Whilst some objects – the snow shovel or the eponymous urinal of The Fountain – were turned into works of art simply by addition of a title and placement in an artistic space, for others Duchamp combined different manufactured objects in works he called ‘assisted Readymades’. The original version of With Hidden Noise (A Bruit Secret), made on Easter Day 1916, was made in this way, by fixing a ball of string between two brass plates and placing an object in the middle. This object – the source of the secret noise when the piece was rattled – was put there by Duchamp’s friend and patron Walter Arensberg. In the present work, created in 1964 – a reprisal of the original – it was Duchamp’s wife Alexina who provided the object. Duchamp refused to learn the nature of these objects and they remain a mystery. This playfulness, which is typical of the Readymades, is augmented by the lettering on the brass plates which encourages the viewer to turn the object back and forth and release the hidden noise. This creates an intriguing dialogue between visual and audio experiences as well as inviting the viewer to contemplate questions of perception and meaning. Talking of a group of assisted Readymades that includes With Hidden Noise (A Bruit Secret), Gloria Moure wrote: ‘the overlap of the poetic and the objective is strong and parallels the puns that assist them, but in addition they clearly reveal an ironic recreation of the search for a tactile quality and of the effort of perception, which were at the very heart of Duchamp’s approach and continually surfaced to a greater or lesser degree throughout his creative career’ (G. Moure, Marcel Duchamp. Works, Writings, Interviews, Barcelona, 2009, p.68).
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