MARCEL DUCHAMP IS ALIVE AND WELL
…AND MAKING CROP CIRCLES
This crop circle appeared not far from Stonehenge in 1995.
In 1926 Marcel Duchamp made this circular ‘rotorelief.’ It was designed to be rotated on a phonograph turntable like a vinyl LP. In the 70’s my friend Richard Prince was working at Time-Life Books, and he gave me the Marcel Duchamp book they published. It reproduced the above roto-relief in its original size. I cut it out and ‘played’ it on my turntable, which enhanced the 3D illusion. I’m a huge fan of Duchamp, the iconoclast’s iconoclast and the father of Conceptual Art. Duchamp was the first to do so many things*, e.g.; to select an everyday object and call it art, to create a female alter-ego, to have a picture shaved on his scalp, and in a gesture of unflinching contrariness, to show the rotoreliefs not in an art gallery but in a sort of science expo, where businesses and people displayed their new inventions. In an essay in Artforum many years ago, Jack Burnham linked his work with the hermetic Jewish mysticism of the Kabbalah. Whatever the case, it is clear that Duchamp was the type of thinker who transcended all convention.
As one who has been deeply curious about Native American prophecy and New Age ideas for a number of years I read Daniel Pinchbeck’s 2012 with great interest. This is a fascinating omnibus survey of unexplained phenomena, shamanism, ancient wisdom and prophecy by a writer whose credibility in the literary world has brought 2012 a much wider readership than any previous ‘New Age’ book. It includes a lengthy segment about crop circles, a subject which I had not looked into. The more I read about them the more riveted I became. As a ‘hands on’ seeker of truth I’ve explored clairvoyance and intuition, read ‘channeled’ books, met psychics, shamans and witnessed enough ‘unexplained’ phenomena that I have no doubt of the ‘reality’ of such things. One of the things I found is that as one begins to develop one’s intuition there is confusion about which impressions are being ‘received’ clairvoyantly and which are only being imagined; in other words subjective and objective can’t be clearly delineated. In 2012, Pinchbeck talks about the prevalence of this phenomenon in particular reference to crop circles. It seems
that when a person begins to seriously investigate them a new crop circle will often appear which has special, even seemingly purely personal significance for that person. It’s as if the crop circle makers want to assure us that they are aware of our interest in them and want to encourage that interest by showing us they have access to our innerthought process in a way that only ‘God’ or something like God could. So when I discovered amazing similarities between crop circles and Duchamp’s rotoreliefs it got my attention. After all, I am not only an artist. I am also an Interfaith Minister.
[left: Duchamp 1925-6, right: crop circle designs 1990s]
[two crop circles, one roto-relief]
There are several circles which closely resemble rotoreliefs. It occurred to me that if we accept the idea that death is not necessarily the end of one’s consciousness then it could be possible that Duchamp lives on in some form after his death as a crop circle designer. After all, ghosts are widely thought to be real and to be people who have died but have not accepted certain conditions of death and insist on ‘hanging around’ because of excessive attachment to place or person. But what about highly advanced spiritual beings who die? Can’t they hang around too? Don’t Christians believe that Jesus is literally present (physically or not) in this material reality? In Eastern religions a holy person may ascend to a higher level of being after death. In Hinduism it is said that certain great sages have taken up residence in subtler planes of consciousness which have beneficial ‘causal’ effects on the astral and material planes. In other words they become God-like, participating in the creation of the day to day appearance of reality. In Tibetan Buddhism, great holy figures attain the level of bodhisattva, where they reincarnate time and again to
help their fellow humans attain enlightenment. Called tulkus, these reincarnated masters include H.H. the Dalai Lama (now in his 14th incarnation), H.H. the Karmapa (17th) and many others who have become skillful at navigating the Bardo (the afterlife) to attain their next birth on earth as the same being. Specific afterlife functions for departed souls may also be found in Santeria (Voodoo) where departed ancestors, when prayed to may ascend to the level of demi-Gods who may be summoned during ceremony. In some indigenous traditions great souls are merged with the elements, both before and after death, becoming part of the sun or rain, or/and appearing in animal form. For example, the Karmapa is said to have a connection with rainbows.
Why shouldn’t a great soul of contemporary art ascend to such a level of consciousness that he is making crop circles? Or alternately, Duchamp may have clairvoyantly envisioned shapes of things to come. He may have seen or somehow known the ways of the circlemakers who have manifested so dramatically in the halycon fields of Avalon in recent decades. I am not the only one who has had such thoughts.
I think Duchamp is ‘alive’ and well and making crop circles and I have decided to bring it to the attention of anyone else who may be interested. It is to this end that I scheduled a show of his crop circles on April 22, 2012 at the Mothership, aka my studio in Woodstock, NY. It was included within the TUESDAYS series which started there on Valentine’s Day 2012. On most Tuesdays there is a two hour art show from 6-8 pm. In this case Tuesday falls on a Sunday but by virtue of the pair of twos in 22, it qualifies phonetically as a Tues(2s)day and therefore fits the guidelines for the series. It is also Earth Day, underscoring the idea that crop circles may be actual messages from a more highly developed intelligence (G-d?), perhaps intended to shepherd us through the changes necessary to maintain a healthy balance with Mother Earth; our home. Of course 2012 is widely thought to be the year when the ‘world’ will ‘end.’
As I thought about these things for a few months in 2009 I became increasingly bothered by one little nagging detail in the prime rotorelief with crop circle resonance, the red, black and white ‘corolles’. I was annoyed that the red sections had those lines on them. The crop circles didn’t have lines like that. At least that was what I thought until yesterday, when I was turning the pages of CROP CIRCLES and came across the
following photograph of a circle from 2001 which, curiously, I hadn’t seen before.
This was my initiation into the crop circle mystery. Thanks, Marcel! and/or the Great Mystery of causality!
The crop circle photos and diagrams are from two recommended books: CROP CIRCLES by Steve and Karen Alexander and Freddy Silva’s SECRETS IN THE FIELDS. All crop circle photos are by Steve Alexander……
Paul McMahon Woodstock 42012, revised 42412 for paulmcmahon.tv/marcel-duchamp-is-alive-and-well
THANKS! for who you are and what you do.
* I just realized (2016) in the diorama he has also presented a hairless vagina, which would become fashionable in this country over half a century later.