Duchamp and the Aesthetics of Chance: Art as Experiment (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)
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Marcel Duchamp is often viewed as an "artist-engineer-scientist," a kind of rationalist who relied heavily on the ideas of the French mathematician and philosopher Henri Poincaré. Yet a complete portrait of Duchamp and his multiple influences draws a different picture. In his 3 Standard Stoppages (1913-1914), a work that uses chance as an artistic medium, we see how far Duchamp subverted scientism in favor of a radical individualistic aesthetic and experimental vision.
Unlike the Dadaists, Duchamp did more than dismiss or negate the authority of science. He pushed scientific rationalism to the point where its claims broke down and alternative truths were allowed to emerge. With humor and irony, Duchamp undertook a method of artistic research, reflection, and visual thought that focused less on beauty than on the notion of the "possible." He became a passionate advocate of the power of invention and thinking things that had never been thought before.
The 3 Standard Stoppages is the ultimate realization of the play between chance and dimension, visibility and invisibility, high and low art, and art and anti-art. Situating Duchamp firmly within the literature and philosophy of his time, Herbert Molderings recaptures the spirit of a frequently misread artist-and his thrilling aesthetic of chance.
a system of strict linear perspective, their lines of connection with the “nearly of the ‘always possible’ ” likewise had to be integrated into this system, a task that was not all that easy for an artist hardly skilled at drawing in perspective. According to Duchamp’s own account, work on the “perspectiving of the 9 capillary tubes” began in the first half of 1914.32 In accordance with the intended spatial arrangement of the nine malic moulds, Duchamp painted in Prussian blue a 1:1 scale plan of
In actual fact, the 3 Standard Stoppages stretch the conventionalist theory to the point of absurdity. In Poincaré’s theory, the asser- 108 The Crisis of the Scientific Concept of Truth tion that scientific principles and laws essentially depend on conventions for their validity does not mean that these principles and laws are in any way arbitrary. On the contrary, these scientific conventions are, first, founded on experiments and experiences and, second, not decreed by any one individual
translation costs. Without this generous support it would not have been possible to publish this book in English. xvi Introduction Duchamp and the Aesthetics of Chance 1 | Th e I d ea o f th e Fab r icati o n D uchamp’s idea for the fabrication of the 3 Standard Stoppages is written on a piece of notepaper in the “Box of 1914.” The latter was originally a box for photographic plates, measuring 18 x 28 cm, in which Duchamp collected photographic reproductions of the manuscripts of
Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris, Inv. no. 3234-1. Even though there is no documentary evidence, it is highly probable that Duchamp visited the museum of science and technology during his stay in Munich in the summer of 1912. One of the museum’s rooms was devoted to the historical development of standard units of measure. Exhibits included “several standard meters in glass and metal as well as a replica of the prototype meter.” See Deutsches Museum, 53. 7. d’Harnoncourt and McShine, Marcel
dans l’histoire des idées, un complet bouleversement. . . . La connaissance du réel doit être cherchée et donnée par d’autres moyens. . . . Il faut aller dans une autre voie, et rendre à une intuition subjective, à un sens mystique de la réalité, tout ce que l’on croyait lui avoir arraché.” Édouard le Roy, La Pensée intuitive, 2 vols. (Paris, 1929–30); Le Problème de Dieu (Paris, 1929; Introduction à l’étude du problème réligieux (Paris, 1944). Cf. Molderings, Marcel Duchamp, 91–94. Gold, “A