on duchamp, exile, and chess

Tumblr_mifowqOhTM1s40s58o1_1280Thomas Chatterton Williams at The Point:

This improbable, practically monastic midlife pivot away from the demands and rewards of artistic production and toward the cerebral pleasures of this insular game both mirrored and anticipated the progression of modern art—the impulse being always to strip down and arrive at what is most essential. “Reduce, reduce, reduce was my thought,” he explained years later. “But at the same time my aim was turning inward, rather than toward externals. And later, following this view, I came to feel that an artist might use anything—a dot, a line, the most conventional or unconventional symbol—to say what he wanted to say.”

Duchamp’s sudden turn to chess might be seen as nothing more than this modernist impulse taken to its logical extreme. Though in the popular imagination we tend to think of the game of chess, when taken as a serious pursuit, as the domain of extreme nerds of the Bobby Fischer mold, in the figure of Duchamp we can see something much more romantic and daring at work. Chess, far from being some dry or merely scientific hobby, becomes a legitimate artistic endeavor in its own right—and perhaps even a purer creative expression than all of the rest. Duchamp seemed to conclude as much: “Not all artists are chess players,” he famously quipped, “but all chess players are artists.”

more here.