Thursday, October 16, 2003
I am friends with a French Art Historian and poet named Serge Fauchereau who told me he isn't so sure that the figure said to be a woman is a woman at all.
On hearing Serge's claim, (which I didn't first take as serious) I replied and protested, "But Serge, it's obviously the figure of a woman."
Serge paused, and in a reply that was as sober as it was serious, he said, "There is nothing obvious about Duchamp's Etant Donnes."
In a review of John Ashbery's Chinese Whispers on Jacket 21, I make an analogy between this Duchamp and some of Ashbery's poetry. The passage reads:
The experience of reading Ashbery also has similarities to experiencing Marcel Duchamp’s intriguing “Etant Donnes” (“Given”) in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Duchamp piece is an old barn door with a dime-sized peephole through, one spectator at a time can experience the work on the other side: a reclining nude with a gas lantern in front of a waterfall (a description that depends largely upon whom you ask). Many pass “Given” by completely, thinking that the barn door is the piece itself, and that there is nothing more to see. Much of Ashbery’s most successful poetry operates in this one-on-one way, encouraging readers to have responses that are as highly personal as they are contradictory.