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BASIC PRINCIPLE: THE READY MADE

Macel Duchamp exhibited a mass-produced toilet urinal as a work of art in 1917, and our understanding of the art experience was changed forever.

 

If we place a simple everyday object in an art gallery we do two things. First, we remove the idea of art because our simple everyday object upholds no values we associate to art. Second, we remove the idea we associate to the functional use of the object. This is what Marcel Duchamp did in 1917 when he presented a toilet urinal as a work of art, and this object therefore reveals an unconscious influence at work in our powers of observation.

What we have in front of us is an object that tries to remove all our intelligent ideas about what confronts us so that we are forced to look through an older inherent way of sensing. This inherent sensation of any object or event would be generated by instinct, but we look to stop this experience emerging into our mind by projecting intelligent learned ideas over what we see. Removing this learned way of looking is what an every day (ready-made) object does when it is placed in the art environment. It challenges your established idea of what you look at, but we have evolved minds that work to suppress this way of sensing. Recognisable creative art objects have always directed our experience of what we see to learned ideas of classification rather than loss of our powers of recognition. We are taught to look for a work that upholds the values we associate to an idea of art, and, therefore, when this idea is removed from an object placed into the art environment, where this classification is expected to be upheld, our mind begins to generated a 'feeling' of an older way of sensing created by loss of a learned idea. Another 'older' way of sensing by instinct is provoked from our mind, However, what we find is that when robbed of learned ideas our mind no longer recalls how to respond to the instinctive view. The implication of the gesture of the ready-made in art is that objects have always upheld a reflection of the way our minds have evolved from animal origins to take a vision of the world, generated by instinct, and transform this experience with a view controlled through intelligent thinking. This, in effect, has destroyed our original natural powers of observation. When first presented as a work of art the ready-made removed our understanding of what constitutes an object within the classification of art, and this caused most people to reject this work as fraudulent, but this is a knee-jerk reaction to a far deeper unconscious response. A urinal placed on exhibition in an art gallery also robbed us of the day-to-day idea we normally impose over a urinal. What this work should do in an art gallery is make our minds generate powers of observation through a unlearned natural way of sensing because all learned ideas of classification have been removed from this exhibit. The ready-made reveals this to us but what we find is that our way of thinking work to suppress any hint of the original way of sensing through instinct returning into our mind.

Our problem is our intelligent command over perception. We learn, at a very early age, to project intelligent ideas over all the objects we see in day-to-day life, just as we learn to expect to find ideas of art when we look at objects in an art gallery. Our mind imposes these learned intelligent ideas into our thoughts even when the status of art and the function of the object have been removed from what we look at. If we are faced with a urinal on exhibition in an art gallery we look for ideas of art in this common object, but a urinal upholds no such values. What we experience is therefore a loss of intelligent ideas, and we should, under this principle, revert to sensing what confronts us in an older inherent way. The great problem with any ready-made object presented as art is that we no longer know how to grasp the original experience of an intuitive way of sensing that such an object could provoke from our minds. Modern knowledge of evolution tells us that we will still possess an older 'animal' way of sensing without intelligent ideas because the view will be inherent and still generated by instincts passed down to us from our distant origins, but, because we have evolved minds that work to suppress this sensation we no longer possess any way to comprehend the original impulses. The old intuitive way of sensing will still arise from expression structured through proteins ordered by the DNA that guides the growth of our brains, but our intelligence learns, at a very early age, to overpower and to ignore any stray expressions that arise from this old inherent experience.

A ready-made object placed in the art environment can be interpreted as an attempt to remove all intelligent ideas about what we see so that we can experience an object in an old instinctive inherent way, but this type of gesture cannot create a work that gives us this sensation. It only upholds the principle of the idea, and Marcel Duchamp introduced it because he realised it exposes the concept of modern art as it should be understood as a search for a primal state of mind.

The problem for a modern artist who understands this idea is one of having to find a way to reach this primal state of mind. You cannot model the ready-made in any way. If you sculpture it or paint it, your work will be thought to bring artistic values to the object, and this will give people an intelligent idea that they will use to suppress the primal sensation of what they see. You cannot disguise it because if, for example, you wrapped it in plastic sheet or brown paper, people hold ideas about wrapped up objects and these ideas will suppress the primal sensation. You can't paint a picture of it, can't remodel it, and can't disguise it. The task, therefore, sounds impossible and yet we possess a way of looking at any object, art or not, in a primal instinctive way. The urinal could be sensed by instinct, but our intelligent minds will not let us see this view. Our powers of recognition are now dominated by learned ideas that give an artificial transformation of intuitive sensations and so, when an artists places something that is not art in the world of art, our learning falters and we sense the loss of our ideas of art. We fail to realise that the none art object could, if we knew how to sense it by instinct, show us how we used to once experience objects in an original natural way.

The problem for a modern artist is one of having to find a way to reach this primal state of mind. You cannot model the ready-made in any way. If you sculpture it or paint it, your work will be thought to bring artistic values to the object, and this will give people an intelligent idea that they will use to suppress the primal sensation of what they see. You cannot disguise it because if, for example, you wrapped it in plastic sheet or brown paper, people hold ideas about wrapped up objects and these ideas will suppress the primal sensation. You can't paint a picture of it, can't remodel it, and can't disguise it. The task therefore sounds impossible and yet we possess a way of looking at any object, art or not, in a primal instinctive way. The urinal could be sensed by instinct, but our intelligent minds will not let us see this view. Our powers of recognition are now dominated by intelligent learning and so, when an artists places something that is not art in the world of art, our learning falters and we sense the loss of our ideas of art. We fail to realise that the none-art object could, if we knew how to sense it by instinct, show us how we used to once experience objects in an inherent intuitive way.