Brain Food #457

The mysteries of the human body

We are always aware of our bodies, even more so when we suddenly become conscious of their simultaneous fragility and power.

The human body has also consistently been the focus of artists throughout history. Some praise it, trying to capture it in all its nude glory. Others have mutilated it, destroyed it, while others tend to hide it completely.

Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) caused an outrage when it was first exhibited in the US. Heavily industrial in its nature, it bore no resemblance to what an actual body looked like. Neither realistic nor cubist, Duchamp’s work did not belong to anything familiar or predetermined.

The committee behind Salon des Indépendants rejected the painting, saying, “A nude never descends the stairs—a nude reclines.”

Despite the scandals it caused, Duchamps’ painting is a movement through time as well as space. It propelled the nude form forward, giving the world a new way to look at the human, and specifically the female body: fragile, mysterious, impossible to capture.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

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