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:

Not Bob Dobbs from the back "Everybody understands Mickey Mouse. Few understand Herman Hesse. Only a handful understood Albert Einstein. And nobody understood Marcel Duchamp."

[side trip]
With apologies to
Emperor Norton - and if you haven’t heard of him, or The Discordians, try this site.
Emperor Norton
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:
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.
A Trebuchet
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.
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.
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
Ivars Peterson

Nude Descending a Staircase (No 2) Duchamp Descending a staircase The Second Life avatar of Tasrill Sieyes

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."
John Cage.

"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
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


The Purple Gooroo said...

Interesting stuff - I'll try and check out the links - as I don't know much about Duchamp.

Helps me figure out your latest (part-time) MLA 'persona', though ;-) :-)

Bogus Magus said...

heh heh

at one time, Duchamp claimed he had 'retired' or 'withdrawn' from Art, and intended to spend the rest of his life playing chess - or simply breathing...

R Mutt was the signature he used to submit work to an exhibition for which he was one of the judges (and which said it would not refuse any submissions) and then they refused "Fountain" (the urinal ready-made) and he wrote in defence of M.Mutt:

"Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He chose. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under a new title and point of view ...[creating] a new thought for that object."

Bogus Magus said...

If you just want a great taster - try the 'Understanding Duchamp' link (or from the post, or from the permanent links on the right) I just love it for website design - the animated sculptures actually animate (spin the bicycle wheel) - hell, they even animate the paintings which have dynamic qualities (based on the Green Box of notes about what he intended, from Duchamp)

Unknown said...

I've been pouring through and mulling over the Duchamp material for 3 days now, still processing! Kind of like finding some alien technology and wondering what it does and how to use it!

Bogus Magus said...

Yeah, he seems like the Tesla of the art world to me. Like 'the man who fell to earth'. He span ideas off that people still use and explore - Op Art (Fluttering Hearts, etc), Kinetic sculptures, Conceptual Art, ReadyMades (found art), etc.

I once spent a night trying to get a sociologist to explain in what way the Post-Moderns had moved on from the Moderns. It seemed to me that most of them simply left out the wit, charm, intelligence and humour - look at the current bunch of 'Conceptual Artists' for instance, taking themselves awfully seriously (or attempting a deadpan joke, or maybe to make a lot of money). Look at all the people missing the humour in Joyce.

Duchamp just laid it down, he didn't defend or explain...and he still seems ahead of the game to me, even now that he left the planet...I love source material (as you know) and I suppose we have a lot of talented people in the Arts, but only a few geniuses.

He belongs in my pantheon...(I asked Amazon to send you a copy of the book that opened the door for me - to both Duchamp and John Cage...) Currently I want to explore Cage's friendship with Bucky Fuller...

christopher higgs said...

Jacques Roubaud said, “Duchamp is not an artist; not a non-artist; not an anti-artist. Duchamp is a non-non-artist.”

Unknown said...

Y'know I really wonder about post modernity myself. I remember when I was reading The Cantos (having also just read Ulysses) I found it incredibly hard to believe that these books had been so thoroughly understood that a new era had dawned and that all these artists were producing material that truly went beyond "the reality of masks."

That sounds like some book, can't wait! THANKS!

A "non-non-artst" I like that, chris!

Bogus Magus said...

I didn't mean to sound enigmatic about the book!

You know when, especially in yer teens, you think you discovered something no-one else knows about? I felt lucky to come across a hardback copy of "The Bride and The Bachelors" by Calvin Tomkins...and instantly recognised John Cage (into Bucky, Zen, etc) and Duchamp as 'soul mates'. Actually Jean Tinguely and his self-destructing sculptures amused me too! Anyway, paperback editions seem available on for a couple of dollars - and I consider it a fine introductory read to the 'avant-garde'...not too heavy or long-winded. Amusing and Recommended.
See it here

Bogus Magus said...

Thinking of Jean Tinguely’s sculptures reminded me of these two links my son sent me years back:-

Strandbeest – look for film link in middle of page – if these sculptures don’t make you laugh, well, I dunno what to say...

Soda Race – virtual living machines

Bogus Magus said...

Oh, and I suppose the undulations in the Marey developmental pages also triggered the memory...


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