From Seminal Fluid to Sassy Scribbles: The “Non-Art” Works of Marcel Duchamp

Even after digesting this considerable amount of ostensibly transitory disclosure, Duchamp remains an unadulterated, irreverent enigma.

While his readymades are a triumph of pure indifference over taste, admirers of Marcel Duchamp continue to be far from indifferent to this cryptic artist. By offering more than homage, Elena Filipovic’s The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp, a fascinating and unique new archival-based book on Duchampian ephemera, surpasses the mere addition of hagiographic detail. Illuminating Duchamp’s often accomplished (if subtle) exploits, the book also offers a glimpse into the tension between art as theoretical inquiry and art as institution (what philosophers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer called the culture industry) by unveiling an eclectic and brilliant range of Duchamp’s innocuous, fragile, and fleeting projects. This is achieved through a richly illustrated and meticulously researched consideration of the fugitive art actions performed by the audacious person named Marcel: his window displays, art dealing, designing of surrealist shows and catalogues, promotional activities, administrative functions, and ambivalent curatorial personae, for example. Yet happily, even after digesting this considerable amount of ostensibly transitory disclosure, Duchamp remains an unadulterated, irreverent enigma — only a much deeper one.

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