34Q. Coins. Three 5-øre pieces, two of them aluminium and one copper; three 25-øre pieces (some kind of alloy); four 10-øre pieces; one Danish crown; three German 10-pfennig pieces and one 5-pfennig piece; one French 50-franc piece, and a 50-something piece (the inscription is in Hebrew).a
a. Note by ALAIN JOUFFROY: “This box and its contents remind me of the ‘Can of Involuntary Secret Noise’ that SPOERRI presented to me in January 1961 with a dedication on the label signed with orthographic variants of his name: DANIEL SPÖRRI — SPOERRI — SPOERRI-FEINSTEIN — SPÖRRI-FEINSTEIN — SPÖRRI-FAINSTEIN — SPOERRI-FAINSTAIN. [See also 28a, a] On shaking the aluminium can, which contained among other things a key, an empty spook of ACKERMANN’s black thread, one slightly yellowish die, a large safety pin, a tube of paste, an old franc and a compass glued to a pen, one could really hear an incomprehensible noise, similar to that made by those toy puzzles with which one can play for hours trying to return tiny ball bearings to their pockets. This ‘Can of Involuntary Secret Noise,’ which I hung up on my wall between a bronze Benin mask and a MANINA picture, given to me on my last birthday and consisting of pieces of lead glued to brown wood, may have been presented to me by SPOERRI to thank me for the article I wrote about him for his first exhibition (Mostra Personale, Galleria SCHWARZ, Milan, March 16–30, 1961). My introductory text, entitled ‘The Snare-Pictures of DANIEL SPOERRI’ [see 15, b], ends with the words: ‘The idea of reality is to reinvent, as everybody knows.’ But I’m not certain. Maybe he gave it to me, without knowing it, for the symbolical meanings of the objects which it contained, and in particular the key, the compass glued to the pen, the empty spool of black thread and the yellowing die. Key-compass-pen-spool-die constitute, to my eyes, an ensemble of meanings, well tied together, that summarise, like the images of a poem, the half-conscious, half-unconscious impulses that have compelled me since the age of seventeen. I would be interested in knowing if the snare-pictures and objects SPOERRI has given to others correspond as well, and as subtly, to their personalities and sensibilities. (New fact: In trying to find out what there was deep down in the can, which still contains many small objects impossible to identify – among which, no doubt, is the perpetrator of the ‘involuntary noise’ – I uncoupled the pen and the compass. Thus I am certain that the source of the source of the secret noise ought not to be probed.)”b (DANIEL SPOERRI, 1966)
b. What is the secret that JOUFFROY thinks he ought not to probe, and why is the hidden noise involuntary? This dilemma calls to mind immediately the 1916 semi Readymade of MARCEL DUCHAMP, “With hidden noise” (à bruit secret), called by ULF LINDE “one of the most puzzling things DUCHAMP has ever done.”c In the catalogue accompanying the recent DUCHAMP show at Galleria SCHWARZ, LINDE describes it as “a ball of twine mounted between two metal plates, the latter with strange texts engraved on them. There is an object hidden inside the ball of twin – an object put there by WALTER C. ARENSBERG. And the object gives out a sound when in contact with the plates (the voice of the bride?).”
The inscription on the plates – a telegraphic compound of French and English words with periods replacing missing letters – has no special significance, according to DUCHAMP:
P.G .ECIDES DEBARRASSE.
LE. D.SERT. F.URNIS.ENT
AS HOW.V.R COR.ESPONDS
and on the lower plate:
.IR. CAR.E LONDSEA
F.INE, HEA., .O.SQUE
TE.U S.ARP BAR.AIN
No special significance. The system, at least, is obvious.
There is no intentional mystification in the SPOERRI object, and he inscription, too, bears the mark of the artist’s straightforwardness. He confided to me recently that after he finished gluing the object he discovered that he hadn’t glued it as well as he had intended; and that when he shook it and head a noise, he called it exactly what it was: “involuntary” because it was unintentional and “secret” because he didn’t know the source. As long as JOUFFROY refuses to get to the bottom of the matter – of the can – SPOERRI’s “secret” will remain hidden. (EMMETT WILLIAMS, 1966)
c. Why is there anything ‘most puzzling’ on (or under or by or in or around) DUCHAMP’s thing? If one looks aside (or keeps away) from the superlative here and then simply says (or asks): “What constitutes the puzzling?” I could at once come and say (or reply): “The puzzling is something that does something to me, and I cannot stop it because I don’t know where it is located and don’t know who it is that is doing it (or is it), and furthermore I know that I do not (or will never) know who it is (or who does it) bcause it is located at the edge of the (or my) world (the two worlds are in any case the same), and it is there at the edge of my world so that I cannot (or can never) reach it and stop it, regardless of whether at the edge of the inner or at the edge of the outer world, because it does not jut (or poke) far enough into my world, however large I keep trying to make (or extend or inflate) the latter, for me to grab it.” And if one surmises what I might then be about to say, and says: “Right,” I would then come a step closer and say: “That thing there from DUCHAMP, I can grasp it with my hands (which is one way of reaching it), and I can stop that thing inasmuch as it is doing something (to wit making a noise). I can stop the noise inasmuch as I can put it down. Why should one shake it? I can reach it, I can stop it, and so I cannot call it puzzling – let alone most puzzling, or am I wrong?” (DIETER ROTH, 1968)
(Daniel Spoerri et al., An Anecdoted Topography of Chance (Atlas Press edition, 1995, pp. 121–122)
- Skynoise tribute to Nam June Paik (noted by Jace Clayton).
- Thomas Jones on shipping containers at the LRB (also Theo Tait on Houellebecq).
- George Legrady on Daniel Spoerri (among other things), and a partial image-map version of Spoerri’s Anecdoted Topography of Chance (looks to be based on the Atlas Press edition).
- Aviva Shemesh on Manderlay.