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The essential Duchamp

27 Apr – 11 Aug 2019

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Five questions on Duchamp

Five questions on Duchamp

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Image: Robert McFarlane
Richard Tipping

What three words describe Marcel Duchamp for you? Merdre, pourquoi pas? (Pshit, why not?)

Duchamp said ‘anything is art if an artist says it is’. Do you agree? Duchamp’s “anything is art if the artist says it is” is true because art cannot be constrained by existing definitions and constantly reinvents itself. Duchamp also said that art is a habit-forming drug: for the artist, the collector, and everyone connected. He restricted the number of readymades to prevent overdosing.

Duchamp famously gave up art to become a chess grand master. Why do you think he was drawn to chess? Duchamp needed something else to think about, and chess strategy is a white and black hole buzzing with oppositional contingencies.

What is your essential Duchamp artwork and why? I was sitting with Ira Genstein in the Philadelphia Museum. He gave the bicycle wheel a hard spin, sat again. A big guard ran in. Ira looked up and pointed, saying: “He went that-away”.

If Duchamp were alive today, how do you think he’d respond to the phenomenon of social media? Rrose Selavy making phantom appearances on Instagram? Elegant erotic puns peppering Twitter? Familiarity diminishes. Duchamp would not like being followed by followers, and would either ignore or subvert it all.

Richard Tipping is a widely-published poet and makes artworks which incorporate his own poetic texts – such as in engraved stone sculpture, in original and altered sign designs, and with visual poetry graphics on paper. Five of his artworks are currently on display in the parallel exhibition The Legacy of Marcel Duchamp.

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Five questions on Duchamp

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Jaime Tsai

What three words describe Marcel Duchamp for you? Strategic, meticulous, slippery

Duchamp said ‘anything is art if an artist says it is’. Do you agree? Definitely! His attempt to exhibit a urinal as a sculpture (Fountain, 1917) proved that the original significance of an object can disappear under a new title and point of view if the artist determines it to be art. That said, Duchamp never believed that ‘anyone can be an artist’.

Duchamp famously gave up art to become a chess grand master. Why do you think he was drawn to chess? Although he never ‘gave up art’ as is popularly believed, he described himself as ‘incredibly lazy’, and chess allowed him to be leisurely and challenged at the same time.

What is your essential Duchamp artwork and why? I think think Étant donnés: 1° la chute d’eau, 2° le gaz d’éclairage (Given: 1. The waterfall, 2. The illuminating gas) (1946-66) silenced those critics that thought Duchamp was only interested in dry, conceptual art. It is a sensuous and embodied installation that asks us some big questions about what it is to be human.

If Duchamp were alive today, how do you think he’d respond to the phenomenon of social media? Although he was famous for never having a phone in his studio, Duchamp was always open to new forms of communication. I think he’d be curious about its potential for intellectual engagement and dialogue.

Jaime Tsai is an art historian and lecturer in modern and contemporary art in the Department of Art History and Theory at the National Art School, Sydney. Her doctoral thesis explored the spatial practice of Marcel Duchamp, and her current research interests include the legacy of Surrealism and Dada in contemporary Australian art.

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Five questions on Duchamp

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Kevin Platt

What three words describe Marcel Duchamp for you? Indifferent. Calculated. Confident

Duchamp said ‘anything is art if an artist says it is’. Do you agree? Sure, but though this sentiment revolutionised art, I think it’s still hard for people within and outside of art to accept. A hundred years on, you only have to look at what a public gallery collects, or visit any private commercial gallery to see that. If we had followed Duchamp’s thought logically we wouldn’t really need galleries any more.

Duchamp famously gave up art to become a chess grand master. Why do you think he was drawn to chess? He said something like “Not all artists are chess players, but all chess players are artists.” Percentage-wise he would have been more unique if he had stayed an artist. It was probably to avoid the burden of generating new ideas.

What is your essential Duchamp artwork and why? The Large glass (1915-23), which can be found in this exhibition in a video format. It’s exciting to try and decode the strange machines that present an odd diagrammatic of the process of desire.

If Duchamp were alive today, how do you think he’d respond to the phenomenon of social media? Oh, he’d use it, but secretly, and he’d craft something strange and viral.

Kevin Platt is an artist whose conceptual, studio-based experimentation, often manifests as non-traditional sculpture and installation. Some consistent themes in Platt’s practice have included desire and longing, speculative invention, and the presence and importance of ritual in modern society. Platt holds a Master of Visual Arts, SCA/ENSBA, and has been on residencies locally and in Korea and France.

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Five questions on Duchamp

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Tom Picton-Warlow

What three words describe Marcel Duchamp for you? Art of/for/by/the MinD

Duchamp said ‘anything is art if an artist says it is’. Do you agree? Yes. Marcel Duchamp’s readymades are what he is most famous for and as his friend Monique Fong noted: “Marcel Duchamp recognised later in life … that the readymades are what changed art (for the better and for the worse)”. Duchamp saw chess as art and all chess players as artists.

Duchamp famously gave up art to become a chess grand master. Why do you think he was drawn to chess? Duchamp loved the endless (Shannon number 10120) combinations of mass, energy, time and space in a 64-square universe. Monique Fong observed: ’With the same pieces, the game endlessly renews itself.’ Duchamp considered the cerebral analysis of movement in chess as key.

What is your essential Duchamp artwork and why? The large glass (1915–23) and the associated notes reproduced in The green box (1934) and The white box (1966). The large glass is Duchamp’s magnum opus. It’s the most influential artwork of the last 100 years.

If Duchamp were alive today, how do you think he’d respond to the phenomenon of social media? Both The large glass (‘a three-dimensional projection of a fourth-dimensional bride’) and social media relate to Plato’s allegory of the cave. Social media users act as puppeteers curating optimal images. Duchamp’s art urges you to think for yourself.

Tom Picton-Warlow works in information technology and considers art and history can predict future social and technological thinking. He is also director of Not for Profit Charity Swimming365. He has been collecting works by Marcel Duchamp since 1996.

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Five questions on Duchamp

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India Urwin

What three words describe Marcel Duchamp for you? Conceptual, rebellious and cheeky

Duchamp said ‘anything is art if an artist says it is’. Do you agree? I love how empowering this idea is. Duchamp’s philosophy encourages artists to be tastemakers – it gives them licence to challenge preconceived ideas about what art is or should be. Duchamp said anything can be art, and now we have to prove that anyone can be an artist.

Duchamp famously gave up art to become a chess grand master. Why do you think he was drawn to chess? Duchamp championed conceptual art. He challenged audiences with mind games. It makes sense for him to master a mental-strategy game.

What is your essential Duchamp artwork and why? It must be Fountain (1917). Fountain never fails to make me smile and giggle. Fountain brought the real world into the gallery, and crassly teased the art scene.

If Duchamp were alive today, how do you think he’d respond to the phenomenon of social media? He would love it! He’d love how Instagram makes everything art. Though he may find that his 'crass’ humour is faint compared to that on Facebook and Snapchat.

India Urwin is currently completing honours in art history at the University of Sydney. She has completed a bachelor of arts, majoring in art history and film studies at the University of Sydney, and is greatly interested in how these two fields of study often interact. India loves to explore how art can be rebellious and ground breaking.

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