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Marcel Duchamp: The Afternoon Interviews Paperback – February 28, 2013
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These previously unreleased interviews, conducted in Duchamp's New York home in 1964, reveal the master at his playful, ever-provocative ease. (Sue Taylor Art in America)
A forthcoming book presents previously unpublished interviews with Marcel Duchamp from 1964 by longtime New Yorker contributor Calvin Tompkins. Adding to the veritable industry of publications devoted to the artist.' (Brian Boucher Art in America)
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Top Customer Reviews
In all of the art history I have studied, Duchamp has generally been presented as mysterious &/or inexplicable. His clear mind & sense of purpose are very evident in this book, as well as his playfulness & very astute sense of humor.
A must for anyone interested in the evolution of Modern Art.
Anyhow there are a few puzzles in the book, such as, why was this material been hidden for so long? The addenda to the slim volume fail to mention the provenance, though artist slash publisher Paul Chan interviews Calvin Tompkins about his long ago meetings with Duchamp; we just don't hear about it. Maybe Tompkins, who interviewed Chan himself for the New Yorker not all that long ago, stumbled onto these treasures in an old vase or attic and mentioned them to the young artist over drinks at La Cote Basque, 1965. But all of us were grateful that they are here for us now. Duchamp remains full of tricks, and so deadpan that some of his amazing provocations go unchallenged, and contradictory from afternoon to afternoon.
He grows irate--maybe not irate, but call it upset--only once or twice, when Tompkins tries to link him to one or another artistic movements--the Dadists, the pop artists, the Futurists, and Duchamp resists being put into a box and goes to absurd lengths and prevarications to escape categorization. Once or twice his resort to pidgin English betray anxiety, he speaks of people with good taste (whom he disdains) as "tast-y people," and any reader will find other examples, peculiar in such an erudite yet plainspoken guy. He can be quite funny and outrageous, but used I think by this date to hearing the words, "Yes Master" so often that he doesn't hear anything else. And then there's the question of Tompkins finding out only after Duchamp's death that he actually hadn't given up making art, and was busy for twenty years creating the sketches, maquettes, scaffolds and drawings of the "Etants Donnes." One thinks, if he could omit so smoothly the most important item on his agenda, what else is his bland, humorous tone keeping from The New Yorker and from Tompkins personally? And thus from us. I find it hard to believe a thing he says, and such are the lessons of postmodernism. As if to compensate, Tompkins argues that by the time they met (say, 1959) Duchamp had mellowed and warmed due to the influence of Teeny, his enchanting American-born wife who made life worth living for everyone she knew. He must have been horrid with a chip on his shoulder, but here, he's wise and paternal as, say, Walt Disney was hosting The Wonderful World of Disney.
In addition to the text —
"the enhanced e-book includes four audio clips, including three from the original 1964 recording of the interview and a never before heard clip of Tomkins in 2012 telling a short story about Duchamp."
Oddly, the three audio clips featuring Duchamp reveal sizeable discrepancies between his recorded remarks and the versions that appear on the screen. The most significant difference occurs on page 36 (page 45 in the ebook) in a passage about the formation of the Société Anonyme. In the audio clip, Duchamp remarks on what it means to be a “museum of modern art.” His observations on this subject have not been transcribed.
These discrepancies between text and audio are by no means minor—the meaning of everything in the book is altered through misrepresentation, especially since there is no introduction, let alone footnotes—no warning that cuts or changes have been made and what they might be. I purchased the print version just to make sure that this is the case with both. The book and the ebook don’t vary in any way, (except that there are no sound files included with the former).
It’s too easy to point to this as a weakness in the publication. However, I don’t want to, since, for one thing, it’s obvious. For another, it gives one pause to ponder how often this happens in editing, regardless of the medium. For whatever reason (space, relevancy) the author/editor made the kinds of decisions that take place all the time. The good news, if there is any, is that now we have a way, as never before, to compare a transcribed text with the original audio record (assuming that too hasn’t been edited).
No, I actually want to praise this project for presenting me with possibility. To be able to encounter significant discrepancies between the text and the sound files opens up enormous potential for interpretation (assuming one pays attention) that would not have presented itself if we were reading text in print alone.
My only regret is that I can’t hear the whole thing.