Listening to Art, by William Denton.
Volume twelve, number eleven: In Advance of the Broken Arm by Marcel Duchamp.
Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.
In this volume we hear the second of three retrospectives of recordings of works by Marcel Duchamp, the greatest artist of the twentieth century.
In volume twelve number nine, Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire, I noted we had heard it five times before, and said, “It is the single work heard most often in Listening to Art.” We have also heard In Advance of the Broken Arm five times before, but these were four different reproductions in four different locations. In volume one number one we heard it at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, in volume one number two at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, in volume two number five at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, in volume four number twelve at the National Gallery of Canada again, and in volume seven number nine at the Musée National d’Art Moderne in Paris. It is this last one we will hear again now.
I quote from the new edition of Marcel Duchamp, by Dawn Ades, Neil Cox and David Hopkins, in Thames & Hudson’s World of Art series (pp. 135–136):
In Advance of the Broken Arm (1915) is yet again slightly different in the way it has been executed and in its mood. The object itself has not been modified at all, but Duchamp has added for the first time an inscription, to provide what he called “verbal colour.” To the inscription “In Advance of the Broken Arm” Duchamp added the phrase “[from] Marcel Duchamp” (recalling his instruction to his sister for Bottle Dryer), a subtle adjustment since it was not made by him. He also set this and other readymades in an unusual context by suspending them from the ceiling, as a photograph of his New York studio shows. In this way he not only gave the object a “new thought,” as he proposed with Fountain, but also escaped “from [the] conformity,” as he told Arturo Schwarz, that demanded “works of art be hung on the wall or presented on easels.”
The vital question is whether readymades are works of art, and the answer obviously depends on how art itself is understood. Duchamp responded in his BBC radio interview from 1959, when he was asked whether there was any way in which we can think of a readymade as a work of art:
That is the very difficult point, because art first has to be defined. Alright, can we try to define art? We have tried, everybody has tried and in every century there is a new definition of art. Meaning that there is no essential, no one essential [definition], that is good for all centuries. So if we accept the idea of trying not to define art, which is a very legitimate conception, then the readymade can be seen as a sort of irony, because it says here it is, a thing that I call art, I didn’t even make it myself. As we know art etymologically speaking means to “make,” “hand make,” and there instead of making, I take it readymade. So it was a form of denying the possibility of defining art.
This is a sculpture, made of wood and galvanized steel, fitting into a volume roughly 35 cm wide, 135 cm high and 12 cm deep.
Now let’s listen to In Advance of the Broken Arm by Marcel Duchamp, recorded at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, in Paris, on 15 July 2019.
That was In Advance of the Broken Arm by Marcel Duchamp. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.
For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit listeningtoart.org.
Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
All web sites accessed as of date of publication.
Ades, Dawn, Neil Cox and David Hopkins. Marcel Duchamp. 2nd ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2021.
Centre Pompidou. “In Advance of the Broken Arm (En prévision du bras cassé).” Navigart. https://collection.centrepompidou.fr/artwork/150000000013356.
Denton, William. “Barnett Newman, Voice of Fire.” Listening to Art 12, no. 09 (15 March 2023). https://listeningtoart.org/12.09/.
⸻. “Marcel Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm.” Listening to Art 01, no. 01 (15 May 2017). https://listeningtoart.org/01.01/.
⸻. “Marcel Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm.” Listening to Art 01, no. 02 (01 June 2017). https://listeningtoart.org/01.02/.
⸻. “Marcel Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm.” Listening to Art 02, no. 05 (13 January 2018). https://listeningtoart.org/02.05/.
⸻. “Marcel Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm.” Listening to Art 04, no. 12 (01 May 2019). https://listeningtoart.org/04.12/.
⸻. “Marcel Duchamp, In Advance of the Broken Arm.” Listening to Art 07, no. 09 (13 September 2020). https://listeningtoart.org/07.09/.