The Secret of DUCHAMP
1 Gradual Progress
2 The microcosm of body
The Secret of Marcel Duchamp's works /2008
In the latter half of the 20th century, we can find the influences of the Zen Buddhism in the FLUXUS that was originated by John Cage’s thoughts and his works, and in Bill Viola’s works of video art. The movements were more or less influenced by Daisetu Suzuki’s lectures and his books in English version.
Richard Sheppard says in his book titled Modernism－Dada－Postmodernism (2000), that ‘ the Eastern writers who held the profoundest and most consistent significance for Dada were undoubtedly the Taoist sages Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu.’ The dadaists might be influenced by the Chinese classics translated to English or French in the end of 19th century, which are represented by J. Legge’s The Texts of Taoism (1879).
Arturo Schwarz argues in his book, The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp (2000), that Young Man and Girl in Spring (1911) is a turning point of Duchamp’s works. Noting that the basic theme of this painting is a metaphor for the struggle to produce the Philosopher’s Stone, he suggests that Duchamp’s works after the turning point might be owing to the alchemy.
Although Taoism (Daoism) traditions contributed to the development of the alchemy, the basic principles of the alchemy in China are based on The I Ching (the Book of Change) which is the most renown work among the Chinese classics. This paper attempts to prove that Marcel Duchamp’s works are significantly influenced by, and actually based on the Taoism. The notion of Taoism refers not only to the religion but also to the philosophy of The Lao Tzu and The Chuang Tzu.
I will proceed with my argument that Duchamp owed the concept of Nude Descending a Staircase , NO.2 (1912) to The I Ching (the Book of Change) . I will then point out the parallels between The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even (or The Large Glass, 1915-23) and the “nei-jing-tu,” an illustration of the “nei-dan” in the Chinese alchemy. Consequently, based on these observations, I will point out that not only The Large Glass but also Fountain (1917) and Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The illuminating Gas (1946-66) might in fact be based upon the “nai-jing-tu”.
1 Gradual Progress
It is noted in Marcel Duchamp (1999) by Dawn Ades, Neil Cox and David Hopkins that ‘From 1910 to 1911 Duchamp produced a strange sequence of paintings with strong mystical or Hermetic connotations,’ and that ‘Duchamp’s brief attraction to Theosophy, which brought together elements from both eastern and western religions, may well have been prompted by Frantisek Kupka, a neighbour of Duchamp’s brothers in Puteaux.’ After Kupka, Duchamp was influenced by the chronophotographic techniques of Marey. So the relation between Nude Descending a Staircase , NO.2 and the chronophotographic image has been argued repeatedly. The nude appears descending a staircase in gradual progress on this painting.
The I Ching (the Book of Change) consists of sixty-four hexagrams and commentaries. Each hexagram is represented by a unique set of six lines, under a name suggesting the theme. Individual lines represent yin and yang. There are eight possible sets of three lines. These symbolize elemental qualities. These eight elements can be paired in sixty-four combinations. The 53-th hexagram is named as Kien (Qian). In 1882 James Legge translated the first sentence of explanation for the entire figure of the 53-th hexagram that ‘Kien suggests to us the marriage of a young lady, and the good fortune (attending it),’ and commented that ‘Kien is ordinarily used in the sense of gradually; but there is connected with that the idea also of progress or advance.’
from Takeshi YOSHIZUMI, The Secret of Marcel Duchamp's works, ( New version:2008/Original:2004)