On one July 28, 127 years ago, a man named Marcel Duchamp was welcomed into this bizarre and beautiful world, only to make it all the stranger. He's one of the few historically prized individuals known, above all else, for his intimate involvement with a certain toilet. But Marcel, associated with Cubism, Surrealism and Dada though ultimately in a category all his own, was far more than an upturned urinal.
Duchamp was a painter, sculptor, writer and chess enthusiast, among other things. He rejected art that pleased the mind in favor of works that tickled and dizzied the mind. He refused to repeat himself artistically, bringing creation and destruction in closer proximity than ever before. Most importantly, with his ready-made artworks, the merry trickster transformed the world's understanding of what constituted a work of art, forever changing the trajectory of the creative practice. The birth of Marcel Duchamp was, in a way, the birth of conceptual and theoretical art practice as we know it today.
On that note, we'd like to wish a very happy birthday to Marcel Duchamp, aka Rrose Sélavy, aka the grandfather of conceptual art. We've collected a batch of quotes embodying Duchamp's rebellious spirit and devotion to the transformative powers of art in honor of the happy occasion. Take a look at the inspirational (and sometimes confusing) nuggets below and, if you're so inclined, hug a toilet in Duchamp's honor.
1. On the importance of a good sense of humor
"It's true, of course, humor is very important in my life, as you know. That's the only reason for living, in fact."
2. On the spiritual nature of art-making
"To all appearances, the artist acts like a mediumistic being who, from the labyrinth beyond time and space, seeks his way out to a clearing. If we give the attributes of a medium to the artist, we must then deny him the state of consciousness on the aesthetic plane about what he is doing or why he is doing it. All his decisions in the artistic execution of the work rest with pure intuition and cannot be translated into a self-analysis, spoken or written, or even thought out."
3. On the art of living
"I like living, breathing better than working...my art is that of living. Each second, each breath is a work which is inscribed nowhere, which is neither visual nor cerebral, it's a sort of constant euphoria."
4. On art's always already readymade state
"Since the tubes of paint used by the artist are manufactured and ready made products we must conclude that all the paintings in the world are 'readymades aided' and also works of assemblage."
5. On the widespread over-appreciation of art
"I don’t care about the word ‘art’ because it has been so discredited. So I want to get rid of it. There is an unnecessary adoration of ‘art’ today."
6. On the strange nature of identity
"I force myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste."
7. On the incomprehensible magnitude of the universe
"If a shadow is a two-dimensional projection of the three-dimensional world, then the three-dimensional world as we know it is the projection of the four-dimensional Universe."
8. On the importance of the viewer
"All in all, the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualification and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. This becomes even more obvious when posterity gives a final verdict and sometimes rehabilitates forgotten artists."
9. On the artistic merits of chess
"I am still a victim of chess. It has all the beauty of art - and much more. It cannot be commercialized. Chess is much purer than art in its social position."
10. On the irrelevance of immortality
"No, the thing to do is try to make a painting that will be alive in your own lifetime."
11. On the addictive nature of art
"I've decided that art is a habit-forming drug. That's all it is, for the artist, for the collector, for anybody connected with it."
12. On not taking yourself too seriously
"I was poking fun at myself most of all."