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234 Leonardo Reviews based his work almost entirely on Western European sources. It appears that Russian sources, including about 20 titles and several books dating from 1742 until the end of the nineteenth century, were out of reach for the author . Even Jewansky’s general survey of Russian and Soviet works in the book begins only with 1969. Nevertheless, the publishing of such a thorough monograph and analysis is a significant event in the cultural life of the world, both culturally and historically. DUCHAMP IN CONTEXT: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN THE LARGE GLASS AND RELATED WORKS by Linda Dalrymple Henderson. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, NJ, U.S.A., 1998. Reviewed by Douglas Kahn, Associate Professor of Media Arts, University of Technology , Sydney, Australia, E-mail: . The study of the relationships among science, technology and the arts—long a very exciting field—has become even more so over the last decade. Gaining momentum from a number of quarters, most notably the expanding cultural and artistic practices associated with computer-based media and the cultural study of science fueled by new theoretical influences, we are at present enjoying a scholarly field day, which is already provoking, and providing understanding of, new artistic activities. If what informed discussions of art, science and technology not sthat long ago was predominated by a Bauhaus-derived rationality—which fancied itself as being apart from social, cultural and historical specifics—many present-day studies revel in the irrational wing of modernism, in the playful poetics found emblematically in the work of Alfred Jarry, Raymond Roussel, Francis Picabia, Marcel Duchamp and others who dealt with the ideas of science and technology in a complex, parodic manner. Linda Henderson’s monumental work Duchamp in Context (probably over 900 pages in manuscript) is now not only the touchstone for all investigations in this artistic tradition, it is indispensable for those individuals usually outside the gravitational pull of art history , especially those in the studies of science and technology who are interested in the popular reception of science in the early part of the twentieth century. So much conjecture has been published about both Duchamp and the relationship between art and science during the early century; Henderson’s book sets the record straight. How many books are there proposing the relationship , say, between Picasso’s cubism and Einstein’s relativity theory? Such phenomena may have occurred around the same time but that does not mean they have anything whatsoever to do with each other. Henderson shows instead that artists before World War I were working at the tail end of the era of classical ether physics. Instead of Einstein and Planck, she says, the popular science press kept people informed on the ideas of William Crookes, J.J. Thomson, Ernest Rutherford, Oliver Lodge, Lucien Poincaré, the Curies, Jean Perrin, Gustave Le Bon and Nikola Tesla, scientists whose ideas were still in close working proximity with occultism, eccentric imagery, perverse mechanics and drawing room entertainments. Much of the book, when it is not directly unraveling the intricacies of Duchamp’s works and notes, attends to the description of these ideas and their incorporation into the arts. I know of no other book that provides such a panorama and insight into this material. Henderson here provides the grounds upon which so much modernism developed , and the pleasure of which is that the culture of science and technology was on its own often funnier and more poetic than its incorporation into the arts. In this respect, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Hopefully, Princeton University Press will not waste time in getting this book out in paperback so it can reach the wider public it deserves. It is important that its concentration on Duchamp not put some people off. I say this only because I can imagine how certain recent scholarship on Duchamp might have alienated some readers. Some of it is so nauseatingly precious, you begin to wonder if these folks have too much time on their hands. Duchamp in Context plucks Duchamp’s works and ideas out of this contemporary ether and makes them understandable by situating them in their own day. People who have had enough Duchamp will find a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
p. 234
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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