Ready-Set-Go, The Centennial of the first Ready-Made

In 1913, while searching for another language in addition to painting, Marcel Duchamp began using everyday objects to create art. He affixed an inverted bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watched it rotate, thus creating the first “ready-made.” This was the term he began using in 1915 to describe the artifacts he transformed into works of art – a strategy that came to constitute the most prominent expression of the Dada approach to artmaking.

Although the Dada movement’s official year of birth is 1916, and its birthplace is considered to be Zurich

, its members were aware of the existence of other artmaking practices shaped by a similar spirit. Duchamp’s first ready-mades preceded the activities at Cabaret Voltaire by three years; yet as Hans Richter put it, “The music was the same.” 

This exhibition features some 30 works created in recent years in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp’s first ready-made, mostly by Israeli artists. Duchamp’s bicycle wheel is defined as an “assisted ready-made” – that is, a work in which the artist’s intervention is limited to shifting the familiar perspective from which we view the object, without changing the object itself.  The “anti-artistic” act underlying their creation involves the use of available, familiar everyday objects, which are set at an unfamiliar angle or coupled with other objects – a strategy that underscores the artist’s role in defining the limits of the art object. The seemingly minor act of shifting or coupling thus gives rise to a new syntax, which is unapologetically defined as a work of art.

The exhibition is divided into four groups of works: works defined by the absurdity of the connection between different objects; works that involve a reconfiguration of objects; objects whose reading is determined by their positioning in space; and object-based installations.

The largest and most prominent group of works is the one featuring absurd combinations of objects: Etamar Beglikter‘s beer bottles, which have been connected to the tail end of an artillery shell; Ester Naor‘s snooker sticks, to which the artist glued artificial nails; Velcha Velchev‘s dried branch, which “flows” out of a faucet. Avraham Eilat‘s crutches, to which the artist affixed a curtain rod and a mask, and the food cans containing pages torn out of a Jewish prayer book;Belu-Simion Fainaru‘s clock, whose hands move counterclockwise, is flanked by a pair of shoes with cigarettes tacked onto them, and a cabbage “car” operated by a remote control that moves through the exhibition space; Yaara Zach‘s assemblage of objects, which includes an ironing board, a metallic sink, and a collection of pots; Noa Tavori‘s totem, which is made of objects placed one atop another; Raanan Tal‘s toy part, which is connected to an electric plug; Philip Rantzer‘s doll;  and Dan Chamizer‘s barbecue stand, to which the artist affixed the players from a table soccer game. These works all entertain a direct dialogue with the concept underlying Marcel Duchamp’s original Bicycle Wheel. The fact that Duchamp created several copies of this work underscores the assumption that he was interested in reiterating his concept, rather than in the originality of the produced object. Additional works in this group are defined by the creation of absurd arrangements based on the use of books: Jack Jano employs books as sculptural elements, coupling them with a bicycle, an old jerrycan, and a piece of driftwood; Orna Oren Izraeli stacks books under various types of chairs; and Moshe Gordon places books inside containers. The works in the second group are similarly defined by an absurd quality, while involving the use of a single object in two or three different ways: Etamar Begliketer‘s colorful plastic buckets,Tamir Lichtenberg‘s double carpet beater, and Jim Hamlyn‘s four china plates, which were all cut into four pieces and glued back together in a new way. The act of doubling, which usually serves to enhance the object in question, is characteristic of New Realism, and grew out of Duchamp’s interest in the accumulation of identical things.

The works in the third group relate to specific ready-mades created by Duchamp, such as the 1914 Bottle Rack and the 1917 Trap. In these works, Duchamp did nothing to manipulate the original objects, and his intervention was limited to their positioning at a new angle. This group includes Ester Naor‘s overturned boat, which is suspended far from the water high up on a museum wall; Velcha Velchev‘s upside-down ties, which are reminiscent of nooses; Avraham Eilat‘s tied national flag; Belu-Simion Fainaru‘s hat, which is affixed to the exhibition wall; Svika Altman‘s “head,” which is adorned with metal curls and composed of a part taken from a corn-sorting machine; Dror Karta‘s series of objects, which includes a road sign converted to a new purpose, bags used to pack hashish, and parchment paper. These works all subvert familiar conventions and rules, yet the artists’ interventions are relatively minor. The exhibition also includes a number of installations: Arie Berkowitz‘s tree with falling sticky-note “leaves”; Muhamad Abu-Arkia‘s colorful plastic pitchers; and two ladders – the burnt ladder by Etamar Beglikter, and the ladder by the Tav group, which leads nowhere.

The “Pit” contains a video work by Guy Ben-Ner, which protests against the idea of the ready-made by making the objects functional again

to the museum

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