Monday, September 7, 2009


Étant Donnés © Marcel Duchamp

This holiday weekend's day trip took us to Philadelphia. We made a point to hit the Philadelphia Museum of Art and saw Marcel Duchamp's last major work Étant Donnés : 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1. The Waterfall, 2. The Illuminating Gas). Hidden even from his closest friends, Étant Donnés was constructed over a twenty year period from 1946-66 when he was said to have abandoned making art in favor of playing chess. As you look through the tiny peepholes in the solid and heavy wooden door, you are brought into another world, where you were more than just being a voyeur. The erotic figure set amidst a dream-like background drew myticism, curiosity and a yearning to get closer, if not become a part of it. The Phila Museum houses the largest collection of Duchamp's work, Étant Donnés became part of the permanent collection shortly after his death. Though there was no written words about the work and no formal dialogue, he left a detailed and illustrated manual of its assemblage.

Untitled (Medical Specimen) 1996, © Steven Katzman

We also visited the infamous Mutter Musem, dedicated to anatomy and human medical anomalies. There we saw the evolution of surgical practice and forensic science, human skin-bound books, conjoined twin fetuses, fetal development, wax models of skin diseases, venereal diseases, growth abnormalities, genetic disorders, fallopian tubes, and much much more! Definitely one of the coolest museums out there. We stumbled upon the above photograph in the museum's collection made by good friend and mentor Steven Katzman. A most pleasant and relevant find!

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