Readymades, More or Less

posted: 02-09-10
Cover, "Surrealist Intrusion in the Enchanters' Domain" catalogue. Embossed tobacconist's sign.
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The Duchampian gesture of ascribing totemic power -- "art" -- to otherwise arbitrary objects precipitated the inherent tension in the Surrealists' relationship to the commodity and its consequences, material and spirit, the everyday and the sublime. But while Duchamp himself appeared willing, even eager to market and re-market his readymades, bypassing the utilitarian function ("job") of his toilets, shovels and perfume bottles to translate them into a personal brand and, ultimately, cash, Andre Breton went another way. On the one hand, the enshrined bicycle wheel no longer spins; on the other, the fetishized crystal ball goes dark.

Is the readymade something more than an object or something less? In an extraordinarily insightful essay, Sven Lütticken navigates the forest of signs to contrast various theoretical approaches to the question.


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