Following the American Psychological Assosiation’s Guidelines
Hubert Damisch's Duchamp Defense is mapping the artist's biography and creative becoming onto theoretical and intellectual landscape which developed in the beginning of the 20th century. Damisch suggests that, whether consciously or not, Duchamp soaked the most progressive ideas of his time to go ahead of it and to become one the most innovative and original artist of the century.
Among various theories like that of von Neumann, Damisch highlights the apparent parallels between theoretical ways of Duchamp (e.g. theory of endgames, as well as some of his art works) with published in 1908 General course of linguistics by Ferdinand de Saussure. The idea of opposition plays an enormous role in the Saussurian tradition of linguistics: this presupposes the oppositions between language and speech, signifier and signified, synchronic and diachronic approaches. Damisch links this to a strategy that one has to be aware playing chess, he is sure that Duchamp was into this methodology and used it intensely to better understand the endgame situations, "when the chessboard is almost empty and nothing is relevant except the conflictual structure of the game" (Damisch, 1979).
Damisch thoroughly illustrates how an artist's passion for chess constituted his artistic style and creative path. According to Damisch, "Duchamp devoted much less time to painting than he did to chess" (Damisch, 1979), however, this does not mean that game time was not contributed to the development of his art. A game of chess considers many aspects that are vital to the artist: a movement, which makes a transit from a static grid to dynamic positioning of figures, a position itself (a problem of strategies and tactics), in general, a controversy of visual and spatial aspects. Furthermore, as Duchamp's chess mentor once noticed, "chess is a game of understanding, not a game of memory" (Damisch, 1979): chessplayers are professional in thinking and reflecting, a grid of a chessboard is a field for a thought production and operating, a field which chessplayers fully depends on.
In her article Grids, Rosalind Krauss, in a sense, continues and elaborates these conceptual findings of Damisch. The grid of the chessboard is similar to that of a canvas: it is a somewhat field for semantic battles. In her theoretical researchings, Krauss strongly refers to structuralist authors such as Barthes and Levi-Stross: the grid may be regarded as a myth, "to function as the cultural attempt to deal with contradiction" (Krauss, 1979). Cubism, de Stijl, Mondrian, Malevich were among those who popularize the grid, highlighted this concept, and stressed the importance of it. Krauss admits the dualism that follows this 'success' of the grid: the opposition between seeming materialism and theoretical interest of Malevich and Mondrian for the problems of Spirit and Mind.
Krauss claims that the grid in its character is anti-historical and anti-narrative, "the grid is certainly not a story, it is a structure, that allows a contradiction between the values of science and those of spiritualism" (Krauss, 1979). She also uses a concept of cultural schizophrenia to underline the double-bind nature of the grid: it limits and is limited, but at the same time it may be endless, it is "complete and internally organized" (Krauss, 1979) but at the same time it may depict cosmic chaos and abruptness.
Krauss, R. Grids. October Vol.9, (Summer 1979), pp. 50 - 64. MIT Press.
Damisch, H. Duchamp Defense. October Vol.10, (Autumn 1979), pp. 5 - 28. MIT Press.