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    Duchamp: An Exchange
Essays by Francis M. Naumann and Donald Kuspit
 
     
 
Marcel Duchamp
by Man Ray
1930
 
Rudolf Herz
Zugzwang
1995
 
Marcel Duchamp
Nude Descending a Staircase
1912
 
Bride
1912
 
Bicycle Wheel
1913/64
 
Bottle Rack
1914/64
 
In Advance of the Broken Arm
1915/64
 
Paysage fautif [Faulty Landscape]
1946
 
[Editor's note: Last fall, as part of a special "platform-wide theme event," Artnet Magazine invited the critic Donald Kuspit to contribute a text on "the avant-garde." He obliged with an essay that took a critical look at the work of Marcel Duchamp, which we happily published with the title, Going, Going, Gone (readers unfamiliar with internet protocol are invited to click on the title to link to that essay).

Subsequently, the Duchamp scholar Francis M. Naumann submitted an essay of his own, taking issue with Kuspit's position, which we now publish below. What's more, in a departure from orthodox practice in such scholarly debates, we allowed the exchange to go on for a second round. These texts are published here as well, with the hope that the discussion will illuminate Duchamp's esthetic ideas and demonstrate his continued importance to today's art.]


Enough Is Enough Is Enough
by Francis M. Naumann

"Duchamp was a terrorist and so was Hitler." This alarming statement was made by the well-known art critic Donald Kuspit, who apparently misunderstood the intent and meaning of Zugzwang, a provocative installation by the German artist Rudolf Herz that consisted of a gallery whose walls were covered from floor to ceiling with black-and-white photographic portraits of Duchamp and Hitler. (1)

The juxtaposition of these two images was inspired by the fact that, as Herz discovered, the portraits were both taken by the same person, Heinrich Hoffman, a professional portrait photographer who had a studio in Munich when Duchamp sojourned there in 1912, and who later went on to serve the Third Reich as Hitler's favorite personal portrait photographer.

Zugzwang (which could be loosely translated as "Forced to Action") is not intended to establish any parallels between the lives of Duchamp and Hitler -- as Kuspit misread the work -- but rather to emphasize the surprising fact that the very same photographer was responsible for both images, a comparison that -- if anything -- was meant to emphasize the startling contrast between one of the most provocative artists who ever lived and the single most evil genocidal maniac ever to occupy a space on this planet.

To see similarities between the two is not only a careless misreading of this work, but, since Kuspit expressed his opinion within the context of a discussion on the subject of art and the Holocaust, he inadvertently trivialized the gravity of this world catastrophe, clearly not something he intended, but an inevitable consequence of such a vastly exaggerated statement.

For some years, Kuspit has gone out of his way to attack the work of Marcel Duchamp. In an article published in 1993 in the New Art Examiner, he begins by describing Duchamp as representing "the beginning of the end." The way he sees it, Duchamp's decision to stop painting was brought on by a conscious and deliberate repudiation of the physical and sensuous (esthetic) aspects of painting, the result, as he summarizes it, "of his [Duchamp's] spiteful admission that he could not keep up with Matisse."

He went on to describe Duchamp's invention of the readymade as "the residue of self-castration," his signature on the objects as nothing short of "a confidence game," causing Kuspit to question their status as bona fide artistic artifacts.

Utilizing techniques borrowed from Freudian analysis, he then posits the farfetched theory that what motivated Duchamp was his "profound hatred of the body (especially the female body), and ultimately of the human." He claims that Duchamp's two masterpieces, the Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, 1915-23, and the Etant donnés, 1946-66 (both Philadelphia Museum of Art) "represent an attempt to expunge feeling for the female body, and feeling in general, and the creative, imaginative expression of feelings conventionally disguised as animal expression."

Kuspit even goes so far as to suggest that the readymades are "surrogates for the female body, although some of them are undoubtedly hermaphroditic in unconscious intention." (2)

God save us from the amateurs.

Kuspit's Freudian readings of Duchamp are, at best, misguided, and at worst, ignorant. They are, in part, based on his acceptance of a false premise: that Duchamp could not paint as well as Matisse, and, therefore, simply gave up trying. "I think the readymade was born of Duchamp's awareness of his inadequacy as an artist," Kuspit asserts, "his way of covering up his lack of imagination." (3)

Nothing could be further from the truth. In my opinion, Duchamp could paint pictures that were -- in terms of quality and sensuality -- the equal of Matisse. A handful of portraits and landscapes painted in 1910, for example, as well as an impressive series of nudes from the same year, compare quite favorably to Fauve paintings by Matisse. And when Duchamp specifically addressed the subject of the feminine, he did so in a consistently perceptive and sensitive fashion.

I believe his painting of the Bride, 1912 (Philadelphia Museum), for example -- although essentially abstract and painted in the prevalent Cubist style of the day -- goes well beyond a superficial reading of its subject, but rather skillfully probes the inner workings of the female anatomy and, in turn, the essence of a feminine psyche. It could be argued that Bride, painted in soft muted tones of olive, cream, ochre and brown, represents one of the most precise and sensuous depiction of a uniquely feminine subject in the entire history of 20th-century art.

I am not for a moment suggesting that Duchamp was a better painter than Matisse, for to do so would be to vastly overstate my argument. I am only trying to demonstrate that, as a painter, Duchamp was possessed of a talent that was not dramatically inferior to that of Matisse, at least not sufficiently to warrant Kuspit's claim that he stopped painting because of it.

There can be no question, however, that Duchamp held a high opinion of Matisse as an painter. Shortly after he arrived in New York in 1915, he was asked by an interviewer to summarize his views on a number of artists, and he seized the opportunity to comment upon Matisse's use of color. "There is nothing that you can take hold of in Matisse's color, not in the old sense of quality in color. It is transparent, thin, perhaps, but when you have left his pictures you will see that they have taken hold of you." (4)

It was not, of course, Duchamp's paintings in either a Fauve or Cubist style that would place him in such a preeminent position within the avant-garde. Indeed, if he stopped making art in 1913 and never produced another painting or sculpture after that date (including the readymades), he would probably be recorded in history as a perfectly proficient Cubist painter, likely occupying a position at the top of a secondary tier (since only Picasso and Braque are accorded the status of true pioneers).

However, few have refuted the claim that his final version of the Nude Descending a Staircase is a masterpiece in the Cubist idiom, an elegant and skillful analysis of a female figure in motion, her nude body seamlessly fused with the cylindrical form and monochromatic coloration of a lathe-turned, wood chess piece. Having withstood the test of time, I believe that this painting -- as well as a number of other works produced by Duchamp in this same period -- are the equal, or, in some cases, even surpass the paintings, sculptures and drawings produced by any of his Cubist contemporaries.

The reason Duchamp stopped painting has absolutely nothing to do with the false rivalry Kuspit fabricates with Matisse, but rather, with a critical event in his life that was to have a profound impact on the artistic decisions he would make in the future: the rejection of the Nude Descending a Staircase from the 1912 Salon des Indépendants in Paris. The Cubist hanging committee -- which included not only many of Duchamp's friends, but his brothers -- felt the painting, since it depicted a figure in motion, could be too easily confused with those of the concurrent Futurist movement, so they asked him to remove it from the exhibition.

As I have stated elsewhere: "Important though this painting may have been in helping to establish Duchamp's reputation on both sides of the Atlantic, it was not the painting itself, but, rather, its rejection by his peers that would have the most significant impact on the future development of his work, a development that would not only represent a radical departure from his own earlier style, but one that would also represent a definitive break from the previously established and accepted conventions of the art-making process." (5)

It was this art-making process -- the system that allowed certain works to be accepted and others rejected (both as works of art, and within the artistic communities of their time) -- that Duchamp addresses with his concept of the readymade, not a simplistic response to the sensuousness of painting, as Kuspit argues. Of course, it is well known that Duchamp would go on to establish a disdain for purely "retinal" painting, as he referred to pictures whose only purpose was to stimulate and give pleasure to the eye.

If he intended to destroy art -- as some (like Kuspit) believe -- Duchamp made it very clear that this radical position applied only to him and his work. "I don't want to destroy art for anybody else," he said in a public symposium held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1961, "but for myself, that's all."(6) If Duchamp's actions destroyed art for Kuspit, then it is because Kuspit believes that Duchamp's ideas have so thoroughly contaminated the direction of the avant-garde that they have caused, as he entitled his essay, "the end of creative imagination."

Two years later, Kuspit followed this essay with another in the New Art Examiner entitled "Marcel Duchamp, Imposter Artist," wherein he attacks the artistic status of the readymade, claiming that it "is not a work of art, but only poses as one," and we only think of it as such because of "a pathological intellectual conspiracy." To put it another way, Kuspit seems to believe that anyone who supports Duchamp's notion of the readymade is part of some sort of international conspiracy to destroy art, or at least destroy the old esthetic values that he believes are essential to the creation of good art (good in so much as it conforms to his particular taste).

According to Kuspit, the readymade was just a joke that people took too seriously. "Duchamp may have wanted to set the spectator up," he writes, "but the spectator fell hard for the bait, and caught, the fish was bigger than Duchamp expected." Here again, Kuspit operates on false footing. If Duchamp was simply fishing, then Kuspit and his ilk are, unwittingly, the only fish to take the bait; if we can judge from their paranoia and the conspiratorial theories they blame for Duchamp's near-universal acceptance, then it is they who have swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker.

In order to substantiate his theory -- that Duchamp was an imposter -- Kuspit goes so far as to fabricate stories about the artist and his attitude toward his own work. "All along," Kuspit writes, "Duchamp was anxious and uncertain about what the spectator's response to his art would be." This is absolutely untrue. There is nothing in the artist's writings, personal or private, nor in his interviews or public statements that can be cited in support of this false claim.

Indeed, quite the opposite is actually true. Virtually everyone who knew the artist personally can attest to the fact that he was extremely passive and self-effacing, not only as a person, but also when it came to the matter of discussing his work. When his friends asked him about the readymades that were lying about in his studio, he would inevitably respond with a phrase that some said he repeated like a refrain: "Cela n'a pas d'importance." (7)

In dismissing the significance of his readymades, Duchamp avoided the inevitable issue of their artistic status and esthetic content, something which he claimed they did not possess (they were selected with what he called "esthetic indifference"). Engaging in a discussion about these works would only cause Duchamp to appear as though he were defending them, and he was intelligent enough to know that this was not his job. As Leo Steinberg once put it, "If you want the truth about a work of art, be sure always to get your data from the horse's mouth, bearing in mind that the artist is the one selling the horse." (8)

Duchamp was not, of course, selling his readymades, but he was certainly in support of the ideas that brought them into existence. A more effective argument would come later, by people like me who wholeheartedly support the work and the conceptual strategies that brought it into being. I suppose, according to paranoiacs like Kuspit, who cannot find a sufficient explanation for Duchamp's success, we are simply working on behalf of a worldwide intellectual conspiracy.

In a continued effort to dismiss the significance of Duchamp, Kuspit seized the opportunity to attack the artist once again in his review of a New York Dada show that I organized a number of years ago for the Whitney Museum of American Art. This time, Kuspit claims that Duchamp was nothing more than a mere opportunist, an artist who befriended his wealthy patron Walter Arensberg only in an effort to get rich himself. He even suggested that Arensberg embraced Duchamp's friendship for the same reasons.

According to Kuspit, Arensberg bought Dadaism cheap, on the "bet that it could sell dear." (9) Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Arensberg never sold any Dada works from his collection, which was bequeathed in its entirety to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Indeed, at the time of Arensberg's death in 1954, the readymades still had little or no value, and he certainly never profited from their sale.

Finally, to suggest that Duchamp made these works for commercial purposes is a purely reckless allegation, for which there is not a single shred of supporting evidence, since most of the early readymades were either given away to friends or discarded. That situation would certainly change in the last decade of the artist's life, when he reissued the readymades in an edition through the Galleria Schwarz in Milan. But even these works were not created with the intention of getting rich, but rather to make the readymades physically available, objects that could be strategically placed in museums to represent the radical concepts Duchamp had introduced into the world of art during the second decade of this century. In Kuspit's most recent book, The Rebirth of Painting in the Late 20th Century, it is critical for him to make a convincing argument against Duchamp in the opening pages. After all, even if Duchamp meant his condemnation of the artistic process to apply solely to him and to his work, it could be argued that with his introduction of the readymade, he did more than any other artist of his generation to question the continued viability of painting as a legitimate means of artistic expression. Since Duchamp once referred to painting as "olfactory masturbation," Kuspit launches into an analysis of how the physical qualities of paint are like semen. "Paint is the smelly liquid of lonely sexual discharge," he writes, "and to paint is the 'handy' means of bringing about the discharge."(10)

It is remarkable that Kuspit can even engage in this discussion without a knowledge (or seemingly so) of Duchamp's Paysage fautif [Faulty Landscape], a work from 1946 that resembles an abstract painting, but which was recently discovered to have been made entirely with specimens of his own ejaculatory fluid (a private gift for a woman whom he loved but could not have). Nevertheless, according to Kuspit, Duchamp wanted to put an end to painting because he wanted "to putdown his brother and sister," accomplished painters in their own right. Since Duchamp had gone on record to say that he wanted to destroy the old French notion that painters were stupid, Kuspit reasons that Duchamp must have thought of his brother and sister as intellectually inferior. "They must be stupid," Kuspit interprets Duchamp as reasoning, "because they are painters."

The logic in this argument defies comprehension. Indeed, could not the opposite actually have been true? Is it not possible that Duchamp had such a degree of respect and affection for his brother and sister that he wanted to destroy the adage of being "stupid like a painter," so that others would not regard his siblings as being engaged in a profession that was in any way inferior (even if he stopped painting himself)? Remarkably, Kuspit attacks Duchamp for believing there could be any credibility to this expression in the first place (a perfectly ridiculous accusation, since, of course, Duchamp had nothing to do with the fact that it was a common expression in France at the time).

Whatever Duchamp's motives, Kuspit clearly believes that the readymades represent the single greatest threat to the survival of painting, but, again, he is incapable of relying this information without providing a contorted psychoanalytic reading of his subject. "The readymade," he writes, "is Duchamp's way of overcoming his sexual immaturity, if only because, unlike a painting, it is machine-made rather than handmade."

As in his earlier writings, Kuspit suggests that this was Duchamp's course of action because he was rejecting his own corporeal existence. "In rejecting painting, Duchamp is rejecting the body," he writes, "and in rejecting the hand in particular he is rejecting the spontaneity and expressivity of the body, for the hand has the power of spontaneous movement and is inherently expressive." What exactly, I wonder, is Kuspit really trying to tell us? Is he for painting, or just against masturbation?

In an essay that appeared last year (first published by Artnet Magazine in September 1999, but recently reposted) Kuspit extends this argument to attack the entire notion of an avant-garde, a movement that he believes was spearheaded by Duchamp and which caused the progression of modernism to derail. He is not beyond naming names, listing not only Duchamp, Picabia and Picasso as "celebrants of negation," but also Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol, as well as a group of young contemporary artists: Rachel Whiteread, Julian Schnabel and Ann Hamilton. "Clearly, the avant-garde has ended or is ending, for me in a kind of redundant swansong of conceptual art," he writes, "a whimper pretending to be the last big bang."

In its place, Kuspit suggests something he calls "the new Old Masterism of New Objectivism," a convoluted term he applies to the work of Odd Nerdrum, Vincent Desiderio, James Valerio, Jenny Saville, Paula Rego, Brenda Zlamany, Julie Heffernan and Eric Fischl (which he qualified by citing "in his recent portraits"). I feel sorry for the artists he lists, for I believe that each and every one of them are probably more open-minded than Kuspit, and I cannot imagine that being listed in his roster of favorites is a positive step in the career of any serious artist.

Kuspit's article was entitled "Going, going, gone," as if to signal his announcement of the slow but inevitable death of the avant-garde. The title of the present article was selected to signal my announcement that I've had enough of Kuspit's misguided and myopic views of 20th-century art. I will never take a position against the artists he supports (although, personally, I do not feel any of them have made significant contributions to our esthetic or intellectual development).

By the same token, in his effort to rewrite history -- condemning Duchamp and all those who understand his work as having misunderstood his intentions (falling for the joke, as he puts it) -- Kuspit wastes the paper his articles are printed on and, for those that appear only on the internet, the valuable time it takes a person of intelligence to read them. Enough is enough is enough.

FRANCIS M. NAUMANN is author of Marcel Duchamp: The Art of Making Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Abrams, 1999.

Donald Kuspit responds:
Poor Francis Naumann, his overinvestment in Duchamp must be threatened. Worse yet, he has no sense of humor, not even a Duchampian one. How can one be a Duchamp fan without a Dadaist sense of humor? Duchamp would have agreed with everything I said about him, for he appreciated the participant-observer's interpretation and intervention, and in an interview with Pierre Cabannes suggested it made the non-art thing into art.

As for Naumann's "opinion" that "Duchamp could paint pictures that were -- in terms of quality and sensuality -- the equal of Matisse, the fact of the matter is that he didn't do so. As for Nude Descending a Staircase being "an elegant and skillful analysis of a female figure in motion," Naumann misses its comic aspect. To call it "elegant" is an overstatement, no doubt expected from someone who thinks of Cubist painters in terms of formalist "proficiency."

Beyond that, Naumann's quotations from my articles on Duchamp strips them of their very particular psychodynamic context -- e.g., Phyllis Greenacre's analysis of the imposter -- which distorts their meaning. In general, Naumann's essay is a tedious, pretentious -- altogether pompous, stuffy -- example of the academic approach to Duchamp. He has become a part of higher art learning, which is the kiss of death. To put this another way, he has become an academic cult figure, which is a fate worse than death.

Duchamp once said that a work of art loses its aura or emanation after 30 or 40 years, and enters the purgatory of art history. Naumann is one of the many scholars who are Duchamp's purgatory, turning him into a pathetic shadow of his nasty, funny self. Let's hope he makes it to heaven, if only to escape the farcical professionalism of Naumann, who must be a minor character invented by Aristophanes.

I think an anecdote reported by Hans J. Kleinschmidt affords a good deal of insight into Duchamp. In Berlin Dada, Dada Spectrum: The Dialectics of Revolt, eds. Stephen Foster and Rudolf Kuenzli (Madison, Wisc., Coda Press, 1979), p. 174, Kleinschmidt writes: "Duchamp's influence on artists in our time is well known and extends beyond the confines of this article. But there is the amusing story Sidney Janis told me about Duchamp as the most radical Dadaist of all. He had graciously consented to help design the announcement for the 1954 Dada retrospective at the Janis Gallery. When Sidney Janis showed Duchamp the final proofs of the carefully folded sheet with every artist's name in the proper place, Duchamp approved of the printing, said he liked it very much. He then took one copy, proceeded to crumple it completely in his hands and said to Janis: 'This is the way you ought to mail them'."

I think this behavior symbolizes Duchamp's destructive attitude. Art history may call it a Dadaist gesture, but human beings recognize it as contempt. It epitomizes Duchamp's malevolence -- his pathological negativism. (I am using "negativism" in the sense that Anna Freud did in her article analyzing it. Otto Fenichel adds that in negativism "resentment against the external world finds open expression.")

Woman is perhaps the most conspicuous target of his destructive negativism. It is subliminally evident in Nude Descending the Staircase and Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, and viciously refined in L.H.O.O.Q and the Etant Donnés. In all these works she is a victim, mocked and ruined. (It is worth noting that Mark Polizzotti, in his biography of Andre Breton, describes the Dadaists as "joyful terrorists" [Breton's term]. Duchamp seems to have become an increasingly joyless one.)

As Joseph Beuys suggested in "The silence of Marcel Duchamp is overrated," it is time to get beyond the sick Duchampian joke, all the more so because it has become a facile conceptual quip. It is especially decadent in its longwinded, scholarly Naumann version, where it looks like a petrified corpse from Pompeii, that is, like bitter shit.

Francis M. Naumann's second response:
Boy, talk about lacking a sense of humor. There is nothing I have ever read that is more severely lacking in humor than Kuspit's writings, this letter being a special case in point. In having said that I lack a sense of humor, is he suggesting that his various articles on Duchamp were simply a joke that I failed to comprehend? There was nothing in the tone of his writings that would have suggested this, but if I have misunderstood everything, and Kuspit informs me that it was all nothing more than an exercise in humor, then I shall promptly apologize, withdraw the comments I made about him, and try -- even at this late date -- to begin laughing.

In his letter, Kuspit offers nothing in support of his outrageous faux pas of once having compared Duchamp to Hitler, which -- no matter how you look at it -- is a regrettable and wholly indefensible action (citing an author who called the Dadaists "joyful terrorists" is hardly what I would consider adequate justification). A more sensitive person might have seized the opportunity to apologize to the people he offended. Even if readers disagree with my position, they will have to concede that such a flippant comparison was anything but humorous. And how can Kuspit have the audacity to claim that Duchamp would have agreed with everything he had to say about him? Does he really expect us to believe that Duchamp would have readily accepted being called an imposter?

The reason I attacked Kuspit's view of Duchamp is simple. Unlike most other anti-Duchampians -- whose opinions inevitably deteriorate to mindless name-calling -- Kuspit, in his series of articles, made what appeared to be (at least to me) a serious attempt to undermine the philosophical basis of Duchamp's art. This is something that Duchamp might well have understood and accepted (Thomas B. Hess did precisely that in an article that appeared in Duchamp's lifetime, appropriately entitled J'Accuse, published in Artnews in 1965).

But Kuspit's attacks are insidious, mean-spirited, and in the end reduce themselves to same low level of name-calling as that practiced by a host of other equally closed-minded critics who are incapable of understanding Duchamp's contribution to the history of 20th-century art (even though Kuspit claims that his use of the term "imposter" must be understood through the writings of a psychoanalyst).

As for my comparison of Duchamp and Matisse as painters, I do not wish to get into a pissing contest with Kuspit in an effort to prove one superior to the other (and said as much in my article). I only brought up the subject to make as strong a case as I possibly could to demonstrate that it was not Duchamp's rivalry with Matisse that caused him to change the course of his artistic career, as Kuspit has it, but rather the rejection of his Nude Descending a Staircase from the Salon des Indépendants in 1912. Since Kuspit ignores this point, I can only conclude that he must now agree with it.

If I am "Duchamp's purgatory," as Kuspit claims, then critics like him must represent an even lower realm of immortality. He cites an anecdote about Duchamp reviewing the final proofs for a Dada poster at the Sidney Janis Gallery, when the artist took one copy and crumpled it up. What Kuspit fails to tell us is that the poster was designed (brilliantly, I might add) by Duchamp himself. Kuspit has us believe that Duchamp was destroying someone else's art, which might well justify his assertion that the action "symbolized Duchamp's destructive attitude.. his malevolence, his pathological negativism." But as I wrote in my article, Duchamp did not intend to destroy art for anyone else -- only for himself -- and, of course, the anecdote Kuspit cites is a illustration of this very point.

His other claim that women are "the most conspicuous target of his [Duchamp's] destructive negativism" is -- in my opinion -- absolutely ridiculous. Everyone these days tries to be an amateur psychoanalyst, and although the practice might have some value in helping us understand a specific work of art, I feel that such a powerful tool can be genuinely harmful and destructive when placed in the hands of rank amateurs.

If we must evaluate Duchamp's attitude towards women, why not take into consideration what women who knew him intimately have had to say on this subject? Granted, for most of his life he was a bachelor and, except in one case that is still not clearly understood, he avoided any long-lasting legal commitments. But he certainly loved women, and treated them as equals -- intellectually, professionally, and even physically.

When I once asked Beatrice Wood how Marcel was in bed, fearing that I would never forgive myself in the future for not having asked that question (impertinent though it certainly was), she responded with a tribute that would be the envy of any sensitive and caring man: "All I can remember is that he was as gentle in bed," she said, "as he was out of it."

What more can we ask? If Kuspit sees the women in Duchamp's work as only victims, then I think we have no choice but to question Kuspit's psychological motives. Remember, Duchamp said that any analysis of his work tells us more about the person making the analysis than the work itself. These interpretations are "interesting," he said, "but only interesting when you consider the man who wrote the interpretation."

Finally, Kuspit interpreted Joseph Beuys' silkscreen sign of 1973 -- "The silence of Duchamp is overrated" -- as a criticism of the artist. Could it not also have been that Beuys was simply pointing out the fact that although most people assumed Duchamp was artistically inactive after 1918, in actual fact he was quite productive throughout his life (underscored by the publication of Arturo Schwarz's catalogue raisonné in 1968, which listed over 400 works)? Could it be that in this particular case, Kuspit missed the joke?

It's too bad that Kuspit concludes by saying that my article on his writings is "like bitter shit," for I'm afraid he's the one who has to swallow it. Now that's funny!

Donald Kuspit's second response:
(1) There is no "philosophical basis" to Duchamp's art. It's been philosophically interpreted, which is a different matter.
(2) Can you take Beatrice Wood's word? What does "gentle" mean in the context? And what's that got to do with Duchamp's representation of women?
(3) No doubt it is an ironic overstatement to compare Duchamp to Hitler, but it's also useful for a speculative understanding of both.
(4) Naumann's interpretation of Beuys' remark about Duchamp is Naumann's interpretation.
(5) Yes, every interpretation tells us about the interpreter -- we didn't need Duchamp to tell us that -- which doesn't invalidate the interpretation.
(6) Art is also an "interpretation," which tells us something about the artist.
(7) I am trained in psychoanalysis, not an amateur.
(8) Whether Naumann considers "joyful terrorists" "adequate justification" is his problem. The term "nihilist" was also used.
(9) Go look up Greenacre's concept of imposter.
(10) I have no more audacity than the audacity of the Duchampians who have turned Duchamp into a sacred cow.
(11) I have no doubt that Duchamp made a "contribution to the history of 20th century art." The issue is the nature of the contribution.
(12) Why does Naumann dismiss other artists, e.g., Eric Fischl, to defend Duchamp?
(13) It is interesting that instead of sticking to the issue of Duchamp, Naumann launched an ad hominem attack on me. He's clearly lost his scholarly cool. I take that as a measure of his desperation and emotional stupidity.
(14) To finish the attack: he should stick to information gathering not interpretation.