The pinnacle of Duchamp’s legend is the moment he submitted Fountain to the exhibition of the New York Society of Independent Artists. The exhibition, just like Salon des Indépendants in Paris, was supposed to be open to any artist, but the urinal was rejected. In some ways, Sunset Over the Adriatic and Fountain are two jokes with the same punch line. These open, democratic salons, however well meaning, couldn’t really be open to everything. The impulse of fumisme and later Dada was to poke and prod and offend until the invisible borders of decorum and good taste were revealed. Lolo accomplished this by having his artwork accepted to the salon. Duchamp, repeating the prank seven years later, made much the same point when his artwork was rejected.
At the 1910 edition of the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, a messy, muddled painting of a sunset over the sea was exhibited. Titled Et le soleil s’endormit sur l’Adriatique (Sunset Over the Adriatic), the picture was presented by the artist Joachim-Raphaël Boronali from Genoa, and was said to be a part of the “Excessivist” movement. The Excessivist movement did not exist, and neither did Boronali. Both were the invention of writer and critic Roland Dorgelès. Dorgelès and a few friends attached a paintbrush to the tail of a donkey named Lolo, a mascot and entertainer of sorts kept at a Montmartre bar called Le Lapin Agile.
Early in the hour-long film, “The Judicial Murder of Jakub Mohr,” the central protagonist, a patient in a psychiatric ward, shouts in Czech, “My words are not my own!” [“Moje slova nejsou moje!”]. He is on Kafka-esque trial for saying out loud what is visibly true: a series of wires—“Threads!” rebukes the prosecutor—extend from his back and connect to an ominous box, which is held by a man who in turn dictates in whispers what the patient says. At one point, Mohr lists to the jury in indignation what he has become: a gramophone, a radio, an instrument. He is something between human self and machine, a cyborg, his agency mediated by the state and psychiatric institution.
“There are often regulations of this sort for mechanical looms, as repeating yardage is an important economical component of the textile industry. But don’t those regulations sound like a writing prompt to you? It certainly did to me. The loom demands particular metrics, which one could also see applying to poetic form. Opportunities for the inter-poetics of writing and weaving have continued to reveal themselves so long as I’ve continued to seek them out.”
For me, September is a month for reflection. It’s when the peach fuzz of summer is only an itchy memory, and the cold, dew-filled apple orchards crowd my days: the last harvest of the season. Monarchs, birds, and other creatures begin to move to new locations, readying themselves for the deep freeze of winter, a season which will eventually cover almost everything living in white dust. It’s also the month in which I was introduced to Yoko Ono’s Acorn and ever since, I’ve been falling.