Cover

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Half Title, Series Page, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Series Foreword

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pp. ix-x

A short circuit occurs when there is a faulty connection in the network— faulty, of course, from the standpoint of the network’s smooth functioning. Is not the shock of short-circuiting, therefore, one of the best metaphors for a critical reading? Is not one of the most effective critical procedures to cross wires that do not usually touch: to take a major classic ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

This book had its beginning during a two-year residency at JVE Institute in Maastricht as a kind of rapprochement between my philosophical and artistic practice. It was the conditions, encounters, and friendships occasioned by this wonderful and strange institution—a genuine erewhon (half squat, half think tank)—that made this book possible. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

The subjects of this book, like its subject matter, should be taken in earnest.
In Thomas Bernhard’s “In Earnest,” one of 104 short stories from a collection entitled The Voice Imitator, the narrator describes an episode in which a group of Bavarian excursionists encounter at the precipice of a “rocky ledge above the so-called Salzburg horse-pond" ...

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Chapter 1. The Metrologist: On Marcel Duchamp’s Three Standard Stoppages

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pp. 9-20

To make an artwork that is not a work of art … This is the problem that Duchamp poses for himself and whose now infamous solution is the readymade—a term that he came up with in 1915 shortly after his arrival in New York. The readymade is the result, as Duchamp puts it, of a rendez-vous—a chance encounter—in which a prefabricated object, ...

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Chapter 2. The Object-Subject: Marcel Broodthaers, Merchant of the Insincere

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pp. 21-38

In 1962 the poet Marcel Broodthaers met the artist Piero Manzoni on the occasion of the latter’s exhibition at Galerie Aujourd’hui in Brussels. A meeting of two comedians, as Broodthaers would later describe it. Manzoni presented Broodthaers with a certificate (no. 71) authenticating him as work of art: ...

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Chapter 3. A Sense of Umour: Jacques Vaché

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pp. 39-50

Like the sketches of dandified officers and gentlemen that populated the margins of his wartime letters, Jacques Vaché seems at once the object of refined construction and a thing haphazardly dashed off, a meticulously rendered doodle exhibiting an ease and composure ruefully out of step with the horror of his circumstances: the harsh reality of trench warfare in World War I. ...

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Chapter 4. The Ridiculous Subject

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pp. 51-64

Near the end of his life, on his nightly visit to his friend Dr. Saltas, Alfred Jarry could be seen “dressed in furs and shod in slippers” with “a heavy leaded cane” and “flanked with two pistols,” of course.1 In stories told about Jarry, it is not simply the fact of the pistol but its presence of coursethe "unshakeable alliance between Jarry and the pistol ...

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Chapter 5. Counting for Nothing: The Nihilist

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pp. 65-78

This one, this impersonal, radically detached operation of observation, stares with an alien eye and counts … coldly and lucidly bearing witness to its own nullity. This one would be like an eye that does nothing but mark the qualitative differences of a chromatic scale, inscribing differences as one cuts notches into tree bark. ...

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Chapter 6. Slippered Negligence: The Dandy

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pp. 79-88

Like the nihilist, the dandy is a figure on the brink of vacancy. Dealt in as a dummy hand, this figure relates to its being as a bluff, a gambler indifferent to loss. If vacancy is presumed, value liquidated, the fundamental problem remains that of the brink. This is where the dandy wagers its being.2 ...

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Chapter 7. The Happy Melancholic

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pp. 89-100

The books that we need, to paraphrase Kafka,1 remain those that bring us to a standstill, those posing a mute obstacle whose immobility cannot be grasped or evaded and whose apprehension comes at the cost of breaking the subject in two. Such broken subjects enter “the melancholy realm of eternal drizzle,”2 ...

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Conclusion: A Hole in a Thing It Is Not

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pp. 101-112

There are at least two ways of leaving a trace, a mark, let us say, a footprint in the snow. There is that of Good King Wenceslas, the righteous king (rex justus), the pious master, who leaves footsteps in the snow for his ailing page to follow. As John Mason Neale’s carol from 1853 puts it: “‘Mark my footsteps, good my page. ...

Notes

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pp. 113-132

Index

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pp. 133-136