Listening to Art

07.02: Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel

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Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume seven, number two: Bicycle Wheel by Marcel Duchamp.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

This is the second of three recordings of reproductions of the same work by Marcel Duchamp, the greatest artist of the twentieth century.

I quote a letter Duchamp wrote to art critic Guy Weelen on 26 June 1955. This is taken from Affectionately, Marcel: The Selected Correspondence of Marcel Duchamp, edited by Francis M. Naumann and Hector Obalk and translated by Jill Taylor (pp. 345–346):

Dear Weelen

Sorry to hear you lost my first paper. My recollections as to the apparition of a bicycle wheel mounted on a kitchen stool in my studio in 1913 are too vague and can only be treated as a posteriori reflections. I only remember that the atmosphere created by this intermittent movement was something analogous to the dancing flames of a log fire. It was as if in homage to the useless aspect of something generally used to other ends. In fact, it was a ready made “before the event” as the word only came to me in 1914. I probably accepted the movement of the wheel very gladly as an antidote to the habitual movement of the individual around the contemplated object.

In haste, sincerely yours, Marcel Duchamp

An editorial note corrects Duchamp’s 1914 to 1915.

This is a sculpture, bicycle fork with wheel mounted on a painted wooden stool, fitting in a volume roughly 64 cm wide, 126 cm high and 31 cm deep.

Now let’s listen to Bicycle Wheel by Marcel Duchamp, recorded at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, in Rome, on 01 June 2018.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was Bicycle Wheel by Marcel Duchamp. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

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All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

Duchamp, Marcel. Affectionately, Marcel: The Selected Correspondence of Marcel Duchamp. Edited by Francis M. Naumann and Hector Obalk. Translated by Jill Taylor. Ghent: Ludion Press, 2000.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Bicycle Wheel,”

⸻, s.v. “Marcel Duchamp,”