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Back to Reviews 96

Simon Leung
A Call to Glory....
or Afternoon Tea
with Marcel Duchamp,

Antechamber, 1996

Door, 530 West
22nd Street, 1996

Pilgrimage, 1996

Packing Fountain, 1996

Calling, 1993

simon leung

at pat hearn

by Elisabeth Kley 
Since his appearance in the 1993 Whitney 

Biennial, Simon Leung has become known for 

his political approach to issues of 

sexuality, and in his recent show at Pat 

Hearn, he presented a reinterpretation of 

Duchamp from a distinctly Queer 

perspective. The exhibition consisted of 

two video works, a large walk-through 

installation, two mixed-medium wall pieces 

and two works on paper. The show's title, 

"Call to Glory...or Afternoon Tea with 

Marcel Duchamp," sets up a pointed word 

game. "Glory" refers to the famous"glory holes" 

found in public bathroom stalls and used for "tea 

parties," or anonymous sex in the gay 

sexual demimonde. In this context, 

Duchamp's notorious peepholes and doors 

(particularly his Porte, 11 rue Larrey, in 

which the two colliding doors that 

separated the bedroom from the bathroom in 

his Paris apartment were replaced with a 

single one that could be simultaneously 

open and closed) are given a new emphasis.

Leung's Antechamber is an alternative 

version of Duchamp's final and most 

explicit work, Etant donnes, now installed 

at the Philadelphia Museum. Peering through 

two peepholes drilled through an old wooden 

door, the viewer of Etant donnes is forced 

to become a voyeur. The peepholes reveal a 

brick wall pieced by a large jagged hole, 

though which can be seen the outspread legs 

and body of a waxy model of a naked woman, 

lying in a grassy landscape, holding up a 

lantern in her one visible hand.

In Leung's installation, a curtain hangs 

from an empty door frame in a freestanding 

wall. The curtain is stenciled with a 

photographic close-up of the peepholes in 

the door to Etant donnes. Years of oil from 

viewers' faces pressed against the wood has 

formed the shape of a face around the 

holes. Staring back at us from the curtain, 

it offers no view, but the fabric can 

easily be moved aside to enter the 

installation. Inside, a stool is placed by 

a jagged hole in a black wall, a copy of 

the gap in the brick wall of Etant donnes. 

Through it we can see a tiny photo of 

Duchamp's diorama, glued to the gallery 

wall. Though the miniature image can be 

touched, it merely stands in for the real 

thing. Antechamber is completely open, not 

only to the gaze, but to the entire body, 

yet it denies us the pleasure of Duchamp's 

palpable creation.

A second work, Calling, offers more 

seductive possibilities. Projected on the 

wall of a dark room, a large video image of 

a streaky surface pierced by a hole again 

suggests the wooden door of Etant donnes. 

Behind the hole, a huge mouth approaches 

and retreats, opening and closing. A vision 

of Duchamp's peephole as glory hole, the 

projection is an illusion, yet it is 

arguably closer to reality than Duchamp's 

nude woman.

In the video installation Packing Fountain, 

a videotape shows Duchamp's urinal 

sculpture, Fountain, being carefully 

wrapped and packed into a wooden crate. The 

tape plays on a monitor diagonally facing a 

mirror. Once a common object used in a 

public bathroom, Duchamp's urinal is now a 

valued work of art. The mirror maintains 

our distance from the fetishized urinal as 

we simultaneously are faced by our own 


For Leung, as in related works by Robert 

Gober, the anonymity of Duchamp's urinal 

becomes, through its reference to the body, 

a metaphor for acts of anonymous sex. While 

Leung's previous works include messages 

pricked into paper by hand, in this 

exhibition he concentrates on mechanical 

reproduction. The work is intellectually 

poetic and passionate, but it appears cold 

to the touch and the eye, avoiding the 

human warmth embraced in Gober's 

sculptures. Still, Leung insists that 

hidden human sexual encounters, 

marginalized by society, are actually 

glorious experiences worthy of public 


Simon Leung, Pat Hearn Gallery, 530 W. 22nd 

St., NYC, NY 10011

June 15-July 26, 1996

Elisabeth Kley is a New York artist who 

writes on art.