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Three Standard Stoppages (Third Version), 1963 (replica of 1913-14 original)

Marcel Duchamp

French, 1887-1968
Thread on canvas attached to glass, wood sticks, enclosed in wood croquet case
3 glass panels: 49-1/2 x 7-1/4 in. (125.7 x 18.4 cm); 3 wood sticks: 44-1/4 in. (112.4 cm); wood case: 13 x 52 x 9 in. (33.0 x 132.1 x 22.9 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Museum Purchase
© Succession Marcel Duchamp / ADAGP, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 2014 Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Not on view

To create Three Standard Stoppages, Duchamp laid down three canvases; he then dropped three lengths of string, each measuring one meter, from a height of one meter. The strings’ fall determined their placement, as they were then secured into place using varnish. The artist then cut along the curves of each string to reshape a draftsman’s straight edge.

In a 1964 lecture, Duchamp recalled, “This experiment was made in 1913 to imprison and preserve forms obtained through chance, through my chance. At the same time, the unit of length: one meter was changed from a straight line to a curved line without actually losing its identity [as] the meter, and yet casting a pataphysical doubt on the concept of a straight line as being the shortest route from one point to another.”

Duchamp creates a new unit of measurement by twisting that which is already a universally accepted unit. Once again, his sense of humor and play comes out in his work. He is subverting what is accepted as a standard and creating a new unit of measurement from its chance falling position. He even includes three examples, so that there is no mistaking that, left to chance, the string will fall differently each time.

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