Marcel Duchamp and the Politics the Androgyneof the

Topics: Marcel Duchamp, Dada, Art Pages: 9 (3080 words) Published: July 26, 2013
Duchamp: Marginality and Modernism and The Questioning of the Androgynous Self

Both Dada and Surrealism cannot be understood as just new art movements, but also social ones. During the 1960s, the whole notion of what constituted art underwent a profound change, accompanying this questioning of the aesthetics of the art object; this was also a time when massive acceleration took place in the extent to which sex was discusses and sexual images, produced. One of the main developments that came out of the innovative ferment of the early twentieth century, and continued to take root in the preceding cultural and political discourse, was an improvement in the social position of women, and it is no coincidence that feminism was among the most important forms of subject matter in modernist art. Furthermore, in lieu of the massive widening of the definition of “what constituted art”, made it possible to explore these and other issues in especially provocative and productive ways. Since then, art has no longer been defined primarily in terms of its physical form or medium but of the context in which it is presented; however even these boundaries have been blurred as the boarder between high art and commercial forms has become even more permeable. Specifically looking at some of the major works of the prolific artist, Marcel Duchamp I will attempt to deconstruct his androgynistic impulse, in relation to the unification of the self, and non-self and the variety of double-images that constitute the modernist process of individuation. In order to explore the duality of the androgyny, we must first attempt to understand its meaning and implications in relation to the context and culture of which it is implemented. Although many artists shared a project of responding to the popular iconography of the female body, their representations ranged along a varied spectrum, between bodies strictly compartmented according to mainstream gender codes and androgynous bodies working to blur these boundaries. However, a unifying aspect of the dominant culture’s representation of women is that they are predominately represented both as consumer or alternatively, a strictly sexual object to be consumed. Many artists labored to deconstruct this binding of femininity, proposing equality between the sexes by transgressing the culture-bound question of gender divisions. By refusing to draw deep distinctions between male and female bodies or actions, either by taking a unisex view of gender roles among bodies, or by conflating and bending gender roles in individual bodies. The modern term “androgyne” comes from the Greek language, and combines the words meaning man [Andros] and woman [gene]. In biology and botany, “androgyny” identifies plants and animals that have the capacity to change sex, or to fertilize themselves . In the medical community, the term “androgyny” is used for people who are born with ambiguous genitalia. As Sally Banes succinctly explains in her inquiry of the gendered body: “the primary difference between ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ then creat[ed] the difference between public and private, work and leisure, economic and domestic, political and aesthetic.” This, in essence is the set of divisions that a variety of modern artists called into question; additionally, it was precisely what Duchamp reflected and challenged, set within the discourse of a higher level of two-fold perception. In 1912 Duchamp painted his famous Nude Descending a Staircase, (Fig 1) which created a scandal at the 1913 Armory Show in New York City. I like to propose the notion that this exhibition marked the first public declaration of Duchamp’s interest in androgyny; whereby the artist is rapidly moving past the vestiges of cubism towards are purely mental foundation of imaginary images. As Alice Marquis states in her text: Duchamp In Perspective: “certainty and contradiction invade each other in sequence of works as well as in individual works by Marcel Duchamp....

Cited: 1. Bailey, Bradley. "Fragmentation, Transformation and Self-Realization: Duchamp and the Formations of the Creative Imago.” Notes in the History of Art 27.2/3 (2008), 49-55.
2. Banes, Sally. Greenwich Village 1963: Avant-garde Performance and the Effervescent Body. Durham: Duke UP, 1993. Print.
3. Camfield, William A. "Marcel Duchamp 's Fountain: Its History and Aesthetics in the Context of 1917." Dada/Surrealism 16 (1987): 64-94.
4. Fillin-Yeh, Susan. Oxford Art Journal , Dandies, Marginality and Modernism: Georgia O 'Keeffe, Marcel Duchamp and Other Cross-Dressers, Vol. 18, No. 2 (1995), pp. 33-44
5
6. Schwarz, Arturo. Leonardo , Alchemy, Androgyny and Visual Artists. Vol. 13, No. 1 (Winter, 1980), pp. 57-62
7
8. Watson, Gray. Art and Sex. London: I. B. Tauris, 2008. Print.

Fig 4: Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp) Photography by Man Ray, 1921
Fig 4: Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp) Photography by Man Ray, 1921. Silver print, Philadelphia Museum of Modern Art
Fig 3: L.H.O.O.Q, Marcel Duchamp
Fig 3: L.H.O.O.Q, Marcel Duchamp. 1919, Playing card with colored ink on printed invitation. 21 x 12.8 cm, France.
Fig 2: Fountain, Marcel Duchamp
Fig 2: Fountain, Marcel Duchamp. 1917, Urinal “readymade” signed with a false name, photographed by Alfred Stieglitz.
Fig 1: Nude Descending A Staircase, Marcel Duchamp
Fig 1: Nude Descending A Staircase, Marcel Duchamp. 1912, Oil on Canvas, 146 x 89 cm. Philadelphia Museum of Art

[ 2 ]. Banes, Sally. Greenwich Village 1963: Avant-garde Performance and the Effervescent Body. Durham: Duke UP, 1993. Print. 219.
[ 4 ]. Watson, Gray. Art and Sex. London: I. B. Tauris, 2008. Print. 35.
[ 7 ]. Banes, Sally. Greenwich Village 1963: Avant-garde Performance and the Effervescent Body. Durham: Duke UP, 1993. Print. 219.
[ 8 ]. Camfield, William A. "Marcel Duchamp 's Fountain: Its History and Aesthetics in the Context of 1917." Dada/Surrealism 16 (1987), 65.
[ 9 ]. Marquis, Alice Goldfarb. Marcel Duchamp in Perspective. New York, NY: MFA Publications, 2002. Print. 5.
[ 10 ]. Fillin-Yeh, Susan. Oxford Art Journal , Dandies, Marginality and Modernism: Georgia O 'Keeffe, Marcel Duchamp and Other Cross-Dressers, Vol. 18, No. 2 (1995), 33.
[ 12 ]. Bailey, Bradley. "Fragmentation, Transformation and Self-Realization: Duchamp and the Formations of the Creative Imago.” Notes in the History of Art 27.2/3 (2008), 51.
[ 13 ]. Fillin-Yeh, Susan. Oxford Art Journal , Dandies, Marginality and Modernism: Georgia O 'Keeffe, Marcel Duchamp and Other Cross-Dressers, Vol. 18, No. 2 (1995), 39.
[ 14 ]. Camfield, William A. "Marcel Duchamp 's Fountain: Its History and Aesthetics in the Context of 1917." Dada/Surrealism 16 (1987) 68.
[ 16 ]. Schwarz, Arturo. Leonardo , Alchemy, Androgyny and Visual Artists. Vol. 13, No. 1 (Winter, 1980), 59.
[ 18 ]. Bailey, Bradley. "Fragmentation, Transformation and Self-Realization: Duchamp and the Formations of the Creative Imago.” Notes in the History of Art 27.2/3 (2008), 49.
[ 19 ]. Spector, Jack J. "Duchamp’s Androgynous Leonardo: “Queue” and “Cul” in “LHOOD”.” Notes in the History of Art 11.1 (1991), 31.
[ 20 ]. Marquis, Alice Goldfarb. Marcel Duchamp in Perspective. New York, NY: MFA Publications, 2002. Print. 14.
[ 21 ]. Spector, Jack J. "Duchamp’s Androgynous Leonardo: “Queue” and “Cul” in “LHOOD”.” Notes in the History of Art 11.1 (1991), 31.
[ 22 ]. Banes, Sally. Greenwich Village 1963: Avant-garde Performance and the Effervescent Body. Durham: Duke UP, 1993. Print. 232.
[ 23 ]. Schwarz, Arturo. Leonardo , Alchemy, Androgyny and Visual Artists. Vol. 13, No. 1 (Winter, 1980), 58.
[ 25 ]. Bailey, Bradley. "Fragmentation, Transformation and Self-Realization: Duchamp and the Formations of the Creative Imago.” Notes in the History of Art 27.2/3 (2008), 52.
[ 26 ]. Schwarz, Arturo. Leonardo , Alchemy, Androgyny and Visual Artists. Vol. 13, No. 1 (Winter, 1980), 57.
[ 27 ]. Fillin-Yeh, Susan. Oxford Art Journal , Dandies, Marginality and Modernism: Georgia O 'Keeffe, Marcel Duchamp and Other Cross-Dressers, Vol. 18, No. 2 (1995), 36.
[ 28 ]. Schwarz, Arturo. Leonardo , Alchemy, Androgyny and Visual Artists. Vol. 13, No. 1 (Winter, 1980), 59
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