What Duchamp Abandoned for the Waterfall

During his stay in Switzerland in 1946, Marcel Duchamp (1887–1986) spent a few days at the Hotel Bellevue in Chexbres, high above Lake Geneva and overlooking one of Switzerland’s most famous vistas. The nearby waterfall Le Forestay inspired Duchamp to create his last great masterwork, the assemblage Étant donnés: 1. La chute d’eau, 2. Le gaz d’éclairage. Duchamp photographed the scenery and included the images in his enigmatic work that has been permanently installed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1969. His three-dimensional environmental tableau offers an unforgettable and untranslatable experience to those who peer through the small two holes in its solid wooden door. Years later the artist duo Caroline Bachmann and Stefan Banz set out to reverse the situation. They discovered exactly where Duchamp stood with his camera, and over several years they took countless pictures of what the artist had turned his back on, the breathtaking views over the lake. Their work What Duchamp Abandoned for the Waterfall consists of many color photographs of one of Switzerland’s most extraordinary landscapes. This companion book presents one hundred striking images as well as an essay by the art critic Luc Debraine, who examines the artists’ research in dialogue with Duchamp’s Étant donnés, analyzing how Duchamp made use of the location for his artistic intentions and what photographing this particular waterfall meant to him.
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