eros that is life: a chaotic interlude into the authorship and gender of rrose sélavy


‘abt’ = about

‘bc’ = because

‘gd’ = good

‘2dai’ = today

‘imo’ = in my opinion

‘imho’ = in my honest opinion

‘w’ = with

‘w/o’ = without

‘j’ = just


also sorry not sorry that no real life grammar has been involved in the making of this ‘blog post’ but i think it is q. obvious which names identify with a person. thank you.


hello everyone it is ur president speaking so ~nothing but respect thank u~. today i have decided to talk about rrose sélavy bc well, why not?? marcel duchamp forever and always has my heart and i don’t really care what u think abt that because the man was first and foremost C-0-0-L, as was man ray whomst people seem to forget about or disregard when discussing rrose. and this is really where we hit the CRUX ( gd word ) of my essay/ode/talk/ramble/txt msg about authorship (YES I STUDY ART HISTORY) and the gendering of rrose sélavy. whilst i go off on one for a lil bit about duchamp/man ray/rrose/r.mutt [mayb], i might also briefly mention lucie schwob/claude cahun/suzanne malherbe/marcel moore… i say “might” as i am typing at random from my big juicy brain on my notes bc i have been reading a book called ‘death of the artist: art world dissidents and their alternative identities’ written by nicola mccartney which is so far excellent and stimulating hence my recent obsession with pseudonyms and further why i am gonna waffle on about this particular topic 2dai.


ok so for those who are wiki-ing (decided it is a verb now) who marcel duchamp is/was – here is a teeny smidgen of contextual shtuff. duchamp was a french-american artist closely connected to the surrealist group as he was tight bros with andré breton (surrealism’s founder), however duchamp regarded himself as too ~sicko~mode~ to be thought of as a staunch surrealist. he later became intertwined within the dada movement ( i <3 dada ) but he was yet again TOO DAMN COOL to be thought of as a ‘dadaist/dada artist’.


being the indie rockstar we are all trying and failing to be, duchamp frequently signed his artworks under aliases such as the famous ‘r.mutt’ on equally famous bog-standard urinal [insert laughter] that he removed from a bathroom and put in a gallery heroically under the name of ART. retinal art/art that has a main purpose being to ‘please the eye’ was a waste of time in duchamp’s opinion and he decided to dedicate his life (before playing chess 4 a living) to making art that would provoke and prod the brain and the mind of its viewers [insert rrose sélavy]…

duchamp became good pals with man ray – american artist [we stan] – and from this friendship, rose sélavy was conceived (soon to become rrose). people often refer to

rrose sélavy as a sole creation of duchamp’s handiwork in which man ray is often discredited and overlooked in the art of rrose. definitively, this is not a big surprise as duchamp is arguably more recognizable in terms of his art, his face and his name, than man ray in the field of *general* art history. therefore, a famous or more famous name/face + a piece of art = the sole authorship of this more famous name/face, despite single authorship like never being a thing in the art world. fight me.


A U T H O R S H I P  H A S  A R R I V E D


yes, rrose sélavy is a character as well as a piece of performance/visual art whom duchamp himself plays whilst dressed in drag and encapsulating the persona of rrose sélavy, BUT! man ray was just as involved in the birth of sélavy as duchamp.

showcasing an artist’s name, through the use of signatures and specific motifs in artworks, etc. instantaneously initiates a viewer to think that a certain name – here marcel duchamp – is responsible for that certain piece of art – here rrose sélavy. a signature or famous face is demonstrative of how the public choose to consign authorship to particular artists which imo is dead weird and stupid, BUT we all do it all the time w/o even knowing.

we are inundated with images and videos and famous people every day due to the rapid globalization of social media and !BANG! because we recognize something as synonymous with another thing, that being brand with person, person with person, image with company, WHATEVER, we have unknowingly, and arguably unwillingly, been corralled into this world of automatic authorship that we cannot help but participate in all of the goddamn time.

the issue, or maybe debate is the right word, around authorship in the art world is usually embodied solely through andy warhol (in my personal experience) and the argument he didn’t make his own art he just spat out his ideas to his little elves who would make his famous POP! art that he would add his signature to annnnnd then… dollar upon dollar of CA$H because andy warhol is a cool name we all know and love. and that’s really all you hear, or heard, about authorship. HOWEVER, it is looking like that’s changing with far more material on artistic authorship regarding artists who have passed on, to modern-day collectives who have given recent interviews, some for the first times, in relation to artist aliases/pseudonyms/collectives and the debate that stems from all of these things: authorship.

returning briefly to rrose sélavy – it wasn’t just man ray who gets frequently discredited, despite being integral to the philosophical idea and practical creativity of rrose – it is, imho, more so the hands, specific to this [see below!!!] image man ray took of rrose sélavy …

figure. 1

this image, taken by the man who should be given equal authorship to duchamp, man ray, depicts rrose in a softer light to images of ‘her’ previously. she poses w fur that was typically more indicative of femininity than masculinity, highlighting the fact this image is duchamp in drag as the character ‘rrose sélavy.’ but ALSO the fur hides duchamp’s structured/chiseled/more ‘masculine’ facial features as ‘’’’’’her’’’’’’ hands hold the fur to ‘’’’’’her’’’’’’ face. i went OTT on the quotation marks there BECAUSE those aren’t duchamp’s hands. and no i am not trying to b clever and hit u back w ‘BC THEY ARE RROSE’S HANDS OOH’. no. these hands belong to germaine everling – duchamp and man ray’s friend and coincidentally francis picabia’s mistress – what a team. and THIS kids is where i said i would briefly mention the gendering of rrose sélavy comes in. duchamp was clearly a bit worried he wouldn’t come across as the ‘woman’ he wanted to portray as he used the arms of his lady pal. doubts whether he could embody a female character are evident through the use of a real-life-woman (wow!)’s hands. mccartney says in her really good book, “he creates an alternative identity that does not consist completely of his own drag-altered body; it becomes a picture of both sexes”… SO not only does the question of gendering come to the fore within the creation of rrose sélavy, BUT NOW everling is inherently interconnected with the creation of rrose, thus authorship once more must be shared/accepted/appreciated… no ? when we realise that IN THIS IMAGE that’s not just duchamp dressed in drag as rrose sélavy, and that everything in the image attempts to create a feminine persona of sélavy EXCEPT from the arms which r exempt from said persona as the persona they  really belong to are attached to the body of a woman, the image changes our thoughts on authorship/gendering in the image/duchamp as an artist/man ray as an artist/power of the gaze, etc.etc.etc! i j personally find this picture really interesting and enticing like maybe at the time duchamp was like eugh i just want to use a woman’s hands to SEE if ppl would be able to tell… or if he knew art historical discourse would live for this bleep.

i am not entirely sure how to end this absolute ramble of a blog post (watch my audacity thinking THIS is worthy of a blog post) – i wonder if emily will abuse her power and bin it who KNOWS. i said i might talk about schwob/cahun/malherbe/moore BUT i think your eyes might b strained from having to translate what my brain has just thrown up over my notes SO i will save that for a later date. however, if ur unfamiliar with the ^above^ names, i urge u to wiki them (verb is back) and look at their photos bc that too is stupidly fascinating and KOOOL!.. and has ties to authorship/gendering !

thx for reading. this is quite literally how my brain speaks to me every second of every day so i actually feel like ur invading my privacy right about now but what can u do when knowledge is power.

have a good day XO



*Figure. 1. = Man Ray, Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp), 1920.*

*Quote. = Nicola McCartney, Death of the Artist: Art World Dissidents and Their Alternative Identities (London: I.B. Tauris, 2018).*

*featured image = May Ray & Marcel Duchamp playing chess



Written by Milly Cooke

One Response

  1. I haven’t thought about Rrose Selavy for a *long* time — not since reading Robert Desnos’ collection of poems entitled *Corps et biens*. Not sure if it’s been translated (a good encouragement to learn French!). La vie en rose…

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