The dissolution of the readymade's semiotic imperative

Ashton, Sean. 2005. The dissolution of the readymade's semiotic imperative. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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This thesis investigates the altered status of the readymade in relation to its Duchampian inception. With Fountain, Duchamp's most exemplary readymade, the strategy is semiotic, a commonplace object being deployed as the sign of an 'absent' artwork. The object's inherent qualities are subordinate to its signification of an evident morphological alterity; insofar as any non-art object could have signified this alterity, the actual one chosen could be called a virtual art object. Initially exploiting an opposition between generic (non-art) objects and specific (art) objects, the artistic enunciation of commonplace objects to signify such a perceived morphological alterity has all but vanished. But this diminished alterity has not rendered the readymade an obsolete strategy, the terms of its contemporary application now being understood outside the Duchampian enunciative paradigm. I explore the relationship of this outsideness to the readymade's incipient semiotic imperative, moving from an analysis of more traditionally enunciative works-that is, those which emphasise the necessary (institutional) conditions for artistic expression per se-to an analysis of works which assert other (non-institutional) paradigms for their appraisal. Using Richard Wentworth's photographic work, I compare artistic appropriation with 'civilian' appropriation. I examine how Haim Steinbach's enhanced presentational approach conflates Duchampian virtuality with an object's vernacular identity. I explore the idea of consumption as an artistic procedure in which the exchange value/use value axiom is adopted as an alternative to the art/non art dichotomy inaugurated by Duchamp. Finally, I assess the relevance of these concerns to my own art practice, which has been characterised by the displacement of readymade objects into a hypothetical, and sometimes heterotopian, order of things. I end the thesis by explaining how the recent shift from this object-based strategy to a photographic, poster-based one attempts to make this heterotopian dynamic more explicit.

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Thesis (Doctoral)

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the readymade, consumption, object



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Date Deposited:

12 Jul 2023 15:16

Last Modified:

13 Jul 2023 00:02


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