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ust prior to 2004, while a full-time lecturer in the History and Theory of Art at Coventry University, the visual works I had been creating using Photoshop had also led me to the point of liberating myself from the chronic notion of thinking of art works per se as autonomous phenomena that somehow transcended the experience and fact of language, such that the years of work I had spent reading Duchamp and reading on Duchamp led me to embark on a project that had been in my mind, almost as a shadow for years, without my knowing it as such: that the most interesting visual artist of the past five centuries and the most interesting literary artist of the past seven centuries - Marcel Duchamp and James Joyce - had much in common, and that if it were possible to take on such a challenge of learning and creating as an extension of what they had achieved in the field of art then I would be Reading Joyce Reading Duchamp in the way one says “I am reading for a D. Lit in…”.

Having no idea if anyone else anywhere had also had a similar thought as myself I looked on the Internet to learn that William Anastasi, who had been a colleague of the composer John Cage and had also met with Duchamp, had written for the Duchamp site tout-fait on Joyce and Duchamp, but that his position vis-à-vis this subject was totally different from my own.

The same year of 2004 brought about an idea that I should perhaps present my visual works in their primitive state alongside a paper at a strong conference somewhere, and on discovering the annual Joyce Conference also from the Internet sent in a proposal for the Dublin International James Joyce Conference and had the proposal accepted at once.

My argument was and still remains this: that the challenge for the visual artist is to understand that no work of art stands outside the contexts of language, and that as writers and visual artists both Duchamp and Joyce exemplify two sides, as it were, of one coin: Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and Ulysses offer a reader a cosmic conceptual and visual array of interpretations to realize in detail while scrabbling through the ruins of past literature upon which Joyce’s texts are built; and not this alone because the very finest or flimsiest spider-web-like-subtleties are couched ready to be rediscovered in Joyce and that this is what I had found in the oeuvre of Duchamp at the centre of which his Large Glass and Notes shape the same or similar experiences that simply exists nowhere else. And there was more since both protagonists were rapt with the same philosophical and ironic attitude toward art itself as a discipline, sharing approaches to a world that recognizes the prominence of technology, science and pataphysics that Anastasi had grounded in Alfred Jarry, a penchant for the devices of alchemy and chemistry, for the newspaper and detritus, for the Hegelian contradiction concerning art and individual talent. (1)

f course many artists have attempted and have been successful in combining image and language in varieties of ways and the Images and Essays on this site represent a body of my work in progress from 2004 through 2009 (at present), that one hopes represents the mere beginnings of an ongoing delight in the possibilities of communication, miscommunication, the musical and poetic, the Advert and the Artwork, the reproduction of the classical work of art and the cartoon as well as creations of new alphabets (or “alphabites” (FW.263.F1), “alphybettyformed” “alphabetters” (FW183.13; 107.09), and “alpheubett”s (FW.208.20) in as prismatic a fashion as Joyce used language: and likewise as the “image” becomes a case for mental-effects in the way a letter, a word or a text becomes a new mental-effect in the hands of Duchamp when combined - as all his works are - with the curiosities of language and its potential within or with an image to effect both the non-presence and presence of the Other.


he visitor to this site will find an image titled A Collection of Potentialities in Progress on ‘Image’ and ‘Language’ which is a large-scale work offered here using the Zoomify Tool.

This work itself is actually so large that as the creative manager of the site Mark of Mark Coates Software Solutions has anecdotaly suggested to me “it would cover 75 football pitches, require 200 elephants to move it, and would be visible from space if printed in conventional format”, which of course is impossible at present even at a 95th of such a size.

Our own imaginations are the creative tools with which to scan this image and perhaps to loose oneself inside its full and hard-won subtleties that, as I have indicated above, are also located in the works of Joyce and Duchamp.

While Duchamp ‘measured’ with bent strings and Joyce with “meansigns” (FW.369.01) (an allusion to the Golden Mean or Golden Section as well as letters that gauge) one understands why everyone - and particularly on TV - ‘measures’ anything and everything large by comparing it with the football pitch or several pitches. But the language of the Wake is both, so to speak, personal to Joyce, and simultaneously “wordwide” (FW. 419.07) and “worldrenownced” (FW. 341.28), “whirrld” (FW. 147.22) like “whirlworlds” (FW. 017.29) in its own wordhoard.

Other images include various series of individual works that stem from my readings of the HCE (Here Comes Everybody) family, all of whom Joyce represented in his Notebooks as Sigla: for instance HCE is Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker and Everyman or the Paternal E. His wife ALP (Anna Livia Plurabelle) is a delta of a river Δ and all of the world’s rivers, more or less, are gather into a chapter of Finnegans Wake. The visitor to our site might like to use http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnegans_Wake as a source supplement here.

he “worldroom” (FW. 100.29) (worldwomb) sexual motifs in the Wake, the effects of note making and also writing in the manner of idioglossia or cryptophasia, Duchamp’s Notebooks that swell up the sexual, sensuous, “hilarious” and technologically impotent Female and Male components of the Large Glass (otherwise more properly titled La Marie mise a nu par ses Célibataires, meme or The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even…”) lead us to an almost infinite number of possibilities for “interpretation” and analysis of Duchamp’s and Joyce’s artworks, and allows us to make moves in our imagination as in a chess game, chess being Duchamp’s favourite hobby besides that of art but which he incorporated into his work.

The chess pieces are the block alphabet, which shapes thoughts; and these thoughts, although making a visual design on the chessboard, express their beauty abstractly, like a poem . . .. I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists. (2)

As I have written for Hypermedia Joyce on the web concerning the James Joyce Prague Conference in 2010: “So few people caught by Joyce are attracted by the importance of technology, and the metaphor of chess as forms of multilayered thought processes that help build the grammar of the game, and also chess-complexity as a kind of architectural thought-model in his texts”, that it seems worthwhile including a quotation from the work of Laurent Milesi on Joyce HyperWake 3D:

Joyce’s engineering metaphors (to describe his painstaking Work in Progress) whose early stages arguably gave its writer more problems as there was no overarching scaffolding a la Ulysses, are the self-conscious traces of how the emerging new idiom was instrumental in shaping a “voluminous” construction, and materialised, in the “final” text, as the work’s self referential awareness as, for instance, a well known “vicociclometer” (FW.614.27) featuring a “harmonic condenser enginium” (FW. 310.01).

The overwhelming presence of science and technology alongside the wealth of expected literary or more generally cultural references implicitly records how the Wake’s linguistic medium is, by implications of the inner mechanics of its semantic construction, a cross between a “scientific” combinatory dynamics and a po(i)etic shaping imagination that includes the hidden strategic thinking taking place behind moves played in chess. Indeed some of the “key moments” that punctuate the endlessly returning cycles of Finnegans Wake derive their thematic consistency from science or newly invented technologies: The Euclidean (re) construction of a female triangle in the geometry lesson of FW II.2 (which reveals ALP’s 3D-forms of sorts), the splitting of the atom on FW. 353, at the end of the Butt and Taff skit, which several critics have considered to be the earliest representation of a TV show in literature, before the popularisation of the invention. In that respect the holograph notebook VI.B.46.204ff. features an index on “Television”, mainly used for FW. 349, which mentions John Logie Baird, inventor of the TV principle in 1925. Mixing old and new in the gyres of Vichian history, Joyce’s Wake takes us back to the ancient etymological link between ars (art) and technology (techne), and it is therefore quite fitting to conceive of its scriptural activity as a “techno-poetic”. The Wake’s “verbivocovisual” (FW.341.18) universe can even be seen as the radical extrapolation and “condensation” of Pound’s own trinity of poetic principles: logopoeia, melopoeia and phanopoeia […].

This text by Milesi (and others that may be quoted from his essay HyperWake 3D) are so akin to texts on Duchamp, and in particular Linda Henderson’s Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the Large Glass and Related Works that it is barely conceivable that these two artists have been served separately for so long a time. Milesi continues:

As Donald Theall notes in The Hieroglyphs of Engined Egyptians: Machines, Media and Modes of Communication in Finnegans Wake, the tele-prefix appears in numerous Wakean coinages: “teleframe”, telekinesis”, “telemac”, “telepath”, “telephone”, “telephony”, “telescope”, “telesmell”, “telesphorously”, “televisible”, “television”, “televox”, “telewisher”, thus featuring most senses of in the Wake’s visionary representation of our newly digitized experience of the real. One of the well-known thematic oppositions between Shem and Shaun, or the aural and the visual respectively, is even recast in those “remote” (tele-: distant, away, remote) terms on FW. 52.18: “television kills telephony in brother’s broil”, and FW. 338. 09-10 features a telescope-cum-television (“Tell ever so often?”) which is “distantly” echoed and distorted on FW.338.14 (“Till even so aften?), as if the linguistic medium of description was attuned to the physical principle it is conveying. Joyce’s words are remote or tele-particles travelling like waves or sounds in a distorting “bush (or bouche) telephone” […] (Laurent Milesi. HyperWake 3D. Joycemedia. 2004. Ed Louis Armand pp. 66-72)

e can see from this introduction to Reading Joyce Reading Duchamp that this is not a site, nor is my work, the kind of art that lends itself to the Gallery or the Book too well at first blush, and in fact as a matter of principle the work of the work of art here in its already mega-reproductive Internet form functions on the pun of reproducibility: the pun in other words that both Joyce and Duchamp, in surely the most common of all denominators, employed as fundamental to an experimental approach to the visual, to the written, to the spoken and to the gestural in the work of art. What we see is a move toward an interest in Time in the Wake and the Glass and beyond these to the works of Joyce and Duchamp as lives lived inside art.

The visitor to this site will also be able to read my Essays that are attendant upon these visual works


(1) “About one hundred fifty years ago, a man who had the highest idea of art that anyone can have - because he saw how art can become religion and religion art - this man (called Hegel) described all the ways in which someone who has chosen to be a man of letters condemns himself to belong to the “animal kingdom of the mind”. From his very first step, Hegel virtually says, a person who wishes to write is stopped by a contradiction: in order to write, he must have a talent to write. But gifts, in themselves, are nothing. As long as he has not yet sat down at his table and written a work, the writer is not a writer and does not know if he has the capacity to become one. He has no talent until he has written, but he needs talent in order to write”. Maurice Blanchot. The Gaze of Orpheus. Station Hill. p.23. [However, perhaps the term “contradiction” is less appropriate than the word “paradox” here for our time and knowing what we do concerning “modern” literature and perhaps particularly Joyce and Duchamp among others].

(2) See Fusion Anomaly, an interesting site on the works of Marcel Duchamp and the impact the technology of the day had on his output and particularly on his writings: http://fusionanomaly.net/marcelduchamp.html.

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