back to e-flux.com

e-flux conversations

BBC's Joan Bakewell interviews Marcel Duchamp in 1968

BBC’s Joan Bakewell interviewed Marcel Duchamp in June 1968, just months before his death. Bakewell asks the artist about his life and relationship to retinal art and Dada, as well as his thoughts on more contemporary works by Happenings artists such as Allan Kaprow. Duchamp speaks about individualism in face of the group think that occurs in self-defined movements such as Dada. Some of Bakewell and Duchamp’s conversation seems still very relevant–at 12:00 Duchamp talks about stylistic repetition and its relationship to value creation and the market, and at 20:00 the BBC interviewee speaks with Duchamp about commodity status of art and how selling his work seems antithetical to his purported mission to desacralize the art object. They talk about his prices a bit–she’s astonished his works sell for upwards of 2,000 GBP (ha!)–and Duchamp admits he is in a lower price bracket than say, Matisse or Cezanne, who could sell for 2 million. She then presses him about why he wouldn’t simply mass produce his work, selling for a more accessible price such as two shillings, and he indignantly responds that, like any classical sculpture, you have to sign readymades and sell them in small editions. They close with speaking about whether art could shock a public anymore. Duchamp adamantly disagrees with the idea that art as it exists in 1968 could shock a public, and that the context of art would have to change for it to be truly shocking.

It’s a good watch for a Monday afternoon getting back in the saddle after the holidays. Also, I don’t think I’ve personally ever seen Duchamp speaking on camera.

1 Like

There’s a youtube video from 1968, a BBC interview of Marcel Duchamp by Joan Bakewell.

Duchamp (who would die that same year), explains his life’s goals and ambition at 17m:25s into the video.

He says that “he wanted to discredit art, he wanted to get rid of art the way some people have gotten rid of religion”.

Duchamp’s so influential we’re driven by his ideas, yet the artists, curators, cultural workers

are not the least bit conscious of their behavior,

meant to get rid of art the way some people have gotten rid of religion.

And yet the death of painting is as likely as the death of writing, for painting is a non-verbal language.

But what disturbs us here is the lack of consciousness of the art world, the academic-curatorial complex.

Why are they promoting and even worshipping a practice meant to get rid of art?

How can they be so irresponsible?

ps. that statement by Duchamp is backed up much of his work and writing,

once read within that context. Generally the sentences fall in people’s blind spot.

So why do you want to get rid of art?