I would heartily recommend ‘The Bride and the Bachelors: Duchamp with Cage, Cunningham, Rauschenberg and Johns’ exhibition at the Barbican. Particularly on Thursday evenings and over the weekend as thats when you have the opportunity to see The Merce Cunningham Dance Company perform.
Duchamp’s championing of ‘readymades’ everyday objects as art has had a deep effect on the culture we now live in. In music, for example, sampling (using previously composed beats and rhythms if not melodies) helped shape hip hop and modern pop tunes. In the 1920s many felt that this was the end of art, however it has freed up the artist. If done well it can be smart and fresh, changing our perception of something we had grown used to, giving it a new narrative and allow for new ideas about its meaning, while its common form is a reference for us to base these high flung thoughts from.
These ideas where taken on my the other artist in the exhibition. Cage presented sounds from the street as music, used everyday objects to compose and developed a Prepared Piano, which by inserting bolts and other objects between the piano strings changed how we view a piano and helped expand what we conceive as music. Today we wouldn’t even blink if we heard a police siren or a car engine in a song.
Maybe the critics were right, its a bit disturbing to think that the culture we live in was inspired by a urinal! There are a variety of different shows celebrating Duchamp at the Barbican till June, so go and check it out.
I stumbled across this video on Bradford Cox’s excellent blog, and like him became ever so slightly enthralled by it.