I'm Still A Newbie at This Site
Many of the more famous jazz musicians have “dossiers” that is collections of memorabilia. The following article reminded me of the possible dossiers
of the greats in the jazz world in the last century.
I came across this article: "Joseph Cornell/Marcel Duchamp: In Resonance---The Duchamp Dossier" several years ago in an electronic journal on the
internet. The journal was called Other Voices, the issue was September 1998. The "dossier" was on display as part of The Menil Collection in
Houston Texas USA from January 22 to May 16, 1999. I write about this article here and I hope some readers find my brief essay of value.
These were the last days of my full-time employment as a teacher after 30 years in the profession. These were the last months before I began to
organize my own "dossier" after forty years as a Bahá’í. Since the "dossier" discussed in Other Voices had similarities to my own massive
dossier, opus, oeuvre, or at least to some of the material in my collection of letters and notebooks, I drew on that article to write the following:
The expatriate Frenchman Marcel Duchamp met the American artist Joseph Cornell in New York in the early 1930s. In the early 1940s Duchamp engaged
Cornell to assist him in assembling the deluxe editions of Duchamp's new project, the miniature "museum" of his work, commonly referred to as the
Boîte-en-valise. At this time Cornell also began to formally assemble his Duchamp Dossier, a work that contains 118 items ranging from Mona Lisa
postcards, dry-cleaning receipts, and correspondence, to Boîte-en-valise fragments, readymades, and a study by Duchamp for his Allégorie de Genre.
Cornell's Duchamp Dossier thus provides a particularly rich source of insight into both artists' creative lives during several crucial decades.
I'm not sure what would be put in, say, a miniature dossier, a special collection, a set of memorabilia that might stand out quite separately from
the general run-of-the-mill of the resources and materials in my files. I would leave that to some executor, some collector, some archivist, etc. if
such a thing was desired. I would not even entertain the idea were it not for the significance of the embryonic Bahá’í Order I have been associated
with for some 53 years. I write this in anticipation that there may just be some significance in all this paper, a significance I can scarcely
appreciate at this early hour in the historical process.
The Duchamp Dossier (c. 1942-53) was discovered in Cornell's studio shortly after his death in 1972. Unlike many of his other dossiers, this one was
never shown publicly and remained unpublished in Cornell's lifetime. Cornell compiled most of the material for the Dossier during the years 1942 to
1946, although it includes some items from the 1930s and 1950s.
Were my collection, compiled at various times in my pioneer life, 1962 to 2006, to be discovered and gathered into a separate place, a special
dossier, it might possess: lists of articles and internet sites, parking tickets; domestic notes from my wife and son, to do lists, advice pieces
from: my wife to me, to my son and me to them; instructions on how to do a,b or c; Bahá’í agendas, newspaper clippings from friends---and on and on
this itemized pot pourri might go.
Many items in the Dossier document discussed in this article included: Duchamp's written requests for more Boxes and an improvised receipt based on
the cover of a Long Island Railroad conductor's booklet. Individual elements of Duchamp's Box-in-Valise, the reproductions of his early paintings,
for example, can also be found in the Duchamp Dossier.
Cornell was an avid correspondent and the Dossier derives much of its flavor from the postal system: stamps, telegrams and postcards, for example. We
find several communications from Duchamp, a note from the art dealer Julien Levy, and remnants of envelopes bearing intriguing return addresses such
as that of the artist Piet Mondrian. A group of nine letters from Mary Reynolds, Duchamp's longtime companion, reveals her own close friendship with
Cornell and her delight in the works of art that Cornell sold and gave to her. With typical brevity, Duchamp relied on a postcard to inform Cornell of
his imminent departure from New York at the end of the war: "Au revoir / affecteusement / Marcel." I, too, have my postal items, communications to
an odd-assortment of people and brief responses from me to a wide collection of individuals.
The above short amended article, drawing heavily as it does on the article in Other Voices, conveys a context for the substance of some of the flotsam
and jetsam of my paper world and I leave it to some future person and future time to give whatever order, whatever place, it deserves, if any.
Attachment: ron3.jpg (200.74kb)
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married for 42 years, a teacher for 35 and a Baha'i for 50