; Man Ray, who had also left the rue de La Condamine, lived on the same floor. He had his studio in the big mansion next door, at the end of the rue Campaane-Première. From 1922-23 on, he worked there and slept at the Istria. I stayed there all the time, because I wasn't working on anything.
Pierre Cabanne: Had you left the "Large Glass" in New York?
Marcel Duchamp: Yes. And when I came back three years later, I didn't go back to it. In the meantime, it had been broken. .... But that wasn't what kept me from working on it, it was the fact that I wasn't there. You know how it is to continue something after eight years. It was monotonous. ... .You have to be very strong. I wasn't bothered by it, there were simply other things happening in my life then. When I returned to New York, I did that thing for Doucet, that optical turning thing, in 1924-25, and the little cinema.
Pierre Cabanne: Had you already made the decision to stop painting?
Marcel Duchamp: I never made it; it came by itself, since the "Glass" wasn't a painting; there was lots of lead, a lot or other things. It was far from the traditional idea of the painter, with his brush, his palette, his turpentine, an idea which had already disappeared from my life.
Pierre Cabanne: Did this break ever bother you?
Marcel Duchamp: No, never.
Pierre Cabanne: And you've never had a longing to paint since then?
Marcel Duchamp: No, because when I go to a museum, I don't have a sort of stupefaction, astonishment, or curiosity in front of a picture. Never, I'm talking about the old masters, the old things ... I was really defrocked, in the religious sense of the word. But without doing it voluntarily. All that disgusted me.
Pierre Cabanne: You never touched a brush or a pencil?
Marcel Duchamp: No. It had no interest for me. It was lack of attraction, a lack of interest.
I think painting dies, you understand. After forty or fifty years a picture dies, because its freshness disappears. Sculpture also dies. This is my own little hobby-horse, which no one accepts, but I don't mind. I think a picture dies after a few years like the man who painted it. Afterwards it's called the history of art. There's a huge difference between a Monet today, which is black as anything, and a Monet sixty or eighty years ago, when it was brilliant, when it was made. Now it has entered into history—it's accepted as that, and anyway that's fine, because that has nothing to do with what it is. Men are mortal, pictures too.
The history of art is something very different from aesthetics. For me, the history of art is what remains of an epoch in a museum, but it's not necessarily the best of that epoch, and fundamentally it's probably even the expresion of the mediocrity of the epoch, because the beautiful things have disappeared—the public didn't want to keep them. But this is philosophy ...

Pierre Cabanne: What importance did your meeting with Mary Reynolds have for you?
Marcel Duchamp: That of a great friendship. Mary Reynolds was a very independent woman; she loved the Boeuf sur Ie Toit night club—she went there almost every night. It was a very agreeable liaison indeed ...
Pierre Cabanne: Did you know her in New York?
Marcel Duchamp: Yes, but very little. I really met her in Paris, when she came in 1923. She was living near the Eiffel Tower; I went to see her often. But I had my hotel room. It was a true liaison, over many, many years, and very agreeable; but we weren't glued together, in the "married" sense of the word.
Pierre Cabanne: At that period you took part in René Clair's Entr'acte, with Man Ray, Picabia, and Erik Satie. Then in a ballet put on by Rolf de Maré. This was eclecticism ...
Marcel Duchamp: If you wish. Entr'acte, as its name say's, was shown during the intermission at a performance of the Swedish Ballet. The one I was in was Relâche, by Picabia and Satle. There was only one performance. I played Adam naked, with a fake beard and a fig leaf. Eve was a young Russian girl, Bronja, who was also completely nude. René Clair was above, in the rafters, projecting the light down on us, and it was there he fell in love with her. He married her a few months later. You see I'm a "matchmaker," a maker of marriages! In Entr'acte there was a scene on the roofs over the Champs-Élysèes, in which I'm playing chess with Man Ray. Picabia comes in with a nozzle from a hose and washes everything away. It was very Dada, you see.
Pierre Cabanne: What were you looking for in movies and in the theater?
Marcel Duchamp: The movies especially amused me because of their optical side. Instead of making a machine which would turn, as I had done in New York, I said to myself. "Why not turn the film?" That would be a lot simpler, I wasn't interested in making movies as such; it was simply a more practical way of achieving my optical results. When people say that I've made movies, I answer that, no, I haven't , that it was a convenient method—I'm particularly sure of that now—of arriving at what I wanted. Furthermore, the movies were fun. The work went millimeter by millimeter, because there weren't any highly perfected machines. There was a little circle, with the millimeters marked off; we filmed image by image. It took two weeks. The equipment wasn't able to take the scene at any specific speed—it was a mess—and since it was filming rather quickly, it created a curious optical effect. So we were therefore obliged to abandon mechanical means, and make everything ourselves. A return to the hand, so to speak.

* Pierre Cabanne; Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, (Translated from the French by Ron Padgett), De Capo Press, 1979, pp. 51-68.


BIBLIOGRAPHIES

Teeny and Marcel Duchamp

Teeny and Marcel Duchamp