Mike Kelley & Ericka Beckman
It was inspired by the H.G. Wells short story The Country of the Blind, which was a favorite of mine as an adolescent. I was both fascinated and repulsed by this tale of a man having to give up his eyes to live in an alien sightless society. In rereading it as an adult I was struck by the obvious fact, which I was oblivious to as a boy, that it is a castration story, and by the thinly veiled sexual and racial fears within it. Blind Country bears no discernable reference to the Wells story but instead plays with these subtle underlying themes.
- Mike Kelley
Tonsure (rear view), 1921
Marcel Duchamp (photographed by Man Ray, 1890–1976)
This portrait of Duchamp, probably taken by the artist’s friend Man Ray, shows the back of Duchamp’s head with his star/comet tonsure haircut. The motivations for and circumstances surrounding the haircut remain unclear, but the tonsure and star/comet imagery have multiple meanings. The tonsure historically served as a symbol of the célibat,or one who withdraws from society. By 1921 Duchamp had repeatedly withdrawn from artistic, social, familial, and romantic engagements.
It is possible that the tonsure haircut also refers to Rrose Sélavy, Duchamp’s female alter ego, who first emerged in 1920. The five-pointed star, which from Roman times has been called the “Rose of Venus,” is associated with the goddess of love and functions as symbol of the feminine. In this way, the tonsure can be considered an outward sign of Duchamp’s multiple and shifting identities.