Black coffee. Marcel Duchamp’s pataphysical sensism
Dirk van Weelden
Dirk van Weelden (1957) author, published his first debut in 1987, after graduating in philosophy: Arbeidsvitaminen, het ABC van Bril&VanWeelden, together with Martin Bril. His second (solo) debut was Tegenwoordigheid van geest in 1989. He collaborated with artists, architects and photographers and wrote about their work. Apart from several collections of essays and stories he published novels: Mobilhome (1991; Multatuli Award 92), Oase (1994), Orville (1997), Looptijd (2003), Het Middel (2006) and Het laatste Jaar (2013). In 1999 he received the Frans Kellendonk Prize for his work. He was editor of Mediamatic (1990-2000) and is editor of De Gids since 1999. He is founding member of the Nederlandse Academie voor Patafysica (aka Bâtfysica).
Duchamp’s readymade is usually interpreted as a bold and cerebral emancipation of modern art from the material, the craft and natural beauty, and the discovery of the continent of conceptual art. Duchamp however was very sceptical and made fun of abstract reasoning, concepts and theories. This essay states that Duchamp ostensibly found inspiration with Alfred Jarry’s work and particularly his ‘neo--science’ of pataphysics, like many dadaïsts, futurists, surrealist did around 1910. And that he did so openly. Beyond art and the possibility of conceptual art lies the pataphysical, the vast and rich realm of the senses. Duchamp’s interest was not in concepts or ideas, his drive was towards the virtual, ambiguous, irrational side of perception. All we have is the senses, the unique moments, the unique objects and bodies, our memories, and what the chaotic abundance of information they give us means, is unknown. Probably nothing. Duchamp thought that all science, art, religion, madness, literature and philosophy are creative efforts starting from tautologies; he was no conceptualist but a radical ‘sensist’.