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Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1477-965X
  • E-ISSN: 1758-9533


Marcel Duchamp's preoccupation with the French army can be seen in a note he included in the Box of 1914. The note is known as , and with it he declares his opposition to military conscription and then speculates that the army might telephonically reconnect the limbs and organs of its soldiers that have been left scattered across the battlefield. Duchamp wrote this note before field telephones were issued to French troops but his grotesque proposition can be seen in light of his experience as an army corporal.

In 1912, before making these caustic suggestions Duchamp had taken a motor journey and written an account of it where he describes the aggressive invasion of territory by an alien force. This invasion travelled from France's liminal frontiers to its metropolitan centre. His text is known as the and again Duchamp reveals his military concerns. He formulates territory that proceeds from topographical amplitude to the delimitation of a straight line. In spite of its sophisticated morphology, it is threatened by alien forces aimed at testing boundaries. Duchamp published his text as a facsimile of his handwritten original, which displays the amendments and uncertainties of a man of military age attempting to evade the imperatives of military service.

The essay continues with an analysis of Duchamp's influences in writing this text and suggests a link with the philosopher Edmund Husserl in the context of the profoundly anti-German atmosphere in the French military build-up to war between 1912 and 1914. The argument closes with a survey of a military thematic in Duchamp's work after he left France for America in 1915.


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