<span class="chapeau">In October 2015, Argentine curator Carlos Basualdo presented a lecture series on the work of Marcel Duchamp and his influence on a group of contemporary artists, including Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno, and Jasper Johns. Verbatim.</span> <br><br><br> <div class="clearfix col m-8"> <span class="title">How to live?</span><br> <span class="title col">Marcel Duchamp</span><br> <span class="title col">et l'art contemporain</span> </div> <div class="auteur col m-4"> <div class="inner"> <div class="white"> <a class="switch">Text</a><br> <b>Carlos Basualdo</b><br> <span>The Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Senior curator of Contemporary Art, <br>Philadelphia Museum of Art</span> </div> </div> </div> <div class="clearfix"> <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>If we choose to think about a life, the challenge then becomes to establish the difference between a biographical life, and a life as a work of art. I would venture that they might not be exactly the same, but nonetheless they are intimately related. In both cases, we are certainly thinking about something that unfolds over time. It is clearly not possible to say that an object “unfolds” over time in the same way that a life unfolds over time. One can say that our understanding of the object unravels over time; that our relationship with the object is time-based, but the object exists independently of those developments. So the first consequence associated with conceiving of life as a work of art is the assumption of the temporal dimension of that work. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>The question remains about the appearance of this work of art, if that work of art is a life. I have invited you to consider that a work of art conceived as a life not only unfolds over time, but that it also includes an array of heterogeneous components. It should certainly include objects, because the artist makes objects, but there are also gestures—and we see how Duchamp refers to gestures insistently in his interviews. He mentions gestures repeatedly, at times referring specifically to “esthetic gestures” able to compose the equivalent of a <i>tableau vivant</i>, and so forth. There is also language. Written and spoken language are absolutely central to Duchamp. That centrality is evident by considering that it is through the medium of language—in his notes and interviews—that he most forcefully and insistently establishes a connection between time and art. Objects, gestures, language, and the relations between them would then be the necessary components of any life conceived as a work of art. [...] <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>Duchamp made the <i>Bicycle Wheel</i> in 1913 but only in 1916, in a letter to his sister Suzanne, did he come up with the notion of the readymade. Then, retroactively, he declared that works like <i>Bicycle Wheel </i>were in fact readymades. So the question is, what was the <i>Bicycle Wheel</i> before it became a readymade? Was it an artwork or not? In interviews, Duchamp said many times that he did not originally want to make a work of art out of <i>Bicycle Wheel</i>. So if it wasn’t an artwork to begin with, how could it have become one? Was it a work without a name? What does it mean for a work of art not to have a name? Does this possibly mean that one can only conceive of a life as a work of art if it is exclusively made of gestures, full of objects that do not have a name? Is the lack of a name a necessary condition in order to think of a life as an artwork? I believe it is. And I believe that the problematic relationship to meaning that is part and parcel of the absence of a name is fundamental to thinking of a life as a work of art. What I conclude from this, is that if one were to think beyond the traditional definition of an artwork, one enters a territory in which there are no names. One enters a territory in which it will not always be possible to establish a connection between action and meaning, where the very possibility of meaning will become suspended, subject to chance.<br><br> </div>
 

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Pinault Collection Magazine - Issue #06

 

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