Thursday, December 08, 2011

Tu m’

Marcel Duchamp, “Tu m’,” 1918

Is it Leopardi who writes of “the acid-burned hole in the continuum / that hole called life”? I doodad it up considerably. Memory is a disburdening. A gash in the screen the constantly projected movie leaks through. I look at Marcel Duchamp’s final painting Tu m’ (1918), the title a truncating of tu m’emmerde or tu m’ennui (you bore me): bicycle wheel, corkscrew, hat rack. Color samples. Gash with safety pin spanning it, futile repair. Three templates for Stoppages. Pointing index. Self-referential whimsy amounting to a décor entirely habitable, sleek and preening with self-reverence. There’s something fundamentally slippery about Duchamp, a mercurial “I” providing ready clownish countenance for a wholly protean “self” in its obliging routines for achievement’s lack. Gianfranco Baruchello, talking to Henry Martin in Why Duchamp (Documentext / McPherson & Co., 1985) suggests Duchamp’s is a “provisional” ego:
It’s an ‘I’ that’s not present or respected as a structural part of the person, it’s an ‘I’ that the person uses when and if and however he wants, and it’s not at all the ‘I’ that defines the person, what defines the person is his ability to take his distances from the ‘I.’ What makes his works seem mad is that you can’t see the ‘I’ that’s involved with them or responsible for them.
Or is Duchamp’s an “exploded” I? Baruchello (he’s referring to Duchamp’s remarks to Pierre Cabanne in Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp):
He said that the meanings of certain words ‘explode’ and leave dictionary definitions behind them. And all of his work could be interpreted as a way of giving meaning and value to things that don’t make sense from simply dictionary points of view.
Caustic inevitability, bilious steam sliding out under the door. The door to the room that is keeping one here, typing. A salience of lost initiative is heard burning out in the streets: “my fire in regard to its execution.” And: “I had had enough of it, and I stopped, but with no abrupt decision.”