Back in Paris after World War I, Duchamp experimented with machines that produced optical effects, work he had begun in New York. When this machine is set in motion, the circles appear to pulsate toward the viewer. The copper ring around the dome’s circumference is engraved with French words chosen for the way their sounds echo one another: Rrose Selavy et moi esquivons les ecchymoses des esquimaux aux mots exquis (Rrose Selavy and I dodge the Eskimos’s bruises with exquisite words).
Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013
Curator, Ann Temkin: Marcel Duchamp often spoke of his interest in destabilizing vision. To achieve this, he made a series of optical machines meant to engage vision's less rational side.
Curator, Leah Dickerman: The rotary demisphere that Marcel Duchamp made is a kinetic object that moves with the goal of producing optical effects. Viewers were instructed to stand directly opposite the machine, a meter away. The spiral pattern painted on the wooden hemisphere when it was rotated, created pulsing sensations an optical effect created entirely by the eye. Vision is produced internally, and what Duchamp is doing with the rotary demisphere is creating a kind of vision that doesn’t have anything to do with what's out there in the world.
Duchamp created a copper cover to protect his painted dome, and he had it engraved with a pun. Rrose Sélavy et moi esquivons les ecchymoses des esquimaux aux mots exquis. "Rrose Sélavy and I escape from the bruises of Eskimos in exquisite words." Rrose Sélavy is Marcel Duchamp's pseudonym, a feminine alter ego that he adopted in 1924.
Ann Temkin: While working on the rotary demisphere, Duchamp collaborated on a film with Man Ray and Marc Allegret, called Anemic Cinema. This film is projected above. In it, he again paired rotating spiral forms with punning texts. In taking his practice beyond the painted picture and delving into a dissociated, cognitive realm, Duchamp explored the larger implications of abstraction.
Leah Dickerman: I think this is the legacy of abstraction, that vision is no longer tethered to the things in the world, and language is no longer tethered with fixed meanings.
June 18–September 11, 2006
In Paris Duchamp returned to his interest in precision optics—experiments with machines that produced optical effects—which had begun in New York. Here a dome was painted with an asymmetrical series of concentric circles and mounted on a spinning disk. When the machine is set in motion, the circles appear to pulsate toward the viewer. The copper ring around the dome’s circumference is engraved with words chosen for the way their sounds echo one another. "RROSE SÉLAVY ET MOI ESQUIVONS LES ECCHYMOSES DES ESQUIMAUX AUX MOTS EXQUIS," or "Rrose Sélavy and I dodge the eskimos' bruises with exquisite words.")