What Makes the Bicycle Wheel a Readymade?

Yassine Ghalem, 2000/05/01, 2021/06/28

Dear Tout-Fait,

This question is in my mind and it drives me crazy…

Is the Bicycle Wheel a readymade?

One of my first contacts with the work of Marcel Duchamp was an interview he gave (in French) in the late 60s. He explained very well what the idea behind a readymade is. He also explained the process that led to the Bicycle Wheel.

I remember that he said he used to live in a small apartment in Paris and he wanted to have a fire to warm the place, and also because it would have been nice to have a fire in this small apartment. As he didn’t have any “cheminee de coin,” he couldn’t have any fire. He came up with the Bicycle Wheel on the “tabouret” because moving the wheel reminded him of the movement and sound of a fire. Knowing that, I was a bit confused, as that could mean that the Bicycle Wheel‘s purpose is to “imitate” a fire.

When Miro takes two plates, a rock and a rack and places them together so that they look like a strange personnage, no one says it is a readymade. And I agree. Its purpose is to imitate or give birth to a poetic living form. It is on purpose that this living form looks human in some way (to make it easier for us to understand, maybe).

Anyway, I don’t see so many differences between Miro and his plates and rocks, and Marcel Duchamp and his Bicycle Wheel (I am only talking about the Bicycle Wheel, I understand why the Bottlerack, for example, is a readymade).

I know you might be wondering why I am sending this question to Tout-Fait. Well, you are actually the only person I know who might be able to correct me, and also, it is an opportunity to thank you for the journal. I was very happy to read all of the articles, and really stoned by the news concerning the copies and the 3 Standard Stoppages (!!).

Thanks for the help, and I can’t wait to read the second edition of Tout-Fait.