Faulty depth clues
in the bed provide the most obvious "shadow"
(analogous to a single circle in the sphere's projection) of this readymade.
Now we must find the others which will, like the series of circles in Poincaré's
projection, follow in a false and deceptive perspective similar to that of the bed.
But one immediately finds that it is impossible to simply fix the perspective.
You have to choose a part, the headboard or footboard of the bed for example,
and then adjust everything else to this choice as a set of projection lines.
No single perspective is correct or immediately correctable. We must select one part,
adjust the rest to it and create a new whole (see Illustrations
Using the footboard in A and the headboard in B (as my choices), all else
in the room shifts. Contrast 6A
with Illustration 2 of the original
Apolinère Enameled. Note the startling differences. Due to the power
of the false perspective clues, you have to fight your retinal vision and force
your mind to make careful comparisons in order to see what are, paradoxically, very real
and obvious differences that continually slip away from direct perception.
Making point by point comparisons, you will be surprised by how "stupid"
your vision is, and how willingly (lamb to slaughter) you go along
with the seductive power of false and ambiguous perceptual clues.
In order to see the differences between 6A and 6B in the clearest way, I made overhead transparencies of the original Apolinère Enameled and the two changed versions (6A and 6B). Then, two at a time, I held them up to a lamp, allowing the overlay to reveal the differences in locations of the objects thus revealing what is "corrected" from only two perspectives (6A and 6B). (One could play this out in other ways, by choosing the dresser top or the back mattress rail, obtaining very different perspective results each time.) For example, in 6B, where the headboard is the fixed object, note that the footboard dips below the picture frame, pulling the side mattress rail toward you. The dresser also dips slightly along with dresser's top left edge. The footboard version, 6A, reveals even more dramatic alterations, as the headboard and girl wheel over to the right and back toward the wall. The dresser, this time, moves up and out of the picture.
James Nazz, the computer graphics specialist who did the computer analysis for me, was amazed. In his efforts to put everything into a "correct" perspective, he quickly realized how "off" everything was despite how "correct" it looked. Upon further investigation, he observed that this effect was created by certain key alterations or "tweakings" made to create a correct appearance and fool the eye. What better test of a spectator's non-retinal resolve, and what better demonstration of the overt failure of the retinal could we cite, than the deceptive Gestalt of Duchamp's Apolinère Enameled. But this work represents only one readymade shadow from Duchamp's Large Glass machine. What about the rest of the series? Do the others similarly deceive our eyes and require our minds in order to see?
Before discussing the other readymades and exploring their important connection to both Poincaré's notion of "tout fait" (translated as "readymade" in English) and Duchamp's use of both words ("tout fait" and "readymade"), I want to mention Poincaré's notion of how the unconscious formulates our perspectives (see Poincaré, 1908, pp. 62-63; Schwarz, 1969a, pp.2, 88, 90). According to Poincaré, we do not live in just one single perspective, but "the aggregate of our muscular sensations will depend upon as many variables as we have muscles. From this point of view motor space would have as many dimensions as we have muscles" (emphasis original). Because we have so many simultaneous perspectives at any given time, all thes views are stitched together and only emerge as one after being chosen and integrated by the unconscious.
Art & Academe (ISSN: 1020-7812), Vol. 10, No. 1 (Fall 1997): 26-62.
Copyright © 1997 Visual Arts Press Ltd.
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