Marcel Duchamp's “Anémic cinéma” (1926) | MoMA FILM VAULT SUMMER CAMP

Artist Marcel Duchamp’s wicked sense of humor and fascination with optics are both on display in “Anémic cinéma.” The film is relatively simple in its construction: 19 spinning disks, some made of words and others of spiral designs. Its genius lies in the wordplay that emerges as the words and phrases change position, taking on new meaning and creating witty visual puns, and in the optical illusion of the flat, painted disks taking on depth when spun. The artist pits the three-dimensional spirals—which Duchamp called “Rotoreliefs”—against two-dimensional text, turning the film into a dynamic, kinetic poem. Even the title is part of the gag. (Spoiler: “anemic” and “cinema” are anagrams.)

There are other, unauthorized versions of this work, including one with footage taken from Sergei Eisenstein’s films of a statue of Napoleon, a girl’s face, and a tank. Duchamp was adamant that none of these were his version. Because “Anémic cinéma” is endlessly fascinating and possible to analyze from countless perspectives—math, ophthalmology, French language, sculpture—MoMA’s curators are continually finding ways to exhibit the film, including in “Geometry of Motion, 1920s/1970s,” “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925,” and, of course, “DADA.”

Watch this week’s other films:

“Rhythmus 21” (1921)

“Ballet mécanique” (1924)

Learn more at Virtual Views: Film Vault Summer Camp…

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The comments and opinions expressed in this video are those of the speaker alone, and do not represent the views of The Museum of Modern Art, its personnel, or any artist. 

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