Sunday 14 May 2017

Manipulation of Objects in Duchamp's Readymades

The readymade. One of the greatest myths of art and the origin of the false belief that normal objects become art by merely existing inside an art context. Unfortunately not everyone realises that the idea of presenting a pure, unaltered object was never really a realistic prospect and that all of Duchamp's readymades were altered in some way.
To prove this the rest of this post will simply consider all known readymades and take a look at how they differ from their everyday counterparts.

First there is the Bicycle Wheel. The bicycle wheel which is mounted upside down onto a stool. A combination whose aerodynamic qualities are still not fully appreciated.
Hat Rack and In Advance of the Broken Arm are both suspended from the ceiling with an invisible wire. It could be me, but I have yet to see these objects floating in mid air anywhere else.
Trébuchet is only a trap when you screw it to the floor like Duchamp did.
Unlike a bottle or another kind of container, once an ampoule is sealed with Air de Paris inside, it can never be used for its original purpose.
Exactly why Fresh Widow, a small model of a French window with shined leather instead of glass, is ever considered a readymade is completely beyond me.
Fountain, the most famous readymade of all, is only a fountain if you place it on its back. The difference between a fountain and a toilet is that in one the water goes up and in the other the water goes down. This simple fact is even asserted in the original article on the work that Duchamp wrote for The Blind Man in 1917.
The sugar cubes inside the bird cage of Why not sneeze, Rrose Sélavy? are made of marble and of A bruit secret it can hardly be said that is an item one would find in a convenience store, with its engraved pieces of brass and an unknown object inside the ball of twine.
No Comb I ever bought had nonsensical writing engraved along the edge of it and no company I ever known of changed this engraving to oil paint in subsequent remakes. This would have been true for Bottle Rack as well, if only Duchamps' sister hadn't lost the letter with its original intended inscription, or if Duchamp could have recollected the phrase by the time its sale as an artwork had become commercially viable. Therefore it is currently the closest any readymade comes to actually being ready made.
But perhaps this is not true, as I have yet to mention Pliant ... de voyage. As far as I can tell, this is in fact a simple Underwood branded typewriter cover, with no special instructions on how it should be displayed or situated in a space. However, it should be noted that this piece was conceived in 1916, a time where every single object that was considered sculpture was rigidly hard and this would remain a unique idea in sculpture for nearly half a century.