The painting Nude descending a staircase (1912) was judged unseemly in France by certain orthodox cubist painters (including Duchamp’s own brothers) and indecent on account of its title; it only acquired value after it was exported to the United States.
There, Nude descending a staircase is accepted for what it is, a scandalous work which supplements cubism with kinetics.
The politics of seeing advocated by Duchamp made it necessary to de-contextualize the painting by taking it away from the familiar milieu of French cubism and to re-contextualize it at the Armory Show in front of a differently molded American public.
To realize what is, this adventure necessitates taking into account dissociation, separating elements which cohered, or had been previously associated or united.
Similarly, the elected object, the readymade, can only be seen from the moment when it has been transferred from its usual habitat to a new place, be it the studio or the exhibition room.
The displacement and deliberate choice of the object (which must not provide any aesthetic emotion) either activates a trigger in the mind or it does not. The transference of this object, supposedly deprived of aesthetic qualities, makes it possible to distinguish among the generally well chosen audience between those who appreciate novelty and those who fall a prey to habit and prejudice, the blind.
Finally the an-artistic adventure of Duchamp who chose to be an American citizen, although he was born French, could be considered as a constant confrontation with otherness, but an otherness structured by a personal history and social practices which enabled him to be discriminating in his choices. One may surmise that Duchamp wanted to be at the mercy of otherness, an intent kind of otherness, similar to a state of alert on account of a new combination on the chessboard.
From this point of view, this interdisciplinary conference aims at highlighting how eroticism, the only word finishing with -ism that Duchamp claimed to have any influence on, occupies an essential position in his works.
This conference, organized in cooperation with the Research Group Intertrad and the Association Marcel Duchamp, will take place at the University of Orléans, France, from Wednesday, December 7th to Friday, December 9th, 2005. Proposals of approximately 250 words as well as a short bio-bibliographic note with telephone number, fax and e-mail should be sent to the address shown below before March 30th, 2005.
The papers read at the conference should be limited to 20 minutes but a longer version will be accepted for publication in the Proceedings. The selection of papers which will be published rests with the publisher.
We are sorry we cannot offer travel grants.
University of Orleans
4 rue de Paradis 75 010 Paris France.
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