Duchamp’s Readymades: A Reevaluation

International Symposium

Aarhus University, Preben Hornungstuen

May 31 – June 1, 2018


Just as unnoticed as they were in their first stagings around Word War I, Duchamp’s readymades have since the 1960s acquired the status as almost the originary site of avant-garde subversion. With Fountain (1917) as the leading icon, the readymades seemingly mock and destabilize the whole horizon of expectance connected to art works: skill, originality, taste, aesthetic value, difference from technology, distance from bodily functions, even stable objecthood. But even considering the vast amount of art historical interpretations piled up around the readymades, they still retain an aura of mystery, of something radically unexplainable, which even Duchamp himself couldn’t abstain from.

In this seminar, we wish to look at the readymades afresh, reevaluating them both in their contemporary contexts and through the lens of reception histories. How exceptional were they in their own time? Were they the result of a program, or did they pop up haphazardly? Were they the result of Duchamp’s intentions or of a more collective enterprise? Do they stand out from Duchamp’s other works, notably the Large Glass (1915-23), or are they intimately woven together with them? How do they relate to contexts such as commodity fetishism, (anti)work culture, gender politics, antihumanism, philosophy of technology, and (pseudo)scientific enterprises such as pataphysics and physics of higher dimensions? Should they be seen as a special moment in avant-garde art history, or have they been fully absorbed by later art movements such as Fluxus, pop, conceptual art and relational aesthetics?


Confirmed speakers:

Linda Dalrymple Henderson

Thierry de Duve

David Joselit

Sarah Kolb

Thomas Girst

Glyn Thompson

Dieter Daniels

Jacob Wamberg