Go See – Chexbres, Switzerland – Marcel Duchamp and the Forestay Waterfall through June 13, 2010

May 25th, 2010

On May 6, a multidisciplinary art festival dedicated to Marchel Duchamp and the creation of his latest and most mysterious masterpiece Etant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage opened in Chexbres, Switzerland.  The festival is presented by the Association Kunsthalle Marcel Duchamp, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Museum of Art and ECAL/University of Art and Design, Lausanne.  The floor will be given to the internationally most renowned Duchamp experts who will speak about the Forestay, the Lavaux-Region, Etant donnés and the reception of Marcel Duchamp by contemporary artists.

Etant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage by Marcel Duchamp via Artdaily

More text and images after the jump…

In August 1946 Marcel Duchamp spent a few days at the Bellevue Hotel near Chexbres (today, Le Baron Tavernier). During his stay he discovered the Forestay waterfall.  The waterfall inspired Duchamp to produce Etant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage” (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas). It is a tableau, visible only through a pair of peep holes (one for each eye) in a wooden door, of a nude woman lying on her back with her face hidden and legs spread holding a gas lamp in the air in one hand against a landscape backdrop. The festival and the symposium will go on until June 13. It is composed of an old wooden door, bricks, velvet, twigs, a female form made of leather, glass, linoleum, an assortment of lights, a landscape composed of hand-painted and photographed elements, and an electric motor housed in a biscuit tin which rotates a perforated disc. Sculptor Maria Martins, Duchamp’s girlfriend from 1946 to 1951, served as the model for the female figure in the piece. Duchamp created the piece from 1946 to 1966 in complete secrecy in his studio in Greenwich Village, New York. The artist enlarged the prints of the photograph taken near the waterfall, cut them up, and re-arranged them eliminating any evidence of buildings.  After printing it on cloth, he colored it with paint and silk.

The original of the photograph taken by Duchamp in Switzerland via NYTimes

The waterfall with the telltale name Le Forestay (forêt/forest/forst ➝ the woody) is topographically so much embedded into the surrounding landscape that it does not only spring forth from between two clearly accentuated flanks (thighs) but is also visible from the hotel through the trees, which has been said to resemble a vagina through pubic hair.

The nude in Duchamp’s work is pieced together from casts of the body of the sculptor Maria Martins, with whom the artist had a continious relationship while producing the masterpiece via NYTimes

The second woman engaged into the production was Duchamp’s second wife, Alexina Teeny. It is the cast of her hand that holds the lamp in the painting. via NYTimes

Visitors at the Philadelphia Museum of Art admiring the masterpiece through a hole at the door via NYTimes

It was not until Duchamp’s death in 1968 until the piece was went on public display at  the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Interestingly enough, the Bellevue Hotel offers a direct view onto the township of La Tour-de-Peilz where the renowned 19th Century French painter  Gustave Courbet spent the last years of his life and created the famous painting L’Origine du monde (Origin of the World) which is said to be the immediate source of inspiration for Duchamp’s Etant donnés installation.

Origins of the World by Gustave Courbet, 1866

Henri-Robert-Marcel Duchamp was born July 28, 1887, near Blainville, France. Starting out as a Post-Impressionist painter whose first works were exhibited in  1909 at the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne in Paris, Duchamp experimented with Cubism, Dada and Surrealism, becoming one of the major artistic figures of the 20th Century. Among his inventions are iconic readymades- common objects, sometimes altered, presented as works of art—which had a revolutionary impact upon many painters and sculptors.  He died October 2, 1968, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France. The Philadelphia Museum of Art holds the majority of Marcel Duchamp’s artistic legacy.

Related Links:
Exhibition and Symposium Celebrate Marcel Duchamp’s Great Masterpiece [ArtDaily]
Marcel Duchamp and Forestay Waterfall [e-flux]
Making Sense of Marcel Duchamp [Understanding Marcel Duchamp]
Marcel Duchamp “Étant donnés” at the Philadelphia Museum of the Art [Art Observed]
Landscape of Eros [ The New York Times]