Sunday 20 March 2011

Poetry from Art at Tate Modern: Marcel Duchamp's The Large Glass

Tomorrow we'll be working with Marcel Duchamp's The Large Glass or The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, with the help of Octavio Paz's detailed description of the sculpture in his book Appearance Stripped Bare. Paz drew from Marcel Duchamp's extensive notes in a later work The Green Book. The language is a gift: "The Bride's names are Motor-Desire, Wasp, and Hanged Female, dragonfly and praying mantis..." and "The differences between the Bride's and the Bachelors' respective universes are vast. The Bride has a life-center; the Bachelors have not. They live on coal or some other raw material, drawn not from them but from their not-them..." (see below for a key to the realms of the two sexes).

I have long been drawn to this artwork, and it informed my practice when I was a sculptor. The version now on show at Tate Modern is a reconstruction by Richard Hamilton but I remember seeing it before Tate replaced the cracked bottom pane. So when I made a large glass construction influenced by it I incorporated cracks. Duchamp made this over a period of eight years then announced it definitively unfinished. The combination of his declared subject of the relation between the sexes and his "playful physics" makes its an endlessly fascinating study. Another source book for Duchamp's notes is a long heavy hardback Notes and Projects for The Large Glass by Arturo Schwarz, where Duchamp's original notes (in French) are scrawled like poems on the right and the English translation provided on the left. The notes, sketches and diagrams are an entire looking-glass world I can get lost in for hours.