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Elizabeth Manchester and Duchamp's Étant donnés

Elizabeth Manchester is a London-based artist researching on Duchamp’s work Etant Donnés. Here a summary of Mancherster's research:

"In 1946 Marcel Duchamp began casting the body of his lover, the Brazilian sculptress and notorious femme fatale Maria Martins, for the creation of his enigmatic last work Étant donnés (1946-66). Focusing on the spread legs of a headless female body made of stretched and painted parchment, Étant donnés presents a hairless and labia-less vagina that is strangely misshapen and deformed. My practice-led research examines this work and its satellite erotic objects, as part of a wider investigation into notions of deformity and abjection associated with representations of the vagina in twentieth century art."

About Duchamp's work Étant donnés:

  • The full title of the piece (in English) is: Given: 1 The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas.

  • It consists of an old wooden door, bricks, velvet, twigs gathered by Duchamp on his walks in the park, leather stretched over a metal armature of a female form, glass, linoleum, an electric motor, etc.

  • Duchamp prepared a Manual of Instructions which explains and illustrates the process of assembling/disassembling the piece.

  • The viewer of the piece first steps onto a mat in front of the door, which activates the lights, motor, etc., and then peers through two "peepholes" to view the construction behind the door.

  • The voyeur strains, unsuccessfully, to see the "face" of the eerily realistic nude female form which lies supine on a bed of twigs, illuminated gas lamp in hand. In the distance, a sparkling waterfall shimmers, backlit by a flickering light, part of a realistically rendered landscape painting on glass.


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