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Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even

Marcel Duchamp’s Boîte-en-valise (Box in a Valise) brings together a review of his oeuvre including a number of works that deal with telepathy such as The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors, Even (also known as The Large Glass). Linda Dalrymple Henderson has shown how Large Glass works with telepathy and how telepathy is an integral part of his aesthetics influenced by Freudian psychoanalysis, non-Euclidean space and irrational automation, terrains ripe with telepathic phenomena and potential. Henderson details telepathy in Duchamp’s Large Glass through his work with imagery of 1900s electrical devices to parody gender oppositions through mechanical figures of the bride and her bachelors. Large Glass depicts telepathy of a ‘psi-borg’ orgasmic delay machine, with psychical animation and sexualised vibratory gadgetry. Duchamp deployed imagery taken from psychic photography or ‘psychicones telepathiques’ in the Milky Way figure.[1] Duchamp’s mentor Kupka was a psychic medium, painter and author of an art treatise called Telepathie.[2] Roger Lipsey says that Kupka’s notion of using mental transference instead of laborious art making illuminates Duchamp’s innovation of the readymade.[3] Duchamp had a strong interest in Freudian psychoanalysis, as well as the paranormal filtered by irony, and created many works exploring hypnotic optics. Reproductions of Duchamp’s work with telepathy in his retinal works with hypnotic spirals and his more conceptual work Large Glass are shown together in Boîte-en-valise, and there is a different kind of telepathy operating in appropriation that is aligned to mimesis and copying. Duchamp’s engagement with telepathy can be traced from his engagement with nineteenth century spiritualism and influence of Kupka, within Symbolist Expressionism and Abstraction, Cubism, Futurism, Surrealism, Dada, Fluxus, Conceptual Art.

 

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[1] Dalrymple Henderson, 1998, pp. 101-11.

[2] Roger Lipsey gives a good account of Kupka’s schooling in spiritism, seances serving as a medium in eastern Bohemia, which ‘he is known to have continued into his early adulthood and is said to have continued all his life.’ See: Lipsey, 1988, pp. 98-106, 99.

[3] Dalrymple Henderson, 1998, p. 103. ‘[Kupka’s] suggestion of … dispensing with laborious crafting of a work of art in favour of mental transference offers a timely parallel to Duchamp’s development of his first Readymades in 1913-14.’