Saturday, August 18, 2007
The Trip (a trap)
I have no idea how many visitors we get ("LOOK OUT! Mind that thing on the floor!") and/or how many return, and/or how many simply pass through. This blog doesn’t represent the Admin side of the Maybe Logic Academy but belongs to a bunch of ‘students’ who like to spread the word of a fun place to hang out, and share their (sometimes) obscure and esoteric interests.
As you can see from this post last October, among the people who ‘study’ at MLA you will find all sorts of creatives (writers, musicians, artists, etc) as well as philosophical folk, people into magick, or gardening, or Reichian work, etc.
As the Maybe Logic Academy originally started so that people could attend seminars and courses with Robert Anton Wilson without him (or them) having to travel around the world, that original flavour pervades throughout – but new tutors have come on board, and RAW has left the planet, so changes seem inevitable.
The MLA quarterly magazine may give a more balanced view of the range of our group interests, but this blog reflects a rather narrow cross-section of the student body…and in particular my own little reality-tunnel containing Zenarchy, Duchamp and conjuring, etc, which may display my ageing brainmind, and might well leave the other contributors quite cold.
To misquote the Principia:
"Everybody understands Mickey Mouse. Few understand Herman Hesse. Only a handful understood Albert Einstein. And nobody understood Marcel Duchamp."
With apologies to Emperor Norton - and if you haven’t heard of him, or The Discordians, try this site.
Here’s someone following the trail
I first heard of him [Emperor Norton] from reading the Principia Discordia, written by the Joshua Norton Cabal of the Discordian Society. Their motto is: "Everybody understands Mickey Mouse. Few understand Herman Hesse. Only a handful understood Albert Einstein. And nobody understood Emperor Norton." The Discordian Society is sometimes called "nonsense disguised as religion or vice versa."
About Marcel Duchamp:
from A CRITICAL HISTORY OF 20TH-CENTURY ART
by Donald Kuspit
Chapter 2, Part 3 Spiritualism and Nihilism: The Second Decade
In 1917 he made Fountain, a urinal purchased from "Mott Works," a New York plumbing company, and signed "R. Mutt" (not only an ironical misspelling, suggesting that the artist is a mongrel dog or stupid person, but, as has also been thought, a play on the German word "Armut," meaning poverty). That same year he made Trébuchet (Trap), in chess a term for a pawn placed to 'trip' an opponent's piece. (Duchamp supposedly retired from art making in 1923 to devote himself entirely to chess, becoming a champion.) The work was a coat hanger which Duchamp nailed to the floor of his New York studio, where visitors could trip over it.
Actually, and more interestingly to Lasagna flingers, 'Trebuchet' can also describe one of those medaeval catapults...whether we should consider this piece of 'art' as the equivalent to a rotting cow thrown over the battlements of the art establishment, I don't know (but I am not the only one to notice the ambiguity/pun):
Duchamp had constructed other ready mades before Fountain. Bicycle Wheel, Bottle Rack, and Comb, for example. The title of each piece is the name of the object. He seems to diverge from this pattern with Trebuchet, which is generally translated as trap, but is also the name of a medieval catapult. Trebuchet is a coat rack affixed to the floor. Were you to trap your foot in one of the hangers, you would no doubt catapult yourself into a wall.
SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS 17TH ANNUAL NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON LIBERAL ARTS AND THE EDUCATION OF ARTISTS. THE EDUCATED ARTIST
PROCEEDINGS 2003 CONTENTS PAGE 10
KEYNOTE ADDRESS by David Rhodes "Educating Artists"
However, my interest in Duchamp does not arise from his Trickster/prankster aspect (amusing though I find it) but from the fact that he escapes easy labelling as an 'artist'. He seems well informed on the science of the day, and in fact invented several items which you could see as contributions to the sciences of the day:
But Duchamp, as a disciple of Henri Poincaré, also understood the mathematics of non-Euclidean geometry and higher dimensionality in a far more serious and technical way than any other artist of his time. He maintained a passionate interest in science throughout his life, and he made several innovations, in optics, mathematics and perception, that we have not understood both because Duchamp himself chose to be maddeningly cryptic about his intentions and achievements, and because we have not been open to the possibility that an acknowledged genius, once categorized as an "artist," could also be innovative in science.
from OF TWO MINDS AND ONE NATURE
by Rhonda Roland Shearer & Stephen Jay Gould
The reference to Poincaré seems appropriate, as he often gets described as a polymath and the last universalist of mathematics (before the field became so immense that no one brain could grasp it all) - and I think of Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) as a polymath (of a different kind). With reference to Duchamp's 'art' I find it interesting that among Poincaré's many interests we find chaos theory, dynamic systems, the theory of relativity, quantum theory and (especially) Topology.
Like Joyce, Duchamp seems to have built in quite a few jokes and timebombs for future critics to puzzle over, or discover belatedly.
An Artist's Timely Riddles
Deploying scientific methods to understand a Dada artist's provocative creations
Marcel Duchamp site
Understanding Marcel Duchamp Truly excellent animated timeline of Duchamp's work
tout-fait (online magazine of Duchamp studies)
Jarry, Joyce, Duchamp and Cage a piece from tout-fait
Art Science Research Laboratory (Includes animations of the Rotoreliefs, etc)
Duchamp plus music
Anémic Cinéma film by Duchamp
RAW renewed our interest in the 'Moderns', even though they worked many decades ago, now (and Duchamp didn't come up in conversation) - in particular Joyce and Pound - but (enjoying my ear) I also like the work of John Cage - and he seemed particularly inspired by Duchamp's use of chance in creativity - something also explored by William Burroughs and Laurie Anderson (amongst others). I don't think all these ideas have become dated, yet, or explorations completed! I find particularly intriguing the cross-over inspirations and collaborative work, like Cage's "Roratorio, an Irish Circus on Finnegan's Wake" (1979), and Somewhere between Dream and Reality: Shigeko Kubota’s Reunion with Duchamp and Cage - a wired-up chess set changed the sound scape of the space depending on the moves made by the chess pieces.
"In the nature of the use of chance operations is the belief that all answers answer all questions."
"At a Dada exhibition in Dusseldorf, I was impressed that though Schwitters and Picabia and the others had all become artists with the passing of time, Duchamp's work remained unacceptable as art."
John Cage, Interview, 1973
The Original Trap "A real coat hanger that I wanted sometime to put on the wall and hang my things on but I never did come to that - so it was on the floor and I would kick it every minute, every time I went out - I got crazy about it and I said the Hell with it, if it wants to stay there and bore me, I'll nail it down… and then the association with the Readymade came and it was that" - Marchand du Sel
Some Other Readymades.
NB: I'd feel stupid discussing 'moderns' from 70 odd years ago, if they hadn't drawn on so-called '19th Century work' like Etienne-Jules Marey, Étude chromo photographique de la locomotion humaine, 1886
I got these simply from development pages of Understanding Duchamp - a true work of love...from Andrew Stafford...although most of us may feel more familiar with the work of Muybridge.
Just found this site - it looks useful: An Encounter with Marcel Duchamp