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Suzanne Duchamp

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Arietta of Oblivion of the Dazed Chapel (Ariette d’oubli de la chapelle étourdie), 1920

About the Artwork

Arietta of Oblivion of the Dazed Chapel (in French, Ariette d’oubli de la chapelle étourdie) depicts Suzanne Duchamp’s spouse, artist Jean Crotti, through a puzzling mixture of image, symbol, and word. His face in profile is a relief carving in wood with a glass eyeball wedged behind an eye-shaped aperture. The rest of the image is a mix of visual emblems that include a hand pulling at a bowstring, a target attached to a rotating mechanism by a pulley, and a celestial blue orb. That orb may refer to Crotti’s concept of experimental modern art as a means of exploring the mysteries of the universe.

This painting belongs to the brief period when Suzanne Duchamp and Crotti were part of the Dada movement, which had emerged during World War I with the aim of attacking all norms related to technique, skill, and meaning in art. In true Dada fashion, Arietta (an arietta is a short aria, or song) is arranged like a puzzle that remains impervious to logical explanation. That point is underscored by the title. Though it is emphasized in bold letters on the picture surface, it uses nonsense language to foil our desire for literal meanings.

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