"What the Hand Knows"
The following are the first two paragraphs, etc. of "What the Hand Knows" by Calvin Tompkins. This articled first appeared in The New Yorker, 2 May 1983, and very much spurred my attitude toward CAD and its relationship to draftsmanship and manual dexterity in general. It also very much stimulated the initiation of my 'career' as an artist. For the record, I received CAD training February 1983, and CAD equipment was delivered to Cooper and Pratt Architects (my employers then) April 1983.
What the Hand Knows
One of our era's significant feats has been the separation of art from skill. In most English dictionaries, the two words are closely linked. "Art" spreads a wider net, of course; it is so variable in meaning that, according to Webster, it can be used as a synonym for "skill," "cunning," "artifice," and "craft"--"which, on the other hand, are not always synonymous among themselves." When it comes to the creation of works of art, most people would agree that something more than skill, cunning, artifice, and craft is required. Only in this century, however, has it been found possible and desirable to produce works of art whose making requires little skill or none whatsoever.
Marcel Duchamp is generally thought to be the hero (or the villain, if you prefer) of this remarkable achievement. Duchamp's famous "ready-mades"--common manufactured objects, such as an iron bottle-drying rack and a snow shovel, selected and signed by the artist--undermined the whole tradition of the artist as a skillful maker while poking fun at the belief that artists were superior beings whose mere signature conferred value. Duchamp's ambition, as he explained it, was "to put painting once again at the service of the mind." European painting since Courbet had been primarily "retinal," he said--a matter of manual skill in applying paint to canvas. By choosing a factory made object of no aesthetic interest, which he might alter slightly or else leave untouched, Duchamp was calling attention, in his ironic way, to the fact that a work of art was also an intellectual act--a choice, a sum of decisions. (Years later, when an art historian taxed him with the fact that several of his ready-mades had in the course of time become highly prized works of sculpture--icons reproduced in all the art-history books--Duchamp smiled and said, "Nobody's perfect, hm?"
[Five paragraphs later:]
Anyone who goes around to the galleries these days, however, is bound to see a great deal of deliberately unskillful, clumsy-looking work. Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and the other "graffiti artists" who have shifted their efforts from subways to shows in New York galleries and international "trend" exhibitions are much talked about this season, and the European and American neo-expressionists are still the hot ticket in SoHo. This slapdash, loosely figurative painting is usually viewed as a triumphant reaction to the austerities of Minimalism and Conceptualism. Perhaps it is; perhaps that is all it is. David Hockney, the English artist, has been saying recently that representational art was bound to make a comeback sooner or later; the reason its return took the form it has taken in neo-expressionist, "new image," and graffiti art, he said, is that these artists were never trained to draw. Some of our young geniuses gain an appearance of free hand drawing by projecting photographic images on their canvases and tracing them; the photograph is, among other things, an invaluable substitute for skill. [Note: almost 20 years later Hockney makes well researched claims that even some older masters used projections to draw!]
When the CAD computer equipment finally arrived and was up and running at Cooper and Pratt Architects, we had one of those not-too-serious office competitions for naming the computer. I suggest we call it 'Duchamp' while Bernie (my CAD partner then) suggested 'Godot' (as in "Waiting for Godot"). As it happened, both Bernie's and my suggestion turned out to be fitting.
What I personally experienced when CAD became my daily occupation was the sudden obsolescence of my (quite talented) drafting skills. I still used my hands to "draw," but my dexterity now amounted to making sure I pushed the right buttons--my mother very presciently at the time made the analogy to playing the piano. I started seeing the final drawings produced by either pen-plotter or electrostatic printer as sort of "ready-mades" or at least abundantly reproducible "originals" that I could merely add a signature to in order to confer them as "my" drawings.
Luckily (and thanks to the words of Calvin Tomkins, I guess), I found an outlet for my quondam drafting skills in producing "art." I decided, however, that I no longer needed to exhibit skill because I had (access to) a machine that did that, thus I produced art that was (and sometimes still is) deliberately unskillful, intending to prove through such imperfect manifestations themselves that a hand indeed created the work.
If nothing else, all of the above explains why a few years ago here at design-l I wrote that "perhaps it is more the case that the way we think influences the way we use tools."
Duchamp Sept 11
Museum Trip 2002.09.15
Museum Trip 2002.09.15 is the latest edition of the Museum Trip series starting at xxx.htm .
www.museumpeace.com/01/0091.htm contains images of Richard Hamilton's reenactment of Oculist Witnesses (within a gallery containing other recently/temporarily installed Hamilton works, and a number of mostly detail images of Yvonne And Magdeleine Torn In Tatters.
www.museumpeace.com/01/0092.htm contains images of Hamilton's Museum Studies 6, essentially another reenactment (albeit in paper) of The Large Glass with lots of notes added.
[For the record, I first became familiar with the work of Thomas Struth, particularly his museum photographs, when his work appeared on the cover of Artforum May 2002. I've been taking pictures at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since February 1999 (see Steve Visits The Local Acropolis beginning at xxx.htm), that is, shortly after I purchased a digital camera that I happily found took good interior pictures without a flash. As it happens, one of Struth's museum pictures is presently on display at the PMA, thus the continued image and reality mirror play within xxx.htm.]
reenacting Primarily Not Duchamp
Primarily Not Duchamp, an exhibit at Venue (a quondam art gallery in Philadelphia) November 1993, is presently reenacted at wireframe/VENUE at xxx.htm.
Follow the links at the bottom of each page's entry and you will then eventually have seen all the works currently available for viewing. When you reach the list of works page (xxx.htm) note that the blank titles are actually hyperlinks that appear when the cursor hovers over them.
The title of the exhibit derives from the cracks of The Large Glass being "primarily not Duchamp." There are other clues within certain works as to how the exhibits fits together, and these will be explained when each work is more fully explained (maybe within the next couple of weeks).
Re: reenacting Primarily Not Duchamp
Cher (and cher alike) Bill:
First off, I think you're lying when you say, "I can't find your Duchampiana," but then again, maybe you're telling the truth since the exhibit is indeed called "Primarily Not Duchamp" suggesting (at least) that the exhibit was/is primarily something other than Duchamp(iana). You say you fell into a statement (of) mine, while I and my work fell into (or is it through?) the cracks it seems, at least from my perspective relative to yours. [Then again, maybe you just didn't 'get' the hyperlinks (and thus didn't view the exhibit at all), which is understandable, but not necessarily tolerable.]
Ah, the (ongoing sterotypic) cliches regarding art and wall, artist and architect; one thinks how primative it all really is, the notion of art on (cave) walls, that is. Plus, who exactly are these "architects [that] hate painting so much that they take up painting to show how to make a work of virtual space that does not push the walls around in actual space? I'm requesting you provide evidence!
And, as to "transmogrification into bits in virtual space" isn't that more or less exactly what Duchamp did himself to his own art via De Ou Par Marcel Duchamp Ou Rrose Selavy (1935-41)?
Thanks for extending Primarily Not Duchamp into performance.
Re: Duchamp Painting
I will be happy to add my (own) signature to your painting. This (apposite?) apposition on my part may well increase the value of your (faux?) Duchamp in time. Don't worry, I can be very cheap.
Re: reenacting Primarily Not Duchamp
Bill, take a moment, a real true moment, and reflect on how YOU began this conversation. You're saying "I can't find your Duchampiana" has a distinct ring of disingenuousness, and I would be lying if I didn't say that is what I think. I was being honest; I'm not sure you were.
I also think YOU are somewhat upset that you did not end my Duchamp conversation(s), which are far, far from being over.
Re: urinal and mistletoe
Besides being reenactments (of mistletoe, even?), are today's Duchamp Fountains also representations of the "male fig leaf"? Or might they enforce artistic blabber control? (I wish.) Or do they portend that "in the future, everyone will piss for 15 minutes?"
Re: The GREATMAN
Frank Zimmerman wrote in closing:
i kan hardly waite for 'ZTiffAN' to hurll hiz VORboze into THiz MIXX-KAN U & by the TIme 'THe RAiny-BUFfollow putzz IT toGETHER WE'll B zunning OURzelvez-a LONGway from PHillee'
I could be cute and say I really should delay any 'hurl' coming from my direction, or more specifically from my Philadelphia position, but the truth is that I enjoy this bulletin board and it ongoing postings. I enjoy the stimulation as well as the open opportunity engendered by the bulletin board. Of course, this is because I even more enjoy the stimulation and open opportunity engendered by Duchamp and his works.
My first visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (in 1972 when I was a sophomore in high school) was spurred on by Life magazine's feature of the world's largest painting by Gene Davis. It was on that first visit that I at least remember seeing The Large Glass for the first time, but with no prior knowledge of it or Duchamp--perhaps in retrospect experiencing a kind of lose of virginity in the process, yet also oddly not knowing then who was ultimately "f-ing" with me. I wasn't crazy about what I saw, but the full title of the piece did indeed "tickle" me. Beyond that, I can now only guess that I probably didn't see into Étant Donnés that first visit, thus I probably saw the door, but didn't know to look inside.
Sometime it seems like a lot has happened (with me) in the 30 years since then, and sometimes it seems that maybe not enough happened since then. And then even delay becomes an issue, and I suppose that's appropriate (or is it just cute?).
One work at the PMA that I clearly remember from my first visit is the very early Picasso Self Portrait in its collection (currently on an exhibition tour). Picasso was still alive then, but he died the next year. I remember how Time magazine began it report of Picasso's death, something to the effect of moving from "Picasso IS the greatest artist of the 20th century to Picasso WAS the grestest artist of the 20th century."
I've just now been inspired to consolidate my Philadelphia Museum of Art focus via (working title) Reenacting Triumph on Fairmount, Even
Re: Duchamp says viewer finishes the work of art?
Having thus been prompted by YaLing Chen's post, I went to read "The Creative Act" within a copy of the latest reprint of Salt Seller, a book I purchased at the Philadelphia Museum of Art something like two years ago. I know I never read this book cover to cover, but I probably read the short 'essays' when I first bought the book. Anyway, before reading "The Creative Act" today, I first (re?)read the text right before it, namely, "Regions which are not ruled by time and space....", text of a television interview of Duchamp by James Johnson Sweeney January 1956 filmed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. [I was in Philadelphia at the time, but still in my mother's womb, waiting for the last hours before Spring it turned out.] This reading turned out to be completely apropos because earlier today I composed and uploaded a series of webpages entitled Dossier Duchamp which comprise [almost] all the images I've taken of/within the Duchamp Gallery at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 11 February 1999.
Being now more aware of "Regions which are not ruled by time and space...." I propose Museum Studies 6.1 where visitors to the PMA Duchamp Gallery are encouraged to bring along a copy of the Duchamp/Sweeney interview text and then speak some of the passages while in the Duchamp Gallery, thus somewhat closely renacting sound waves first produced by Duchamp and/or Sweeney within the same space, yet at a different time, obviously.
The next time I visit the PMA Duchamp Gallery you can be sure I'll reenactingly speak "There is a symmetry in the cracking, the two crackings are symmetrically arranged and there is more, almost an intention there, an extra--a curious intention that I am not responsible for, a ready-made intention, in other words, that I love and respect."
Re: Neo Futurist Prime Time Show about Duchamp
The notion of casting Duchamp in the nude might be all that is needed to ensure success, with occasional slips into drag, of course. And that line, "Oddly enough, the crack of my ass is a ready-made" gets the audience howling every time. ["Don't tell me. I noticed it too. Something sphinx in here again."]
Then is there the competing notion of an enormous Duchamp dream of a chess game with the opponent unknown, yet all the pieces are actual personalities. For example, Duchamp's Queen is Michelangelo and Duchamp's King is Rrose Selavy, while the opponent's Queen is Elizabeth II and the opponent's King is Michelangelo. [One has to wonder if playing with a real Queen has its advantages.] As usual, one of Duchamp's Bishops is Pope St. Celestine V, the one that "was unfitted for the papal office in every respect except his holiness." And, with any luck, the peon's are dedicated people like you and me.
positioning Étant Donnés [wavelengths]
[from Jennifer Gough-Cooper's chronology (Ephemerides) within Marcel Duchamp: Work and Life (1993) with notes/questions by myself]:
6 May 1949. Philadelphia ...and Duchamp makes detailed notes on the architecture of the different rooms [of the Philadelphia Museum of Art where the Arensberg Collection ultimately ends up].
I wonder if these detailed notes still exist somewhere, and whether they might offer an indication that Duchamp in 1949 at least knew of the space in the PMA where Étant Donnés is ultimately housed.
20 March 1961. Philadelphia In the evening, with Katherine Kuh as moderator, Duchamp, the sculptor Louise Nevelson, and two painters, Larry Day and Theodoror Stamos, are members of a panel to discuss "Where do we go from Here?" at the Philadelphia Museum College of Art.
Of the panelists, Duchamp is the only one to make a prepared statement. [The 20 paragraph statement is published in full within the chronology and ends with, "The great artist of tomorrow will go underground."
Roger LaPelle, in Tout Fait's Notes issue 1, no. 3, writes of Duchamp's visit/lecture at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1962 where Duchamp refers to himself as an "underground artist."
[I was in Philadelphia on 20 March 1961, but I was not listening to Duchamp downtown, rather, I was at home celebrating my 5th birthday (no kidding), and I distinctly remember thinking at the time, "where do I go from here? (just kidding)]
Has the above mentioned text been published anywhere else beside the Gough-Cooper chronology? It is a very provocative/prescient late Duchamp text.
31 March 1968. New York [the entry ends with] However, the question of the ultimate presentation of Etant donnes preoccupied Marcel. He finally decided that the one person who might help him solve this problem was Bill Copley. When Marcel first told him the story of the piece Bill could not wait to see it, and readily accepted to present the "demountable approximation" in the name of the Cassandra Foundation to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, if the trustees would accept it.
What I am interested in is whether Duchamp's involvement in the installation of the Arensberg Collection (roughly 1949 to 1954) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art has any direct bearing on the on-going creation and ultimate position/presentation of Étant Donnés. I'll pursue all this (I hope) at the PMA library, but if there is already a published study of Duchamp's role vis-à-vis the PMA installation of the Arensberg collection I would much appreciate being made aware of it.
Re: Yale School of Art
I'm glad I never went to any art school—I went to undergrad architecture school—because I'm now very appreciative of self-education, in that it is doable with better than satisfactory results. For example, it's recently become clear that I can more than hold my own when it comes to understanding Duchamp, as evidenced at the www Duchamp bulletin board.
After many years of self-education one begins to realize that one is learning not only what is being taught, but also a lot of what is not being taught. The more I understand the value of self-education, however, the less value I see in academia, because academia very often chooses to ignore that which is not from academia. Imagine, for example, that some artist or art historian student or teacher at Yale recently discovered a heretofore unknown printing by Piranesi. Chances are this discovery would have been deemed worthy of fairly wide press coverage, and considered a significant contribution to the history of art. Of course, this never happened recently in academia, but some self-taught architect/artist did discovery a heretofore unknown printing of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius, published the finding online, and received confirmation via email from Piranesi scholar John Wilton-Ely (editor of the "complete" etchings of Piranesi) that indeed our knowledge of Piranesi's etching is not necessarily complete. Because this news did not come from academia, academia pays no attention to it, yet at the same time there is no question that academia's knowledge of Piranesi is now definitely lacking.
I think any artist would agree that it would for sure be thrilling to personally discover something like a lost/unknown Michelangelo. In all honesty, I can now very much claim a visceral understanding of what that thrill might just really be like, and I also feel that I probably would have never learned this sensation if I went to art school.
Re: hh canvased
...regarding your musing of an exhibit of extreme appropriation, see the work of Sherri Levine (for a start). There is much more at issue than your questions (simply) suggest. A familiarity with Duchamp's modus operandi vis-a-vis his own work may also further illuminate your wonderings--the museum exhibit catalogue Joseph Cornell / Marcel Duchamp ... In Resonance is also a place to start.
Re: positioning Étant donnés [wavelengths]
I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) Library two Tuesdays ago, but alas that is not the place to conduct research regarding Duchamp's involvement vis-à-vis the Arensberg collection and its ultimate residing within the PMA. The Museum Archives is the place to do the research, but it just so happens that the Museum Archives have just begun the large project of organizing all the Arensberg/Duchamp archived material. [Do some people at the PMA read the Duchamp online bulletin board? I know that at last d'Harnoncourt reads Tout Fait.] Nonetheless, I did find out that the rooms that now accommodate Étant donnés and the visitors/viewers quarters were storage rooms before--at least that's what an older librarian(?) at the PMA remembers.
At this point, for me at least, it seems reasonable to believe that Duchamp was well aware of the (future Étant donnés) space at the PMA while he was secretly working on Étant donnés in NY, and that quite possibly this knowledge made it easier to work "underground" since what he was doing was already going to be a museum piece.
If Étant donnés is Duchamp's great underground work, is his activity at the PMA, especially his organizing of his own works within the museum, Duchamp's great above-ground work of the same period?
The original printing of the PMA Bulletin of 1969 that introduced Étant donnés contains a forward where "Dr. Evan Turner described the long relationship between Marcel Duchamp and the PMA..." [I have yet to read this text.]
Chapter 18 of Triumph on Fairmount: Fiske Kimball and The Philadelphia Museum of Art (1959) is entitled "The Arensbergs" and comprises a series of letters by Kimball that describe each of his visits with the Arensbergs in LA.
Entertaining anecdote from Triumph on Fairmount, p. 299:
The next day, Ingersoll was in the Arensberg galleries when Fiske came in with Perry Rathbone, the new director of the Boston Museum.
This is the 'big glass,'" he said, pointing to a large shattered pane of glass decorated with oil paint and lead wire in abstract patterns, which was mounted on a stand in front of the window looking out on the courtyard. "Duchamp called it The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even." He laughed and went on in a loud voice to make several vulgar remarks.
"Fiske, you cannot talk like that here. Remember you are in a public place." "I'll talk as I please," said Fiske. "You aren't my boss any more."
Rathbone did not know what to make of this passage, for it was not until the following Tuesday, January 25, 1955 that Fiske's resignation was published.
[Museum Studies 6.2: on any given January 19 go stand in front of The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even and laugh and make several vulgar remarks.]