leiris on duchamp


October publishes a translation of an essay on Marcel Duchamp by Michel Leiris. In the passage below he’s talking about The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even. The rest of the essay is available as a pdf.

A work such as this—a veritable Pandora’s box which one manipulates at one’s own peril—needs to be approached not from the classic point of view of form and substance, but rather, strictly speaking, from that of container and contained. Our critical task will therefore consist of making a rapid inventory of its contents and then of demonstrating, should the verdict prove positive, that there is a necessary relationship between container and contained. To begin with, one has to realize that Duchamp—initially one of the most talented of the so-called “Cubist” painters—has, like a number of other innovators of his period, set himself several problems having to do with the legitimacy of representation (the role of perspective, the discovery of methods that would be just as—or more—valid than perspective in order to move from the three dimensions of an object to its figuration on a surface, the role of colors, of light, etc.), but that instead of more or less academically resolving these problems, he has come up with his very own method, an “ironism of affirmation” that is quite different from the “negative