[PW] Verifying Duchamp Quote

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com
Tue Nov 28 10:22:45 PST 2017


Elizabeth Barksdale wrote:
> My patron is also very grateful, but he's worried Newsweek isn't the most
> scholarly. I see where he's coming from there. I'll keep looking, but a
> general question for Garson and everyone else-- has it ever been your
> experience that sometimes quotes are possibly real, maybe hearsay, and
> there's not a sure way to know which is which?

Yes, the origin and ascription of some quotations remains ambiguous.

Marcel Duchamp famously submitted a porcelain urinal to an art
exhibition in 1917. The act of submission was transformative. Duchamp
was subversively asserting that the lowly object could be viewed as an
art object with the elevated title "Fountain" when it was embedded
within the context of an art show. The quotation printed in Newsweek
synopsized this attitude:

"Everything in life is art. If I call it art, it's art; or if I hang
it in a museum, it's art."

The Newsweek journalist credited Duchamp and placed the words between
quotation marks, but he or she did not give a source. The lack of a
firm connection to Duchamp lessens the quotation's credibility.

The book "Hemingway Didn't Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar
Quotations" includes a description of a misquotation mechanism called
"ventriloquy":

[Begin excerpt]
An observer examines the writings, interviews, and speeches of a
prominent person and develops a novel statement encapsulating an idea
expressed by that person. The observer’s crisp or elegant statement is
not actually present in the writings or remarks of the well-known
individual. In fact, it might even be misrepresentative. Nevertheless,
the saying is so vivid and memorable that others eventually reassign
the words directly to the luminary.
[End excerpt]

If the quotation is incorrect then I think it was probably constructed
via an act of "ventriloquy". In this case, the idea encapsulated in
the quotation was most clearly expressed by the actions of Duchamp.

On the other hand, the quotation may be correct. There might be an
interview or essay in French or English that I (and others) have not
yet discovered.

Garson O'Toole


> On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 3:59 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
> <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>> Great thanks to Marci Frederick who sent to me (and inquirer Liz
>> Barksdale) off-list the pertinent page scans for the Newsweek article
>> containing the Marcel Duchamp quotation. The article does not clearly
>> indicate how or when the quotation was obtained. Duchamp died in
>> October 1968; hence, he was alive when the Newsweek story appeared.
>>
>> Year: 1968 April 8
>> Periodical: Newsweek
>> Article: Dada at MOMA
>> Start Page 132, Quote Page 132, Column 2
>> Publisher: Newsweek, New York
>> Verified with scans
>>
>> [Begin excerpt]
>> By exhibiting such things as an ordinary bottle rack, Marcel Duchamp
>> revealed the surprising beauty hidden in simple objects. He inserted
>> marble cubes, a cuttlebone and a thermometer into a birdcage and
>> called the result "Why Not Sneeze?" "Everything in life is art," says
>> 81-year-old Duchamp. "If I call it art, it's art; or if I hang it in a
>> museum, it's art."
>> [End excerpt]
>>
>> Garson O'Toole
>>
>>
>> On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 2:43 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
>> <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>> > After extracting additional text and looking at more snippets I found
>> > what seems to be an article title: Dada at MOMA.
>> >
>> > Using the title to search for a bibliographic note I found the
>> > following:
>> > "Dada at MOMA," Newsweek (Apr. 8, 1968).
>> > (Visible in Google Books volume "Consuming Surrealism in American
>> > Culture: Dissident Modernism" By Sandra Zalman.)
>> >
>> > Hence I think acquiring the Newsweek article will be very helpful. It
>> > probably contains the quotation (verification required). Newsweek used
>> > the phrase "81-year-old Duchamp", and he was 81 in 1968 which suggests
>> > that the quotation was gathered in 1968. It may have been obtained by
>> > a Newsweek reporter at the MOMA show, if Duchamp attended it.
>> > Alternatively, the Newsweek writer(s) may have gathered it from some
>> > published interview, but I haven't found another interview yet.
>> >
>> > Garson O'Toole
>> >
>> >
>> > On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 2:00 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole
>> > <adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:
>> >> Here is a lead for the Duchamp attributed quotation.
>> >>
>> >> Year: 1968 (month and day uncertain)
>> >> Periodical: Newsweek
>> >> Volume 71
>> >> Issues 10-18
>> >> Quote Page 332 (Issues of Newsweek are not long enough for this page
>> >> number to make sense; it might be a wraparound error or a faulty OCR
>> >> error)
>> >> Database: Google Books snippet match; must be vierified with hardcopy
>> >> of microfilm; search for "1968" reveals snippets that are consistent
>> >> with the date
>> >> https://books.google.com/books?id=GhXkAAAAMAAJ
>> >>
>> >> [Begin extracted text]
>> >> He inserted marble cubes, a cuttlebone and a thermometer into a
>> >> birdcage and called the result "Why Not Sneeze?" "Everything in life
>> >> is art," says 81-year-old Duchamp. "If I call it art, it's art; or if
>> >> I hang it in a museum, it's art." Other Dadaists
>> >> [End exctracted text]
>> >>
>> >> Garson O'Toole
>> >>
>> >> On Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 1:29 PM, Elizabeth Barksdale
>> >> <ebarksdale at udallas.edu> wrote:
>> >>> Anybody have some ideas on this? I don't have immediate access to the
>> >>> th
>> >>> 2014 edition either.
>> >>>
>> >>> Question:
>> >>>
>> >>>  I am trying to find a credible source on the following quote, often
>> >>> attributed to artist, Marcel Duchamp:
>> >>>
>> >>> *“Everything in life is art. If I call it art, it’s art, or if I hang
>> >>> it in
>> >>> a museum, it’s art.”  *
>> >>>
>> >>> I have found a couple of references that cite as a source:
>> >>> *Calvin Tomkins, Duchamp: A Biography, p. 401.  *
>> >>>
>> >>> However, the 1998 edition of this book does not seem to have this
>> >>> quote on
>> >>> page 401.  There is a newer version of this text from 2014, so perhaps
>> >>> it
>> >>> contains the citation I’m looking for—I just don’t have access to it.
>> >>>
>> >>> The only other citation I have found comes from the following German
>> >>> text,
>> >>> but I have not been able to find it either—and I don’t speak/read
>> >>> German,
>> >>> which doesn’t help:
>> >>> *Wendt, Wolf Raine. Ready-made: DasProblem und der philosophische
>> >>> Begriff
>> >>> des asthetischen Verhaltens, dargestellt an Marcel Duchamp. Meisenheim
>> >>> am
>> >>> Glan: A. Hain, 1970, possibly on page 56.  *
>> >>>
>> >>> Is there anything you can do to help me?
>> >>>
>> >>> --
>> >>> Liz Barksdale
>> >>> Head Reference Librarian
>> >>> University of Dallas, Irving, TX
>> >>> 972-7215350
>> >>> ebarksdale at udallas.edu
>> >>> _______________________________________________
>> >>> Project Wombat - Project-wombat
>> >>> list at project-wombat.org
>> >>> http://www.project-wombat.org/
>
>
>
>
> --
> Liz Barksdale
> Head Reference Librarian
> University of Dallas, Irving, TX
> 972-7215350
> ebarksdale at udallas.edu


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