Ready-Made Originals: The Duchamp Model Author(s): Molly Nesbit Source: October, Vol. 37 (Summer, 1986), pp.

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a play of variation within this brute repetition: the industrial model is neither monolithic nor all that crude. bang-bang. the brand-name good. for example. the ideal of middlemen. basic. it is powerful. mechanical: it con* This symposium contribution has benefited from the careful reading and good criticism of Leila Kinney. There are. not to say the original. As ever. it deserves our attention here. "Mypoor children. hexagons.They made the great draughtsman [Ingres] say.Ready-Made Originals: The Duchamp Model* MOLLY NESBIT that it is in thenameoffree It seemsincredible instructionthat they comealong todaytoforand what do they bid us to see masterpieces. your tombstones they have placedyou before and thenforcedyou to copy them!"-Balze The modern model of repetition has been established well outside the avant-garde. Though we tend to consider this kind of repetition unbearably crude. Michael Marrinan. they have my thanks. for another example. There are. that dull fetish. it has nonetheless become the unwritten point of reference for all other definitions of the copy. The mass-produced repetition is not. There is. us instead?Cubes.tetgive rahedrons. the deviations and interferences made by politicians and industrialists to favor the development of certain sectors over others. and Andre Rouille. the historical shifts in what is understood by the word commodity. As a point of reference it is hardly abstract: mass production is a daily real. the group of them looking like a cemetery. .polyhedrons. essential. it must be admitted. It is usually called mass production and is recognized in the commodity. but we cannot take it lightly. more than a flood of exchange values. The mass-produced model of repetition has perhaps been forced upon us. cones.

pp. using another kind of culture to represent its interests. This made for a closed system. he saw it as social capital. like writing. Hachette. it was taught as a piece of the hexagone. as well as for the others I've just mentioned. Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith.2 Work.54 OCTOBER tains longings for individual greatness. 1971. compulsory civic knowledge. national cultures. as came to be the case. whose borders form a rough hexagon. special commissions. 1888. See also Fernand Buisson. rather than. 1882 and subsequent editions. 2. It was embedded. often with the help of the state." in Selectionsfrom the Prison Notebooksof Antonio Gramsci. integrated into a program of basic. The cycles of this curriculum led to another order of repetition. and taken as a language. Dictionnairepedagogique.a common sense. for its historical justification and summaries of the curriculum by the principals involved in the reforms. and it saw drawing as the salvation of French industry. it is rarely proposed as a model for culture to follow. The fairs drew attention to themselves like magnets. and trans. and chambers of commerce. . Paris." in Conferenceset causeries scolairespublies par le museepedagogique. with the Ferry reforms in public school education in the early 1880s. dreams of national prosperity. was the latent principle in the Italian primary school. and a tool by which one ordered visual experience. One was taught to regard this schooled knowledge as absolutely objective when in fact nature was being mastered according to a particular scheme of social order which was facilitating a particular idea of work. These variations make for a model of repetition that is neither very simple nor easy to use. This display of futures and goods provoked much debate over the way to industrial supremacy. then director of primary school education. they easily rivaled traditional forms of culture and in many ways brought on their competition's demise. it became law. in a slightly different form. Antonio Gramsci. Paris. 3. The debate in nineteenth-century France led. ed.3 It was taught through drills. 33ff. as Gramsci observed about the contemporary Italian reforms. London. Delagrave. from workers and management. 57ff. pp. where a social and political order was justified and justifying. ed.Mimoires et documents fasc. Fernand Buisson.1 A better instruction in drawing was theorized.. "Discours prononce a l'occasion de la distribution des prix aux eleves de l'Association Polytechnique le 24 juin 1883. somewhat surprisingly. the call came from diverse sectors. 4 vol. to a call for drawing. organized trade fairs. a wheel within a wheel. "In Search of the Educational Principle. in the French school too. Lawrence and Wishart. new culture of the patent that quite overshadowed the culture of the copyright. The hexagoneis a trope for the French nation. they claimed to exhibit the future. They exhibited models of modern. full of the latent idea of work. one designed to justify the nation and its industrial mode of production. pedagogiques. natural evolution of man. This happened in the nineteenth century. culminating in the world's fairs. Drawing was taught as one such given. and fears of loss. it displayed a culture for itself. They proposed a grand. At one stage in the history of industry. at the same time. au Cirque d'Hiver. said Gramsci. 1. 59. Possibly for these reasons.. when mass production. According to Fernand Buisson.

it also has in some respects its business language. and spoken. Classe 5bis. They wanted to guarantee an elementary. 1887. and architect's masterpiece. but that was not the educators' first concern. 2) come from Ris-Paquot's manual for teachers in 1887 and summarize the progression of the program. Paris. 5. 1890. 1. Denis. It began by teaching the student the straight and the curved line. Paris. Imprimerie Nationale. . and cut to fit a particular idea of the visual. a skill they deemed necessary for modern life. Conferencefaitele 6 avril 1882 dans la seanced'ouverture la session normalepour la preparationdes candidatsau certfiJcat de d'aptitudea l'enseignement dessin. massive.5 The tableaux illustrated here (figs. Paul Colin. Paris.Le dessin dans l'enseignement primaire. Eugene Guillaume. pp. 1883. "Dessin. one manual said. Paris. Rapport de M. for the next twenty-six years. Alfred Picard. The geometric language base installed by the Ferry reforms and taught by the Guillaume method could be built upon later for different professional purposes. St." in Dictionnairepedagogique. 131-144. 688. with minor adjustments. as well as a breakdown of the program according to grade. industrially produced model with which we began. Rapports duJury International de publies sous la directionsde M. But all this is but a single language which rests upon certain formal principles and rules. explaining that the entire world of appearances was built upon combinations of these two elements: they were the first letters of the alphabet. vol. who was fond of explaining his method as the instrument for the establishment of drawing as a regular language. In this secondary. aesthetically neutral. see Paul Colin. 1985. The language base they set up was primary. drawn. Jules Pillet. If it has its poetics. For an official appreciation of its success.4 These rules were grounded in and expressed by geometry. we can begin to fathom the deeper machinations of the original. "L'art a l'ecole?" in Esthetiquesdu peuple. Exposition Universelle Internationale 1889 a Paris. inspecteur principal de lenseignementdu dessin. these having a grammatical character. as it were. The official program is usually given du at the head of any manual for use by drawing teachers. he was not. 1. classroom repetition. ed. which is to say as yet unprofessional but still workaday visual language for daily use. Bibliothequepedagogique. Jacques Ranciere. sculptor's. like art or industrial design. they hoped that the entire population would be able to read geometrical and mechanical drawing. The drawing instruction was designed by Eugene Guillaume. The relations between the lines were studied too: the relationships. As he put it: Drawing expresses the most sublime notions of artists. p. Hachette. p. See also Christiane Mauve. how the broken line was extended into 4. however. were the syllables of drawing. Delagrave. artistepeintre. it is the starting point and the last word of the painter's. The program as it was instituted in 1883 remained in effect. silent. and at the same time it is a means of communication and a practical instrument used by the worker-artist and the artisan. promoting the teaching of art.Ready-Made Originals 55 to be read. 19. Enseignementdes arts du dessin.

. Fig. \ '1.. Ris-Paquot. Pl.Enseignement primaire. _ I yh f __ e - / " -: F. 14. . studyof trapezoids. 1887. _^. Pl. 1.1$ ': ' '" j F i- --- / -- '-* - ! 2 N. iY i:c .T . .i--r-i' |< \\ .&~'rl~: I ?~1. 2. .. / \ .% .../il Trcises !" )'.. 2. Fig. l '~'i!. studyof lines.

g. cylinderfromNouveaux exercises. Notebookbelongingto Henri Jeannotte. weight.Fig. 3. belonging . V. Application. 500 Fig. Darchez. 4. from samenotebook to Henri Jeannotte.

Robin Jones. the cone. 7 (this page). One can see the child laboring in the notebooks that survive. here Henri Jeannotte doing the lesson on the cylinder. and the sphere. and the sphere. 21.. which has a small but telling group from the period 1880-1940. 3). . how the combination into trapezoids led to the formation of watering cans and shoes. / II 3A4 h ~~~ O -3 Fig. Coffee ' "" . Rio deJaneiro.6 But mainly. cornices and T squares. when some drawing after nature was essayed and color was allowed. This was achieved by laborious copying in notebooks: by the repetition of the cylinder. " F with Fig. in plan and elevation (fig. use of the cube. The student went on to master the figures of plane geometry. Simple drawing after decorative ornament was tried but there was no drawing after nature in the raw. The geometry moved in its own sphere.i . Fig. forJeannotte at the point of the 500 gram weight. the cone. the surviving notebooks show conformity. 1920. 21. to ca. grinder teacher's grade left). . according to its own elemental logic.PL. Especially telling is the persistence of the Guillaume method even after the modificationsto the program in 1909. pl. and then to those of solids. Coffee Mill. 9 (opposite. defying all limits. 4).right). at times there was resistance. i . 8 (opposite. from notebook belonging Roger Chardonnet. The figures of plane and solid geometry led to instruction in perspective and then to the introduction of projection drawing. ^ '. in their pure form and in their other guises. not to 6. Ris-Paquot. 1911. UH C)- I__. when. on which mechanical drawing was based. CollectionMrs.. The notebook is in the collection of the Musee National de l'Education in Rouen.. he let a speeding car invade the page (fig. MarcelDuchamp.

and clearly identified with the croquiscote. there was perspective drawing and mechanical drawing. The projections and perspectives were critical. significantly. it cheerfully ratified the means and ends of industrial production. the lessons were extended: the drawing became ever more technical and exacting: there were copies after the antique and calculations of cast shadows. it was a language of work. The child was learning that there were two kinds of representation: drawing that imitated the appearance of things to the naked eye and drawing that revealed the truth of things behind the surfaces of appearance. Each kept a relation to the object. In the secondary schools. one could have a coffee grinder both ways (fig. These. the language base was hardly neutral. the human body could be drawn. in short. a language of industry. 5. insofar as it was a language for everyday use. The program continued. was not optical. 7). did the vases and balusters. . nonretinal. In practice. It was. the working drawing for the commodity. technical.mention an extraordinary skill with the very straight line. Once the student had passed puberty. The visual set of the program was colorless. but truth. It took the student through the architectural orders. were the limits in this visual common sense. that is to say. the blueprint for production. but never from life. and relentlessly geometrical. rather. and ended with the human head (figs. 6).

9). to be of sufficientpopular interest to become a fad. As Marcel Duchamp told Pierre Cabanne: My brother had a kitchen in his little house in Puteaux. Ron Padgett. 8). of course. which were named and prescribed in the certification for drawing teachers and repeated (fig. It was a sort of loophole. they were simply assumed.. It should be noted that the certifying exam for the teaching of drawing instituted in 1887 specified a set of objects to be learned and that the objects for men differed from those for women. trestles. flowerpots. and the knob is seen simultaneously at several points in its circuit.to twelve-year-olds who received it. I had opened a window onto something else. to do some little paintings of the same size. . rakes. of those commodities that were competing with art. 1888. It probably allowed the work on the forth dimension. Nouvelle Librairie d'apres classique. Leger's Balletmecanique. frying pans.. the gear wheels are above. Viking. in the fact that the generation of Frenchmen who grew up in the 1880s and '90s came to recognize merit in geometric abstractart. New York.Cours de a pratique perspectivevue. By and large. Leger. for instance. avec personne veutapprendredessiner que Paris. La Fresnaye. 31 and 37. It is best considered speech. . and. objects. though it would seem not 7. the kind of repetition that is called use. Le vraidessin. Dialogues with PierreCabanne. .8 In fact. Metzinger. dada. It was there I began to think I could avoid all contact with traditional pictorial painting . And with literacy came another order of repetition. without actually being specified individually. trans. Duchamp had switched into the neutral. like a sort of frieze. well as the ready-made. He asked Gleizes. Darchez. and the various manuals for teachers and students by V. and surrealism. pp. in the manuals used in the schools. see L. The full implications of the normative lesson on the commodity and its required geometrical form were probably not grasped by the nine.. Its assumptions reappear in Ozenfant's theory. with an arrow to indicate movement. This language in use does not take its textbook form. the objet and as trouve'. they came with literacy. utilitarian mode of representation that he had learned along with everybody else. Its presence can be detected. For typical examples. 1971. umbrellas. I think.. And it provided a base for French modernism. the coffee is tumbling down beside it. He asked me too. The arrow was an innovation that pleased me a lot-the diagrammatic aspect was interesting. Marcel Duchamp. It affected the way in which advertisers developed a mass-media image for the commodity. to use after World War I as it sought to make sense of the culture of consumption. pails.7 They were household objects and tools usually: tables.. Without knowing it. this elementary education was successful: the coffee grinder's appearance and being were registered by children and graded by teachers. The language is used in many corners of French culture. . 8. and I did a coffee grinder which I made to explode. dependent upon an understandingof projection.A l'usage detoute a nature ousansmaitre. or better. and sometimes it just popped out (fig. Malaval. purism.60 OCTOBER At the heart of the program sat the object of everyday life. and he had the idea of decorating it with pictures by his buddies.

Duchamp always chose objects that come from the same generic family studied in the object lesson. 11) and sometimes extrapolate from them. 10). Flammarion. a nonretinal dimension. at the very least. out of absurdity. They seem to have been plucked from a distant mechanical drawing in the mind. from the inevitable response to the shop windows. to remain self-possessed in front of the windowpane. commodities. But he tried in his answer to break away from the mandatory round trip. one with a technical. he lapsed into the language of industry. The notes for the Large Glass and the assortment of objects that accompanied its making are concerned to define and explore all of these things further. in 1915 he bought a snow shovel and named it In Advanceof theBrokenArm (fig. consumption can be demonstrated using geometry (Q.9 Consumption is predetermined. slipped back onto a ready-made base. Duchamp did submit to the interrogation and he answered back. Duchamp wrote in a note to himself in 1913: When one is interrogated by shop windows. Duchamp seized control of the dialogue dictated by the shop window: the model is taken out of circulation. Whatever his reservations about consumption. pretentions to language. hung 9. rather he used it against the interrogation by the shop window and its contents. and a reply in the appropriate native tongue.Ready-Made Originals 61 to have been a conscious decision. one is also pronouncing one's own sentence. Duchamp by no means reproduced his elementary education. 105-106. often given an absurd title. projections. 1975. The ready-mades and the assisted ready-mades sometimes duplicate the object lessons of the Guillaume method (fig. and cast shadows. a self-defense. Michel Sanouillet and Elmer Peterson. hiding the coitus through the glass with one or more objects from this shop window. Ecrits. Q. No obstinacy. nonart edge. pp. In the ready-mades. . Duchamp du signe. it moves through the loophole to the coffee grinder.E. a slip of the tongue produced one of the most common textbook objects of everyday life. the choice is a round trip. maintaining the points of view of the mechanical drawing.). ed. He took to symbolic violence rather than vandalism.D.D. In fact. Marcel Duchamp. comes the end of choice. From the demands of the shop windows. consumption is regrettable since one cannot avoid becoming possessed by these objects. The sentence consists in cutting through the glass and in regretting it once possession is gained. It is a variation that ends up as a repetition. As Duchamp abandoned easel painting. It was a logical move. though they carry the textbook example to an adult conclusion: they producethe object from the drawing.E. The coffee grinder is painted in cross section and from above. Paris. In this reproduction came a literal possession of the object and its language.

or fall obsolete. The language of industry was not dismissed out of hand but. Voloshinov. de le Paris. pl. it fits perfectly into Voloshinov's description of everyday discourse. This shovel will never be used. "Lediscours dans la vie et le discours dans la poesie"(1926). XLVIII. was a response to a condition of everyday life. Y. then. Marcel Duchamp. however. a horizon that grounds the empty phrase. tools. rather. in a limbo.Fig. bent. The ready-made. And yet. 11. Dreierfor the CollectionSociite Anonyme. As a response. where the banal comment gains its meaning from a range of unspoken social conditions. assumed and then subjected. it demonstrated Duchamp's literacy in the visual language of the quotidian. Duchamp was careful. 10. It was articulated through the visual set of the Guillaume method.N. Darchez. in Tzvetan suivi de Ecritsdu Cercle Bakhtine. V.10 Voloshinov's example takes two men. Yale UniversityArt Gallery. Gift of KatherineS. Todorov. MikhailBakhtine: principe dialogique 1981. 10. . Seuil. to point out that originally it was never a question of condemning the ready-mades to art. In Advance of the Broken Arm. Duchamp was not behaving as badly as little Henri. 1915. Fig. and effectively silenced. sentenced to an ambiguous zone of Duchamp's own choosing. rusted.

Nouveau cours de dessin geometriquea l'usage des eleves de l'enseignement primaire secondaire. 1896-1898. The copyright was a bluff. See Darchez. if suitably innovative it might be patented but never given the droit d'auteur. The design was given to an American carpenter to get this small-scale model in blue. another object-type of the instruction. L'Ecole Franfaise de la Pensee. the culture of artists. the snowfall. 13). Paris. and Lydie Marde a du tial. In 1920 Duchamp pretended to have done just that in the Fresh Widow (fig. banal thing that requires a native French speaker to get the non-dit. "Voila" (I have used a French translation)." 1904. Courspreparatoire l'enseignement dessin. The claim to copyright brings the interrogation by the shop window to a different halt: Duchamp has claimed a copyright for a window that is not only plagiarized but by definition not eligible for copyright: the window is an industrial good in the eyes of the law. 3 vol. So the design is repeated and manufactured like a model for a patent office. their interest lies in Duchamp's use of the language. the window is a widow. Duchamp subjugated the culture of the patent in no uncertain terms: by means of that one word. a design that reappeared twenty years later with a few details missing: the French has gone fresh. But with it. a succession of voilas. and it has been translated into English. It is an empty. The other says nothing. Duchamp's unpoetic monologue on everyday visual experience was strung out over the series of ready-mades. a perfectly ordinary response in 1915 to a hardware store on Broadway."1 Here we know that there is this very working drawing lodged somewhere in his memory.. a depressed "Mais oui. except to a monologue by Duchamp. Paris. like phrase. Libraire du "Moniteur de Dessin. The shovel is legible but closed: it is not a voila to be countered with another. Belin. It should be said that others besides Duchamp felt it important to master the Guillaume method. But if one knows that it is May and that the two. See Renee Pingrenon. presumably Russian men are standing by a window watching the snow fall before their very eyes and feeling a certain gloom. 1917. the panes are made of leather. If mastered. notably feminists. its language. In spite of all his efforts to remain com- 11. In themselves they say nothing much. The shovel is a voila. in it. he pulled the culture of the patent over into the culture of copyright. But this time around. a purchase. say. 12). Rose Selavy. For Duchamp is attempting to master not only the commodity but also its means of communication. De l'utilite du dessin dans 'existence lafemme. this one part of the required curriculum in the lycee by the time Duchamp attended (fig. the traditional culture.Ready-Made Originals 63 One says. the voila speaks worlds. he would have the symbolic means of industry under his personal control. By itself the voila is empty.Ridige conformnment derniersprogrammes des superieur. Duchamp has inserted a bona fide word that takes the visual language into another order of discourse: the Fresh Widow is declared copyrighted by Duchamp's alias. des ecoles normaleset de 'enseignement officiels. Paris.not even in America. It makes a joke at the expense of the French war widow. ." The shovel leads nowhere in the terms of everyday discourse.

The idea that he could seize control of the visual means of industrial culture was. he began to work on the Green Box and the Valise.64 OCTOBER Fig. of course. 1920. doing the kind of artist's monologue we have come to expect. 12. He fell silent for a while. The Museum of ModernArt. window. Dreier Bequest. This time around he was just plain repeating himself. in the '30s. Darchez. unperturbed. Marcel Duchamp. . By 1925 Duchamp seems to have realized that his monologue was powerless against the commodity. No. New York. KatherineS. pure fantasy on Duchamp's part. not even artists. the industrial model of repetition rolled along under its own steam and the snow fell quite unnoticed. Fig. misguided. And then. art became the only way for him to escape the tyranny of the shop window. Nouveau cours de dessin. 1896-98. Fresh Widow. behaving now not as an ordinary citizen but as an old master. Nobody except industry gets control over its symbolic means. monplace. Outside. boxed as a miniature museum without walls. reproducing his old notes and his old work as documents for the history of art. let alone its models of repetition. 34. V. 13.