‘Pure affect’
New York 1917
in The fictions of Arthur Cravan
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Into January 1917, Cravan took passage to New York, deterritorialising to the avant-garde community of ‘New York Dada’ primed for his arrival by Picabia and by the art magazine The Soil. In New York, Cravan became a scandalous performing monkey, notably at the 1917 ‘lecture’ on modern art at the inaugural exhibition of the New York Society of Independent Artists. A particular performativity of the body gains (political) currency, giving rise to the reading developed in this chapter of the lecture to the Independents as a readymade inscribed by Duchamp. Detouring philosophically, the body assumes even to signal its own absence through the slippage and supplement of representation; the performative, of course, poses difficulties in attempting any present commentary, but critically it provides opportunity to pursue those processes whereby we experience our own representation of things. Out of New York emerged Cravan’s relationship with the poet Mina Loy (as well as varied threads, some positive, some negative: Sophie Treadwell, Beatrice Wood, Juliette Roche, Arthur Burdett Frost, Jr., and the journey to the Far North), and Loy’s writings on the man she would marry now provide the rarest of psychological insights.

The fictions of Arthur Cravan

Poetry, boxing and revolution


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