Muybridge 1887—Duchamp 1912—Richter 1966—so begins the chronology of female nudes descending a staircase (although female nudes should lie down rather than descend stairs, as an earlier critic mocked Duchamp’s painting), and in whose series Hessam Samavatian locates his interpretation of this significant motif. Photographic, cubist and futurist dissections of movement sequences, or the blurring of movement as a reference to a photographic mistake, follow one another. Richter’s painting after a flash shot of Ema was also initially rejected, as it was considered too photographic, although Richter opposed the photographic (the documentary, sharp and clearly contoured image) to a painterly view by preferring a blurred reproduction of the original.
The current photographic interpretation starts from these models and continues them—for example, the staircase of the Vienna Academy was chosen and very clearly depicted, as it was built at about the same time as Muybridge’s and Marey’s chronophotographs, while the nude itself is far more diffuse and transparent and, above all, its gender can no longer be determined. In this there is another theme, the transience that runs through Hessam Samavatian’s work. It manifests itself in the shadowy figure on the stairs and also alludes to the transience of painting, for which photography has been held jointly responsible. After all, Nude Descending a Staircase was Duchamp’s last painting before he turned to Dadaism.