Apropos of Readymades, by Duchamp

by Φ

In 1913 I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn.
A few months later I bought a cheap reproduction of a winter evening landscape, which I called “Pharmacy” after adding two small dots, one red & one yellow, in the horizon.
In New York in 1915 I bought at a hardware store a snow shovel on which I wrote “In Advance of the Broken Arm.”
It was around that time that the word “Readymade” came to mind to designate this form of manifestation.
A point which I want very much to establish is that the choice of these “Readymades” was never dictated by esthetic delectation.
This choice was based on a reaction of visual indifference with at the same time a total absence of good or bad taste… in fact a complete anesthesia.
One important characteristic was the short sentence which I occasionally inscribed on the “Readymade.”
That sentence instead of describing the object like a title was meant to carry the mind of the spectator towards other regions more verbal.
Sometime I would add a graphic detail of presentation which in order to satisfy my craving for alliteration, would be called “Readymade Aided.”
At another time wanting to expose the basic antinomy between art & readymades I imagined a “Reciprocal Readymade”: use a rembrandt as an ironing board!
I realized very soon the danger of repeating indiscriminately this form of expression & decided to limit the production of “Readymades” to a small number yearly. I was aware at that time, that for the spectator even more than for the artist, art is a habit forming drug & I wanted to protect my “Readymades” against such contamination.
Another aspect of the “Readymade” is its lack of uniqueness… The replica of a “Readymade” delivering the same message, in fact nearly every one of the “Readymades” existing today is not an original in the conventional sense.
A final remark to this egomaniac’s discourse.
Since the tubes of paint used by the artist are manufactured & are ready made products we must conclude that all the paintings in the world are “Readymade Aided” & also works of assemblage.

Marcel Duchamp, 1961