19 February 2015

Digressions (Duchamp, death, mom's printer)

In this entry, I will give a quote about Marcel Duchamp and another from Tristan Tzara; then, after digressing a number of times, I will copy a second passage regarding Duchamp, and I’ll end off with the latest breaking news about my mother’s printer.

Obligatory Image

The above picture was created by taking scraps from magazines and decidedly refusing to arrange them in any fashion; then I photographed the result and saved its file on my computer under the title “hasty mess”. Now here’s a quote from Calvin Tomkins’ biography of Marcel Duchamp:

There were two kinds of artists, Duchamp said . . . “the artist who deals with society, who is integrated with society; and the other artist, the completely freelance artist, who has nothing to do with it—no bonds.” Speaking as an artist of the second category, he added, “the danger for me is to please an immediate public—the immediate public that comes around you, and takes you in, and accepts you, and gives you success . . . Instead of that, I would rather wait for the public that will come fifty years—or a hundred years—after my death.”

And here’s a quote from Tristan Tzara’s Dada Manifesto on Feeble Love and Bitter Love:

My dear colleagues: before after, past future, now yesterday,
that’s why you’re going to die.

The quote about Duchamp at once comforts and alarms me. Duchamp banked on acceptance to come in subsequent generations rather than immediately. Since I am alive to witness (and to participate in) the next generations’ acceptance of Duchamp, it helps me imagine that maybe my own artistic endeavors will one day be admired – this of course comforts me. But I am also alarmed when I consider how inharmonious this reward seems, in comparison to the amount of labor and care that is expended upon such ‘freelance’ creations. I say that the reward only seems inharmonious, however; because I acknowledge that perhaps being accepted by the ‘unbounded’ artists of the future is tantamount to being granted salvation by God.


I was going to continue writing down thoughts about the above ideas, but just now I got distracted by my domestic partner: she walked into the room and reminded me that she had scheduled an appointment for her car to be repaired this afternoon. Hearing this news made me anxious about the fate of her vehicle, and I don’t feel that I can continue to write down thoughts about art while events as serious as car repairs are occurring in our world. (Some vital organ of the car’s engine sprang a leak, and now its lifeblood—motor oil—is gushing all over its precious sparkplugs.)

Opening up the hood of a car is like looking into the chest of a human being. Why? Because the cover that attaches to the front of the car, to protect it against scratches, is called a bra. Therefore, when a car must enter a garage to undergo a repair, it’s no different from a patient being admitted into a hospital’s emergency room. This is why I ask you to pray for the soul of my roommate’s vehicle. Please pray that the repair goes well: Let the car enjoy a quick healing process, so that it can be released back into the wild.


I’m also fascinated by something that I heard when I was a youth. This has nothing to do with engines or auto mechanics – it just came to my mind while I was writing, so I decided to record it here. When I was just six years old, someone told me that the people who live in places where water is scarce, like the desert, must use sand instead of water to wash their hands. At first, this idea repulsed me; but now I think that it sounds nearly intriguing.


Let me say just one last thing before I tell you about my mother’s inkjet printer. I saw a movie recently which depicted the planet Earth as the filmmakers guessed that it would appear in the time before humans inhabited it. Or maybe it was supposed to be the time long after humans had ceased to inhabit it – I can’t remember: The point is that there were no humans.

The globe was lush green and bursting with life, like one huge springtime: there were herds of bison and reindeer ambling everywhere (I think the bison were actually prancing) and massive flocks of birds were soaring and chirping in the sunshine.

A beaver builds a dam. To do this, the beaver gathers materials from nature; and these materials are still considered ‘natural’ after they become part of the dam. Humans build a thermal power station with a nuclear reactor. To do this, humans gather materials from nature; though it seems less fitting to consider this result ‘natural’, especially when the reactor suffers a nuclear meltdown.

At what point does the natural become unnatural? At what point does a mixture of natural substances become synthetic? I love these questions, and I assume that Marcel Duchamp was enjoying similar thoughts when he created the painting whose title can be translated as The Passage from the Virgin to the Bride (1912):

Here’s another quote that I take from the Duchamp biography by Calvin Tomkins:

. . . looking out over the lake through a screen of tall pines, Duchamp talked about his idea of “infra-thin.” It had to do, in a decidedly nonscientific way, with infinitesimal spaces and subtle relationships. The space between the front and the back of a sheet of paper was an example of infra-thin, he said, and so was the sound made by his corduroy trousers rubbing together when he walked. The concept of infra-thin never surfaced in any new works of visual art by Duchamp—not directly, at any rate—but he kept on playing with it verbally for the rest of his life. It seems odd that Duchampian idolaters have not yet established a connection between this notion and contemporary developments in atomic physics, which had recently found a way to unlock the tremendous power residing in infinitesimally small units of matter. The morning after Duchamp talked about “infra-thin” on the front porch at Lake George, Denis de Rougement walked into town and brought back the newspaper, whose banner headlines proclaimed that the world’s first atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima.


Just as I was typing that last word of the paragraph above, my mother called me on the telephone – she was in a panic because her inkjet printer’s green light was repeatedly flashing. This light normally stays on, my mother explained, but it never blinks like this; so she became worried. In hopes of making it stop, my mother said that she even unplugged the printer’s cord; but the light continued to flash.

Although that last detail greatly disturbed my mother, my own first thought upon hearing it was to rejoice – for, since the printer’s light was able to continue blinking even after it had been disconnected from its power source, I assumed that my mother had stumbled upon a fluke in physics which will allow us to harness unlimited power; and this could end up solving our globe’s energy crisis.

But my jubilation was interrupted when my mom suddenly realized that her printer possesses two cords (she hadn't noticed this fact before) – one cord connects the printer to the computer, and another connects it to the electrical outlet for power – and she had unplugged the cord to the computer, but the printer itself was still plugged into the outlet: that is how the device’s light was able to flash, in seeming defiance of logic and physics, so terrifyingly.

So, at last, my mom unplugged the power cord of the printer, and the green light died.


Mom said...

Alas, the printer still has me in turmoil. I cleaned each cartridge and wiped out a lot of dust from inside the printer, and then it printed out 2 of the printing jobs. After that, it was back to the blinking light and no service. I enjoy your story but not my situation.

Tertius Radnitsky said...

Dear Mom, I really do wish that I knew how to fix this situation. The soul of my domestic partner's vehicle will continue to pray for us until we change its program.

Sharon Stone said...

These articles and blogs are truly enough for me for a day. eddm printing


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