Sunday, July 12, 2009
The Practice of Readymades
Around about the same time the NGA showed an exhibition on Dada we bought a bottle dryer much like the one Marcel Duchamp showed as part of his ongoing experiments with what he called readymades. John had just finished a MFA in sculpture and we were all somewhat obsessed with this show and the thoughtful presentation of the effects of war and the critical stance of Dadaism.
We go to this place in Frederick Maryland that imports wonderful everyday objects from around the world that seem exotic to us here in the States. We have bought a beer house table from Germany that I work on. I plant in old English terra cotta pots–Also many Chinese boxes I use for flower arrangements. Currently we keep cooking-wood in an egg basket they imported from Eastern Europe. I find useful things there, as I am always looking to do flowers in unusual containers.
On one trip John became obsessed with the bottle dryer explaining the sculptural aspect, the Dada symbolism and the relationship of the 1990's to the period in between the two World Wars when Dadaism thrived. John will tell you, you can learn a whole lot more from Duchamp than you can from Plato … I have to say we were all pretty excited about this object in that we thought we had bought a meaningful piece of art for our house. Until recently this object languished in the basement.
The thing the readymades and what Dadaism did so well as a movement was to point to the visual beauty, the ridiculousness, the prosaic and the violence of everyday life. That is to say: it is what it is and isn’t that wonderful and horrible at the same time. The readymades have been described as "an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist."
In an absolute nostalgia for something that never existed for us we expose our post modern tendencies. For us to relate to a bottle dryer as an everyday object was silly. This was an everyday object of Duchamp's France. We were relating to the symbolism of a something that could never be everyday for us. We were relating to a (non)political art movement of the past. Marcel would be laughing at us. For us an everyday readymade object from our surburban Maryland upbringing, (as Jeff Koons exhibits) would probably be something like an upright vacum cleaner...
However as we started Home restauranting and making twice as much kombucha, we have discovered we need this bottle dryer. We reuse wine bottles and mason jars and NOW have a place for them to hang elegantly and dry. Unlike the Artist who peed in Duchamp's urinal a few years ago, our gesture is not symbolic but necessary. We may be getting that last laugh although for our 10 year old, Martin-Lane, this bottle dryer will be an everyday object…