Suzanne Duchamp’s Diagrammatic Poetry

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  • 5pm - 5.45pm

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Talia Kwartler (University College London)

This paper addresses the interconnected role that poetry and painting play in Suzanne Duchamp’s body of work by exploring the relationship between her diagrammatic drawing Questionnaire 147 (1920) and annotated type-script poem Questionnaire 148 (1920). Even though they are related through their titles, these two artworks are remarkably different in format and subject. In Questionnaire 147, Suzanne Duchamp combines drawn geometries with language, held together with the cryptic, curving inscription, ‘Notes à connaissance parfait’, (‘Notes of a perfect knowledge’ or ‘Notes of a perfect acquaintance’). In Questionnaire 148, she conflates wildly ranging subjects in a type-script poem under the banners of ‘La Passé’ (‘The Past’), ‘La Gloire’ (‘Glory’), and ‘L’Amour’ (‘Love’), bringing together bathtubs and sewing machines with Loïe Fuller and the never-ending countryside. This paper asks: Can an artwork be both a poem and a drawing? How does an artwork function as a ‘Questionnaire’? What is Suzanne Duchamp surveying with these visual and textual diagrams? Juxtaposing drawn geometries and enigmatic phrases, Suzanne Duchamp constructs a new artistic language with hybrid diagrammatic poems that push the boundaries between verbal and visual forms in art. Exploring her diagrammatic poetry in dialogue with artworks made by her Dada peers expands our understanding of Suzanne Duchamp’s artworks, while shedding new light onto broader questions about the artists within the international avant-garde with whom she collaborated.

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Talia Kwartler is a PhD Candidate in the History of Art at University College London, where she is writing her dissertation, “Suzanne Duchamp Does More Intelligent Things Than Paint,” under the supervision of Briony Fer. Between 2013 and 2018, she worked at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, on the exhibitions Francis Picabia: Our Heads Are Round so Our Thoughts Can Change Direction (2016–17) and Max Ernst: Beyond Painting (2017–18). Kwartler holds degrees in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University and in the History of Art from the University of Oxford. She has published essays in journals, edited anthologies, and exhibition catalogues and has given talks at various institutions, including the American Academy in Rome, Artists Space, The Cooper Union, The Kitchen, MoMA, Tate, and the University of Edinburgh.