Unreal Nature

July 17, 2017

A Trébuchet

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:53 am

… It is with an extreme lucidity, an almost clinical precision, that Duchamp marks the missing link that constitutes the creative act and situates it in the infra-thin difference between what was decided on but does not make its way into the work, and what makes its way into the work but was not decided on.

Continuing through Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp‘s Passage from Painting to the Readymade by Thierry de Duve (1991):

… In Duchamp’s thought and vocabulary, there is a profound affinity between the infra-thin and aesthetic judgment. The choice of a readymade is a judgement expressed in the “total absence of good and bad taste.” … It is itself not a name. It summons the name, provokes the coming of the name at the same time that it rejects it, and results in a Januslike pact simultaneously validating it in the perspective of consensus and in the perspective of disagreement.

… “One can only give examples of it” is what Duchamp said about the infra-thin in response to Denis de Rougemont, who asked him for a conceptual definition of it.

Here are some examples: “When the tobacco smoke smells also of the mouth which exhales it, the 2 odors marry by infra thin.” “The warmth of a seat (which has just been left) is infra-thin.” “Velvet trousers — their whistling sound (in walking) by brushing of the 2 legs is an infra thin separation signaled by sound.” “Infra-thin separation between the detonation noise of a gun (very close) and the apparition of the bullet hole in the target.” And so on.

… The infra-thin cannot be a name if it is a decision suspended between two contrary decisions, one that cannot decide without immediately canceling itself.

… It is in vain that we, the viewers who do not know how to decide if the readymade must be named a painting, would expect their author to decide for us. Aesthetic judgment is as undecidable for the author as for the viewer. It is not the result of a decision, an intention, a project. Nor is it the result of an indecision, a failure of intentions, an uncertainty about the project. But it is definitely the infra-thin effect of an interval, of a difference and a lack:

[line break added] “Consequently, in the chain of reactions accompanying the creative act, a link is missing. This gap which represents the inability of the artist to express fully his intention: this difference between what he intended to realize and did realize, is the personal ‘art coefficient’ contained in the work. In other words, the personal ‘art coefficient’ is like an arithmetical relation between the unexpressed but intended and the unintentionally expressed.”

It is with an extreme lucidity, an almost clinical precision, that Duchamp marks the missing link that constitutes the creative act and situates it in the infra-thin difference between what was decided on but does not make its way into the work, and what makes its way into the work but was not decided on.

… Viewers who expect painting to satisfy their desire — their desire to see, their desire for the beautiful, their desire for craft, for example — can only be frustrated by the readymade and decide against it. Viewers who expect painting to at once cut off and reinitiate desire, who expect the unexpected, knowing that “vision,” “beauty,” and “craft” are suspect values, can open themselves to the opposite decision. For them, the missing link is the essential one: for them, it is essential that a link is missing.

… only if things remain undecided, only if we realize that in the undecidability of the readymade as of today lies its historical potential and that it grants painting, which it names and does not name, an open-ended reprieve.

… It is the bar between two names, an undecidable signifier and the signifier of an undecidability, a double-edged thing like a lapsus, a failed act, a Trébuchet.


Marcel Duchamp, Trébuchet, 1917

My most recent previous post from de Duve’s book is here.

-Julie

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