• J. M. Coetzee on mathematics and poetry at Notices of the AMS, recommending especially the concrete poetry of Carl Andre and Emmett Williams. (See also Coetzee reading from Summertime at the NYRB podcast.)
  • László Krasznahorkai has a short story in The Guardian.
  • At Jacket, Douglas Piccinnini on John Ashbery in Paris with special reference to Locus Solus; also see Declan Spring on the rediscovery of Alvin Levin.
  • Tom La Farge reviews The noulipian Analects at EXPLORINGfictions with reference to Duchamp and Roussel.
  • .


rainford small

“In [Percy] Rainford’s original photography, Duchamp is seated at a desk, seen in profile with his face slightly overlapping a chessboard propped up against the wall. The chesmen are attached (glued?) to the board to illustrate the endgame developed by French avant-garde poet and playwright Raymond Roussel, who is considered one of Duchamp’s most important influences. [Frederick] Kiesler’s understanding of the importance of Roussel’s work for Duchamp’s creative process is evidenced by the inscription he added on the reverse of fold-out pages, ‘Marcel D.—born 1887—artiste-inventeur‘ and ‘R. Roussel—born 1877—artiste-inventeur,’ with symbols of the black and white kings positioned respictively nevxt to each name. While Kiesler, who was a keen chess player and frequent opponent of Duchamp, was surely familiar with his friend’s feelings about Roussel, Linda Henderson has suggested that the architect’s clear parallel between these two revolutionaries was drawn ‘undoubtedly with Duchamp’s help.’ At the far end of the flap on the left side of Kiesler’s triptych, the phrase ‘Fous, Cavaliers et Rois‘ (‘Fools, Knights and Kings’) is printed, along with small drawings of a jester and a knight. This was an appropriate use of chess characters on Kiesler’s part to summarize the multi-dimensional careers of Duchamp and Roussel.”

(Bradley Bailey, “Passionate Pastimes,” in Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess, p. 77)

chess beats art: the end of the blindman

“We do not have a record of any games played by Duchamp during these early years in New York, but, in Rongwrong, a magazine he edited that came out in only a single issue, he published the transcription of a game played between his friends Henri-Pierre Roché and Francis Picabia. The stakes were high: if Roché won, Picabia would have to stop publishing 391, a journal that had come out in four prior issues; if Picabia won, Roché would have to cease the publication of The Blindman, a review that had appeared only twice. After thirty-four moves in an unorthodox but interesting game, Roché resigned, and Blindman ceased publication.”

(Francis M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Chess, p. 10.)

what is a designer?

“The designer is therefore the artist of today, not because he is a genius but because he works in such a way as to re-establish contact between art and the public, because he has the humility and ability to respond to whatever demand is made of him by the society in which he lives, because he knows his job, and the ways and means of solving each problem of design. And finally because he responds to the human needs of his time, and helps people to solve certain problems without stylistic preconceptions or false notions of artistic dignity derived from the schism of the arts.”

(Bruno Munari, Design as Art, trans. Patrick Creagh, p. 32.)

cf. Apollinaire on Duchamp:

“Just as a work by Cimabue was paraded through the streets, our century has seen Blériot’s airplane, bearing the weight of humanity, of thousands of years of endeavour, and of necessary art triumphantly paraded through Paris to the Arts-et-Métiers museum. It will perhaps fall to an artist as free of aesthetic considerations and as concerned with energy as Marcel Duchamp to reconcile Art and the People.”

(The Cubist Painters, trans. Peter Read, p. 75.)

variously noted

like bread made with chemicals to keep it from perishing

“I must add one more word on what it is to consume because the Western industrial world is famous for its ‘consumer goods’ and they are not at all what I mean. Again, the difference is in the form of the exchange, a thing we can feel most concretely in the form of the goods themselves. I remember the time I went to my first rare-book fair and saw how the first editions of Thoreau and Whitman and Crane had been carefully packaged in heat-shrunk plastic with the price tags on the inside. Somehow the simple addition of air-tight plastic bags had transformed the books from vehicles of liveliness into commodities, like bread made with chemicals to keep it from perishing. In commodity exchange it’s as if the buyer and the seller where both in plastic bags; there’s none of the contact of a gift exchange. There is neither motion nor emotion because the whole point is to keep the balance, to make sure the exchange itself doesn’t consume anything or involve one person with another. Consumer goods are consumed by their owners, not by their exchange.

The desire to consume is a kind of lust. We long to have the world flow through us like air or food. We are thirsty and hungry for something that can only be carried inside bodies. But consumer goods merely bait this lust, they do not satisfy it. The consumer of commodities is invited to a meal without passion, a consumption that leads to neither satiation nor fire. He is a stranger seduced into feeding on the drippings of someone else’s capital without benefit of its inner nourishment, and he is hungry at the end of the meal, depressed and weary as we all feel when lust has dragged us from the house and led us to nothing.”

(Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, pp. 11–12. Cf. Duchamp’s eau et gaz.)

recapitulating duchamp

“All right. The problem is that there is no new problem. It must awaken from the sleep of being part of some other, old problem, and by that time its new problematical existence will have already begun, carrying it forward into situations with which it cannot cope, since no one recognizes it and it does not even recognize itself yet, or know what it is. It is like the beginning of a beautiful day, with all the birds singing in the trees, reading their joy and excitement into its record as it progresses, and yet the progress of any day, good or bad, brings with it all kinds of difficulties that should have been foreseen but never are, so that it finally seems as though they are what stifles it, in the majesty of a sunset or merely in gradual dullness that gets dimmer and dimmer until it finally sinks into flat, sour darkness. Why is this? Because not one-tenth or even one-hundredth of the ravishing possibilities the birds sing about at dawn could ever be realized in the course of a single day, no matter how crammed with fortunate events it might turn out to be. And this brings on inevitable reproaches, unmerited of course, for we are all like children sulking because they cannot have the moon; and very soon the unreasonableness of these demands is forgotten and overwhelmed in a wave of melancholy of which it is the sole cause. Finally we know only that we are unhappy but we cannot tell why. We forget that it is our own childishness that is to blame.”

(John Ashbery, “The Recital,” pp. 107–108 in Three Poems.)

aesthetics into economy

“It was a question of pulling aesthetics into economy and of pulling the most rudimentary and fundamental forms of agricultural economy into aesthetics, and so much the better than if I was doing it with produce that came from lands that didn’t even belong to me. It was all in a tradition of dada scandal, the very same tradition of Duchamp’s Fountain, and it was a very very ambitious idea and very very stimulating, at least that’s the way it was for a while, there were absolutely no precedents for it either ideologically or otherwise.”

(Gianfranco Baruchello & Henry Martin, How to Imagine: a narrative on art and agriculture, pp. 38–39.)

the endless book

“In his designs for bookbindings and jackets, Duchamp often made user of the continuity between front and back: in the chess book L’Opposition et les cases conjuguées sont reconciliées, 1932; in the designs for Hebdomeros and Ubu, executed by Mary Reynolds, 1935; in the cover made for Anthologie de l’humour noir, 1940; in First Papers of Surrealism, 1942; in VVV Almanac for 1943; in Le Surréalisme en 1947; in Jaquette, the rejected jacket design for Rudi Blesh’s Modern Art USA; and in his own exhibition catalogues for Pasadena, 1963 (Bib. 70), and Cordier & Ekstrom, 1965 (Bib. 72). In 1922, Duchamp and Rrose Sélavy planned an endless book: ‘a round book i.e. without beginning or end . .  with the back made of rings around which the pages turn’ (Bib. 24, no. 66). This idea took shape as Some French Moderns Says McBride (Bib. 6)”

(Ecke Bonk, Marcel Duchamp: The Portable Museum, note 22, p. 162.)