Marcel Duchamp, Rrose Selavy, and Gender Performativity
Rrose Selavy first appeared in New York in 1920 as the punning author of Duchamp's sculpture, "Fresh Widow." A so-called alter ego of Duchamp, Selavy has emerged from obscurity over the past decade primarily for what she tells us of Duchamp. As such, she can be seen as the more avant-garde of the two artists, the one who took aggressive emotional and artistic risks of which the urbane Duchamp was incapable. Most radical are a series of photographs taken by Man Ray in which she appeared as an artist in her own right, arguably the first Performance artist in a century dominated by Performance and pointedly, Performance by women. Selavy's presence can be linked to many of Duchamp's most important early works, including "Fountain" and the "Large Glass," but it is in these photographs that Selavy announced herself in a program that is staggeringly prescient and that will be queried in this presentation: who and what are Selavy, and does her performativity establish multivalent definitions of gender, its electivity, and ultimately, its unity that are key components of Duchamp's work and much Performance art of the 20th century?
Keywords: Rrose Selavy, Marcel Duchamp, Photography, Man Ray, Performance Art, Gender
Dr. Deborah J. Johnson
Professor, Department of Art and Art History