Written by Peter Burnett Peter Burnett
Marcel Duchamp was not just a lord of art --- glib, condescending and effortlessly virtuoso — but a great poet, and a demonic.
I had been a huge admirer of his work and his stance for a long time, although I had never been able to figure out how he had come about his immense intellectual confidence and range. How else if not by some Faustian pact?
Perhaps his madness was a clue.
All Duchamp’s demonic brilliance was compensation for the loss of reality he felt. For Duchamp, art had been mutilated when it had been forced into service and forced it into the drivellous stuff of bourgeois pleasure. This traumatic loss of continuity must have pushed open an already willing door into his obsessive genius — and I think that’s why Duchamp appealed to me — he was the first to realise the falsity of the process and the first to subvert it.
Whether we know it or not, all our ideas and ironies are the crumbs from Duchamp’s table, the fallout from his thoughts and actions, every one of which must have been an unholy blow against the world-wide forces of aestheticism.
Nobody else knew what art was for — but they kept on asking Duchamp! — which must have made him madder yet. So Duchamp began to wonder when it was that art became art.
Maybe Duchamp argued that a work of art was destroyed when it was sold — that it ceased at that point. This was opposed to the art purchasing view that attributed value to a work of art at the point of purchase, and shifted a certain amount of semantic complexity into place to demonstrate this new discriminate category — to justify the value.
The translation runs as follows: Words = Value as in £1000 per ‘excellent!’ These are the theories at least . . .