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Revisiting the Vanguard: Duchamp in Buenos Aires

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This essay analyzes the effects of Duchamp's nine-month visit to Buenos Aires in 1918 on his aesthetic and then examines the revival currently underway to reclaim Duchamp for Argentine art history. Duchamp selected Argentina because of its remoteness, deliberately removing himself from the artistic and political climates of Paris and New York. While in Buenos Aires Duchamp worked on the Large Glass, among other pieces, and did not involve himself with the local intellectual community, but rather spent most of his time playing chess. Duchamp refers to the place of travel in his work as a “spirit of expatriation” and his production in Argentina is characterized by an aesthetic of dislocation. His voyage of self-exile culminated in his Unhappy Readymade, in which he instructed his sister Suzanne and her husband Jean Crotti to hang a geometry textbook from their balcony in Paris and document the book's deterioration. This transnational readymade denies the presence of the artist as creator, pushing the boundaries of reproducibility beyond Duchamp's previous readymades, which imbued found objects with artistic value. While the Unhappy Readymade intentionally negates the art object, it also displaces Argentina, paradoxically incorporating the country into the European avant-garde circuit through this negation.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2010

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