Duchamp within and against Lacan

Alliez, Éric (2020) Duchamp within and against Lacan. Theory, Culture & Society, 37(7-8), pp. 329-353. ISSN (print) 0263-2764


Critical reception of Marcel Duchamp since the 1970s has tended to elevate him into the very figure of the Artist he sought to attack. One aspect of this domestication has involved neglecting Duchamp’s fin de siècle ‘eroticism’ with its sexual innuendos and double-entendres. Yet this very readymade vulgarity allows us to recover a Duchamp still capable of disrupting the genres of Art and the gendered Artist, by revealing a theory embedded in his work which continually reverses and displaces phallocentrism in a game consisting of the confusion of genders and genres. We argue that Duchamp’s disruption of the discursive typologies of the genre of art can be profitably read through this apparently trivial sexualized wordplay, particularly in the transgender passage into Rrose Sélavy. Reading this aspect of Duchamp after, i.e. within and against, Lacan demonstrates how Duchamp’s singular regime of signs governed by equivocity and indetermination subverts the ‘phallic function’ of the signifier.

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