Tuesday, August 16, 2011

TREBUCHET (TRAP) 1917

From now until the end of the Tobias Yves Zintel show at MO David North on Sept. 30, I've given him the use of huntingwithsupermodels to write about whatever he wants. Recently I told him about finding what I believe to be Marcel Duchamp's Trebuchet in a little thrift store in the Catskills. Here's TYZ's essay on same.

THE TRAP

   In Duchamp's words: "...a real coat hanger that I wanted sometime to put on the wall and hang my things on but I never did come to that- so it was on the floor and I would kick it every minute, every time I went out- I got crazy about it and I said the Hell with it, if it wants to stay there and bore me, I'll nail it down....and then the association with the Readymade came and it was that. It was not bought to be a Readymade- it was a natural thing.....it was nailed where it was and then the idea came....."
-MARCEL DUCHAMP
from unpublished interview with Harriet Janis

In Osterhout's words: "I was picking around in this thrift store I like to visit and I spotted this nice coat hanger in the corner on the floor. It had these beautifully curved hooks that were mounted to a nice piece of oak. It was very well made and old. So I bought it and gave it to Samm Kunce for  St. Valentine's Day. But I was lazy and didn't bother to put it up for her, so it laid on the floor in the kitchen for months. Every time I went in and out of the back door I kicked it and muttered "One of these days I gotta put that thing up." Then one day I tripped over a pile of books at Samm's house and the top book happened to be a Duchamp catalog from his MOMA show in 1974.
  I sat down and started to leaf through the book. It was then that I discovered a photo of Duchamp's NYC studio in 1917. There on the floor in the photo was the exact same coat hanger. I compared Samm's with the Duchamp and it was the same object. I then screwed it to her floor in her bedroom."


In Zintell's words: When Mike Osterhout told me this story I thought he was bullshitting me. Knowing MO you have to take everything he says with a grain of salt. So after I was suspicious he took me out to Samm Kunce's house and showed me the piece. My God. It was the exact profile of the original. A lost Duchamp Readymade found in a shop? Could it be? I asked if he had found a signature? Osterhout explained that the original was only shown once and was never signed. In my research I discovered this was in fact true. The Holy Grail!
   Trebuchet is a chess term meaning to use your pawns as a rouse- to be tripped over. If in fact this is the original "Trap" two artists, nearly one hundred years apart, had almost the same experience with this object. But what of the signature?  The iconic FOUNTAIN- 1917 urinal was signed R. Mutt and rejected from The Independents exhibition in 1917 (the original also being lost). It gained fame as a Stieglitz photograph not a sculpture. It wasn't until 1951 that Duchamp redid this piece for a Sidney Janis show, of course re-signing. The signature was now all important.
   So this begs the issue. Is the found coat rack "Trebuchet- 2011" a Duchamp even if it is the exact object that Marcel Duchamp nailed to his studio floor in 1917? Is the "art" inherent in the object or the signature? Or conversely can the signifying be satisfied by Osterhout's discovery (tripping over) the Duchamp MOMA catalog and subsequent manipulation by screwing it to the floor. Upon inspection I found no nail holes, rather two screw eyes. Could Duchamp have mis-translated nailed with screwed? Or he could have bent nails over the screw holes. Such technical details are long lost and unimportant. Comparing the Kunce Trap to the 1917 photo it looks identical.
   My old professor Joseph Kosuth is quoted in the Duchamp catalog: "All art (after Duchamp) is conceptual (in Nature) because art only exists conceptually." I concur. I think Marcel Duchamp, if he were alive would enjoy this discussion. Obviously (no disrespect) this coat rack would be worth quite a bit more as a Duchamp, rather than an Osterhout. Yet I see the collaboration brings a fresh element to this heretofore rather obscure Duchamp  "Not quite Readymade". Is it a Duchamp? I don't know. Is it an Osterhout? Yes. Definitely.  Will it become something greater than the two? Stay tuned.        

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