My lecture on The Bride Stripped Bare... was of course much more detailed than is suggested by the simple, general headings of the lecture notes. I tried over the years to physically enact the fastidious making of the works in the lecture theatre - Standard Stoppages, Dust Breeding etc. In 1985 I made much of shooting ink tipped matches from a toy cannon onto a sheet of paper to achieve random but informed mark making. It was an endearing performance.
On another less distinguished occasion, I tore the Entretiens with Duchamp in half as a mute gesture of I know not what. I was astounded how uncritically this was greeted by the audience. Some of my colleagues gazed down on me with something akin to awe. I felt a fraud and soon regretted the damage to the book which had made it unsellable. If anything I should have hung it outside the window for the wind to make its own selection.
When I made the film with Nigel Henderson, we were posed in front of Man Ray's Dust Breeding in the Norwich Art School Gallery, admiring the ambiguities of the textures. We did look a right couple of squiffs.
Several individual works by Duchamp are susceptible to comparison with found objects in everyday life. One year I remember emphasising the apparatus of gambling and relating it to such structures as Why Not Sneeze Rrose Selavy?
It was however magical talking to Nigel about Duchamp. They had met in 1939 through the agency of Peggy Guggenheim. Nigel had been presented with a Green Box, long since sold off by the time I worked with him. Duchamp showed genuine interest in Nigel's ideas and was most encouraging. Talking with him, Nigel said, suspended the passage of time.
The Mechanism of the Bride and the Bachelors fascinated me and the more I discovered about the classical perspective books, the more the delineations on the glass made sense. I did encourage students to read Linda D.Henderson's book on Nth Dimensional imagery and Non-Euclidean Geometry. As I read about Mani and Manicheeism, the ideal of piecing the spanges of light back together again for storage in the Moon and from thence to the Milky Way, seemed somehow pertinent to the passages within the Large Glass.
Having worked at understanding the voyeuristic thrills of Peep Boxes in the Art Gallery and on the Seaside Pier - the Gainsborough Show box, the erotic allure of peering into a brightly lit interior, the resolution of Duchamp's ideas in Etant Donnés... came as a great excitement. In the 1970's little was known, and books reporduced the external surface of the Door purchased by Duchamp when staying with Dali in Caqaques. There was a thrill to the embargo on publishing of images of what is seen through the Peep Hole. Only when I got to see pictures of the view through the Hole did other works fall into place (e.g. see above right, Given the illuminating gas and the waterfall..., preparatory study in painted leather and velvet).
In my later lectures I tried to show the appropriateness of what I believed to be the central informing source of the pose of the Nude, splayed wide and headless. The drawing of a Nude Male Torso, c1501-5 26.2 x 17.3 cms in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
1. the point of the comparison is surely Duchamp's concealed playing with the idea of Male Front to Femals Verso, disconcerting the spectator's reactions to the sexual overt. The theme of androgyny runs strongly through Duchamp's oeuvre. Here the Voyeur cannot be sure.
2. the headless woman so intriguingly selected by Duchamp is paralleled by the Michelangelo drawing where losses are to the upper sections of the drawing.
3. Duchamp would have been familiar with visual jokes about sexual ambiguities recto/verso in the human body from the work of Salvador Dali with whom he was staying while the Etant Donnes... took shape in his mind. Dali made great play with shoulder blades as breasts, even an extended coccyx as penis.
4. For the final masterwork of his career Duchamp would have relished disconcerting art historical source spotters with an unlikley Old Master inspiration.
The equation made its own sense within the lecture format,culminating in the pairing of the images (as above) in a darkened interior space (with raked seating) providing a most theatrical flourish as lunch approached.
Chris Mullen September 2008