Letters of Duchamp

Letters of Duchamp, to be seen in and out of the light, even, was the third iteration
of Charles Shere’s opera The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even . . .
Still from the video: Mona Lisa Chorus by Beth King.


  • Act I: Green Box
  •     Notes: Letters, Duchamp to Shere 1964, 1967; Peeping Tom; Cemetery of Uniforms
  •     Entr'acte: You Can See Seeing
  • Act II: Red Box
  •     Notes: Cemetery of Uniforms
  •     Entr'acte: You Cannot Hear Hearing
  • Act III: White Box
  •     Notes: Call Me; If It Exists


  • Direction, Choreography:  Margaret Fisher
  • Music: Charles Shere
  • Videography: Ted Helminski, Paul Lundahl, Sara Roberts
  • Performance Group:  MAFISHCO
  • Sets: Chris McFee, Jerry Carniglia, Mara Lee Corter
  • Lighting: Larry Neff
  • Costumes: Cynthia DuVal
  • Digital Effects, Montage:  Margaret Fisher
  • Produced by:  Ted Helminski, Performing Arts video, International Performance Network and MAFISHCO
  • Original format:  analog video, VHS and Betacam
  • Release Date: 1994 TRT: 12 minutes
  • Genres: Film Short, American Dance on Film, Visual Art on Film

About the Work

The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even is a painting on glass begun by Marcel Duchamp in 1912, shortly after completing his notorious Nude Descending a Staircase, and left definitively incomplete in 1923. The painting is complemented by an extensive series of notes, jottings and sketches Duchamp produced over the same ten years—speculations on color, transparency, language, geometry, and art—written on scraps of paper which were published in facsimile in several installments: The Box of 1914, the Green Box of 1934, the White Box of 1967.
    The pictorial machinations of The Large Glass (as the painting is known) are toward the sole function of making love, the notes describing a frustrated eros-machine, Bride above (sometimes as bride-motor, sometimes as "sex wasp"), Bachelors below. The bachelors are nine "malic" molds, hollow uniforms who secrete a gas which is channeled, filtered, splashed and focussed by a series of mechanical and optical procedures toward the Bride, readying her for the stripping which never, of course, takes place. The operations of the Bachelors are “slow, monotonous, dolorous, melancholy.” The Bride is a motor, an internal combustion machine who transmits her desire to the Bachelors.
    The work resists rational description and this is not a conventional opera, though it assumes the resources conventionally available to opera—soloists, chorus, orchestra, dance, the proscenium stage. The music, composed between 1969 and 1986, is an amalgam of conventional and unconventional notation, rhythmic and arhythmic phrases, tonal and non-tonal melody and sonority, and vocally- and instrumentally-dominated sections. Screen: Quartet No. 3 for 4-6 strings is a graphic score intended to be played either alone or superimposed on other sounds. The Five Pieces After Handler of Gravity were adapted for orchestra in 1975 from a work for organ. Sonata: Bachelor Machine is a long central ballet representing the mechanical workings of the bride and her bachelors.


  • Mills College, Oakland CA:  Songlines Series
  • The Squeaky Wheel, Buffalo, NY:  The Translation and Replication Series
  • San Francisco Art Institute