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In 1917, Marcel Duchamp presented his first readymade to the public when he signed
and dated a urinal and submitted it to an art exhibition under the title Fountain. This
gesture has had profound consequences that continue to shape our understanding of art
today. If the appropriation and repurposing of an industrially produced everyday object
as art seemed like the best way for Duchamp to raise questions about what art was in
1917, what might be an appropriate readymade for 2021? Can you think of something
that one might encounter or experience regularly in everyday life, and which could
under new circumstances become an interesting work of art?
The task of your paper is to present your new readymade and explain why it is
compelling as a work of art. That is, you must explain how and why the thing you’ve
chosen now has a new meaning that is different from its typical, everyday, or non-art
significance. What criteria did you use to make your choice? Is it a physical object or
does it take some other form? What makes this thing simultaneously ordinary
(something we encounter regularly) and unique (a new work of art)? Be sure to
describe the format and conditions in which your readymade will be presented if that is
necessary for it to become an artwork.
Important note: you are NOT just being asked to select an object that you think is a
quintessential or representative object of our time. That is, your argument should go
beyond merely claiming, “I have selected X as my readymade because X is common in
our world today just like urinals were common in the US in 1917.” You are being asked
to describe and justify an act of artistic appropriation that updates Duchamp’s gesture by
extending the idea of the readymade beyond the banal object of early 20th century
industrial society to today’s world. One way of thinking about it is: how could one test
the boundary between art and non-art in 2021 when virtually anything could be
considered “art”?
You may include an image of your readymade if you feel it helps demonstrate your
argument.

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