Response to "What Makes the Bicycle Wheel a Readymade?"
by   Shearer, Rhonda Roland
Published:  5/2000   Print    Post Your Comments
Updated :  02/23/09 Like toutfait on  Facebook,   Follow us on  Twitter

Published:  12/15/04   Print     Post Your Comments
Updated :  02/23/09 Like toutfait on  Facebook,   Follow us on  Twitter
Readers' Comments
To a large extend Shearer's incomplete aurguement is moot and contradicts Duchamp's claims. Firstly, in 1912 Duchamp coined the term "Readymade" to denote a series of objects that he would choose as art objects. This is recorded in a letter to his sister living in Neuilly while he was in New York. In this letter he not only coined the term "Readymade" but tells here that the bicycle wheel, the 1912 one in his French studio is now christened a Readymade. So regardless of the intitial impulse of the object, Duchamp considered it a Readymade ex post facto, a point he speaks to in other interviews. The term is a mental category rather than a physical quality. As for the curved vs. straight fork, the aurguement of Shearer seems interesting but at best inconclusive. Virtually all of the lost Readymades, which were most of the early ones from 1912-17, were replaced by duplicates that were not exactly identical. Duchamp emphasized repeatedly that in terms of their status as Readymades that such differences were tangential to their primary, and I stress primary existence as Readymades. He claimed that the object could be understood in its absence. All one needed was a photograph of it. So the shape of the fork should have no bearing on such concerns of status. I do agree that the different fork shape alters certain particular and precise associations, but I believe these associations are of a secondary order to its principle status as a Readymade. There are at least 3 models of urinal in the world now called "Fountain". As for aesthetic and potentially mimetic aspects of Bicycle Wheel, almost all of the Readymades have such issues wrapped up in them. Therefore such concerns do not vitiate its status as a Readymade, if an assisted one. Unlike Miro the major interest of Duchamp lies in the linguistic transformation from non-art to art and the complications of this, rather than more visually oriented concerns. But as a person presenting objects rather than philosophical treatises, the visual or the formal is an aspect of the Readymade that is never entirely absent. What is fascinating and often at odds with his contemporaries, is just how the visual forms manifest particular meanings and associations.
By Jeffrey P Smith | 02/14/09

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