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Dada Project

Fountain (1917)

After done the research of Dada movement and specifically focusing on Duchamp. I am profoundly inspired by Duchamp's Fountain because this work piece conversely overturn the traditional aesthetics and humourously left a message underlying the ceramic urinal. I am really admiring his witty idea of transforming how a daily object presents to let audience review its shape and form.

Based on this work, I am starting to re-think the relation between excretion and urinal (or toilet), because it metaphorically displaying a process of returning back a part of body to the nature, miniaturing the life process.

Therefore, I start to plan a project that revolving this idea and develop it through research.



Piero Manzoni/ Mocking

The first thing come into my mind is Piero Manzoni's (1933-1963) representative work, Artist's Shit (1961). He was an Italian artist who devoting on experimenting the works that relating to human's body production. I remember that he claimed that he canned his excrement in the cans and through the research of him, his works are actually attracting me.

Merda d'artista (1961)

Artist's Shit

Contents 30 gr net

Freshly preserved

Produced and tinned

in May 1961

This work was inspired by Duchamp's readymades, also might relate with his father, who owned a cannery, used to tell him, "Your work is shit."

In December 1961, Manzoni wrote in a letter to his friend Ben Vautier:

“I should like all artists to sell their fingerprints, or else stage competitions to see who can draw the longest line or sell their shit in tins. The fingerprint is the only sign of the personality that can be accepted: if collectors want something intimate, really personal to the artist, there's he artist's own shit, that is really his."

Bernard Bazile, Boîte ou­ver­te de Pie­ro Man­zo­ni, 1989

No one really know what did Manzoni put into the can (though Bernard Bazile did reveal one, the matter within the can was unidentifiable), and this makes the work seems more mysterious. Moreover, in my opinion, this work would be more ironic on puncturing what "art" is and the market that judging the value of an artwork.

Meanwhile, Manzoni also did a work called "Artist's Breath"( Fiato d'artista,1960), which also restate the value of the artist's body production.

"(Made the Artist's Shit is) an act of defiant mockery of the art world, artists, and art criticism."

Enrico Baj

Sen Dada/ Protest

I type up "urine art"and googled it after researched Manzoni's works, and the name, Sen Dada, really draw my attention, because I still remember the first time that I searched "contemporary art"when I was in middle school, his name was showing at the first line of the page. The encyclopedia in China regards him as the beginner of Chinese contemporary art, though it's hardly to find a formal introduction of him in Google. However, I found that he did a performance art and filmed as a three-hour video called, Pee On Han Dynasty Stones and Nuclear Islands (2012), which pushed the action of urinating link with the social background.

At a year after Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Sen Dada tended to against the nuclear pollution with this artwork. He stood on the mountain that nearby the Tianwan Nuclear Power Plant and Chuanshan Nuclear Power Plant, which built in his hometown. However, both environment and geological feature were drastically changed after the government started running the plants.

Air pollution and chemical pollution entirely overturned this natural area to a disaster.

Also, he pictured the fairly undisguised process of this performance. As for me, the words like "blood", "eroticism", and "violence"are relating to the picture.

The Han Dynasty Stone

The artist also carried a cross, which may implying the suffering and pain that the people who living in this place were tolerating. As a man who born here, he used peeing to protest for returning the place back to nature. At this point, the action of peeing contains the personal emotion and social meaning. Hence, an action would be rather impacted in a certain milieu. Linking with social event would exactly change the meaning.

"I Poop You"

There is a report I also find in the Internet. In 2013, an exhibition called "I Poop You" was exhibited in San Francisco Bay Area and there are some pictures of funny artworks.

I think these works are inherited the element of Dada as well. The artist used the readymade such as photographs and toilet paper roll and slightly add or change them to create humour.

Gelatin (Gelitin)/ Confront

The Vienna-based art group, Gelitin, made four giant sculpture of turd in the exhibition, "Gelatin: Vorm - Fellows - Attitude", at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Gelitin, Vorm - Fellows - Attitude, 2018

"Their form of performance-based, interactive art has roots in the 1960s Situationist and Fluxus movements", said the exhibition’s curator, Francesco Stocchi, "and particularly in the Austrian avant-garde movement called Viennese Actionism, whose artists often used their own naked bodies as a canvas, and blood, milk or entrails as their materials. "

New York Times

I think they are pretty bold to invite the audience to get the rid of anything else, their jobs, social fames, etc., and directing facing the object and organs that everyone familiar with, which can find the shadow of Fluxus movement. Comparing to the Dadaist works, Vorm - Fellows - Attitude emphasises the interaction between the work and audiences. However, this work still have the rebelling gene of Dadaism. They used the exquisite blankets and nicely designed gallery space as the contrast to this "disgusting" matter, though it relates to everyone. As for me, the experience of "communicating" with the work would be accentuated through wear "naked clothes", which is really interesting.


Zapf de Pipi/ Conversion

Zapf de Pipi, Gelitin, 2005

Meanwhile, through the report of New York Times, I found a name of artwork that might relate with the topic, called Zapf de Pipi (2005), which was also done by Gelitin.

They did a 7-meter tall icecle that made with "metabolic wastes (such as urea), dissolved salts and organic materials". Comparing to the Vorm - Fellows - Attitude, this work is more leaning on converting the excretion to a delicate and suiting the public aesthetics object. The physical change of a matter would produce a totally different effect.

Andre Serrano/ Ritual

The urine also reminds me Supreme used to sell a series of clothes that printed the picture of a crucifix immersed in the urine. After researching that, I find it is done by American photographer, Andre Serrano, as a series called Immersions.

These series of photos caused a sensation and led to a controversy on the religion issue because he announced that he used his urine as the media, which seems somewhat offensive to conservative believers.


1.Piss Christ, 1987

2. Piss Light, 1987

3. Winged Victory, 1987

4. Madonna of the Rocks, 1987

5. Ecce Homo, 1988

6. Madonna and Child II, 1989

Comparing to Sen's work, Serrano's pee is focusing on the religious issue and it's not showing as the action of peeing, instead more caring about the property of it, such as the colour.

In his previous works, death, body fluids and religious metaphor were the basic elements that revolved with his works. The body fluid then became as the media that gives a heavy, mysterious and ritual feeling to the viewers.

Afterwards, I realise that I used to read an article about blood and beauty in Cynthia Freeland's Art Theory. The reason why I think of this book is because it mentioned about Serrano's works. However, before looking at her analysis, I also find some relative statements.

"Rituals of many world religions involve rich colour, and pageantry. But ritual theory does not account for the sometimes strange, intense activities of modern artists, as when performance artist uses blood. For participants in a ritual, clarity and agreement of purpose are central; the ritual reinforces the community's proper relation to God or nature through gestures that everyone knows and understands. But audiences who see and react to a modern artist do not enter in with shared beliefs and values, or with prior knowledge of what will transpire."

Cynthia Freeland, Art Theory, page 19

To view back all of the works that researched above, I agree with what Freeland said because even the other contemporary artworks like Hirst's shark (The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991) and Duchamp's Fountain, they all require a shared belief to understand what it is.

In the summary of Kant's philosophy of beauty, Freeland described that, "We respond to the object's rightness of design, which satisfies our imagination and intellect, even though we are evaluating the object's purpose“ (ibid., page 23), so our knowledge would be the premise of understanding the object's rightness of design.

Chris Ofili, The Holy Virgin Mary, 1996

"Some of the most infamous art of recent decades became controversial because of its startling presentation of human bodies and body fluids. At the 1999 Sensation exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the most controversial artwork ('Virgin Mary' by Chris Ofili) even used elephant dung. Controversy erupted about funding of the US National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the late 1980s after bodies were penetrated and exposed, as blood, urine, and semen became newly prominent in art Images like Andres Serrano's Piss Christ (1987) and Robert Mapplethrope's Jim and Tom, Sausalito (1977) (which showed one man urinating into another man's mouth) became key targets for critics of contemporary art." ibid., page 20

For Ofili's work, it also challenged the conservative believe, but also it gives me a sense of primal feeling, which let the figure of Virgin Mary travel to an older age because of the primitive figure and the elephant dung. Referring to Robert Mapplethrope's works, his was confronting the common morality.

"Art experts testified at the obscenity trial of the Cincinnati gallery that exhibited Mapplethorpe's work that his photographs counted art because of their exquisite formal properties, such as careful lighting, classical composition, and elegant sculptural shapes. In other words, Mapplethorpe's work fulfilled the 'beauty' expectation required of true art— even nudes with huge penises should be viewed with dispassion as cousins of Michelangelo's David."

ibid., page 24

Back to the content of Andre Serrano, she titled that part as "Defending Serrano", because the critic Lucy Lippard defended Serrano's works in Art In America (1990):

"Lippard's defence of Serrano uses a thee-pronged analysis: she examines (l) his work's formal and material properties; (2) its content (the or meaning it expresses); and (3) its context, or place in the western art tradition."

"Piss Christ— the object of censorial furor — is a darkly beautiful photographic image... The small wood-and-plastic crucifix becomes virtually monumental as it floats photographically enlarged, in a deep golden, rosy glow that is both ominous and glorious; The bubbles wafting across the surface suggest a nebula. Yet the work's title, which is crucial to the enterprise, transforms this easily digestible cultural icon into a sign of rebellion or an object of disgust simply by changing the context in which it is seen.

ibid., page 25

The interesting thing is that both the experts who did a trial for Mapplethrope's work and Lippard, when they use a systematic judgement of art on the artists' workpieces, it's hardly to deny they are the art. This point reminds me the experience of Duchamp, when he was staying in the circle of Cubist artists, his work, Nude Descending a Staircase NO.2 was asked to voluntarily withdraw from the Salon des Indépendences in Paris, because the committee could not accept the "offensive" attitude toward the nudity. Also, his anonymous work, Fountain, experienced the similar thing in New York. Relating with this point, does it because some people just have not refresh their limitation of imagination of art yet? Does the cause of controversy is resembling what happened to Duchamp's works? I think it requires the examination of time.

In addition, the author also compared to these contemporary art pieces with Goya's works. As great as Goya, he also recklessly applied the bloody scenes and the actual aspects that people may not want to mention about in the daily life, such as his The Disasters of War and Black Paintings.

Partial Summary

From the research of the artist and works that relate with excretions, I found that different actions and milieus will change the meaning of the art work and mainly they are used in two general pathways. Take the urine as the example, the work of Sen Dada and Robert Mapplethrope, urinating was a happening process in the work, which could be regard as the way to express thought. The second situation is that the urine was used as the media, or material like what Serrano did. The property or our impression of the excretion gives the artists a wide space to say about their ideas. For instance, because of the word "piss" appeared in the title of Serrano's work, it caused an immense sensation for people to argue about, as well as Mazoni's canned "shit"the contradiction between how they look like and what they exactly are, stimulates generation of doubt, anger, irony, re-question the meaning of beauty and etc..


When I was reading New York Times' report of Gelitin's work, "Fluxus movement" really caught my eyes because it reminds me one of my favourite artwork, TV Buddha (1974), which was done by Nam June Paik. Following with that, I thought about Zen and Buddhist philosophy of samsara. Through reading and looking more information, this subliminal feeling was getting stronger and stronger. Because I started to recollect the memory that once while I was peeing, my thought was fascinating by this process. I felt a dreadful loneliness and anxiety on account of I saw the bubbles that popped up were vanished one by one, which was alike the people who you know eventually disappeared from your life. I realised that life is just undergoing the resembled thing as urinating. In the end, everyone are gone as the urine is flushing away and then start a new cycle, which in Buddhism is called "samsara". Based on this epiphany, I tend to find out more resource about the Fluxus movement and Nam June Paik.

George Maciunas, Fluxus Manifesto, 1963

Based on the resource from Tate's website, wikipedia and, I make a list of the keep points of this movement.


a latin word means flowing

Movement Leader:

George Maciunas

Time Span:

1959 - 1978


"promote a revolutionary flood and tide in art, promote living art, anti-art" (Maciunas)

Key Artists:

Joseph Beuys, Dick Higgins, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Ben Vautier, Henry Flynt, Al Hansen...

Main Root:

  • John Cage

  • Marcel Duchamp

  • Futurist, Dadaist, Neo-Dadaist

Major Centres:

  • New York

  • Germany

  • Japan

Key Ideas:

  • simplicity and anti-commercialism

  • chance and accident

  • humour

  • "anything can substitute for art and anyone can do it...the value of art-amusement must be lowered by making it unlimited, mass-produced, obtainable by all and eventually produced by all." (Maciunas)

George Brecht
  • "In Fluxus there has never been any attempt to agree on aims or methods; individuals with something unnamable in common have simply naturally coalesced to publish and perform their work. Perhaps this common thing is a feeling that the bounds of art are much wider than they have conventionally seemed, or that art and certain long established bounds are no longer very useful." (George Brecht)

Art Forms:

  • Intermedia

  • Concept Art

  • Video Art

  • Performance Art

Later Incarnations:

  • Performance Art

  • Land Art

  • Graffiti Art

1. Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1964-1966

2. Robert Filliou, Optimistic Box #3 - So much the better if you can't play chess (you won't imitate Marcel Duchamp), 1969

3. Ben Vautier, Total Art Matchbox, 1966

4. Benjamin Patterson, Licking Piece, 1964

5. Nam June Paik, Zen for Film, 1965

6. Alison Knowles, Make a Salad, 1962


After looking at some Fluxus artworks, I think the point of interaction between the viewer and work is fascinating because I believe that art should have communication like this, and the interaction could provide an experience to help the viewer literally understand the "shared beliefs and value" as Freeland said. At the same time, these works truly accentuate the simplicity, a readymade, a simple video or action would bring up a very witty sense.

Nam June Paik/ Zen

Nam June Paik, 1932-2006

Research Nam June Paik is the next step after knowing a bit more about Fluxus movement. He is known as "the father of video art", because after the training of classical music, he was inspired by John Cage, the composer and artist who was profoundly influenced by Zen, and started to utilising visual, audio and electronic devices in his works. He was keen on humanising technology, perhaps he foreseen an Internet world which has linked billions of people's lives nowadays. I mainly research some of his works that have a distinct connection with Zen Buddhism.

Zen for Head (1962)

This is the first Paik's work that I saw two years ago, it deeply impressed me because that was my first time to see a person who use the body part that exempt from hands to draw things. As black-and-white pictures (the original one is a7-minute video that presented at at Stockhausen's Originale in 1961), his action reminded me using the blood to devoutly paint out his believe. This work is quite similar as what Mapplethrope did, there was a bit of ritual feeling within the work, but feels more oriental and peaceful than latter one.

Zen for TV (1963-1965)

This work marked as the birth of video art. Paik reduced the spectrum of screen to a line so that the pictures would only flash on that single line. At that time, the colour television was just been published in America for a decade, as a quite new technology, he felt the potential influence of it, "he questioned the conditions of the production and broadcasting of images by manipulating the medium"(

Zen for Film (1985)

Zen for Film inherited the thought of John Cage's 4'33" (1952), and for me, it implies the sense of meditation which aim to empty the mind to refine the spirit and perceive the world. In this approximately 20 minutes long video, only some dust will appear in the screen randomly, just like the scene that we may seen if take away any shape or colour, except the tiny dust, from the world.

TV Buddha (1974)

Although TV Buddha has various editions with diverse buddha sculptures and titles, this design of installation nevertheless is the most influential one to me, comparing to the other works. I think it exquisitely combined the readymade with tradition matter (Zen) and contemporary technology (CCTV and TV), creating the conflict between old and new, steady and dynamic. One interpretation described the meaning in a pretty serious way:

"In this closed circuit loop, the Buddha constantly faces his own projected image, caught in an eternal present tense and unable to transcend from his own physicality. "

Admittedly, it is a brief and rational explanation. However, in my thinking, I would regard it more as the embodiment of Buddha's meditation and the spiritual observation of himself. The screen shows an untouchable world that seems like permanently steady, as the modern version of Buddha.

This work is not only creates a humourous feeling, but also can lead the viewers to expand their imagination because we are familiar with these stuff. It could be revealing out the issue between new technology, high-speed developing world and the spiritual status that people used to pursue.

Partial Summary, 22/11

Based on the previous study of excretion art, my target material gradually cleared and after looking at Fluxus, particularly Paik's works, there are some new ideas came into my mind. Specifically, I notice that the works are all including somewhat contrast thing in either physical or mental way. Therefore, to set the contradiction, or emphasise it by more distinct materials should be the way that I need to think about. Currently, I plan to use a urinal, video displaying and the theory of periscope to make an installation, which can invite the viewer to take a careful look at the urinal and to find the video of peeing from the outlet. To realise this idea, I still need to do some research about Buddhism and experiment the effect of periscope. Besides, I just tend to buy a mini video projector, in case the periscope and urinal does not fix with. The calculations and experiments will do after comparing the urinals' sizes.

Study of "Samsāra"

Samara in real life: Recycle System

The most direct sense that relating with both samsara and urine is the recycling process of sewage. To regard the urine as the part that used to belong with our bodies, when it eventually urinates out, it symbolising it enter into a new stage of "samsara".

Simplified process flow diagram for a typical large-scale treatment plant

After undergoing with plenty of process, the urine finally decomposed and back to the form of water again and waiting for the next stage to become as a part of plants, clouds or animals. The fabulous order of nature set everything on the world in a particular path. As Tagore said in Stray Birds, "I shall die again and again to know that life is inexhaustible", everything will meet the day of destroy as well as rebirth.

In religion

The idea of samsara is deeply rooting in Chinese culture though not every people believed in. Hermann Hesse‘s Siddhartha drew me into a deep think about life and samsara. Last time I saw the word was in the course of Khan Academy.

"Hinduism means the religions of India. It's not a single religion but rather a variety of related beliefs and spiritual practices. It dates back five millennia to the time of Krishna, a man of such virtue that he became known as an avatar of Vishnu, an incarnation of the god in human form. He taught that all life follows karma 业, the law of cause and effect, and our job is to do our duty, or dharma 法则, according to our place in society without worrying how things turn out. When we die, we are reincarnated into a new body. If we followed our dharma and did our proper duty in our past life, we get good karma, which sends our soul upward in the social scale. Our rebirth into the next life is thus determined by what we do in this one. The wheel of rebirths is called samsara 轮回. It's possible for a very holy person to lead a life with enough good karma to escape the wheel. This escape is called moksha 解脱. Hinduism teaches that everything is one. "

Although the process of recycling the sewage is the actual thing that will happen to the urine as similar as the livings, I still want to search more information about samsara. Therefore, I look up some Chinese articles about samsara.


the Indranet by wanderweird

In Buddhism, the word "samsara" usually appear with karma and retribution theory. Karma is the law of cause and effect which affect in past, present and future. However, the karma is not simply the linear cause and effect. Instead, the Buddhist would use Indra's net to compare to this complex law because both cause and effect are not sole, but various. That reminds me again the bubbles occur while peeing.

Thangka of Samsara

Karma impacts the condition of next life, according to how many good thing or bad things done in this life. Based on this judgment, different people will enter different stages of samsara. There are six stages, “hells (niraya), hungry ghosts (pretas), animals (tiryak), humans (manushya), demi-gods (asuras) and gods (devas, heavenly)” (resource from Wikipedia). The latter three are the superior stages, while the people in the other stages would meet more suffers.


To be noteworthy, the idea of karma and Samsara are not originated from Buddhism, what Buddhist did is improve and complete the theory by adding "Pratitya", the contributing factors that subliminally influence every choice in the life. The idea of samsara was already existing in ancient Indian people's mind which can be found on Rigveda, the oldest book in Indo-european languages that wrote in Vedic period (c. 1600 B.C.E. - c. 700 B.C.E.). In this book, it mentioned a character "Yama", the kind of heaven, which demonstrates the thinking of after death had occurred since that time. In addition, the idea of samsara was not widely spread, but karma had established.


Since the Upanishads period(c. 800 B.C.E. - c. 500 B.C.E.), the philosophers had already came up with the idea of "atman" or "self" as the recipient of karma and samsara. "The five fires and two paths theory" mentioned in Chandogya Upanishad was the prototype of Buddhist samsara.

Resource From:

  1. Wikipedia

  2. Buddhism's Concept of Samsara, Weiqun Yao





Study of Urine

After studying the detail of samsara, I think the metaphor of Indra's net is really suiting with the idea of bubbles occur in the urinating. The bubbles are connecting with each other, and in every second, they will gradually vanish because of the burst of neighbour one. Meanwhile, the bursting process literally does not follow the linear cause and effect. Actually, some bubbles are breaking at the same time, which corresponding to the multi-causes and effects law.


On account of I want to apply a video of urinating, I need to study the reason why there are bubbles appear in the urine and try to use the knowledge to achieve the expecting effect.

Based on the information from the websites, I organise the main causes and reasons of bubbles in urine, and selected three most suitable causes of my condition. The form below is the comparative experiments that I plan to examine that main reason for me and to make sure the best way of creating bubbles in the healthy and safe way. Therefore, the process of recording video would be more convenient as I know how. Besides, I deleted to use toilet chemicals after consideration because that would make the final effect looks unreal.

Observation and Conclusion

After a week-long observation, I found the best period of urinating that can achieve the expecting effect is after drinking a lot of water and urinate at the edge of toilet wall and water line slowly. On account of my planned date of recording video is on Monday morning, so I need to make sure it is the second urination of that dat because the first one might be foamy and takes a long time to let the bubbles dissipate.

Resource From:

After that, I re-arrange the schedule, add up the experiment and move the statement to the end because I think several things would be adjusted during the experiments.

Study of Urinals

Shopping list

Before narrowing down to one urinal, I need to compare and select a satisfied choice and purchase it. I list down six options that initially appealing me on visual way and then compare several sections. After that, there are two options that seems like what I want, but I still need to wait for the reply of the first seller about the weight and outlet size. Thus, the purchase date might be delayed.

In the next step, I will specifically plan the outcome based on the first urinal and the fourth one on both periscope and projector way. To be easier to memorise, the first one will be called as A and the fourth one is B.

Besides, the reason why I select the urinal instead of toilet is because it is lighter which is easier to manipulate and I would regard the work as an "autobiography", which personally including my gender with the use of urinal.


It is actually the first idea that came out in my mind, because I want to play the video at the outlet of the urinal and use the periscope theory to reflect the video through the opening of the urinal. ThereforeI researched the theory of periscope.

" Light from a distant object strikes the top mirror and is then reflected at an angle of 90 degrees down the periscope tube. At the bottom of the periscope, the light strikes another mirror and is then reflected into the viewer's eye. This simple periscope uses only flat mirrors as compared to the periscopes used on submarines, which are usually a complex optical system using both lenses and mirrors."

Resource From


Surprisingly, I bought a second-hand mini projector in November 24th because the actual structure of the urinal is still not clear, then I need to do a plan B in case the periscope does not work really well. Using the projector, I can play the video inside of the urinasl and use a piece of glass to reflect the image or directly project the image on the wall of urinals.

To testify the quality that project on different screens, I used 2 pieces of 10cm*10cm ground glass and clear glass, a piece of white paper, tracing paper and black paper. I set the objects 15cm away from the projector and use photos and videos to record the process.

On account of the reflection of light, the camera was hard to capture the actual colours on the screens. However, the effects are collected in the table below.

As a result, the tracing paper and ground glass (smooth side) have the best effects.

Meanwhile, I have calculated the maximum length that the outlet of A and B and the result shows that the projector could not be inserted into the urinals. Hence, for A, the projector only could be placed in the concave of it and capture the picture by tracing paper or ground glass.

Urinal A

Firstly, I sketch out the perspective image of the urinal and highlight out the tube. Secondly, I put another tracing paper on the sketch and draw the route of light if I place a mirror (black lines). However, the light will be shoot on the wall of urinal and the viewers cannot see the image.

After that, I draw a simple sketch to demonstrate the situations if an object blocks the light.

Then, I try to divide the space inside the urinal into four dimensions. The pink part is tracing paper or ground glass, which I can put the projector in it. For the other three parts, it might be better to use soft mirror (paper stick) to fit with the curve. Nonetheless, I have not seen any one sell it in the UK website. As a result, the idea is changed slightly, the space should be more geometric.

Urinal B

For the urinal B, thought the weight of it is quite heavy, the outlet size is the most satisfied one. However, the wall of urinal will probably block a portion of light and a better way to display the video is placing the projector at the bottom of the tube and covered with a screen.

To testify whether it is true that the light might be blocked, I use a card board and a little piece of mirror to make a simple periscope.

Template of Periscope

This periscope is imitating the shape of the tube and the card board pieces are adhered by super glue and black tape that can block the light from seam.

Then I choose a part of Duchamp's Étant donnés as the observe object.