Duchamp’s legendary languor

Marcel Duchamp five ways.

I’ve been deeply impressed by an academic article I recently stumbled across all about the legendary laziness of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968). His readymades—found-object sculptures like the infamous urinal “Fountain”—hint at this. Still, Duchamp managed to find the patrons to support him throughout a provocative career, while expanding the definition of art as a whole.

In his New York studio, the artist’s far out, laissez-faire aesthetic unfolded. One visitor mentions a shovel hanging from the ceiling. Another described the place as “a large room with a bathtub in the center which Duchamp used for his frequent ablutions, and a rope arm’s length away which allowed him to open the door without getting up.” The place was so dirty, it shocked Georgia O’Keeffe. “The dust everywhere was so thick that it was hard to believe,” she said. “I was so upset over the dusty place that the next day I wanted to go over and clean it up.” For his part, Man Ray found the squalor inspiring. Consider his “Dust Breeding” (1920)—a photograph by Man Ray of Duchamp’s piece “Large Glass” which had collected a year’s worth of dust while in the studio.

Man Ray's "Dust Breeding," taken in Duchamp's New York studio in 1920.

After  Man Ray took the shot (with a two-hour exposure), Duchamp wiped most of the glass clean, memorializing a few patches of dust by fixing them in a diluted rubber cement mixture.
“Deep down I’m enormously lazy,” said Duchamp. “I like living, breathing better than working.”