The Instruction Manual to Modern Art

using the Example of Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)

Described as iconoclast, the most destructive of all artists in history ... and thus maybe the prototype of the "modern" artist.

Process Analysis (Classical Art)

The way artists have always worked until Duchamp's revolution was:

Process Step

Have an idea or be commis- sioned to produce something Select materials Combine materials Give the work a title (which explains what it is about) Sign it Promote it Exhibit it as soon as possible Get the public to appreciate it Reproduce it
Paint Lady Marlborough Choose oils, canvas, frame Mix colours, paint on canvas "Lady M. in pensive mood" Sal fecit Publicise in newspaper Hang in Royal Academy, Lord M.'s living room public/critics like/dislike it print posters of oil painting

Process Analysis (Modern Art)

Duchamp has simply removed and changed part of the artist's value chain:
(Source: Duchamp's interview with Philippe Collin about "Ready Mades" 21.6.1967)
Step Idea Select Combine Title Sign Promote Exhibit Appreciate Reproduce
Random selection Give a title that "adds another dimension" Certainly - Don't forget who to issue the cheque to ! YES !
talk about it in long woolly phrases at great length everywhere
Leave it

(but hope that people will buy it at great price eventually)

It is already a repro- duction
Quote No idea (at least none, that any 10-year-old can't also come up with) "A ready-made is a manufactured object, which - simply through the choice of the artist - is promoted to the level of art" (Breton) There is no art: it is always choice. You don't make the paints, the canvas, the frame, you just choose them. So why should you make the work instead of just choosing it? That is art taken to its logical conclusion. Call a landscape a pharmacy to "change its axis". The title adds verbal colour. By signing it, you turn a mundane object into art. There is a danger that something - however insignificant now - may become beautiful in 40 years Indifference. Instead of choosing something you like or dislike, you choose something which has no visual interest. When you it becomes a ready-made. Renounce retinal seduction. No need to look at it - it is just "there". "A ready-made does not require reproduction since it can always be replaced with a new original"
Cleverness -- ++ ++ - +++ - +

Once this principle is understood, it can be applied to poetry (Dada), music (random/atonal music by Cage et al.) and other forms of "Art".

Easy, isn't it ?

The only thing you must never forget is the promotion. That is the only essential part of modern art. And to wear a hat, show you are different, wear a waistcoat with lots of pockets, be an "artist" - then you even get millions for some butter in a museum.

However, without such iconoclasm we would never have departed from classical art (i.e. still be painting like photography). No impressionism, no surrealism ... none of the other wonderful variants of painting. So I think by examining the rules, changing and re-ordering them, they are doing something useful. This might well lead to something new, entertaining, useful and surprising - in the future.