#004 You're Du Champ!
Hey guys, thanks for coming. You’re du champ, seriously. Please indulge the clichés, but the Internet is kind of a big deal isn’t it? Aside from its capacity to provide free and instant access to an obscene quantity of information, and providing a platform for creative expression, it perhaps more importantly provides that expression with an audience, making an artist of us all. An eventuality that many clever people predicted long ago. Aww YEE (Joseph) BEUUYS!
No but seriously, lets start by examining the ideas that burst from Duchamp’s ready-mades. Firstly, that it was the role of the artist’s choice more than anything else –skill, medium or otherwise- that dictated what could be considered art. Secondly, that the role of the audience is just as crucial in establishing what that art means, or in Duchamp’s own words, “The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.” Similarly, Thierry De Duve puts it like this, “In front of the readymade there is no longer any technical difference between making art and appreciating it.”
Lastly, and I’ll let John Scanlan explain this, take it away Johnny! “The significance of the de-contextualised urinal was found in the impact it made on questions of representation, and in issues it raised regarding the contextual limits on the meaning of a work of art. With Fountain this becomes so pronounced that the identification between a work of art and the world need no longer bother an artist at all.” Nice..
These concepts, perhaps long granted in 2013, still pose interesting questions when we consider the Internet and the audience it provides, and makes of everyone. Any web content can become instantly void of context (if it isn't already), and be the subject to individual musings, collection or presentation, not to mention appropriation. This culminates in an explosion of cultural production and consumption, an unfathomably immense cultural exchange with no set guidelines, methods or traditions.
We have all been whipped up into a homogenous cream of cultural production and consumption, and the oscillation between artwork and mere object that Duchamp articulated in his ready-mades is now obviously present in all things. All cultural material, all events or circumstances, online or physical, can be equally utilised by artist and spectator, who are increasingly one and the same. Arguably to the point that it can be difficult for anyone to discern the difference between artist and spectator, and between the viewing of art and life.
To return to Duchamp, his use of disguise may be viewed as an opportunity to explore identity itself. He experimented in painting, trying out the styles of the Fauves, of cubism, but soon came to the conclusion these periods were just like costumes one could try on and discard. Pseudonyms became a determinant aspect in Duchamp’s strategies of meaning making. In playing ‘hide-and-seek’ with the art world, he was able to show how entrenched tradition really was, not to mention how prominent it still was in the incremental appropriation of the avant-gardes. To him it was all a game.
In relation to this use of disguise, is the term ‘elastic self’ coined by Tricia Wang. There’s no reason why she shouldn’t summate it here herself, so here is a hefty quote:
The Elastic Self is both the feeling that one's identity is flexible and the action of trying on different identities that are different from a prescribed self. Individuals enact and manifest the Elastic Self in informal spaces that provide social distance from existing social ties and under conditions of relative anonymity, which minimizes social risks. In the presence of unknown others (strangers), individuals feel liberated to try on different identities without pressure to commit to an identity, to take greater risks in expressing ideas or emotions, and to try on selves that are reversible, easy to abandon, and impermanent.
Copy. Paste. Thanks Tricia, you’re a gem.
The Internet provides multiple audiences, for multiple identities, and anyone can explore what those identities have to say through either personal creation or collation and presentation of other’s cultural material. ‘Unbounded’ social media sites such as Tumblr, where a new additional blog is but one click away, artists can establish one or many permanently open studios, and importantly they need not be attached to them. Free to reinvent themselves, to experiment with new ideas and projects in public, to research and create without their previous work casting a shadow of preconception. Unfettered by a certain public expectation to create something familiar but transformed or ‘advanced’ incrementally. This kind of free play promotes the creation of meaning that is bound with life, and as we’ve all joked at some time or another, sometimes the palette is more interesting than the painting.
Close to his death, Duchamp retrospectively mused that his fundamental aim as an artist was not to create art, or even influence the direction that art took, but to try and treat his life as art itself. Museums became the cemeteries of artworks, while his life was the living breathing game of art. The kind of ‘free play’ he adopted, free from traditional material and skill restraints, as well as from prescribed identities and external expectations is now available to all on the Internet. As it was for Duchamp, experience of life and art are inevitably melted down into one.
- Jack Stahel