In particular, as Naumann and Antliff have each noted, Man Ray initially asserted his own individuality-or, as I would put it, performed his own avant-garde masculinity-by associating himself with anarchism
Soldiers Credulous repeat the good occasion welcoming republican Three times one time more An idea nothing but an idea of candid animal cry Trompe-l’oeil baptized discredits moving muscles The day steals health life Hatred of infants in the war Siren’s music cold kingdom of overloads Productive cultures horrible lamb of the crazed
avid constraint Of desperate attitudes the sick wall of the Feminine sex.97 In Picabia’s poem the soldier, who is lumen-promotiecodes ?rst and foremost described as “credulous,” is forced to repeat the “good occasion” demanded by the republic’s repeated siren call; productive cultures and the artist/soldiers who represent them are submitted as sacri?cial lambs to the “crazed, avid constraints” of the war, the true horror of their “desperate attitudes” and compromised masculinity explicitly symbolized by the image of them smashed against “the sick wall of the Feminine sex.” As New York Dada scholar Nancy Ring has noted, the syntax of the poem “becomes more incoherent” as it progresses, its incoherence climaxing in the irrationality of feminine sexuality.98 Ring concludes that the poem represents the war as “a traumatic destabilization of gender identity,” which is certainly in line with my analysis. The smashing-and the feminization-are both of and by Picabia.
MAN RAY’S EQUIVOCATION In August war broke out in Europe. We ?gured that our plans to go abroad would have to be postponed. . . . Wall street was booming; speculators were reaping fortunes in a day. . . . It was like a great holiday [in the city], all the pro?ts of war with none of its miseries. Walking home in the evening . . . I felt depressed. . . . There must be a way, I thought of avoiding the calamities that human beings brought upon themselves. – Man Ray, 196399 As far as we know, Man Ray never publicly or directly discussed the possibility of ?ghting in the war, though clearly (and understandably) avoidance was his primary strategy of dealing with its looming presence on the international scene and in New York in particular. For Man Ray, as for many Americans, up until the enactment of con-
However, I would also suggest that Picabia is not only projecting his anxieties outward onto a mythical combatant, but is in some sense himself the failed soldier dashed against the wall of femininity; at the same time, as I will argue more strenuously below, he himself identi?es with female sexuality
scription laws in May of 1917 the war was primarily a nuisance rather than a direct threat: the above laconic passage from his autobiography is one of the only references he makes speci?cally to the turmoil in Europe (apparently more of an inconvenience than anything else). He mentions the war here primarily as a context for his “prophetic” painting of hieratically arranged men and horses, which he retroactively entitled War (A.D.MCMXIV) in response to the war.100 As Francis Naumann, Nancy Ring, and Allan Antliff have pointed out, however, Man Ray’s relationship to the war was marked by deeper psychic investments than he cared to dwell on in his later reconstructions of this period. He attended life drawing classes at the Ferrer Center, also known as the Modern School, in New York City, a gathering place for political radicals such as Emma Goldman and Upton Sinclair. Here, Robert Henri and George Bellows taught a highly radicalized version of artistic modernism, and Man Ray came into contact with an avant-garde that promoted an individualist materialism linked to the anarchist ideas of Max Stirner and other major political theorists in Europe.101 Antliff, in particular, makes a highly compelling case for the role of anarchism, via Man Ray, in a certain strand of Dada practice.102 Certainly anarchist and avantgarde ideologies were felicitously meshed through the activities of the New York Dadaists. Resisting conscription, in what way we do not know,103 Man Ray was prepared by his association with anarchism-as well as with his Belgian-born anarchist wife Adon Lacroix (whose parents were incommunicado in Belgium, trapped because of the war)-to be conceptually aligned with his French colleagues who were escaping the draft. Lacroix had recently gotten a divorce from Adolf Wolff, who was a friend of Man Ray’s, a frequenter of the Ferrer Center, a participant in a number of anarchist demonstrations (for which he was arrested and imprisoned), and a contributor to the socialist review The International.104 In 1913 Man Ray moved to Ridge?eld, New Jersey, with several other members of the anarchist group associated with the Ferrer Center, and soon married Lacroix. In 1915, Lacroix’s passionate antiwar poem entitled simply “War” was included in a Morning Telegraph article by a fellow Ridge?eld intellectual, the poet and journalist Alfred Kreymborg. Lacroix’s poem is an explicit indictment of the trappings of nationalism associated with war.105 Still, in spite of his anarchism, Man Ray’s relationship to politics was limited by his allegiance to a particularly American kind of individualism and contrasts strongly with, say, the deeply politicized aesthetic attitude of the members of the Berlin Dada