Here we present a collection of images of Man-made objects where time has reversed the primacy of functional purpose over the aesthetic quality of the artefact.
In 1913 Marcel Duchamp started to work on what became known as Readymades. In some cases, as with his first, he combined elements, such as a bicycle wheel in its front fork and a stool. These later became known as ‘Assisted Readymades’ and he moved on by simplifying the idea by ‘creating’ several single element ones, a snow shovel and a chimney ventilator amongst others. His motivation was to provoke a debate about what was art. Hugely controversial at the time, in 1917 he submitted a Readymade which was a urinal which he signed with a pseudonym, dated and laid on its back to an exhibition in New York. His thesis was that it was art because the artefact had been purposely selected and proposed to the viewer so that they can consider it.
In an interview in 1959 he was asked “Is there any way in which we can think of a readymade as a work of art?“ His answer was as follows:
“That is a very difficult point, because art first has to be defined. Can we try to define art? We have tried. Everybody has tried. In every century there is a new definition of art, meaning that there is no one essential that is good for all centuries. So if we accept the idea of trying not to define art, which is a very legitimate conception, then the readymade comes in as a sort of irony, because it says, “Here is a thing that I call art, but I didn’t even make it myself.” As we know, ‘art,’ etymologically speaking, means ‘to hand make.’ And there it is ready-made. So it was a form of denying the possibility of defining art, because you don’t define electricity. You see the results of electricity, but you don’t define it.“
The artefacts here were all designed with an original purpose in mind and to a greater or lesser extent follow the principle that form follows function, with aesthetics perhaps a consideration but secondary at best. Exposed to the ravages of time they become less and less suited to their intended use but the aesthetic quality endures and is even enhanced as they stand idle.
We propose they be elevated to the status of Time-Assisted Readymades.