"This kind of circus, all in cordiality": Marcel Duchamp's speech "The Creative Act"
Nelson, Lauri Gwen
Master of Arts
Marcel Duchamp's speech "The Creative Act" and the context of its delivery at the American Federation of Arts (A.F.A.) convention in Houston, Texas, in 1957 reveal the manifold nature of American art discourse during the second half of the 1950s. In contrast to overly-simplified histories of the period which maintain that formal concerns and artist-centered criticism predominated, this paper determines that Duchamp's speech and its acknowledgment of the spectator are not unusual for 1957. Nor is Duchamp as author completely consistent with the ideas of critical "indifference" said to be present in the speech. On the contrary, the artist, his speech, and the 1957 A.F.A. convention are reflective of their complex history: of the political and economic climate of the mid 1950s, of both American and French aesthetic philosophy, of a growing popular interest in the arts, and of the growing media presence within American art discourse.