Comment on the Large Glass
I appreciate Duchamp’s attempt to make works which are not works of “art,” but more of a state of mind or an interaction with viewers. He definitely succeeded in achieving this objective because people are drawn to it not for its visual beauty which traditional art usually possesses. This work has obviously generated long-lasting thinking, discussion, and controversy by people that transcend time and space. I have always been thinking about what role art should play in our lives. I agree that art should not be exclusively visual, but must also stimulate feeling, thinking, retrospection, interaction, and connection by and among people.
At the same time, this work confuses me. It does so even more after I read some of the analysis of the work including part of his personal explanations on what each part is supposed to mean in the Large Glass. Many interpretations of the work seem so inscrutable and elaborated that the underlying meaning of the work greatly outweighs the work itself. By merely looking at this work without knowing anything about the artist’s intention, one can never figure out on their own what the meaning and story behind it is. I understand that this work is not intended to only be looked at and to be pretty. But the disconnect between the work and its connotation seems to make artworks lose some of their raison d’être. The artist can simply write a book to express or discuss the subject. The artwork at this point only serves as an entry point that leads to more profound thinking or a starter for people to discuss something else, which would possibly be replaced by any other kind of art, words, or other things.
I also enjoy the subject Duchamp dealt with through the Large Glass. Relationships between men and women, romance, and sexual desire seem to be an eternal theme for artists or writers. The portrayal of woman by this work is a powerful and manipulative one as the bride is bigger than the bachelors and placed on the upper section, while the bachelors are passive and powerless. This may illustrate Duchamp’s personal observation of love, relationships, and his feeling about the role of the two sexes in relationships. But women might have the opposite point of view about whether women or men are more flirting, powerful, or manipulative in relationships. Or, different people just have their own take on this. I realize that there are probably a myriad of versions on how to interpret the Large Glass based on Duchamp’s notes. But I like the detailed and animated analysis on the Large Glass provided by the website http://www.understandingduchamp.com. According to its description, the Large Glass depicts the encounter between bride-to-be and her numerous suitors when female desire stimulates male desire, and fate intervenes in its outcome. In the end, the work is a look at the uncertainties of human romantic aspiration. It is interesting that the mysterious notions of destiny and uncertainty were brought to the work of the Large Glass, if they are among the things Duchamp really wanted to refer to through the work. I feel there is a lot of truth in his observation and sensation though his work looks a little crazy. Thus, this work does provoke my thinking on the subject matter it is dealing with.
Proposal 1：Handover of Keys and Related Objects
This activity begins with the hand-over of keys from one person to another person. With one person extending his/her hand, the other person first puts his/her keys in the other person’s hand. In response to this handover of keys, the person who received the keys gives the other person his/her keys in return. Or, he/she can give the other whatever she/he wants, for instance, something from his/her personal possessions in her/his bag. The pair continues this hand-over according to the previous thing they received from the other person. No words should be said during the process, so they try to express their ideas or words by handing over particular objects to each other.
Proposal 2：Breaking the Silence
This project involves several people writing down the first sentence they say each day. The final presentation of the project consists of their notes on random pieces of paper with the very common words that we usually say in our everyday lives.
In most cases, we are not conscious about the first thing we say during a day. My intention for initiating this project is to try to let us be aware of when we start talking everyday, how long we keep silence each day, how much time we spend talking each day, and how much time we save for ourselves to think, reflect, and meditate.
Proposal 3：Cutting Worries Off
The performer cuts her/his own hair and lets the hair fall randomly onto a piece of paper with glue on it. And the performer may stick the paper onto the wall.
Worries are always part of our life. Sometimes one has to learn to live with worries. Sometimes one has to cut something off, to give it up, in order not to worry about it any more. The concept of hair sometimes is used to symbolize “trouble” or “worries” in my culture. There a line in an ancient poem, which is often quoted in the present day, that describes people’s hair as “three thousand troubled threads.” However, aside from its traditional symbolism, cutting one’s hair off, to me is a sentimental, disturbing, and somewhat violent action to me.
Because worries will accumulate or grow back over time just like hair, one should repeat the action of “cutting worries off” after a certain interval of time, and accumulate the evidence of these actions that shows the changes of one’s hair and different positions it fall when cut.
Proposal 4：Kow-tow to Yourself
- Put up your own photo.
- Stand facing the photo, close your hands in front of body, and spray or make a wish sincerely.
- Kneel down and kowtow towards the photo.
- Repeat this action another two times.
I have seen people doing this particular kow-tow action all the time in all the temples around China. And I would feel embarrassed when sometimes I had to do it too because everybody who went with me to the temple are doing it. Kow-tow to me is related to emperors and feudal society of China or religious ritual that seems so far from me.
Having this idea of forcing myself doing the kow-tow to my own image just makes so many ideas and experiences alive and bouncing in my head. Religion, personal worship, tradition and self-love. I think this performance’s meaning could be explored in many ways.