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"I attach even more importance to the spectator than to the artist."
June 1, 2009 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Somewhere between dada and surrealist, Marcel Duchamp revolutionized art with his "readymades," a term for found objects taken directly from society. Except, maybe they weren't.

Rhonda Roland Shearer (widow of Harvard paleontologist and natural selection spokesperson Stephen Jay Gould) makes a convincing argument that Duchamp's readymades were anything but.
posted by Damn That Television (60 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
We're through the looking glass here, people
posted by Artw at 11:25 AM on June 1, 2009


Girlfriend: "I knew that."
posted by Monstrous Moonshine at 11:28 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


This ruins everything!

Bravo, Marcel; who would have thought the old boy still had it in him to toss the art world into turmoil?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:29 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought Duchamp made this apparent.
posted by cmoj at 11:29 AM on June 1, 2009


Aha! Duchamp is a fraud!


right?
posted by Mister_A at 11:29 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


This has caused a small stir among Duchamp scholars. First is the factual question: Could she be right? Second, and perhaps more to the point: Would it matter?

Maybe. No.

posted by munchingzombie at 11:31 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


A couple years ago, there was an artist who had some of her work exhibited at the Whitney's Biennial; I forget her name, but her whole thing was that she copied some of Duchamp's better-known "Readymades" and submitted them as her own work, all of them just "Untitled." With the fact that she was just copying Duchamp being part of the concept.

On the one hand it all just sounds way pretentious and conceptual, but on the other hand, I have a feeling that Duchamp would have just laughed uproariously and said, "okay, yeah, she gets it."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:31 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Two-time American women's chess champion Jennifer Shahade turns the tables on the old Duchamp-plays-chess-against-naked-lady stunt. [mildly NSFW]
posted by Joe Beese at 11:35 AM on June 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Heh. For some reason I was thinking about his Fountain piece earlier and wondering if anyone has ever managed to sneak a quick pee in one of the museums where repros are housed.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:37 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, and wonder no more. If curators weren't so stuffy and insist that his readymades were VEWWY SEWWIOUS ART then all the urinals in the men's room would be replicas.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:39 AM on June 1, 2009


Paging R.Mutt.
posted by greensweater at 11:40 AM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Old art criticism: It's art because he just took ordinary objects and displayed them in a new way!

New art criticism: It's art because he didn't just take ordinary objects and display them in a new way!

Newer art criticism: It's art because although now we know he didn't just take ordinary objects and display them in a new way, he made it look like he did!

Next art criticism: We think! Maybe he was, and maybe he wasn't! The ambiguity is itself the art!

Ultimate art criticism: It's just art, okay?!?
posted by yhbc at 11:40 AM on June 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


What will floor me is if she finds a handwritten note from him, saying he "did it for the lulz."
posted by not_on_display at 11:41 AM on June 1, 2009 [11 favorites]


Stand Alone Complex?
posted by Scoo at 11:42 AM on June 1, 2009


Obligatory Kate Beaton link.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:43 AM on June 1, 2009


"You start feeling like a fool for taking him at his word,"

Both Duchamp and Man Ray (and Picabia, for that matter) said, repeatedly, things to the effect of "The things I'm saying are nonsense. This is Dada." After this, they'd talk, and people would listen as if there had been no caveat.

I love Duchamp. He builds in a 100 year time delay for people to be pissed and reject the work, only to reveal that their objections are dust and the point hasn't changed! lolpostdada!
posted by cmoj at 11:45 AM on June 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


Arthur Danto, the art critic for The Nation, is more blunt. ''I guess it's possible that he made a commercial porcelain urinal and a grooming comb. But what would I think of him if his great contribution was as a ceramicist or a woodworker? I think it would make him far less important.'' Of course, ''that wouldn't change the readymade; that's part of the discourse now.''

''But if she's right,'' he adds, ''I have no interest in Duchamp.''


Wow: petulent revenge of the humorless art critic who's been punk'd.

Okay, I'm going to try to control myself and not call Danto things like "idiot" and "douchebag". But how the living fuck does the the possibility that Duchamp personally crafted these items make him "far less important"? They are still the same things that they were when he presented them and his contribution to art does not retroactively disappear if he was playing a huge practical joke; frankly if true I think it perfects it in (as others have suggested above) pure Dada terms.

And there's pretty naked elitism in "...if his great contribution was as a ceramicist or woodworker...it would make him far less important."
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:59 AM on June 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is inane. It was inane when she was working on it 10 years ago, it's inane now. Nobody really cares except Shearer.
posted by OmieWise at 12:04 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


When you actually read Shearer's arguments, you very quickly feel yourself to be entering 9/11 Truther or Intelligent Design or Bigfoot Is Real territory. Her starting point is pure conviction that she must be right, after that it's just a matter of finding all the evidence that will fit the conclusion she knows she wants to arrive at.

There is always the possibility, of course, that her real motivation is a kind of Dadaist surenchère--spinning a patently absurd claim out with as much poker-faced seriousness as possible.
posted by yoink at 12:17 PM on June 1, 2009


Duchamp was the great wrecking ball. He set up a trap for those who insist on over-analyzing art and mistaking the message for the medium... a hundred years later, fine art keeps blundering into it, again and again and again, like one of the Three Stooges at a pie fight. Damien Hirst should be running around the gallery making "woop woop woop" sounds and shouting out "Hey, Moe!" Huge swaths of modern art is the result of a practical joke, and this notion appeals to me.

Now, we get to discover that the joke itself was a joke, and this makes it even funnier.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:20 PM on June 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


Exactly my thinking, Mr. Spiggott!

It doesn't really matter if he crafted them as art or not: that's still the point of Duchamp's 'readymades' regardless of if they were mass-produced or painstakingly slightly-off reproductions. As Joselit is quoted earlier in the article: "art is a set of relationships, not a thing".

Francis Naumann's comment is also a little puzzling in this regard--although I'm wondering if it's just being placed in the wrong context: "You have to have the concept of the readymade before you challenge it."

IF this was Duchamp's concept from the beginning, how clever/brilliant is it to nest the next generation of artistically active criticism within the first generation? If he's already thought about what it means to present readymades as art, why does he have to wait a decade--or for a contemporary--to explore the next natural set of questions?

Just because the art world is laboriously slow to evolve its relationship with art, does it really mean the artist has to be as well?

On the subject of the validity of Shearer's claim though... It seems shakily-supported and quite possibly an artistic creation in itself. Just because it would be a clever Duchamp bonus round, doesn't mean it is.
posted by pokermonk at 12:22 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Never trust what an artist says about her own work.
posted by R. Mutt at 12:23 PM on June 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


IF this was Duchamp's concept from the beginning, how clever/brilliant is it to nest the next generation of artistically active criticism within the first generation?

IF (I like your literal "big IF") this was Duchamp's concept from the beginning, something tells me that he'd have worked a bit harder to preserve the "actual" painstakingly handcrafted bogus readymades rather than hoping some tireless researcher decades later would just happen to notice that she found it hard to find an exact match for his urinal (in Paris's many antique urinal stores)--at least as best as she can judge from the few blurry photographs of it that remain.

If you're going to go to all this trouble to plant a joke, aren't you going to work a bit harder to make sure the punchline will eventually get heard?
posted by yoink at 12:33 PM on June 1, 2009


Duchamp was the great wrecking ball. He set up a trap for those who insist on over-analyzing art and mistaking the message for the medium... a hundred years later, fine art keeps blundering into it, again and again and again, like one of the Three Stooges at a pie fight. Damien Hirst should be running around the gallery making "woop woop woop" sounds and shouting out "Hey, Moe!" Huge swaths of modern art is the result of a practical joke, and this notion appeals to me.

Exactly! This is how I've always approached modern art -- trying to analyze it to death just doesn't work for me, and I only approach it from the perspective of "is this just...cool? yes or no?" Some things try to get all meaningful, but in the eyes of the average beholder, that doesn't always translate -- I remember seeing Hirst's The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living, and reading the lengthy title card stating that the static nature of the shark in the work, which our minds always preceives as a being in motion, reflects the attempt of our minds to comprehend the great alteration and finality of death, yadda yadda yadda...I just remember looking from that to the actual work, studying the shark in the cage, and then thinking, "...I don't care, it still doesn't look like anything but an unfinished display from the Museum of Natural History."

On the flip side, there are some modern art pieces that I think are just inherantly cool. In the National Museum of Canada, I saw a work called The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse or something like that -- someone had taken a Trans-am, spray-painted the whole thing black, and etched the entire text of the King James Book of Revelations into the paint. Then they put a tape of George Thorogood's "Bad To The Bone" on a contiuous loop on the tape deck, and finished it off with a pair of neon-green fuzzy dice on the rearview mirror. It just tickled me in a place I couldn't reach.

Trying to grok things on a high-concept level alone rarely works with me. You have to get me on a visceral level first, and then I'll ask you more about what the jump-roping kids in the airplane hangar were all about if I'm interested.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:38 PM on June 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


First is the factual question: Could she be right? Second, and perhaps more to the point: Would it matter?

And Third, and perhaps most importantly of all, does the lobster have to be wearing the lederhosen?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:38 PM on June 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


By the way, here is a better link to Shearer's actual argument about the readymades (the "convincing argument" link above is actually to a related by rather different argument). If you've ever been to a Footer website analyzing the PGF to prove that it must have been a real Bigfoot, you'll find the methodology familiar.
posted by yoink at 12:41 PM on June 1, 2009


''But if she's right,'' he adds, ''I have no interest in Duchamp.''

What an odd conceit. If she's right, that makes Duchamp more interesting and more artistic, IMO. I can not imagine the mindset that would see this as turning him from artist to not-artist.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:48 PM on June 1, 2009


Hah, the lobster is the lederhosen, and has been all along!!
posted by little e at 1:14 PM on June 1, 2009


Yoink -- fantastic link. Wish I had included it in my original post!
posted by Damn That Television at 1:20 PM on June 1, 2009


''But if she's right,'' he adds, ''I have no interest in Duchamp.''

.
posted by Wolof at 2:37 PM on June 1, 2009


Ms. Shearer says:''Does this make him more interesting? Absolutely. He has been dead since 1968, but it's as if he's alive now, because we have a whole new set of objects.''

What a clueless and self-aggrandizing comment. Ms. Shearer, I can assure you that Duchamp is quite alive and well for me and millions of others, and that has nothing whatsoever to do with your efforts, which are transparently self-promotional, in my opinion.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:45 PM on June 1, 2009


''But if she's right,'' he adds, ''I have no interest in Duchamp.''

I no longer have any interest in art critic Danto. If he doesn't get Dada and its cousin Surrealism (joined at the hip, pun intended), then fuggetabouthim.
posted by kozad at 4:49 PM on June 1, 2009


I can't believe so many people are just assuming this must be true because 1) this self-promoting amateur says so and 2) it's a cute idea. Kudos to OmieWise and yoink for appropriate reactions. So many people eager to holler "Pepsi Blue!," so few to cry bullshit.
posted by languagehat at 4:59 PM on June 1, 2009


What, you don't have your own home urinal baking kiln?
posted by Artw at 5:03 PM on June 1, 2009


I too share languagehats reservations, if only because it reads too much like someone used to the uniformity of mass production expressing incredulity that items could be made in lots of less than several hundred thousand. Also I don't really by that messing with the item slightly, or even mislabeling it, invalidates it as a readymade.
posted by Artw at 5:07 PM on June 1, 2009


My tipping point: I just don't think so.

a. Duchamp was, in fact, a man of leisure. He didn't want to labor all day making stuff--he quit art as soon as he could, in his esoteric conceptual fashion. Spend weeks and month replicating things? I don't think so; he'd rather consider a chess problem.
b. ill-proportioned, seemingly less than optimized. Ahem, how much junk have you bought in your lifetime that didn't f-ing work. Stuff has been made forever that wasn't quite right. You think 1918 or 1922 was any different. Golly, manufacturing standards and qa/qc might have even been a tad less than the 21st century.
c. So nobody noticed this at the time? I have to believe some nobel soul would be familiar with one of the "real" objects and begin to think something was amiss.
d. Duchamp had a major assertive ego--it fit his personal program to simply say, "Since I chose this hunk of junk, and now I say it's art."
e. Consider the source... no, not so much her, but Her as a product of our time--belittled by giant changing artists that dwarf us. Sorry, Damien Hirst ain't even close to Picasso, much less Giotto or even Jackson Pollock. The best we can do is continue to turn over the earth, till the beleaguered soil, and try to outguess our way through Late-Proto-Neo-Mashup-PostModernism. So we find a new Michelangelo--is it better than the Sistine Chapel? Well, it's interesting, but not better, at least not yet not better.

The fact is, people like this need to Release. Move on.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 6:19 PM on June 1, 2009


Languagehat, that's a pretty shitty strawman and bald dismissal, even by your standards. From the New York Times article:

"This is Ms. Shearer's case against the readymades so far.

Duchamp's readymade glass ampoule, which he named ''50 cc of Paris Air,'' is larger than any that would have been readily available to pharmacists. (And she has a tape of a man from Corning Glass saying so.)

''Beautiful Breath,'' the readymade perfume bottle with Man Ray's photograph of Duchamp on it (now owned by Yves Saint Laurent) is green, she says; the real bottles of ''Un Air Embaume,'' from Rigaud, are peach-colored (like the empty but still-fragrant one that Ms. Shearer bought for $650).

The readymade snow shovel, which now exists only in photographs and replicas, ''would hurt your hand'' if you tried to use it, Ms. Shearer says, because it has a square shaft. And it doesn't have the normal reinforcements to keep it from breaking. (She has hired people to make her a snow shovel like Duchamp's and use it until it breaks.)

There is more: the bird cage is too squat for a real bird, the iron hooks in the photograph of the coat rack appear to bend in an impossible position, the French window opens the wrong way, the bottle rack has an asymmetrical arrangement of hooks and the urinal is too curvaceous to have come from the Mott Iron Works, where Duchamp said he bought it."

So it's not just because she says so and it's a cute idea: it's several persuasive arguments. Could she be wrong? Of course. I would have included an opposing viewpoint if I had found one, but as it stands, Shearer's case (self-serving amateur or not) is compelling enough so that one can't (or clearly one can, but shouldn't) just dismiss it as the work of someone without an art history degree.

Wallstreet, thanks for your superior response -- your second point in particular is a strong counter-argument.
posted by Damn That Television at 6:51 PM on June 1, 2009


What a gas! And all a little beside the point, no? If he made them or not - the object was just an object... It's already been said upthread. It kind of reads like a very clever story. He didn't make them but really _wait for it_ _wait for it_ he did! Viola!

I once built a piece for a Very Important Artist. It was a coffin-sized box of tissues pierced by a cast-bronze culvert pipe. It was a bear to build and in the end we were pretty happy with it. Before it went back to his studio to be painted Artist came to see it. Was very happy. Then had us build it over again, 2 inches shorter, 1 inch longer, half an inch higher.
Artists. God love 'em but what a bunch of fucking goof-balls.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:42 PM on June 1, 2009


Maybe he didn't make them himself, but did go out of his way to find strange, badly-made objects, like a snow shovel with a square handle.
posted by LogicalDash at 8:13 PM on June 1, 2009


like a snow shovel with a square handle.

Hey, you can't pound a snow shovel with a square handle into a round snow shovel hole. That's what my grampa always used to say. Of course, he made his own urinals from scratch, and his bird cage was the wrong size to hold a real bird...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:26 PM on June 1, 2009


Of course, he made his own urinals from scratch

In a split-second of neural misfiring I interpreted that as a urinal made from money (scratch). Then I went on to imagine a paper mache urinal made from dollar bills, and then coated with a polymer to prevent absorption.

There just may be a market for my money pisser.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:31 PM on June 1, 2009


It's several persuasive arguments

Well, no, I think that's overstating it. It's an array of assertions which are mostly not backed up by any very compelling arguments or evidence. The claim that "no one would make a snow shovel with a square handle" would be demolished simply by finding one counter example. To say "I haven't found any counter examples" isn't evidence of anything. The claim that the birdcage is too small is simply silly: too small for what? Am I the only person who has seen decorative birdcages for sale that were clearly never meant to hold a bird?

As for the urinal: her claim once again relies on the notion that absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Because she hasn't been able to find a match for the urinal in the pictures, therefore they never made such a urinal--but that's patently absurd. Etc etc etc.
posted by yoink at 9:36 PM on June 1, 2009


I was thinking about his Fountain piece earlier and wondering if anyone has ever managed to sneak a quick pee in one of the museums where repros are housed.

Brian Eno took a piss in Duchamp's urinal.
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:52 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


But what would I think of him if his great contribution was as a ceramicist or a woodworker?

Could have been worse; he could have been an art critic for The Nation.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:11 PM on June 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


When I did my Art History degree 20 years ago, this theory was discussed by the lecturers. It has been a theory going around since at least the time *they* were students, so it hardly qualifies as a new idea.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 10:25 PM on June 1, 2009


The difference being that she's put in the legwork. To my mind, the Perfume bottle is the clincher. Art glass, especially Parisian perfume bottles from the turn of the century, are Insanely Collectible. Something as significant as a green-vs.-pink color variation would be well known among collectors.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:54 AM on June 2, 2009


> Languagehat, that's a pretty shitty strawman and bald dismissal, even by your standards. From the New York Times article:

I read the article, thanks. I understand her arguments, and I didn't believe them. If you needed the reasons spelled out by wallstreet1929, I'm glad he did you that service, but the fact that he and I agree makes it a little hard to see where the straw man comes in. But I guess the "even by your standards" means that you don't like me, so that explains that.
posted by languagehat at 7:17 AM on June 2, 2009


LH, your words:

"I can't believe so many people are just assuming this must be true because 1) this self-promoting amateur says so and 2) it's a cute idea."

That's the strawman, both in what you say and how you say it. As per the NYT article, people were entertaining the idea that it was true because 1) she presented at least a few arguments that couldn't be dismissed out of hand and 2) there were professionals in the field that were at least considering her arguments. Wallstreet "spelled out" the reasons against her case by actually making them, a common tactic in discussions.
posted by Damn That Television at 9:03 AM on June 2, 2009


My own inclination is to take these speculations with a hefty dose of skepticism, but part of me thinks it would have been brilliant if it actually had gone down this way and really wishes it were true.

At least one of the claims ("the French window opens the wrong way") may be a result of simple confusion, based on the commentary on this site, which notes:
"The title is one of those puns that Duchamp loved. In the United States, most windows open upwards. The rare hinged windows that open inwards are called French Windows. Thus French Window led to Fresh Widow..."
In any case, can't we at least all agree that the art critic from The Nation's response to this tempest in a teapot makes him come off as an elitist douche?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:45 AM on June 2, 2009


Yes, I think we can all come together on that.
posted by languagehat at 10:06 AM on June 2, 2009


Duchamp changed my life.
Every day I go out with a camera in my pocket and I take pictures, sometimes of urban art but also of objects, buildings colors, shapes.
On the walls of my home there are things that visitors love and that weren't originally made for being presented as art objects.
Sometimes I take pics of lights or neons because when looked at with a particular mind frame, they are as powerful as any Flavin's or Nauman's work.
And yes, the occasional urinal in a movie theater makes me think of Duchamp.

What Duchamp did for all of us is to state that art is what you decide is art. You, yourself, decide what moves you and sometimes, but only some times, you recognize that an artist, a work, does it for you. But an old photograph, a strange shadow, a smell, a sound, a mood can be more artful than any Picasso.

It reminds me of the old saying "When a wise man points at a star, the imbecile looks at the finger." Duchamp did something as fundamentally important as the discovery of perspective: he pointed at an idea that changed the way we look at everything. And, alas, Ms Shearer looks at the finger.
posted by bru at 10:50 AM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


What Duchamp did for all of us is to state that art is what you decide is art.

I know this takeaway point represents a relatively common view of the cultural significance of Duchamp's ready-mades--and it surely does touch on a key facet of the thinking that went into their development--but I think there's a larger argument Duchamp was trying to make that leads to a radically different set of conclusions.

IMO, in this case, you have to consider what Duchamp and Dada in general did in the proper historical and cultural context because Dada was uniquely a product of its particular place and time in history--a place in time in history which it self-consciously sought to reject utterly. Despite the reams of art 101 course material, scholarship and criticism penned after the fact surrounding some of these works that emphasize their positive role in expanding the scope of what art is, elevating the commonplace to art, etc., etc., the Dada movement itself explicitly rejected art in its entirety and dubbed itself unironically as an anti-art movement.

Wikipedia (because I'm lazy) puts this point pretty plainly (and there are lots of source material cites there on behalf of these claims):
For everything that art stood for, Dada was to represent the opposite. Where art was concerned with traditional aesthetics, Dada ignored aesthetics. If art was to appeal to sensibilities, Dada was intended to offend.
In all likelihood, given Dada's broad rejection of art and European culture, Duchamp's urinal installation was simply meant to be a great big "fuck you" to the European art establishment of the time, which members of the Dada movement regarded as part and parcel of the corrupt culture that had sent millions to die on the battlefields of World War I.

Putting it another way, it wasn't so much an intention to expand prevailing notions of what art is, so much as the desire to annihilate art, to knock it down off its high perch and debase it, that defined Dada.

I think it's correct to say that one major point Duchamp's ready-made installations were meant to make is that the audience plays as much a role in defining what is and isn't art--and in a sense even creating a work of art--as the artist does.

But for Duchamp and others within the Dada movement, this premise leads the argument down a path to a far different conclusion than is commonly understood. Duchamp's point, I think, isn't the more affirmative one: that we should be open to seeing more things as art because the audience plays such an active role in creating a work of art. It's the more nihilistic one: if the audience for a work of art plays as much a role in the creation of the work as the artist does, then isn't art largely an empty concept? And if so, why do we take it so seriously?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:06 PM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


Here's a pretty good example of why I think Shearer is either taking the piss or away with the fairies. Have a look at this page. On it she outlines her case against the show shovel as genuine object. She offers as evidence two photographs. One is a photograph of Duchamp's original readymade. The other is a photograph of a snow shovel that Duchamp definitely (according to Shearer) bought from an actual hardware store.

Now, she claims that the handle on the first one, is "square" and that it is impossible to imagine it being used in practice. The handle is, though, clearly rectangular in section with rounded edges, and it looks entirely practical. Snow shovels only have to handle vertical stress in use, not horizontal stress. The rectangular section means that the wood is made to bear the actual loads that the shovel would receive in real-world use, but isn't made unweildy (and heavy) as it would be if that thickness were made the diamater measurement of a round handle.

Secondly, the photo she shows of the "genuine" snow shovel, which she claims to show a "round" handle clearly in fact shows a snow shovel with the same rectangular section handle as in the other photo.

So, her own evidence flagrantly refutes her argument. Whack-job or a con-artist: take your pick.
posted by yoink at 1:04 PM on June 2, 2009


> I think it's correct to say that one major point Duchamp's ready-made installations were meant to make is that the audience plays as much a role in defining what is and isn't art--and in a sense even creating a work of art--as the artist does.

saulgoodman, this is an interesting idea. Is this aspect of Duchamp's work reflected in Cage's work with environmental sounds like 4'33"?
posted by djfiander at 1:18 PM on June 2, 2009


I was thinking about his Fountain piece earlier and wondering if anyone has ever managed to sneak a quick pee in one of the museums where repros are housed.

Brian Eno took a piss in Duchamp's urinal.


He claims to have done it, but nobody believes him. I mean, come on, do you really think he could have attached a tube to his dick, fed it into the display case, and taken a piss all without anyone noticing what he was doing?
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:36 PM on June 2, 2009


Did anyone look at the dates on these articles?

The NY Times article is from 1999. This theory never took off (God, who knows why not?) since her paper is still littered with statements such as "I am currently investigating this." One wonders what the results were?

So, what has she been doing since then? Apparently, she abandoned this project to set up a media watchdog group whose notable succeses include debunking "Monster Pig" and defending 9/11 commisions.
posted by vacapinta at 2:31 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't really know nearly as much about what may have influenced Cage's work as a composer, though his interest in Zen Buddhism and eastern mystical systems in general is common knowledge and those ideas probably inform his work.

My intuition is that Cage is engaged in a similar project, although he may be less concerned with dismantling the institutions of art with 4'33" than in turning his audience's focus back on themselves and the reality they inhabit--working along similar lines as Duchamp does with his ready-mades, only without the same degree of contempt for his audience and the conventions of art itself (in other words, Duchamp doesn't particularly seem to like the audience his work takes aim at, while Cage's 4'33" seems genuinely meant to lead the audience to a positive, transformative experience--but that's just an impression, founded on vague memories of remarks from Cage on his own work).

Duchamp and Cage are definitely grappling with the same kinds of ideas. Randomness and chance figure as prominent themes in the works of both. Both also seem to be concerned with philosophical problems related to the relationship between art and the world--specifically, issues one might formulate in questions like: Why is it that, when we're presented with a striking view of the natural world, we're so apt to describe what we see with phrases like "just like in a movie," or "pretty as a picture," as if reality were subordinate to art? Or, how can anyone seriously claim the paintings hanging in this gallery have elevated human civilization to greater heights when even now our armies are engaged in systematic carnage and butchery on scales greater than at any previous time in history? Or even, isn't it odd that we sometimes need works of art to shock us into noticing and appreciating the real world around us when it's right there in front of us all the time?
posted by saulgoodman at 2:38 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apparently, she abandoned this project to set up a media watchdog group whose notable succeses include debunking "Monster Pig" and defending 9/11 commisions.

Heh. Maybe it's a case of "takes a liar to catch a liar."
posted by five fresh fish at 6:28 PM on June 2, 2009


I thought I read, a few years ago, about someone trying to find the exact model of urinal that Duchamp's was, and, after searching through catalog after catalog without finding any matches, suggested that it was more likely handmade?

I've never been able to find where I read that again, though, so maybe not.
posted by Casuistry at 7:18 PM on June 2, 2009


Yes, I think we can all come together on that.

Right now. Over me.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:32 PM on June 2, 2009


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