Monday, September 30, 2013


Here's a shot of a fun little work that has been on my mind for a while and recently made it into reality.  It is something of a multi-layered one liner  and it is also one of those artworks that makes a whole lot more sense to someone who has studied art than someone who hasn’t.  It has occurred to me on a couple of recent occasions that it deserves a little unpacking for those people engaging in this project who are more interested in bikes than art.  Whilst it may seem to be an obscure kind of wacky object, it arguably references the most significant artwork made by any artist of the last century.

One hundred years ago a French bloke by the name of Marcel Duchamp revolutionized the idea of making art.  Up until that point the dominant way of thinking about art making was that an artist should find a nice landscape or still life to paint or find a model who would take off their clothes so that they could create a statue in that person’s form.  Duchamp and his mates had different ideas.  Mass manufacturing, an outcome of the Industrial Revolution, was only a relatively recent reality and it occurred to Duchamp that perhaps the products of this process could be considered as art.   As a bit of a smarty pants scallywag, Marcel wanted viewers to question relationships between labour and art, techniques and concepts and the general space in which art operated.

He made (or didn’t make) a number of these works over time.  The most known of these include Bicycle Wheel, a urinal, renamed Fountain and a simple Bottle Rack.  To name these artworks and this way of approaching art making, Duchamp coined the phrase ‘Readymade’.  His ‘work’ was rejected and derided by institutions and establishments of the time but has turned out to influence the whole of the art world of the Twentieth century in proposing that the idea behind an art work is as important or even more so than the object that we are presented with.

Some of you might know of another significant artist of the last fifty years called Andy Warhol.  Most famous for his screen prints of Campbell’s soup cans, and considered challenging during his time, Warhol could not have conceived of this work without the prior work of Marcel Duchamp.  It is a little known fact that whilst Andy could make great art and be a superstar he couldn’t ride a bicycle.  Here is a picture of Andy being pushed along, grinning like a small child, pretending to ride his friend’s bike.

If you are still curious about the idea of a Readymade, check out my mate Hennessey Youngman delivering streetwise knowledge on ‘How to make an Art’ (below).  Hennessey also fits neatly into the broader scope of this project in terms of examining portraiture and identity as constructed and portrayed in a social media context.

No comments:

Post a Comment