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|The Duchamp Society
by Charlie Finch
|Francis M. Naumann, Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Harry N. Abrams, 1999, 331 pages, $70.00.
The meeting of the Duchamp Society takes place on the last Thursday of each month from September to June, in a second floor apartment somewhere on West 14th Street.
The first to arrive is Fred Nummin, who then drops the key in an old sock to each succeeding member -- Faturo Shirt, Pelvin Bumpkin and Jim Beam are three of the more voluble (if contentious) regulars.
This reporter gained access on costume night, an annual winter ball commemorating Duchamp's juvenile marriage to his sister, by painting a landscape with the words "arcel printemps" on my forehead; but I dressed up in a fur hat with matching pearls, as my alter ego: Jose Tel Aviv.
Fred Nummin commenced the proceedings, "Before we spend a couple of hours dancing without musical accompaniment and playing chess, let us debate this question for two hours with one eye open: Why is Marcel's late work Objet d'Ard, 'a curved phallus?'"
"Because he had Peyronie's disease after fucking his sister too much!!!" screamed Faturo Shirt, while lasciviously fondling his date, Beatrice Alley, a failed painter.
"What I can't understand is if Duchamp spent every day alone in his apartment practicing chess moves and doing nothing, how was he able to travel to all those faraway places like Arizona and Switzerland?" wondered Pelvin Bumpkin.
Jim Beam then sold Fred Nummin an option to speak for one hour, and then called Nummin a horse's ass, and worse.
It was time for a snack -- a chocolate aspic confection for each member in the shape of nine malic molds, served by the butler, a stevedore from the Bahamas named Brawn Smelly.
"Smelly," Nummin ordered gently, "for the next meeting, bring me some dusty bons bons from Italy. We'll jack up the price and sell them to Jim Beam."
Faturo Shirt screamed again, "That giant sucking sound you hear is Duchamp's sister's vagina vacuuming up the world's currency."
All this contention made me want to go to the bathroom, preferably the ladies' room -- but Fred Nummin thrust me into the men's room instead, kneeling down to inspect the urinal.
"There's a price tag here," Fred said, "$1.4 million…hmm, I'd better start charging now. That will be $50 to pee, please."
I decided to pee on the stairwell for free, when a naked, transparent apparition descended the staircase.
"Call me Duche," the spirit softly said.
I was speechless.
"I moved in here long ago to get away from fellows like that," whispered Marcel's ghost with a wan grin, "and ever since they started arguing about me I can't get any rest. By the way, Picabia's in hell."
Suddenly, Faturo, Nummin, Bumpkin and Beam burst through the back door. Instantly, the specter disappeared.
"We're starting the chess, we're starting the chess," they shouted, "and the most brilliant ending wins!!!"
A voice behind me whispered in my ear ever so dryly, "which means they're losers, everyone. They don't have a cul."
CHARLIE FINCH is author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (1998).