Saturday, 7 December 2013

On the MadeUnReady

Duchamp is famous for inventing the concept of the ReadyMade: an ordinary industrial object (a coat hanger, a wine bottle rack, a shovel, a bicycle wheel, a urinal) that is re-conceptualized as art simply because the artist chooses to designate it so. In his notes to The Large Glass (another name for The Bride  Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even), Duchamp also discussed the Reciprocal Readymade: "Use a Rembrandt as an ironing board". Many of Duchamp's original ReadyMades were lost, with the result that many that do still exist are 'reproductions' by the artist: stand-in ordinary objects, pressed into service to stand in for the original ordinary object. We might (though Duchamp did not) call them the ReadyReMades.

There are other possible classes that Duchamp didn't discuss.  One class I call the MadeUnready, defined as an object that previously functioned as art but has since been damaged so that it no longer does. The most famous example is perhaps Robert Rauschenburg's Erased De Kooning, subject of an earlier blog post. The Reciprocal MadeUnready is a previously-destroyed piece of art that has been fixed so that it functions as art again. The Large Glass itself is a perfect example, having been shattered in 1926 and then painstakingly put back together by Duchamp into its current state. If de Kooning had drawn another drawing on the paper that had been erased by Rauschenburg, that would be another example. Following the structure above, we can go on to define the ReMadeUnready, which would be a damaged piece of art that has been fixed to function as art and then damaged again so that it no longer functions as art. Although the category may seem strained, I think a lot of children's art falls exactly into this category. A child makes something that gets damaged and is then carefully restored by a parent. Ten years later no one cares about the childish piece anymore and it is discarded as a ReMadeUnready

[Image: Photograph by German photographer Martin Klimas, via Slipcast- The Ceramics Blog]

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