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optical experiments and anémic cinéma

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  • Rotary Glass Plates, 1920In January 1920, Duchamp made (again) an optical experiment with the assistance of Man Ray. Making us of the fact that the eye retains an image for a fraction of a second after it diappeared, he built a motorized machine, 'Rotary Glass Plates (Precision Optics)'. Segments of a circle were painted on five glass plates mounted on an electrically operated metal axis. Rubber strips connected the axis to the motor. The experiment was no success.
  • Three years later, Duchamp tried this experiment again, now using a turntable of a record player. He made a series of 'Disks Bearing Spirals' (1923) mounted on cardboard. This anticipated the spiral theme that would later appear in 'Rotary Demisphere' (Precision Optics, 1925) and in the film 'Anémic Cinéma' (1925-1926). The revolving disks produced a three-dimensional effect.
  • Rotary Demisphere, 1925The disks in 'Disks Bearing Spirals' (1923) were preliminary studies for Duchamp's (second) attempt to produce a three-dimensional film. This time he just filmed rotating disks, alternating ten 'Optical Disks', based on the earlier 'Disks Bearing Spirals'. Nine of these disks were inscribed by puns, white letters pasted on black cardboard disks.
  • Bart Testa: "Anemic Cinema alternates shots of moving spirals and shots of texts mounted on disks in slight relief. The texts, which we read from the outside inwards, involve complex word play that may, on certain if always instable readings, suggest to us a set of erotic scenarios. On one, let's call it a material level, Duchamp's film lives up to its name: it minimizes the element of silent films: words, then images. Duchamp sharply bifurcates the film viewing activity into two: reading words on a screen and viewing images, moving spirals, whose motion produces the play of depth and flatness that is a given of cinematic illusion. On another, let's call it a phenomenal level, the combined reading and viewing of silent films conventionally give rise to a third activity: our imaginative conjuration of a domain with all the space and furniture of a world. It is what film semioticians term diegesis. Anemic Cinema exposes, by its reduction, this third and paradoxically maximizing activity: our imaginary production of diegesis, which can still happen in Anemic Cinema. And the film does this, amazingly enough, by dismissing mimesis.
  • The language of Anemic Cinema, provided we catch on to it, provokes us to conjure the space of a diegetic world that it refuses to show. What it does show, between its spiraling puns, is the pulsation of those intervening spiraling abstract forms. To return, for a second, to 'Un chien Andalou', it is a film of superabundant mimesis, showing one mad event after another. It is also a film that notoriously renders constructing a coherent diegesis, in the sense of denotative narration, very unlikely. Both films engender a striking disturbance of the lexical function of text-image relations that, by the 1920s, seemed so secure."
  • TEXT CREDITS
    Bart Testa, Screen Words : Early Film and Avant-Garde Film in the House of the Word (2002).
  • FILM
    Seven minute film, made in collaboration with Man Ray and Marc Allégret. Ten 'Optical Disks' alternate with nine 'Disks Inscribed with Puns' Printed on the last frame of film: "Copyrighted by Rrose Sélavy [handwritten], fingerprint and date: 1926. Camera for Anémic Cinéma, 20.5 x 15.1 x 11.5 cm; in wooden box, manufactured by Ernemann Werke, Dresden [Germany] (no. 906383) inscribed upper right: Rrose Sélavy.
  • IMAGE CREDITS
    Rotay Glass Plates, 1920 [Yale University Art Gallery]
    Rotary Demisphere, 1925 [ ]
    Anemic Cinema Disk, 1926 [ ]
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  • FILMOGRAPHY
  • [bibliography] Experimental and Avant-garde Artists, Performers, and Film Makers : Early Modernist Film (Dada, Surreal, Experimental and Abstract Film).
  • Anthology of surreal cinema. Volume 1
    [South San Francisco] : Risqué Cinema; C.A.V. Distribution 2005
    1 disc, 65 mins. / black & white.
  • Avant-garde. Experimental Cinema of the 1920s and ’30s
    New York : Kino on Video 2005
    2 discs, 387 mins. / black & white.
  • The Experimental Avantgarde Series. Volume 11. Short Views of Cinematic Reality
    Brooklyn NY : New York Film Annex 1998.
  • Unseen Cinema - Early American Avant Garde Film 1894-1941. Volume 3 Light Rhythms. Music and Abstraction
    New York : Image Entertainment/Anthology Film Archives 2005
    7 discs, 19 hours (155 Films) / black & white.
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  • SECONDARY LITERATURE
  • Dada and Surrealist Film. A Bibliography of Materials in the UC Berkeley Library [General Bibliography].
  • Michael Betancourt
    'Precision Optics / Optical Illusions. Inconsistency, Anemic Cinema, and the Rotoreliefs', in tout-fait. Marcel Duchamp Studies Online Journal Isuue 5 (2003) [online]; available at <http://www.toutfait.com/issues/volume2/issue_5/articles/betancourt/betancourt.html> [accessed 25 June 2013].
  • J.P. Coenen
    'Marcel Duchamp : Anémic cinema', in Jaarboek van het Koninklijk Museum voor schone Kunsten Antwerpen (1975) 279-288.
  • Dalia Judovitz
    'Anemic vision in Duchamp. Cinema as readymade', in Rudolf E. Kuenzli (ed.), Dada and surrealist film (MIT Press : Cambridge MA 1996) 46-57.
    [Google Books]
  • Katrina Martin
    'Marcel Duchamp's Anémic cinéma', in: Studio International Vol. 189, no. 973 (January-February 1975) 53-60 [online]; available at <https://www.msu.edu/course/ha/850/katymartin.pdf> [accessed 25 June 2013].
  • Philippe-Alain Michaud
    'Marcel Duchamp : Anémic cinéma', in Dada / catalogue publié sous la direction de Laurent Bois à l'occasion de l'exposition Dada présentée au Centre Pompidou, Galerie 1, du 5 octobre 2005 au 9 janvier 2006 (Paris 2005) 358-361.
  • Annette Michelson
    'Anemic cinema', in Segnocinema No. 13 (May 1984) 17-22.
  • Annette Michelson
    '"Anemic cinema". Reflections on an emblematic work', in Artforum 12, no. 2 (October 1973) 64-69.
  • Toby Mussman
    'Marcel Duchamp's Anémic cimema', in Gregory Battcock (ed.), The New American Cinema. A Critical Anthology (E.P. Dutton : New York 1967).
  • Toby Mussman
    'Anémic cinéma', in Art and artists 1, no. 4 (July 1966) 48-51.
  • Dominique Noguez
    'Anemic cinema', in Dictionnaire général du surréalisme et de ses environs / sous la direction d'Adam Biro et de René Passeron (Office du livre : Fribourg 1982).
  • Tim O'Riley
    'Duchampoptics', chapter 6 of Tim O'Riley, Representing Illusions : space, narrative and the spectator in fine art practice (1998) 56-65; PhD Chelsea College of Art and Design, The London Institute [online]; available at <http://www.timoriley.net/content/still/PhD/phd11_TOR_chapter6.pdf> [accessed 25 June 2013].
  • Denis de Rougemont
    'Marcel Duchamp réalisateur de cinéma', in La Gazette de Lausanne No. 233 (5-6 October 1968) 32.
  • Arturo Schwarz
    'From the Beauty of Precision to Precision Optics', chapter 5 of The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp / rev. and exp. Paperback Edition (Delano Greenidge Editions : New York 2000) 52-61; images 390-401; catalogue no. 405, 407-410, 415-423, 424.
  • Rhonda Roland Shearer and Stephen Jay Gould
    'From an artist to Pro-engineer. Marcel Duchamp's Optical Disks, 1923' (s.a.) [online]; available at <http://www.asrlab.org/articles/rotoreliefs/rotoreliefs/rotohistory.htm> [accessed 25 June 2013].
  • Bart Testa
    Screen Words. Early Film and Avant-Garde Film in the House of the Word. Paper for Symposium 'Das frühe Kino und die Avantgarde = Early Cinema and the Avant-Garde', Vienna 8-13 March 2002 [online]; available at <http://www.sixpackfilm.com/archive/veranstaltung/festivals/earlycinema/symposion/symposion_testa.html> [accessed 25 June 2013].
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  • IMAGE CREDITS
    banner: portrait Marcel Duchamp [Photo Richard Avedon].