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“Chacun son Marcel”? Plurality in the works of Marcel Duchamp

In this overview of the reception of Duchamp, the plurality of possible approaches is examined.

Bert Jansen
31 March 2015
Full text available in Leiden University Repository

I demonstrate that the cause of this diversity is primarily a result of the ambiguity of Duchamp. Dario Gamboni's conception of the artwork as a potential image allowed me to consider diverse views about Duchamp as complementary instead of mutually exclusive. Ambiguous images make the viewer aware of his active way of looking. The method I propose is similar to the "educated guesswork" of archaeologists and palaeontologists– an informed guess based on secondary evidence that supports a hypothesis.

This approach respects and values the claim of Duchamp on indifference and allows for multiple meanings of a work to coexist. That this produces a more speculative kind of art history seems consistent with the cultural life of the period around 1900 that is characterized by the desire for ambiguity.

Finally my ideas for a speculative art history will be put into practice, as I will search for that which has potentially played a role in the development of the works. Special attention is devoted to Duchamp’s language play, in which his ambiguous attitude emerges concretely.

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