Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés
Michael R. Taylor
LEGACY (Part 1)*
* Taylor, Michael R.; Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 191-200, pp. 224-225. (Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Aug. 15 - Nov. 1, 2009)
In Duchamp's steadfast refusal to disclose any information about his secret work on Étant donnés: 1º la chute d'eau, 2º le gaz d'éclairage ..., let alone interpret the tableau-diorama in interviews or other forms of written documentation, the artist presented scholars a unique opportunity to decipher his work and ideas without a safety net, since any theory, no matter how improbable, is as valid as the next, as long as it adheres to the factual history of the work's genesis and construction. Because so little has previously been known or understood about Étant donnés, it has provided a blank screen for the projection of ideological and cultural myths, as can be discerned through the various interpretative strategies that have been applied to the work since it first was displayed to the public in 1969. Duchamp's final piece has been decoded, deciphered, and deconstructed by means of alchemy, the Kabala, and other forms of esoteric knowledge, as well as Freudian and Jungian psychology, n-dimensional mathematics and the fourth dimension. However, the multiple implications and myriad references contained in the work ensure that it actively resists any single critical interpretation and ultimately remains unfathomable.
---- In 1977, the French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard published Les TRANSformeurs DUchamp (DUchamp's TRANS/formers), the most important critical study of Étant donnés to appear in the decade after the work went on public display. Drawing on the factual information contained in Walter Hopps and Anne d'Harnoncourt's 1969 essay, published in the Bulletin of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Lyotard offered a complex and highly nuanced reading of the work that deconstructed Duchamp's adoption of the geometrical underpinnings of Renaissance perspective, and argued that the woman's vagina is used as both the vanishing point and origin of perspectival vision, thus simultaneously suggesting infinite recession and infinite reproduction. Lyotard argued that Duchamp's optical machine presented an erotic spectacle, but also maliciously manipulated and inverted this familiar trope of illusionistic Western art in order to expose its hidden assumptions, in line with his radical assault on the cultural conventions of representation that heretofore had defined modern paintings, especially the "retinal" work of artists since Courbet and French Impressionism.
---- According to Lyotard, Étant donnés replicates the model of linear-perspective construction by presenting the female mannequin and her landscape environment through the jagged opening of the breached brick wall, which he understood to be a parody of Leon Battista Alberti's notion of the picture plane, metaphorically described as an open window in his 1435 treatise On Painting. Furthermore, Duchamp's precise orchestration of vision and perspective through the peepholes—that the cone of vision connecting the viewing point at the peepholes matches the pyramid of projection that ends with a vanishing point in the same nude's hairless vulva—articulates the carnalization of vision, and by extension the carnalization of the viewer. For, as Lyotard memorably concluded, Duchamp's collapse of the viewing and vanishing points into the orifices of the mannequin, suggests that when viewers look through the peepholes, they think they are seeing the mannequin's exposed vulva, but in fact they are seeing themselves. The implied alignment between the eye and the vulva thus leads to a corporealization of vision in which the spectator is transformed into the object of his desire: "Con celui qui voit" (He who sees is a cunt).
---- At first glance, Lyotard's interpretation appears to support feminist readings of Duchamp’s work in terms of the active, phallic male gaze, in which the passive female nude in the tableau-construction is "made into an object of phallic (gaze) penetration, yet infinitely accessible even as 'she' is infinitely accessed, surveyed, and purveyed." However, as the French philosopher noted, the nude of Étant donnés bulges suspiciously in the groin area, especially on the right-hand side, where the swelling suggested to him the "birth of a scrotum." Lyotard was thus the first scholar to emphasize the androgynous nature of the mannequin, whose male-female identity he associated with Duchamp's subversive Rrose Sélavy alter ego. As psychoanalytic theorist Kaja Silverman has correctly pointed out, the word "con" means "cunt" in French, but it is also used as a standard scolding term for men, equivalent to the English "don't be a prick" or "what a dick." Silverman's observation suggests an alternative reading for Lyotard's conclusion regarding the corporealization of vision through the implied alignment between the eyes at the peepholes and the mannequin's androgynous genitals, in which the spectator is transformed into his or her object of desire: "He who sees is a prick." This interpretation undercuts readings of Étant donnés as a scene of rape or defilement, in which the nude mannequin is always rendered female.
---- Lyotard used Duchamp's interest in transvestitism as a springboard for other transformations in the artist's work, especially the changes that take place between the quasi-abstract imagery of The Large Glass and the hyperrealistic diorama of Étant donnés. Lyotard's ideas were updated and expanded by several scholars in the ensuing decades, including. most notably Rosalind Krauss and Dalia Judovitz, who similarly focused on the carnality of vision implicit in the bifocal viewing mechanism of Étant donnés, which forces the viewer, as Krauss has said, to enter "a kind of optical machine through which it is impossible not to see." Judovitz connected Duchamp's manipulation of classical perspective with the hyperrealism of Étant donnés, which she sees as problematizing "the indexical nature of vision, its ability to refer or point, since [the work's] simulated reality cannot be resumed either in the order of demonstration or designation." Rather than taking for granted the referential relation of vision and sexuality, or reducing vision to the ideology of the gaze, Judovitz's account resituates the notion of sexual difference by questioning how vision is constructed in Étant donnés through the displacement of indexical relations, seen especially in the body and the landscape, both traditional sites in the history of art for the mimetic creation of "reality."
---- Although Lyotard, Krauss, and Judovitz all emphasize Duchamp's engagement with sexual difference and the carnality of vision through the complex system of perspective at work in Étant donnés, the vast majority of scholars have singularly failed to move beyond the initial, knee-jerk reaction to the work's perceived misogyny and association with violence, necrophilia, and death, despite the endless range of interpretative possibilities available to them. Duchamp's Manual of Instructions for the disassembly and reassembly of Étant donnés provides visual and verbal language diametrically opposed to the critical vocabulary that generally has been used to describe the work since its installation. The manual is written almost entirely in French, with occasional lapses into English, as when the artist uses the words "pinkish" and "cool white" to describe the fluorescent lighting inside the hermetically sealed environment. Duchamp's word choices say a great deal about how he conceived and understood the piece. In the sections devoted to the placement of the mannequin, for example, he always describes her as "le nu" (the nude), while in his earlier letters to Maria Martins he called her "my woman with the open pussy" or the deliberately blasphemous "Our Lady of Desires," or a version of this designation. Despite the overt eroticism and sacrilege of these terms of endearment, they seem far removed from the inflammatory prose of those critics and scholars who have preferred to see the nude female as a rape victim or a decaying corpse.
---- Although the mannequin's face is invisible from the peepholes, the photographs in the binder reveal her head to consist of two concave pieces of plastic, an upper and a lower shell held together by a clothespin that is hidden from the viewer, partly by her locks of dirty blond hair and partly by the bricks that form the inner wall (fig. 4.1). In the Manual of Instructions, Duchamp emphasizes that two people are necessary to move her fragile torso, which must be handled with the utmost caution, especially when placing her in the position he specifies, which requires her body to "sink" gently into her bed of twigs and branches. The directions to handle the body of the nude delicately and without too much force ("sans trop forcer") challenge the general critical consensus that the mannequin represents a violated and mutilated woman, as Juan Antonio Ramirez has claimed.
---- Duchamp continually refers to the work's future audience, positioned in front of the peepholes and looking at the spectacle of the tableau- diorama, as "voyeurs" rather than "viewers." This designation makes 'explicit his intention to transform the ordinary museum viewing experience, in which works of art are experienced from various angles and distances, into a single, fixed, almost pinioned position, dictated by the artist rather than by a museum barrier. Furthermore, the hunched and peering spectator who voyeuristically looks inside to behold a nude body is also watched by others in the gallery who wait their turn. As Rosalind Krauss observed, the unavoidably public space of the museum ensures that "the scenario of the voyeur caught by another in the very midst of taking his pleasure is never far from consciousness as one plies the peepholes of Duchamp's construction, doubly become a body aware that its rearguard is down."
---- The artist's' written "operations," drawings, and photographs in the Manual of Instructions, along with the preparatory studies, body casts, and erotic objects, make clear that Étant donnés should be placed decidedly outside the framework of Neo-Dada, Pop Art, and Californian Junk Art, which heretofore has defined its reception. Although unveiled in Philadelphia at the height of the Civil Rights marches, Vietnam War protests, and race riots that shaped those art movements in the 1960s, Duchamp's three-dimensional tableau was actually begun some twenty years earlier, at a time when the artist was actively involved in Surrealist exhibition design and closely aligned with the aims and ideals of the group, which in its post-1940 formation began to investigate eroticism as a powerful alternative to the Marxist ideology that had failed it in the 1930s. As I hope to have shown during the course of this critical study, Duchamp's incorporation of body parts and materials relating to Mary Reynolds, Maria Martins, and Teeny Duchamp suggests that Étant donnés can be viewed as a grand summation of the artist's life, loves, and obsessions, rather than a violated corpse.
---- The recumbent female nude may be unsettling or even disturbing to some viewers, but the frequent critical references to mutilation and violation appear to stem from the anatomical distortions of the nude's genitalia, which have often been described as a gash like castration wound. The gaping orifice is no less staged and artificial than the flattened pubic mound of Duchamp's Rrose Sélavy mannequin at the 1938 Surrealist exhibition, but the physical imperfections of the Étant donnés figure contrast starkly with the mass-produced beauty of the earlier work (see FIGs. 1.13 and 1.14). Indeed, her exposed genitals appear to be part-anus, part vagina—and as Jean-François Lyotard argued, the hairless puckered hole provides the vanishing point in a carefully orchestrated system of perspective that meets our gaze from the viewing position determined by the peepholes. 
---- Duchamp undoubtedly intended his final work to foreground the role of voyeurism in artistic experience, updating this pictorial convention through an illustration of perspectival vision by means of an erotic tableau. However, the repeated emphasis that has been placed on the mannequin's external genitals as being deformed or mutilated misses the artist's point, and fails to take into account his playful investigations of the inframince (infrathin), a term he defined as a barely perceptible change in a body or object, or a liminal form of separation from one state or dimension to another. Examples of this principle include a seat left warm by the body that leaves it, or tobacco smoke smelling of the mouth that exhales it. The neologism inframince began appearing in the artist's theoretical writings in the 1930s, but the idea found a three-dimensional outlet two decades later in Duchamp's series of erotic objects related to the fabrication of Étant donnés. These sculptures explore the infinitesimal relationship between two nearly identical objects, the body and the plaster cast impression.
---- Works such as Feuille de vigne femelle (Female Fig Leaf), a negative cast of the rough vaginal slit of the mannequin, represent the fragmentary human form as composed of body imprints whose inside/outside reversals and concave/convex transformations transgress the boundaries of linear, rational thinking, and come to stand for much more than themselves (P 35-39). Ostensibly an inverted impression of the mannequin's vagina, this object can just as easily be read as a cast of male or female buttocks, in line with Duchamp's theoretical notes. Likewise, Objet-dard resembles a veined and detumescent penis but was in fact excised from the space underneath or around the same figure's breast in the 1949 mold (P 42 and 43). The casting process surely accounts for the anatomical inaccuracies and gender ambiguity of the mannequin's "twisted, asymmetrical gash," as well as its lack of pubic hair, rather than any morbid fascination he may have had with mutilated or deformed female genitalia. There has been an increased critical engagement with these erotic objects in recent years, and the publication in this catalogue of several previously unknown examples will no doubt encourage further research on and theorization of these ambiguous, tactile, and highly lugubrious sculptures.
DEBUNKING THE BLACK DAHLIA CONNECTION
Up to this point, I have described a disjunction between the artist's deliberately unknown intentions in constructing Étant donnés and its critical reception, which has been informed largely by initial perceptions of the work as the scene of a horrific crime. This slippage may explain the recent trend among scholars to spuriously connect it with the gruesome, still unsolved Black Dahlia murder case, in which twenty-two-year-old Elizabeth Short—an aspiring Hollywood actress whose stunning good looks and lustrous hair, dyed jet black, posthumously earned her the nickname "Black Dahlia"—was brutally tortured and murdered, probably by strangulation, in Los Angeles in 1947. Her dead body was then repeatedly mutilated, drained of blood, and severed at the waist, before being moved to a vacant lot at a busy intersection on the west side of Norton Avenue between Coliseum and Thirty-ninth streets, in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. It was there that the corpse was arranged with extreme precision into a spread-eagled position that exposed her genitals to the passersby who discovered the horrific scene on January 15, 1947.
---- Fifty years after the murder, the first of several attempts to link the unsolved case to Étant donnés emerged. Duchamp's own interest in the fugitive identity of the criminal persona—as seen in his 1923 Wanted poster—appears to have guided the Lacanian scholar Jean-Michel Rabaté, who in 1997 took the artist's interest as the point of departure for his hypothesis linking the artist's final mannequin with Short's mutilated body. In Given: 1º Art, 2° Crime: Modernity, Murder and Mass Culture, Rabaté's critical study on the links between modern art and the aesthetics of crime, he proposed that the source for Duchamp's figure lay in "the macabre [Black Dahlia] photographs published in January 1947 and after throughout the United States, which seemed to top all the photographed horrors of the Second World War." This claim was made despite the fact that the crime-scene photographs were censored in newspaper accounts of the grisly homicide, rendering specific details unavailable to the public. While the event caused an international sensation, including countless, often scandalous and misinformed press accounts of the heinous crime, in 1947 it would not have been possible to publish the image of a woman whose bloodless, lily-white body had been severed at midsection and then placed in an open-crotched position. On the rare occasions that photographs did appear in the press, offending parts of the body were covered with a sheet or blanket, or relevant parts of the images were blacked out or erased, thus leaving no trace of the victim's exposed genitals or the lacerations on her face.
---- In a 2003 article, art historian Jonathan Wallis similarly contended that the scene in Étant donnés might have derived from the notorious unsolved murder, based not only on the arrangement of Short's naked corpse in an open lot overgrown with tall grass and weeds, but also on certain similarities in the groin regions of the two bodies. Like Duchamp's figure, with its lack of pubic hair and "strange, incorrect anatomy," Short's genitals were shaved, and they also may have been underdeveloped, perhaps explaining the gashlike wound in her lower abdomen, which presumably allowed the killer to penetrate her body. Following Rabaté, Wallis based his argument on explicitly detailed crime-scene photographs, but he further maintained that Duchamp's close friend and associate Man Ray, who was based in Los Angeles at the time of the Black Dahlia murder, could have used his international reputation as an avant-garde photographer to obtain access to the photographs. To establish Man Ray's interest in the murder, Wallis turned to the shadowy figure of George Hodel, a prominent Los Angeles physician with surgical skills and an amateur photographer, who had been put forward as a possible suspect in the case. According to Wallis's hypothesis, the friendship between Hodel and Man Ray—and their shared sexual proclivities—caused the nervous artist to leave Hollywood shortly after the murder was discovered, possibly fearing an association with the doctor. However, these same fears surely would have prevented Man Ray from fraternizing with the conservative Los Angeles Police Department, with the hope of obtaining lurid photographs, in the immediate aftermath of the murder. In fact, Man Ray did not leave Los Angeles until late August 1947 (when he made a short trip to Paris), some eight months after the Black Dahlia's body was found, returning in mid-October of the same year, a time period that is hardly incriminating, either as an attempt to flee the crime or to evade the ongoing police investigation.
---- Like so many recent efforts to connect Duchamp's diorama with the Black Dahlia murder, Wallis's account relied on circumstantial evidence, propped up not only by crime-scene photographs that Man Ray would have obtained from the police while fearing arrest for his association with the murderer, but also by a seemingly endless string of coincidences, such as the three degrees of separation that link Duchamp to George Hodel via Man Ray. According to Steve Hodel, a former homicide detective in the Los Angeles Police Department, his father, George Hodel, was acquainted with and greatly admired Man Ray, and the two men were known to have socialized regularly in Los Angeles in the 1940s, sharing a passion for Sadean orgies, violent sexual fantasies, and other forms of libertine behavior and illicit activities. Steve Hodel has speculated that his father committed the crime and posed Elizabeth Short's extended arms above her head as a physical homage to his mentor's famous photograph entitled Minotaur, taken around 1933, in which the chest and upper torso of a woman's body and her upraised arms form the head and horns of a bull.
---- Both Wallis and Rabaté overlooked a vital clue in the genesis of Étant donnés, namely, Duchamp's affair with Maria Martins, whose body casts supplied the raw material for his mannequin. The artist dated his tableau-construction to 1946-66, thus confirming that his project was underway the year before the Black Dahlia murder. Moreover, his preliminary study of Martins's nude and headless body almost certainly was completed by the end of 1946 (P 14). As we have seen, Duchamp met and fell passionately in love with Martins in 1943, by which time he had, for a number of years previously, contemplated a work featuring a peephole and a nude mannequin. Following the lessons in sculpting and body casting that he and Martins had taken with Ettore Salvatore, Duchamp began work on the mannequin in 1946, the same year he took the three photographs of the waterfall at Bellevue that would form the basis of the landscape backdrop. This indisputable factual information rules out any connection between the murder of Elizabeth Short and Étant donnés, since the crime took place in January 1947, after the artist had begun work on his tableau construction.
---- Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss's book entitled Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder, published in 2006, borrows from but does not add new evidence to Wallis's earlier claims about the supposed resemblance between Short's dismembered, mutilated body and Duchamp's mannequin for Étant donnés. In a format clearly intended for a popular audience, the Surrealist fantasies of Hans Bellmer, René Magritte, Man Ray, and Marcel Duchamp are juxtaposed with images from the Black Dahlia crime scene, while the text revolves around speculation and innuendo. The authors focus on the circle of Duchamp's friends and acquaintances who lived in California at the time of the murder, including the artist's patrons Louise and Walter Arensberg and fellow artists William Nelson Copley and Beatrice Wood. Constructing a convoluted "web of connections" that situates George Hodel within the powerful elite of the Los Angeles art community, Nelson and Bayliss nevertheless fail to offer a single document or interview in support of their theory that Duchamp "gained access to Black Dahlia crime-scene photographs sometime in late 1947 or early 1948." Their claim that Elizabeth Short's disfigured, desanguinated body resembles the nude mannequin in Étant donnés—accompanied by reproductions of legitimate works of art placed side-by-side with ghastly crime-scene images—is singularly unconvincing. Equally compelling comparisons could be made with countless examples of splayed female nudes from the history of art, to say nothing of pornography and other sex-murder photographs. Like Wallis and Rabaté, Nelson and Bayliss offer no convincing evidence that Duchamp ever had any knowledge of the Black Dahlia case, let alone access to these horrific photographs.
---- Such readings undoubtedly have been informed by the initial reception of Étant donnés, at a time when the work was generally assumed to resonate with the visceral tableau-constructions of Edward Kienholz and other West Coast assemblage artists, whose fascination with fetishism, pornography, and sexual violence plausibly suggests that they might have had a greater interest in the Black Dahlia murder case than would have the highly cerebral and emotionally detached Duchamp. The 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short did in fact haunt the imagination of several California artists of the post-World War II generation, including Bruce Conner, whose scabrous mixed-media assemblage entitled Black Dahlia (fig. 4.2) was made in homage to the victim. One of a group of constructions that the artist called Rat Bastards, this work mummified Short's figure in a cocoon of used nylon stockings that enclose what art historian Thomas Crow has described as "the paraphernalia of enticement—peacock feathers, scraps of lace, sequins, a pattern for a death's head tattoo, along with the miscellaneous flotsam of a crime scene—[that] appear to settle downwards from the encased nude torso, simultaneously the instruments of its degradation in life and the gruesome products of its post-mortem decay." Shown from behind but with her face in profile, the dark-haired woman is naked except for a leather bondage belt, adding a sadomasochistic subtext that is exacerbated by the assemblage's phallic shape and the threatening presence of rusted nails among tawdry sequins and feathers. As the artist chillingly asserted, he was interested in "the relationship of victim to assassin. Positive to negative. But they're both lovers. I mean, the Black Dahlia is loose within the structure of the attack of the man who had destroyed her." As Conner's morbid union of victim and predator implies, the American public's insatiable appetite for brutal murders, as well as the dark underside of Hollywood's glamorous exterior, was of great interest to California artists working in the 1950s and 1960s, including Conner, Kienholz, and George Herms, and it is perhaps to their work, rather than Duchamp's tableau-assemblage, that future scholarship on the relationship between the Black Dahlia case and the visual arts should turn.
---- The attempts to link Duchamp's final masterwork with the Black Dahlia murder can be defended on the ground that the artist himself believed it was the spectator who completed the work of art "by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications." However, what concerns me is the narrow range of references, meanings, and interpretations that Étant donnés has elicited since its installation in 1969. There is also a danger that these sensationalist accounts will accumulate, culminating in a "smoking gun" that implicates Duchamp in an unspeakable crime he could not have committed. On the day Elizabeth Short's body was discovered, the artist was returning to the United States from France on a transatlantic liner, arriving in New York on January 22, 1947. Sadly, this undisputed fact did not prevent Nelson and Bayliss from concluding their book with the dramatic assertion that Étant donnés "carries clues to a larger story concerning Duchamp's life, his earlier works and those of his fellow artists-and, perhaps, a crime that was never solved." While other misguided attempts to solve the Black Dahlia murder have fallen by the wayside, the notion that Étant donnés was linked, no matter how indirectly, to the gruesome murder of Elizabeth Short and the crime-scene photographs of her severed torso, shows no sign of abating.
THE ARTISTIC RECEPTION
Building on Georges Didi-Huberman's practice of examining an artist like Donatello through the work and ideas of Robert Morris, or Fra Angelico after Jackson Pollock, I would like to propose a similarly anachronistic reading of Duchamp's transgressive sculpture-construction based on its reception among contemporary artists. By focusing on the work of Les Levine, Hannah Wilke, Robert Gober, Marcel Dzama, and Ray Johnson, among others, I hope to find a new critical language to engage with Étant donnés. The work of these five artists, who have been chosen for their prolonged engagement with Duchamp's tableau-construction over several years, or even decades, places a renewed emphasis on notions of the body and the construction of gender and sexuality, as well as on the artist's invocation of an erotic opticality to disturb the notion of images as carriers of purely visual meaning.
---- Duchamp's diorama-assemblage has elicited a diverse range of artistic responses in the works of artists in a variety of media and techniques, including life-size installations and peepshows, photographs and light-box constructions, film, video, and performance art, as well as painting, sculpture, and works on paper. Beyond the visual arts, the impact of Duchamp's sculpture-construction also can be felt within the realms of architecture, film, literature, and music. In 2007, the architectural firm of Mitnick Roddier Hicks, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, paid homage to Duchamp's illusionistic tableau in its winning entry for that year's International Garden Festival in Chaumont-sur-Loire, France (see fig. 4.3). Architects Keith Mitnick, Mireille Roddier, and Stewart Hicks designed a complex, multilayered fantasy garden in which a narrow, densely planted stretch of greenery and "real" architecture was placed alongside an artificial, barren winter scene consisting of a shadowy, bluish black-and-white photomural of a woodland setting in Michigan. Elsewhere, the formal geometry of a sycamore allée with a white gravel path was framed by opposing mirrored walls, so that the reflections made the scene appear infinite, while the view through the peephole, inspired by those Duchamp used in his life-size diorama, hid the viewer's own reflection to retain the illusion of a never-ending garden.
---- Another key feature of the entry by Mitnick Roddier Hicks was a one-inch-deep reflecting pool with a black gravel bottom, which gave the impression of a river running through the seemingly endless rows of trees and provided a horizontal reflecting plane for the foliage and changing sky overhead. Conceived as a portable "stroll garden to go," the design also required the active participation of the viewing public, whose movement animated the endless vista, thus bringing the work to life in much the same way that the peeping viewer does in Duchamp's optical machine. Conceptually complex and perceptually dynamic, the nomadic garden conceived by Mitnick Roddier Hicks alludes to the optical illusionism and artifice of Étant donnés.
---- The influence of Étant donnés on film can be seen in Czech Surrealist filmmaker Jan Švankmajer's work, such as Tichý týden v dome (A Quiet Week in a House), a 1969 film in which a man drills holes into the wooden doors of an old house and discovers fantastical visions through the peepholes. Based on a short story by the Chilean writer Pablo Neruda, this hallucinatory work was made in the same year that Duchamp's peepshow diorama went on public display, an event that was widely reported in Europe, especially in Surrealist periodicals. Švankmajer's interest in voyeurism and surveillance is similarly found in the work of American filmmaker David Lynch, who attended the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts between 1966 and 1967 and had a solo exhibition in 1969 at the Paley Library Gallery in Philadelphia, a time period that coincided with the public unveiling of Duchamp's final work. Lynch's interest in erotic tension and forbidden pleasure are particularly evident in the unsettling yet spellbindingly beautiful film Blue Velvet (1986; fig. 4.4a,b). In one particularly disturbing scene, the teenage character played by Kyle MacLachlan peers from behind the slats of a wardrobe door to witness a violent sexual encounter between a psychotic criminal (Dennis Hopper) and his female victim (Isabella Rossellini), apparently referencing earlier readings of Étant donnés as a voyeuristic scene of sadistic violence.
---- Étant donnés has also inspired a number of writers, including Stephen Berg, the poet and founder of the American Poetry Review and the American Poetry Center, who was born and still lives and works in Philadelphia. Written in the lost poetic mode of single transmission, which originated during the transition from ancient Greek dramatic lyric to lyric drama with a tragic chorus, Berg's Porno Diva Numero Uno: An Anonymous Confession (2000) offers a dense, often visceral, and highly personal account of Duchamp's work. It takes the form of thirty-six unpunctuated prose fragments that together form an extended monologue on the artist and his hidden spectacle, as seen through the peepholes "behind which lies the naked woman the trees the waterfall all strangely lighted in the other world we look from this world into." The text includes several imaginary visits with Marcel and Teeny Duchamp, and a sex scene—written with the breathless euphoria of Molly Bloom's raucous soliloquy in James Joyce's Ulysses—with the artist's recumbent nude, who reawakens to fish out and gently fondle the narrator's "two tender eggs and my wand my then once it got hard came around in front of the window blocking it lifted her skirt sat across my legs straddling me no underpants just bare moist crotch hiking her dress ever higher so I could see then she began telling me about her hometown in Switzerland the little waterfall she loved the pond the hill covered with brilliant trees unreal colored trees all the while unbuttoning my shorts her crotch by now quite wet and alive."
---- Toby Olson, a postmodern novelist, poet, and essayist who has taught at Temple University in Philadelphia since 1975, also paid homage to Duchamp by translating into prose his enigmatic final masterwork. Olson's metafictional murder mystery, The Blond Box (2003), takes its title from the flaxen color of the mannequin's wig in Étant donnés, as well as from the artist's penchant for collecting and publishing his notes and diagrams in color-coded boxed sets. The writer uses Duchamp's Manual of Instructions to furnish his characters, as well as the reader, with a series of elliptical instructions that hold the key to discovering the whereabouts of a certain boxed treasure, and ultimately to solving the mystery of a double murder that lies at the heart of this ludic novel. Set in the dusty town of Courbet, Arizona, in the summer of 2069, one hundred years after Étant donnés was unveiled at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Blond Box weaves together three distinct narrative threads to create a mesmerizing tale that is informed by Duchamp's work and ideas, and imaginatively speculates on the notes and projects that the artist mayor may not have made in conjunction with his final piece.
---- Musicians and composers also have been drawn to Étant donnés. On April 1, 1997, the American avantgarde composer and multi-instrumentalist John Zorn recorded Étant donnés (69 Paroxyms f0r Marcel Duchamp). The sounds of traditional musical instruments are interwoven with those made by household objects and tools: sawing wood, smacking stones, vibrating wind-chimes, banging nails, running water, and the ringing of an elevator bell. Zorn's tribute thus references the handmade bricolage quality of Duchamp's tableau-construction in a composition that lasts for just over thirteen minutes. Like Zorn, Sam Rosenthal, the creative force behind the band Black Tape for a Blue Girl, was inspired by Duchamp's challenge to aesthetic norms in Étant donnés, a work that defies categorization to this day. The band's 1998 album, As One Aflame Laid Bare by Desire, was dedicated to Duchamp and includes the song "Given (1. The Waterfall 2. The Illuminating Gas)." Its lyrics are written from the point of view of the mannequin in Étant donnés as she contemplates her passage from Virgin to Bride:
---- Finally, the Moroccan-born, French-based brothers Eric and Marc Hurtado perform a unique form of electronic music under the name Étant donnés, and see a direct link between their frenetic, multimedia performances under flickering strobe lights and Duchamp's brightly lit construction, since both can be characterized as an assault on perception and an attempt to take us into another dimension.
---- The vast majority of visual artists who have created works inspired by Étant donnés began their careers after 1969, and their work—like that of Levine, Wilke, Gober, Dzama, and Johnson—signals a generational shift from the artists of the early postwar era, such as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Richard Hamilton. Many artists were intrigued and perplexed when they discovered Duchamp's secret, realistic tableau-construction after it went on public display. The American video and performance artist Vito Acconci, for example, has spoken of his puzzled reaction to Étant donnés, which failed to fit into his preconceived notions about the artist and his work: "Before I saw [Étant donnés] I had made a decision that I wasn't going to spend any more time delving into Duchamp. But the relationship of that piece to everything else seems so unclear to me. That's why I could feel tremendously interested in it, but also, that may be only because I haven't really examined it. It seems to be set up as an old man's piece, consciously designed as a sort of last novel."
---- Whereas older artists generally felt uncomfortable with the hyperrealism and overt sexuality of Étant donnés, in spite of their profound admiration for the artist's previous work and ideas, younger practitioners were drawn to Duchamp's final piece precisely due to its artificial staging of an open and desiring body. Among the new generation, of artists to have made works in response to Étant donnés are Edward Allington, Julieta Aranda, Yves Arman, Caroline Bachmann and Stefan Banz, Zhao Bandi, Matthew Barney, Elliott Barowitz, Mark Bloch, Tania Bruguera, Gregory Crewdson, Jan Fabre, Angus Fairhurst, Rose Frain, Jérôme Hentsch, Richard Jackson, Felix Kälin, Mohamed Kemal, Jeff Koons, Simon Leung, Ulf Linde, Sophie Matisse, Abinadi Meza, Ylva Ogland, Orlan, André Raffray, David Rokeby, Markus Schinwald, Cindy Sherman, Mark Shetabi, Annie Sprinkle (in collaboration with Elizabeth Stephens), Zoe Strauss, Jean Suquet, Erik van Lieshout, Douglas Vogel (fig. 4.5), Jeff Wall, and Tadanori Yokoo (fig. 4.6). Unfortunately, it is impossible to discuss and reproduce the work of all of these artists here, so I have limited my account to those for whom Duchamp's final masterwork has had a lasting impact.
* Taylor, Michael R.; Marcel Duchamp: Étant donnés, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, 2009, pp. 191-200, pp. 224-225. (Published on the occasion of an exhibition held at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Aug. 15 - Nov. 1, 2009)
 The scholars who have plumbed the hermetic depths of alchemy and other forms of esoteric knowledge to present dogmatic yet purely speculative connections with Étant donnés include Alastair Noble, "Marcel Duchamp· and the Chymical Wedding: Alternatively, Coincidences/Duchamp or Is It: Koan-Cidences, Duchamp and Alchemy," New Observations, no. 84 (July 1–August 30, 1991), pp. 22-27; and John F. Moffitt, Alchemist of the Avant-Garde: The Case of Marcel Duchamp (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003), pp. 313-69. For discussions of mathematical sources, including n-dimensional geometry and the fourth dimension, see Craig Adcock, "Duchamp's Way: Twisting Our Memory of the Past 'For the Fun of It,''' in Thierry de Duve, ed., The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press; Halifax: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1991), pp. 311-34; and Linda Dalrymple Henderson, The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), pp. 117-63.
Black Dahlia as Étant donnés?