Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Descending a Staircase

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 by Marcel Duchamp

      Duchamp’s 1912 work was the most controversial among the 1,250 paintings, sculptures, and pieces of decorative art exhibited at the Armory Show of 1912. Conservative viewers were shocked and outraged by the cubist painting, which one critic described as “an explosion in a shingle factory.” With its combination of Futurist and Cubist style, Duchamp wanted to capture the movement of a nude figure using chronophotagraphy, a photographic style which incorporates several frames of movement and layered to together to create the effect.

"My aim was a static representation of movement, a static composition of indications of various positions taken by a form in movement—with no attempt to give cinema effects through painting. The reduction of a head in movement to a bare line seemed to me defensible.”
Originally, this technique was used for scientific reasons, capturing the movement of animals and humans, but it made its way within society for aesthetic and entertainment purposes.. Artists like Duchamp and Giacomo Balla took advantage of this new technology and adapted it to their work of arts, as well as German Photographer, Ottomar Anschutz, ,developing a technique to run faster through projectors, creating films for entertainment purposes.  

            This scandalous painting of sharp squares, resembling the nude’s gestures, the cubist stairway, has influenced a series of subjects from poems, paintings, and plays. One in particular that caught my eye is a radio play, “Artist Descending a Staircase,” by tom Stoppard. This audio drama revolves around an artist, who fell to his death from falling down a set of stairs. The question of the story is whether the artist, Donner, was assisted in going down the staircase, or fell on his own. Then the roommates, Martello and  Beauchamp, are accusing each other for the murder of their roommate. Who did it and Why? The characters come to the conclusion that the murder of the artist was caused by a pesky fly. This drama is bit similar to the famous mystery movie, “Clue,” but creates a more humorous tone to it.  

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