Art and economics: Duchamp's postmodern returns
Marcel Duchamp - Post-ing Modernism
By Dalia Judovitz
posted: 01-19-09
Marcel Duchamp Wanted: $2000 Reward 1923
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"Marcel Duchamp's most radical departure from painting is embodied in his discovery and exploration of the ready-mades (1913-1927), works which usurp the notion of reproduction by highlighting the redundancy of a work of art as a commonplace object. According to Octavio Paz, the ready-made defies a dialectical interpretation of value, since it implies neither its negation nor its affirmation. Conceived as the 'plastic equivalent of a pun,' the ready-made is a mechanism that stages the gratuitous conversion of an ordinary object into a work of art, while undermining through this gesture the notion of an art object. As 'criticism in action,' the ready-made radically disrupts the valuative judgment of a work, as a work of art.(6) As the ready-mades demonstrate, Duchamp's exploration of the concepts of art and value is not an abstract philosophical inquiry, but a literal one. Rather than asking 'what is value?' Duchamp proceeds to demonstrate its conditions and modes of operation as a social phenomenon. Not content to restrict himself to philosophical and institutional questions, Duchamp takes on the question of value on its most basic level, not merely as artistic abstraction but also as an economic phenomenon."

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