The Artist’s Comically “Subversive” Interpretation Of Adam-And-Eve Parable

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M. Duchamp, “Paradise, Adam and Eve”, 1910

Paradise, according to Duchamp, is not only a spacious place full of flora and fauna’s fertility, and a God’s abode. It is a giant dark and light interior/exterior, where top of the forest is an open roof and the tree trunks frame the numerous opened doors, windows and the sunny terraces. Everything is opened in God’s dwelling for him to see everything and for his voice to be heard everywhere. Still, to describe god’s real estate like this is to blemish the picture with our sinful anthropomorphism – we shall never forget the “difference between heaven and bottom” (to quote Marina Tsvetaeva).

More attentive look at god’s castle-temple suggest that Duchamp’s god consists of three bodily features which like some elementary particles can be connected only subliminally – a giant and rather a horrifying eye (in the upper left part of the painting), a tremendous mouth (to the right from the eye) and a huge erected serpent (an elongated whitish moldy form behind/between Adam and Eve). Indeed, there is no need to paint the mouth under the eye and the serpent even lower – to try to follow the gestalt of human face and body. A God, according to Duchamp, is an eye, mouth and a serpent – eye of surveillance, mouth of forbidding and propaganda justifying it, and the serpent of paradisiacal fertility.

God’s watchful eye is surveilling, mainly, the two poor kids Adam and Eve. God’s gaze (God-Gaze) is a bit obscene, like that of an earthly surveillance agencies and governmental clerks spying on the law-abiding Americans instead of detecting terrorists (they missed 19 terrorists of 9/11, Boston bombers, Isles or, recently, Oregon and San Bernardino attackers), it concentrates on Adam and Eve instead on noticing those who predatorily destroy the ecology and through it – human health and lives. Instead, (archaically conservative) God is over-occupied with Adam and Eve’s “sexual transgressions”.

God made Adam as white as only bone can be, in comparison with Eve who is like earth and shade and blood. She is sitting in crawling position, with her right hand occupied with gentle genitality or banal anality. Eve is fertility itself, but Adam looks, as if he is from Eve’s rib. God, according to Duchamp, made Adam a childish transgressor, an impish figure, for whom sexual impulses are not rooted at all in something profound and serious, but are just an itch causing scratch and scratch – need for a better scratcher. All these innocent frivolities are serious transgressions if you live under god or god-like authorities.

Neither Adam nor Eve look at each other (they are trying to prove to god that although they know one another they don’t really need each other). Let’s give them a little compassion – it is a very difficult task to have eyes if you have to be blind towards things which create your curiosity more than anything else. Is Adam covering his genitals from Eve or from God?

Adam is simultaneously – masculine and infantile, erection and bone, sunny ambition and juvenile fragility. He is mixture of aloofness and stubbornness, he is fixated on sex (he does not just cover his genitals, but presses them) and already sexually repressed. As made of Eve’s body (much more “natural” metonymy than the traditional Biblical concept which is authoritarian, misogynous and sterile) Adam is struck by fear to lose her. His task is not to love whom we want to love more than anything else (well, after god, of course). His gaze bypasses Eve’s presence – he looks into the emptiness or his imagination, and that is already a sign of his future promiscuity not only in a sense of “pluralistic” object-choice, but of “pluralism” of the types of sexual objects. Pretending before god’s omnipresent eye and mouth that he doesn’t know the consoling delights of female body (first of all, mother’s) has dangerous psychological consequences for men and for the Biblical world-view. The denial and the underestimation of the existentially spiritual role of female body in Adam’s life leads to prejudicial, disrespectful and over-controlling position towards femininity and misogynous connotation in men’s relations with women.

Not to come to the world from the woman’s body means to be a stranger to bodily unity with primordial woman – the mother. The consequences of this condemnation are not only promiscuous predisposition and uncertainty in the type of sexual object in Adam’s progeny. The trauma of separation from the paradise of mother and femininity, intensified by the ideology of sexual repression, can lead to impulsive (and later to habitual) belligerency, fixation on men as aliens, not brothers, as a natural source of danger. Men become prone to grab irresistible feminine objects (libidinous objects transformed by misogynous devaluation into objects of domination and control) using seduction and money, as though they were not expecting that woman will want to come to them voluntarily and be with them naturally. Militant posture as a psychological predisposition (which easily observable in boys and adolescents) invests in young people’s readiness to enlist in the military to defend their country even when nobody attacks it. The psychological heirs of Duchamp’s Adam are juvenile types in the worst possible sense. Many macho males are of this type under mountains of muscles as a result of compulsive body building and obsessive training while preparing for fighting, maiming and killing other males. In this sense the body of Duchamp’s Adam is that of a military recruit of human history.

A longer look at Duchamp’s Eve makes us see her two tiny babies she hides from god’s sight, like Adam hides his sex. An area of bright light right under god’s watching eye is intended to make this super-eye visible to Adam and Eve and to all of us, their progeny. Surveillance has to be visible, like today we see on the streets special lights signaling the presence of the eternal vigil of surveilling cameras over our lives.

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Marcel Duchamp

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Marcel Duchamp (1887 – 1968)