Reciprocal Readymade

Original Version:

unrealized idea written in notes
written roughly between 1911 & 1915
published in the Green Box, 1934

Duchamp's notes in the Green Box mainly center on his chief work Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelor's, Even. However, at one point Duchamp discusses how to select a Readymade, literally jotting down the following idea (as previously cited in this catalogue's introduction): "Reciprocal Readymade: Use a Rembrandt as an ironing board" (Sanouillet and Peterson 32).

In this way, the idea behind the Reciprocal Readymade is quite different than the traditional Readymade. This Readymade illustrates Duchamp's interest in blurring the lines between art and life and questioning what makes art so sacred. The only "existence" of the Reciprocal Readymade is in the form of some written notes. This clearly shows that Readymades are not about the physical object itself as much as they are about the concept. Here, the Readymade is literally just an idea. No execution was or (realistically) could have been completed. As a note, the Reciprocal Readymade was meant to be simply an idea, and a very iconoclastic one at that.

Duchamp proposed a similar idea to the Reciprocal Readymade in January 1916, imagining the Woolworth Building in New York as a Readymade. In his notes, Duchamp writes, "find inscription for Woolworth Bldg. as readymade" (Sanouillet and Peterson 74-5). This building was the tallest structure in New York at the time.

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