Work Avoidance: The Everyday Life of Marcel Duchamp's Readymades Author(s): Helen Molesworth Reviewed work(s): Source: Art

Journal, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 50-61 Published by: College Art Association Stable URL: . Accessed: 22/02/2012 16:32
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their sepia tones rendering them "historical.The exhibition history of other readymades is sketchy at best. I use maintenanceworkas opposed to domestic workin this argument to underscore and value this form of labor as such. In the seventies Ukeles did a series of performances entitled Maintenance Art. a rack to dry bottles. It is found in photographs of the readymades taken in Duchamp's New York studio. not only of art. first chosen by Duchamp and subsequently installed in museums and galleries (or not. Janet Kraynakand MargaretSundell. at made it clear that the idea of "Art" was produced contextually. preening. 1989).breathing -Marcel Duchamp A hat rack and coatrack to hang things on. They are the unsung aids that allow us to do the work of mainhouse and body. This stalled image of the readymades does not come from museums or history books. a shovel to remove snow. lazy. behind a partition) during its debut at the 1917 Independents Exhibition. There is a photograph in the background of which we spy the urinal suspended from a doorjamb. a comb to straighten one's hair. One of its many ramifications was a disavowal of an ontological definition of art. Likewise."Instead. and the urinal stood alone.' cleaning. There we see the readymades installed. for instance. and invaluable discussions with FrazerWard. 1996). in a manner that evokes furniture and objets d'art) around an armchair-a coatrack nailed to the floor in front of a bicycle wheel atop a kitchen stool. interpellated as they are by a variety of institutional positions. the typewriter cover protected nothing but air. More photographs: a film-noirish one of the shadows cast by an off-kilter hat rack. hanging. Duchamp:A Biography (New York: Henry Holt. a cover to protect a typewriter from dust. I. a bathing cap cut into strips and pinned across the room at various intervals. Marcel Duchamp.better thanworking. forever unused (fig. in which she cleaned spaces rangingfrom her home to museums to public sidewalks. That Duchamp thought enough of these photographs to include them in his retrospective Boite-en-valise (1941). Sharing the attribute quotidian. and private homesby suggesting that domestic labor is not exclusively "private. a grainy image of the studio turned into a maze by Duchamp's Sculpture Traveling for (1918). see "ArtistProject: Mierle LadermanUkeles Maintenance Art Activity (1973) with Responses from Miwon Kwon and Helen Molesworth. her work argues that maintenance work is a continuum that connects usually unseen/unpaid domestic labor to the same maintenance work that occurs in "public"institutions. the readymade has done more to reorganize aesthetic categories than any other twentieth-century art practice. as opposed to relegating it to the usuallydenigrated and putatively private "housework. foregrounded the way that meaning itself is actively produced by viewing and speaking subjects. so that we are better prepared to do our other work. I am borrowing the term maintenancefrom the artist Mierle LadermanUkeles. they are mundane objects of everyday Helen Molesworth life. The readymades were not widely exhibited until after World War II. a urinal for peeing in. These performances posited an equivalence between "public"and "private"institutions of art-galleries. storing. drying. and then to color them. combined with Duchamp's selfconscious eschewing of art's (presumed) unmediated visuality. 2. 51 art journal . in the foreground a shovel dangles from the ceiling. but of meaning itself. objects that allow homes and offices to function. But this was not the situation of these objects in Duchamp's studio: the hat rack was suspended from the ceiling. Fountain(Houston: Houston Fine Art Press. inverted. taining like making art. These machine-made objects.2 Arguably. as was the case of Fountain the 1917 Independents Exhibition). The readymade was a linchpin in formulating what are now familiar discussions of the contingency." For more on Ukeles's Maintenance Art. it has been argued that the inclusion of language. not on pedestals or in vitrines. the coatrack was nailed to the floor. and William Camfield. was fundamentallysuppressed (hidden Fountain. Almost all of Duchamp's readymades could have been found in an average home or store. the readymades are also bound together by the They are objects for processes of maintenance." Documents 10 (Fall 1997): 5-22. and peeing: objects whose purpose is to aid in self-presentation." is not surprising. During the initial "invention" of the readymades his studio was their major site of reception. It was a lever that pried Work Avoidance: The Everyday Life of Marcel Duchamp's Readymades This essay benefited from two thoughtful readers. museums. see Calvin Tomkins. DeepdownI'm enormously I like living. but positioned (strategically. i).The most famous one.

1942.9 141 M 0f ~ii~riF~Zl ?t~" . .K'7 Wh Iow' P?fN 4 Mbi4 i~iZ~rC~ ~a oPOWs s'31 !Wwwl loop. A74cr~. Installation of the "mile of string" for the exhibition "First Papers of Surrealism.. Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection.. 50 WINTER 1998 .sa ti TIiii w"low! Ia rr~i~~I~ii 1111N !W41?- ?IE?vl ~LB~LV A. Marcel Duchamp."l?? "ANTll~it.. Philadelphia Museum of Art. ~mot."""Z- " - 4.. ~.. October 14-November 7."Art of This Century. NewYork.... .

these debates have limited the field of art's institutions to the gallery and the museum. work and leisure penetrate one another. 210-20. 1917-18.4 Given the readymades' registration of the consequence of context.3 However. Duchamp's ambivalence toward work did not only relate to artistic production. in Duchamp's work there is a latent acknowledgment that domestic space. One of four views of his studio." Boston(Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art. home.5 These photographs provide us with a context to view the readymades. but one characterized by blurred boundaries. 1998 ARS N.IADAGPParis.' The interpenetration of these elements of human experience constitutes the everyday Life of as theorized by the sociologist Henri Lefebvre. see Buchloh. 113. leisure. Lefebvre desires to extract what is "living" from the condition of "alienation. the work writes: "Beginning of art had become the ultimate subject of a legal definition and the result of institutionalvalidation".I. Likewise. open art (and art history) to debates about meaning and context. For the relation of the readymade to structural linguistics. in Dissent: TheIssue of ModernArtin Idee Re. If we understand Boiteto en-valise be a self-staged museological retrospective. Instead. then these photographs broaden the understanding of what those institutions are. suggesting as they do an expanded idea of institutions. (In this article Buchloh also underscores the linguisticunderstandingof the readymade. which takes place at home. Objet Trouve. and "private life. or art making as a form of leisure) are brought into extreme proximity. 1962-1969: From the Aesthetic of Administrationto the Critique of Institutions. within which resides the everyday. These studio photographs do not show the (glorified) artist at the photographs from Duchamp's studio.: MIT Press. In discussing what he refers to as the Duchamp legacy he with the readymade. have remained sorely underexamined. 1985)."7 The readymades. is here crossed with the studio. The lack of a hard-and-fast divide between work and leisure is emphasized by these images of functional maintenance objects-objects designed to aid in the cleaning and tidying up of places and people-rendered deliberately dysfunctional. Similarly. but he resisted the labor of housework as well. Adding to this confusion is yet another smudged edge. Yet his account neglects the content of the readymades and limitsthe field of the institutions of art to the "public"institutions of the museum and gallery. Ambiguous because these rooms are not only Duchamp's studio. Mass. they are also his home. "leisure" is doubly present in the ideological functions or role of art. see Buchloh. 196-209.Y. and private life form an inseparable triumvirate.see Rosalind Krauss. historically understood as the primary site of artistic work. 55 (Winter 1990): 117-18. because work (making art in the studio) and leisure (not working. In TheCritique Everyday he argues that work. "Conceptual Art.missing Duchamp's indication of domestic space and maintenance labor as being 52 WINTER 1998 . From this seemingly impenetrable totality. traditionally conceived of as a space of rest. Marcel Duchamp." is suggested in that the studio is a domestic space as well as a work space.) Buchloh contends that the most radical element of the readymade is that "the definition of the aesthetic becomes on the one hand a matter of linguisticconvention and on the other the function of both a legal contract and institutional discourse (a discourse of power rather than taste). leaving out other sites that help to construct art's meaning." Hence. 1985). its ability to critique institutions and structures of power."in The Originality the Avant-Garde of OtherModernistMyths (Cambridge. If Duchamp's work can be used to understand that art's meaning is bound to its institutions. The home.ue."Notes on the and Index. "Readymade. make manifest Lefebvre's three attributes of the everyday: "work" is registered by the studio. particularly as photographed in Duchamp's studio. and current conditions of late capital make the reification of everyday life even more pronounced. 33 West 67th Street. he understands Conceptual art and institutionalcritique to be the fullest articulations of the readymade's criticalpotential. particularly the question of how art's meaning is derived in large measure from its institutional and linguistic contexts."October. New York. historically con- 3. then his inclusion of these photographs of the readymades installed in his home points to the home (be it the artist's or the collector's) as an institution of art on a par with the museum or gallery. In these muddy waters public and private have swirled together. BenjaminBuchloh has done the most sustained work on the institutional implicationsof the readymade. such arguments have traditionally ignored the content of the readymades. as the ideas of home and studio. we see ambiguous rooms filled with curious objects.

Kuenzliand FrancisM. Although the scientific management expert Christine Frederick is not well known today outside of women's studies. 37 (Summer 1986): 53-64.S. Most notably the home and the department store. Frederick is sitting and mending while she overhears her husband and 53 art journal .see Pateman. 1988). Naumann (Cambridge.Chantal Akerman. Just as the photographs of the readymades in Duchamp's studio have not been adequately theorized. workers whose job is to monitor. to increase their output. Museums and department stores had a lively interaction duringthe period of Duchamp's sojourn in New York. I would hesitate to draw such an unambiguous conclusion based on a seemingly transparent model of (artistic) cause and effect. an examination of the contemporaneous shift in the practice. Mass. and representation of work seems necessary. "Ready-MadeOriginals: The Duchamp Model. 1993). Louise Lawler. I propose that Duchamp worked within what de Duve has called a "fieldof resonances. He painted Tu'mto fit a specific site in the home of his patron and friend Katherine Dreier.8 As Duchamp's work of this period appears concerned with the terms of work. the role of mass consumption in procuring the readymades. specifically the work of maintenance. "Resonances of Duchamp's Visit to Munich. is always already a site of work. This presentation of nonwork and leisure has a social and historical context larger than Duchamp's studio. John Moore (London: Verso. 1991). Bronson and Peggy Gale (Toronto: Art Metropole. yet neither deals with the specificallyU. conception. A. a critique may emerge in those moments when the relations between elements of the everyday are made evident or challenged."2 The book was the first in a genre of helpful hint manuals that applied the principles of scientific management to the North American household. De Duve argues that Munich'sdifferent presentation of the distinction between the "high"and the "decorative" arts acted as a catalyst to Duchamp's abandonment of painting. 144. context of the readymades. consists of breaking down a work operation into its component parts through a rigorous system of monitoring the time each physical movement in the work process takes. 1991). which she was an editor. described by Carole Pateman. trans. and living rooms. This blending of public and private is furthered by the way the photographs of these mongrelized (private/public) rooms function as a form of pubin licity (in the BoFte-en-valise. 4. This shift institutionalized the inequitable relations between different types of labor (manual and "mental") and their concomitant "types" of workers." in Museums by Artists. There are artists who may "inherit"these aspects of the readymade legacy such as Ukeles. Landof Desire (New York: Pantheon. department stores. Instead. "The Museum Fictions of Marcel Broodthaers. see Tomkins. the readymades do not offer leisure as work's simple antithesis (nor do they offer art as pure leisure).and Sowon Kwon. her impact on kitchens across the United States rivals her Taylorist counterpart in industrial production. Yet in foiling work. There are other explicitly "domestic" moments in Duchamp's oeuvre. de Duve writes: "There are other means than influence for the artist to be ceived of as a space of rest or leisure (for men). etc. without themselves participating in those tasks. represent. an understanding of modern patriarchyrequires that the employment contract is illuminatedby the structure of domestic relations". and maintenance labor. David Hammons. A. whose usefulness resides in their ability to aid domestic and maintenance labor.: MITPress. 7. history books." 42. likewise he made several forays into interior decorating (includingpaintingan elevator with a leaf pattern to match the room) and arranging art in her home. Robert Gober. see BenjaminBuchloh. 1983). hence wasted work time." In "Resonances." October. Duchamp's presentation and arrangement of the readymades exhibit a desire to foil the functionality of these objects.see William Leach. A lesser-known example of Taylorism's appeal is the vigor with which the Domestic Economy movement adopted it. To this end. Rudolf E. Buchloh's argument falls prey to the alltoo-common conception.inextricable from the matrix of art's institutions. 8. Ladies' Home of Journal. as opposed to a shorter or more comfortable workweek for workers. See also Thierry de Duve. 42.). The ultimate goal of Taylorism's quest for efficient labor was increased profits.9 The publication of Frederick Winslow Taylor's Principles Scientific of Management (1911) profoundly changed industrialized labor. Rather. Henri Lefebvre. see Molly Nesbit.ed.ed. as "scientific management" came to be called. I am not arguingthat Duchamp was directly "influenced"by the advent of scientific management. their placement in the home/studio tangles the categories of both work and leisure. The Sexual Contract(Stanford:Stanford University Press. in Marcel Duchamp:Artistof the Century. which includes a discussion of the readymades as situated in the ambiguous realm between museums. rather than vice versa. knowledge that could aid in the potential and/or intermittent process of "disalienation. on the role of French high school drawing instruction and the development of the copyright. Henry Ford. 6. 5. for Duchamp's refusal of work (both maintenance and traditional means of artistic labor) happened alongside one of the most profound shifts in twentieth-century conceptions of work: Taylorism. Taylorism. On the museological implicationsof BoFte-envalise. Mary Kelly. which valorized "streamlined" labor and above all efficiency. In the opening pages."trans. Dana Polan. Lefebvre sought not simply "entertainment" or "relaxation" but the articulation of different forms of knowledge. There are two exceptions.'o Taylorism was responsible for the assembly line (perfected by Henry Ford). On the contrary. and then alter work procedures. The Critique Everyday of Life." In i9i3 she published The New Housekeeping it had been serialized and widely read in the popular after women's magazine. It was designed to eliminate wasted motion by manual workers. the sociohistorical conditions within which the readymades came into being in New York are absent from much Duchamp literature. This essay is part of a larger project concerning the Duchampian readymade. In his critique of the everyday. that "The public sphere is always assumed to throw light onto the private sphere. which includes the work of shopping. This required the development (and the subsequent consolidation) of the managerial class." It is not in leisure as such where a critique of capitalism is to be found. Rather.

At the turn of the century. yes.7. my home. and Witold Rybczynski.The Bathroom. accompanied and aided by the mechanization and electrification of domestic space."'' The real issue for Frederick was the standardization of housework. particularlyin their ambivalent relationshipto the radicalfeminist movements that coincided with them. 10."' Frederick's first response is skeptical: "In a factory the workers do just one thing . 12. 14. Ibid. 1993). and In Bodies Machines. cooking." she writes in a manifesto-style language not dissimilar to that of her avant-garde artist contemporaries. 146-62. 1913). For the influence of Christine Frederickon twentieth-century kitchen design in both the United States and Europe.The New Housekeeping: EfficiencyStudiesin Home Management (New York: Doubleday. MarkSeltzer. He contends that "the real innovation of Taylorof ization becomes visible in the incorporation of the representation the work process into the work process itself-or. One of the crises signified by the adoption of scientific management by domestic science was the changing status of domestic space as a site of production. 19. Streamliningthe home was highlypublicized duringthe Columbian Exposition of 1893. 16."'7 This relation to domestic space is curious. 20. and efficient. and child-rearing. further developing the continuous work surface. hundreds. especially as there is no profit to be made in housework. a place of rest and respite (for men) from the spaces of work. Abbott Miller. the home has always been a space of work and production. better. and its effect on women's daily lives. They emphasized the perpetual labor of maintenance. 159. as a result of the displacement of material production. Domestic economists discussed work that had become.Home: A ShortHistoryof an Idea (New York: PenguinBooks. W. "The ideal home life of today. Beecher was the first to propose the notion of the ideal kitchen. with manual laborers represented by their newly established managers. see Susan Strasser. like all good scientific managers. Ideologically speaking. MechanizationTakes Command(New York:W. see EllenLupton and J."20 The representation of labor-graphs. Although Taylor presented scientific management as a benign restructuringof the workforce.. increasingly hard to represent: the "women's work that is never done"-9 cleaning. Ibid. 18. Nineteenth Century. 1969). Satisfaction Guaranteed(New York: Pantheon. (And it is homologous to Duchamp's studio-as-home. routinized.I5 Frederick. See Christine Frederick. After the 1911 publicationof of Taylor'sPrinciples Scientific Managementthere was a renewed and strengthened interest in Taylorizingthe home."'4 This equation of domestic to factory space is extraordinary.and Ford(Chicago: University of Chicago Press. and reorganized the kitchen into "properly" arranged workstations. one that would ease the labor of both manual and managerialworkers."in Reflections."This argument presents some of the historical conditions (and hence possibilities) that inform the period when Duchamp was working in New York duringthe early decades of the twentieth century. She exclaims: "I won't have you men doing all the great and noble things! I'm going to find out how these experts conduct investigations. my business. We 54 WINTER I998 . and all about it. It should become modern. the "factorization" of the kitchen went on unhindered. 1986). 10.234. of tasks requiring totally different knowledge and movements. Norton. startingwith Catherine Beecher's Treatiseon Domestic Economy(1841). Bodies and Machines (New York: Routledge."Paris.41. through the introduction of the new academic disciplines of domestic science and "home economics. it is important to note that both waves are related. EdmundJephcott (New York:Schocken. Domestic science has a long tradition in the United States.'8 Actually. 15. is "unhampered by traditions of the past. and it is easy to standardize one set of operations. .. and Rybczynski. Veblen. On the development of mass-produced goods for the home. 13.Capital of the trans. and then apply it to my factory. he referred to manual laborers as oxen and remarked on their brute animal force. a colleague discussing "'efficiency' or 'scientific management. even though the home had ceased to be a site of material production. as opposed to forms of work that result in a discrete object. See SiegfriedGiedion. This essay focuses solely on the second wave of domestic science and its relationship to scientific management. Although she extolled the virtues of a mechanized kitchen.the Kitchen. 1986). home-as-studio environment. See Walter Benjamin. I I. was highly averse to wasting time and effort. The typecasting of labor was also evident in domestic space as servants (usuallyAfricanAmerican or immigrantIrishwomen) were hired by white middle. the modern industrial era has figured domestic space as a haven from public spaces. . 1992). soap. Frederick.'9 Scientific management's application in the home insisted that domestic space was a site of work and industry. literary critic Mark Seltzer argues that Taylorism the not only altered the work process (by making it more "efficient") but also invented new forms of work. Frederick. 1989)."'3 Her resistance is soon worn down by scientific management's promise to reduce waste. the production of such daily goods as bread." See Martha Banta's Taylored in Lives:NarrativeProductions the Age of Taylor. But in a home there are dozens. thereby situatingwomen's housework within a particularly moral framework-the good home produces the good citizen. 1992). flow charts-became a form of labor in and of itself.) Despite the apparent contradictions between factory and domestic work. Frederickwas primarily responsible for and publiclyassociated with this phenomenon. she was quick to point out that she believed "strongly that women's liberation from drudgery lies not so much in tools as in her own improved methods of work. She streamlined women's work.permeated by a context and draw from it some consequences that will show up in the art work itself. 17.and the Aestheticsof Waste (New York: Princeton Architectural Press. and clothes was removed from the home because these staples were now mass-produced.and upper-middle-class families to do specific domestic jobs. However. the incorporation of the representation of the work process as the work process itself.

Christine Frederick.''"22 By stymieing the "work" of looking at art. 1989). in either preparofsteps. and alter their ownmanual labor. by at the turns. Similarly. MarcelDuchamp. 4). a She thenmakes planof the work place. representing them proved to be a rather peculiar task. Duchamp told us we could play here. manage. all in the name of rationalized work. Duchamp transformed the gallery into a version of his mazelike studio. a Taylor collaborator. Also mentioned in Anne D'Harnoncourt and Kynaston McShine. ring.pinsbeing as inserted. however. This new labor occupies the same space-the kitchen. clear--"-ag) V7A"'Opgre~_~ (A B (A g. in the exhibition "First Papers of Surrealism" (fig. ineit r whih lamp eleari a . suggested. 92-93. It is precisely this delay or postponement of labor that runs throughout Duchamp's work. adept as he is at isolating moments when work is represented and foiled simultaneously. The studio-the place where the work of making art is supposed to happen-is transformed into a maze or labyrinth obstructing or delaying the artist's ability to make art.placing pins at whatever the worker turned. as women were asked to represent. The Home-Makerand Herjob (New York: D. the pantry-as it represents such acts as a woman carrying dirty dishes. a clean house is clean inasmuch as the labor of cleaning is no longer present. kicking and passing balls and skipping rope and chasing each other around through the barriers of string.) The domestic economist Lillian Gilbreth described her elaborate system for generating representations of the domestic laborer's movement (fig. 23. the children had been instructed to say that 'Mr. Tomkins. Gilbreth was the wife of FrankGilbreth. be they 55 art journal . (There are no helpful hints. 3). At the opening visitors found "the premises already inhabited by a dozen boys and girls in athletic gear. for how to leave the kitchen to make this diagram. 1928). as making this diagram is an additional labor to the labor of washing the dishes.eds. in 1942 Duchamp installed a mile of string. the A childmay followMother around she clears as the tableandgetsthe dishes for stacking. Think of the difference between Gilbreth's string-filled room designed to help systematize and streamline kitchen work and Duchamp's Sculpture Traveling for (fig. 21. B caealm Diagran showing badly aan make. Appleton and Co. that is. the observer follows worker the around with a ballof twine. 333.A sketch the of winding is diningroomandpantry thenmadeandherpath traced thestring.y qm ersectingcen ea mg l a a)o B of wwhich Diagramshowing roperarrangement tquipmen t oqeuipment ain of steps.can see clearly the irony of a Taylorized household.exh. If anyone objected. Given the virtual invisibility of housework and maintenance labor. its content is. then has She points measures lengths twineto scaleandwindsit the of around pins to markthepathtraveled. (After all. a place where humor and play were encouraged-work discouraged. In both instances Duchamp represented forms of labor (or alternately leisure).s useudint a..2I -preparing. 2. Gilbreth demonstrates that the representation of work has in fact become part of the work process. as it delayed or postponed the work it was meant to represent and make more efficient. inadvertently playful. Diagram from The New Housekeeping (1917). 22. Lillian Gilbreth.) Yet one cannot help but see this image of a little boy making a cat's cradle of his mother's work. (New York:The Museum of Modern Art. the typed office memo is not thought of as the "real" work.measuring distance the traveled. of acknowledging maintenance activities as work. as slightly amusing..2): 0I AA -A To makethis. cat. the difficulty. unready the ballof stringas he goes.

Not only has Duchamp blurred the traditional boundaries of work and leisure in the studio. 5). that this free time never materialized."24 Trebuchet presents not a step saved but a step wasted." Telos 16 (Summer 1973): 15. It is also a chess move in which a pawn is used to take an important piece." Technology Culture17. "On the PhilosophicalFoundation of the Concept of Labor in Economics. In Duchamp's home/studio the readymades were arranged in a way that foiled work. Advertisements and helpful hint manuals told women that they were going to experience an exponential rise in "free time" for "leisure" activities as a result of these "revolutionary" domestic changes and "ground-breaking" mechanical innovations. shopping for the readymades has not been adequately theorized. Seeing it there (like a banana peel). Or. a distraction. in that it is posited to exist outside the rules and regulations of everyday life. a stratum of labor structural both to the space of the home and more traditionally conceived work spaces.see Ruth Schwartz Cowan. as a "real coat Enter (1917) (fig. almost utopian dimension. He writes that play is a dimension of freedom. was to eliminate unnecessary steps."Journalof AmericanCulture no. however. comb. the objects blur the boundaries between home and work (typewriter cover. it is a physical set-up for slapstick humor. If the readymades have not been read in relation to the labor of maintenance and the context of domestic space. streamlined kitchen with its Taylorized worker/manager performing well-appointed. then he enables play to serve as a critique of society. Shopping. (Fall 1980): 440-45. It should be noted. Additionally. rationalized duties in a newly systematized manner and space could not be farther from the photographs of the readymades in Duchamp's studio. a "self-distraction. blends the terms of labor and leisure. but more important. Unknown photographer. the readymades were nothing if not willfully inefficient. Camfield cites Ulf Lindefor this reading of Fountain.I . "Scientific Management in the Home: The Empress's New Clothes. creating unnecessary steps. We must remember that motion-study diagrams were designed not only to represent maintenance labor. D'Harnoncourt and McShine. 1918. I'll nail it down. 26. waiting for someone to fall. In French the verb tr6bucher ble. the birth of Rrose Selavy (in 1920. play or leisure. saving it in another regard."27 If for Marcuse play is a dimension of freedom. if it wants to stay there and bore me. 27. forgetting oneself and recuperating oneself. Duchamp and the guests in his studio might have watched in humorous anticipation. For many Marxist thinkers play has an idealistic.2' Trebuchet is a visual pun. too. Camfield. it was a perverse "step saver. 24. 23. Duchamp recalled Trrbuchet Trrbuchet hanger that I wanted someone to put on the wall and hang my things on but I never did come to that-so it was on the floor and I would kick it every minute. making or looking at art. There are other readymades like this: a hat rack suspended from the ceiling . but it does so primarilyfor women. While Marxism offers us the most sophisticated theoretical account of labor. trip. We can also see that the arrangements of the readymades interject an element of play among a set of otherwise fairly banal functional objects. ? r 3. Taylorism's desire to eliminate wasted time meant that it often entered the home as a series of "step-saving" devices. because of its position outside the conventions 56 WINTER 1998 ... every time I went out-I got crazy about it and I said the Hell with it. it has also concerned itself with work's dialectical other. Marcel Duchamp's in Sculpturefor Traveling. go ahead. but the readymades are functional objects rendered playful through their humorous appeal to slapstick. and Bettina Berch. you could pluck one of those marble sugar Rrose cubes from Why Not Sneeze (1921) for your coffee (like a plastic fly in Selavy? his a bowl of soup). In this regard. his NewYork studio. shovel) in that their functions are all bound to the labor of maintenance. I (January 1976): 1-23.. no. "The 'IndustrialRevolution' in the Home: Household Technology and Social Change in the and 20th Century. Lent by Mme Marcel Duchamp. but he did so by disallowing such labors and/or leisures to take place." for when one trips one "misses" a step. given the development of mass consumerism. and if a man pees in the Fountain urine will drip on him. 3 3.23 But the image of the efficient. 106. or fall. means to stum25.26 We have already seen the confusion between the spaces of work and leisure in the photographs of the readymades in Duchamp's studio..1 1~ D ig ?~Qe~ . hang your hat on it. In other words. their ultimate goal. in the name of efficiency.283. relaxing oneself. Herbert Marcuse has focused more of his philosophical energies on play than his Marxist contemporaries. Marcuse. the year women won the rightto vote in the United States) perhaps points to Duchamp's implicit comprehension of the ways in which his work was concerned with issues of everyday life of particularinterest to women.

This is where play's potential utopian or critical dimension (a utopia free from labor and a critique of capitalism's dependence on alienated labor for profit) can be seen most fully. he reckons."30 Herein lies the rub.of rigidity the or of momentum. of the everyday. that performs no work. the idea and the actuality of play offer possibilities for examining the tangled knot of work and leisure in everyday life. and it is seen as the lesser component of this dialectic in that play is enabled or made possible by work ("its source and goal")." in Postmodernism (Durham: Duke University Press. 1956). prank doors. 1991). 30. of "the weekend" or each summer's obligatory Disney movie. Door I I rue Larrey. D'Harnoncourt and McShine. 57 art journal . if play can only be seen in relation to work. that is not beholden to a purpose. objects lying in wait to disrupt business as usual. The door is described as a "practical space-saving device. then play. thus providing Duchamp with a household paradox as well as a practical space-saving device. Imagine any one of Duchamp's readymades in the domestic utopia of Christine Frederick or Lillian Gilbreth. Marcuse argues against the anthropological notion that play comes first as a human social activityfollowed by work in cultures of accumulation. also see Ernest Mandel. Duchamp's rooms-whether filled with string. as a result. Marcuse states it thus: "On the whole play is necessarily related to an Other which is its source and goal. Instead. Wylie Sypher (Garden City. 1978) on what FredericJameson calls the "prodigiousexpansion of capital into hitherto uncommodified areas. 39. They are an anathema to the logic of Taylorized.ed. The door could be both open and closed at the same time." the In his quirky account of comedy. he argues that labor "is the starting point.Y. turning it into a philosophical lever in the service of some utopian vision."28 But. 300. muscles continue to perform the same movement when the circumstances call for something else. 1917. In 1913 Duchamp jotted a note to himself: "Can one make works which are not works of 'art'?" Can one make something that has no function. Henri Bergson. in 31." 29. and principleof play insofar as play is precisely a breakingoff from labor and a recuperation for labor. Marcel Duchamp. even that of art? Something not beholden to leisure either? In such a formulation. to provoke play rather than work. not as a reprieve from work but as a means to stop work. comes from 28. and the studio and the bathroom).: Doubleday Anchor. foundation. nation of private/domestic in a manner similarto the photographs of the studio. 66. philosopher Henri Bergson the comic effect of slapstick: "Through a lack of elasticity. but in Duchamp's slapstick-infused readymades. Tribuchet (Trap). By troublingthe boundaries of public and private within disallows the assigthe home. in the form of slapstick. efficient kitchen spaces envisioned by Gilbreth and Frederick. fact. (One need only think of the regimentation nonwork. in its officially sanctioned role as becomes a form of work. rationalized. laughter becomes their new "function. and this Other is already preconceived as labor. Ibid. Laughter. and rigidly systematized domestic/work space. Lefebvre.) Lefebvre argues that one ramification of this interdependence between labor and play is in that "there can be alienation leisure as in work. 35."3' Laughter. when Duchamp altered the purposes of both rooms and objects."29 Duchamp attempted to just use play. Another playful intervention into everyday life is Door. 6). Laughter. One hesitates to instrumentalize play in this way. doorways (between the studio and the bedroom. or readymades provoking pratfalls-all confound the logic of work and efficiency." yet it belongs more to a set for a bedroom farce than to the streamlined. art and play exist in an analogously tenuous realm of (im)possibility.ii RueLarrey (1927) In Duchamp's Paris apartment he built a door "which served two (fig. through explains in absentmindedness and a kind of physical obstinacy. Instead. Comedy.5. N. Late Capitalism(London: Verso.

the buttons on women's dresses). Chaplin's epic Modern the effects of rationalized work on the body. Benjamin argues that distraction. literally screwing everything in sight (the foreman's nose. to bring the relations of the everyday into focus for us and suggest that experiences of humor may be constitutive of the knowledge of the everyday. He theorizes that distraction is an aesthetic mode in keeping with the temporality of everyday life. first by refusing the distinction between them and second by offering disruption and laughter. 1992).see Walter Benjamin. the readymades offer a space for being "outside oneself. most importantlyfilm. or Taylorized are transformed in Duchamp's studio by his arrangement of the readymades. Bodies that continue old motions when new ones are called for and bodies that have become machinic.33 Play and laughter do not require us to "be" ourselves but offer a momentary release from identities so often bound up in our daily work and labor. 34. the hat rack)."32 Duchamp's readymades (re)articulate the working body as humorous. In the opening scenes. In Keaton's OneWeek(1920). perhaps most important. Lefebvre argues of Chaplin: "The secret of his comic powers lies not in his body. relaxed. The readymades are thus an anti-Taylorist gesture. the coatrack. recalls Marcuse's definition of play as that which distracts us from ourselves. expose Chaplin leaves work. but in the relation of this body to something else: a social relation with the material world and the social world. his jerking body.f iii ii iiii -:- 6. Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin readily come to mind. the readymades focus on and call into question "normal" maintenance operations-keeping the house tidy by hanging things up and putting them away." in Illuminations. They are antifunctional as in antiwork: they resist their intended. "something mechanical encrusted on the living. 1927. futile and overTimes(1936) used slapstick to whelmingly inefficient. continuing his assembly-line task. he builds a prefabricated home that refuses to stand erect and is finally run over by a train. in contradistinction to the fixed subject of contemplation engendered by perspectival painting. Yet lest we think that slapstick cinema is merely a diversion. offering instead the involuntary. rather than work. see also MichaelTaussig'sdiscussion of distraction in The NervousSystem (New York: Routledge. Lefebvre. is a mode of apperception made possible by new technologies. 58 WINTER 1998 . and. Their antifunctionality is not solely about their stymied use and exchange value as commodities but has a more literal component. in their "proper" place (the bottle rack. Laughter is both provoked by the involuntary (tripping) and is itselfinvoluntary. Their humor comes from what such encounters (real or not) are able to make evident about the material and social relations between work and leisure. as opposed to contemplation. MechanicalReproduction. distracted subject of play. Door. 1969). Ibid. rationalized or habitual movement through space. To paraphrase Marcuse. but encounters (here imagined) with them are. I I rue Larrey. mandated.84. The readymades 32. as laughter occurs as an involuntary response to a person or thing not working (properly).."The Work of Art in the Age of trans. 217-52. Marcel Duchamp. as this subject. Inthis way the readymades also function as distraction. forgetful of oneself. Harry Zohn (New York:Schoken. physical expenditure in the name of humor. one has the potential to be self-distracted. By offering a space and time for not working. Slapstick renders Keaton's labor. standardized use. Its involuntary nature. routinized."34 Likewise. They disrupt." The use of slapstick to call forth humor with this kind of effect saturated early cinema. They help. supposedly made easier by the readymade aspect of the house. the way in which laughter places us outside ourselves. 10. the readymades are not funny in and of themselves. even refuse. then Duchamp used slapstick in a prohibitive manner. in other words. 33. Similarly the readymades resist the working subject. not only as a distraction fromwork but also in Benjamin'ssense of the term. If Chaplin used slapstick to represent the toll of rationalized work on the body. by virtue of their ability to transform everyday movements into slapstick. They resist the rationalization of domestic and work spaces. Through slapstick.

too."37 This refusal to clean was memorialized in DustBreeding (192o). recalled one of his domestic work stoppages: "it seems there was a lot of something else in the middle of the room and the dust everywhere was so thick that it was hard to believe. Marcel trans.19. deliberately working slowly so as to avoid doing a full day's work. Characteristic of the readymades' complex relation to both work and leisure. He uses leisure. Striking and soldiering are extremely different critiques of work. that is. represent maintenance labor. For Taylor. laziness operates as a third term.. If we remember Seltzer's formulation of workas work. he concludes that the three constitutive elements of the everyday-work. The readymades show that these categories are not discrete in experience but rather in ideology. and leisure-have become discrete. systematic. and second (considered to be more dangerous). offering a criticism of both." He asks. to hold these three elements together. from working. 19 13. and social. "Where is it to be found? In work or in leisure? In fameveryday ily life and in moments 'lived' outside of culture?"35He suggests that family life has become separate from productive life and that leisure has become as fragmented as labor. D'Harnoncourt McShine. the other a private rebellion (refusing to dust).. 39. But the futility of maintenance labor is perhaps precisely what should be acknowledged: a woman's work is never done. (New York: 1959). Duchamp's dabblings with play and laziness-his experiments with not working-had a name: Duchamp was soldiering. Ultimately. instead. in the form of slapstick and play." Taylor called this "systematic soldiering. and a rope an arm's length away which allowed him to open the door without getting up. Scientific Management (New York: W. But in maintenance work in the 59 art journal . Ibid."36 Georgia O'Keeffe. one organized. HeardHamilton Paragraphic. "intricate second thought and reasoning caused by their relations with other men. and impossible. RobertLebel. 36. 11). and 214.stop you from moving. 31. In the end. I was so upset over the dusty place that the next day I wanted to go over and clean it up. through humor and slapstick. Ibid. to expose domestic space as filled with work (be it maintenance work or art work) and in turn transforms that work into leisure or play. for Duchamp's practice presents domestic or private life as neither outside nor separate from the category of work. the "natural instinct and tendency of men to take it easy". Principles The of W. Taylorism proposed to eliminate both.then Duchamp that the innovation of Taylorism is the representation is a perverse Taylorist-armed with slapstick provocations instead of stopwatches and diagrams. two causes: first. humorous. 38. private life. Frederick WinslowTaylor. But nowhere is Duchamp's laziness more evident than in the readymades. Norton. reminiscing about meeting Duchamp in his New York studio. Robert Lebel described Duchamp's studio as "a large room with a bathtub in the center which Duchamp used for his frequent ablutions.George Duchamp. albeit as stalled. The readymades. 37. triangulating work and leisure. 38."38 For Taylor soldiering had 35. the readymades propose a space filled with neither work nor leisure. they offer a kind of laziness. alienated from one another. Lefebvre observes that "there is a certain obscurity in the very concept of life. Duchamp's laziness was the subject of many of his contemporaries' responses to visiting his studio."39 Workers have two modes of foiling the factory: laziness exhibited in the form of individual soldiering and organized resistance in the form of strikes. where he produced art with the least effort possiblebuying it already made. a section of the Large Glassphotographed by Man Ray after it had accumulated several months' worth of dust. Taylor described soldiering as "under working. Yet Duchamp attempts.

1988). Roland Barthes. the Origins Energy.' That would be 60 WINTER 1998 ." Barthes describes two forms of laziness. She writes: "the refusal of work is not an absence of activity. Laziness is mostly figured as a parasitical form of work avoidance. The example of "doing nothing" given by Barthes is the image of the Parisian concierge sitting idly outside on hot summer days. extolling unindustrialized "progress" belongs native peoples who do not toil for a capitalist exploiter. EtantDonnes (1946-66). and both maintain a similar utopian dimension to the previous discussion of the function or structure of play. a thousand times more noble and sacred than the anemic Rights of Man concocted by the metaphysical lawyers of the bourgeois revolution. The title of the interview is probably a play on the opening lines of ImmanuelKant's where he chagrins lazi"What Is Enlightenment?" ness as counter to the Enlightenmentpursuit of knowledge. Instead. Barthes says: "Obviously."45 Yet Barthes realized the potential nihilism in the concept of doing nothing. Roland Barthes addresses this point in a short interview entitled "Dare to Be Lazy. Karl Marx. he rests for eternity. There are two theoretical accounts of laziness as a philosophical position. as opposed to the increased profits envisioned by Taylorism. Duchamp's readymades operate more closely to the second form of soldiering. the bearded and angry god." Charles H. 34 1. 1992) for alerting me to the existence of this text. or "marinating" in order to work. one born of the struggle to get something done. 41. They temporarily stop or stall activities such as cleaning and tidying by turning housework into slapstick. Kerr (Chicago: Charles H. trans. his relinquishing of a working life as an artist for the life of a game player: "Jehovah."42The most indelible image from the tract remains a quotation that perversely describes Duchamp's infamous decision to give up art for chess.nor obviously. but it is also a romanticization of it." 59. Modernity(Berkeley: University of California Press. 12-13. He designed magazine and. made the Boite-en-valise. but laziness as the refusal of work. I am grateful to Anson Rabinbach'sThe and Human Motor: of Fatigue. so much as they are a work slowdown. the studio as a place where art is made is suffused with a kind of laziness. he insists on feasting and sleeping as the "Rights of Man. as it alludes to the of invisibility domestic labor. they are not a strike per se. But he never posits that "free time" should be used for "productive" or "creative" forms of leisure. 29. Paul Lafargue and Roland Barthes argue that laziness is an attempt to completely escape the logic of work. Lafarguewas married to LauraMarx. is a problem for the subject: "In a situation of idleness the subject is almost dispossessed of his consistency as a subject.40Originally printed in French. It runs the risk of being aristocratic (not working because others work for you) or primitivist (native peoples as unfettered by the work ethic). gave his worshippers the supreme example of ideal laziness. after six days of work. Lafargue. Kerr. 339. For laziness. Duchamp never stopped making art. one that is bound to the fabric of domestic life. "Have you ever noticed that everyone always talks about the right to leisure activities but never about a right to idleness? I even wonder if there is such a thing as doing nothing in the modern Western world."44 The philosophical form is precisely what is at issue. Barthes.' which is the glorious and philosophical form of laziness. wrote the radical pamphlet "The Right to Be Lazy" in i88o-a tirade against work that infuriated his fatherin law. 1917). 42. Barthes asks. ultimately. Likewise. trans. home there can be no strike. 1985). in 44. "Dare to Be Lazy."43 In fact. He is decentered. is compelling. Paul Lafargue. a Cuban-born ex-medical student. Lafargue's polemic against to the primitivist side of laziness. See KristinRoss's excellent account of Lafargueand laziness in The Emergenceof Social and Commune Rimbaud theParis Space: (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press."The Rightto Be Lazy. 45. Lafargue writes: "It [the proletariat] must return to its natural instincts. This image. Interviews. 43. laziness as procrastination from work."94' Lafargue sees the advent of industrial production as enabling time for leisure. They do not offer leisure as the antidote to work. Lafargue." The Grain the Voice: 1962-1980. this shameful laziness doesn't take the form of 'not doing anything. The problem exposed by the "untruth" of the abandonment is how terribly difficult it is not to work.40. of LindaCoverdale (New York: Hill and Wang. unable even to say 'I. he notes. is it leisure since leisure reinforces the work model by existing only with reference to work. worked for twenty years on covers. it must proclaim the Rights of Laziness. the tract was translated into English and published in the United States in 1917 (the same year Duchamp purchased the urinal that would become Fountain).

his idleness made possible through the wealth of others and a frugal life-style. On the relationship between Duchamp and Florine and Ettie Stettheimer. 3. pointing toward the changing historical conditions of housewifery. Duchamp's desire to be rid of the first person. into a site of play. AmericanAvant-Garde StrangeBedfellows:The First (New York:Abbeville Press. and by transforming his studio. for an "Readymade. 49. Generously supported by his patrons Louise and Walter Arensberg. 51. 6 I art journal . The studio became a place where he could be. an action. domestic space.46. May Proposed for Wives. a deliberate use of linguistic shifters. 48. ultimately the complete cessation of artistic activity was impossible. all concerns that point toward a consistent questioning of the category of "I. for it would mean an abandonment of the first person pronoun. particularlyin his proliferation of aliases: Rrose Selavy." Duchamp toyed and played with the possibility of nonwork-the right to laziness-the ability not to say "I. see Krauss." argues that the bourgeois He subject feels he "owns" his own "self" much as he owns his material assets. On linguisticshifters."•2 Duchamp's challenge to the primacy of the category of work largely took the form of a protest against maintenance labor. and work in the early twentieth century.vol."48 Not to work-to be lazy-is then to deny the full reality of human existence. But he was lucky. as Barthes suggests. see Steven Watson. the phenomenon of work. 959."As yet General Motors has rejected this demand. in Marcuse's. R. So too his experiments with chance can be seen as an attempt to maneuver out of a position of (artistic) production that emanates from an "1. to no longer have to say 'I." excellent discussion of the relation between Duchamp's "Creative Act" and Roland Barthes's "Death of the Author." 52. and George Welch. a result to be obtained. Objet Trouv4." at least the form familiar to bourgeois capitalism. Instead. Capital. a demand designed to alter the terms of alienated life under capital: "The reduction of the working day is the basic prerequisite. his friend and patron. As cited in Lefebvre. trans. and structured by. 136. Yet while Duchamp may have courted laziness. which resulted in a limited artistic production. Michigan.are on strike. true idleness. Old Westbury. Duchamp experimented with this idea by evoking the involuntary laughter within which the "I" is no longer central. at certain moments. To be able. slapstick and play. Lefebvre is criticalof a conception of identity where one is possessive of the idea of "I"or one's "individuality. modes of experience that gesture toward a different set of possibilities for how we might conceive of the everyday and how we might inhabit it. Ibid. The readymades stymie a subject whose identity would be bound up with."•" If what is to be obtained through such play is knowledge (and disalienation).'"46 Duchamp came closer to doing nothing than most artists. 175. One of their demands is that once work quotas are met workers should be allowed to leave work "early. Fernbach (Harmondsworth: Penguin. Hence under capital "to be" and "to have" become identical. 1914. Lefebvre suggests that when "acting explores what is possible" it adds "something real: the knowledge of a situation.>3 Duchamp used the readymades to foil maintenance labor. Id6e Revue. Impossible. Lefebvre. then what knowledge is potentially garnered through laziness? Is it the suggestion that there can be no alienation in laziness. D.47 He lived an aristocratic leisurely life. romantic) should not deter serious thinking about laziness. Katherine Dreier.see Buchloh. who paid his rent and living expenses in exchange for artworks. by saying that he abandoned art making without really doing so. and a dismantling of perspectival vision (with its creation of a fixed subject). from KarlMarx. an emphasis on language and the self as both shared and constructed49). was perhaps pretending to be lazy. "absentminded" or." 50." in the New York 25. 53. they offer humor and laziness. for maintenance labor permits all other work. particularly as a marker of individuality. to deny the category of "I. a logic in which "the goal of labor is the full reality of human existence. 29. runs through his art practice. in Bergson's term. and hired by the wealthy Stettheimer sisters as their French tutor-although since they had been raised in France. and let laziness infuse his art practice. 1981). After all. acting at not working. 1991). Duchamp." That this position is impossible (or worse yet. "self-distracted.. Marcuse. Duchamp was most likely aware of these concerns. a place of work. As I complete this essay members of the United Auto Workers union at the General Motors plant in Flint. for there is no "I" to separate from or be identical with?5' Or is laziness a conduit to bring us back to the most fundamental of Marx's demands. had proposed that women should receive wages for housework in her article "A StandardWage Sun. 47. Helen Molesworth is assistant professor of art history and curator of the Amelie Wallace Gallery at State University of New York." This questioning of the "I" runs throughout Duchamp's work. She is also an editor of the magazine Documents. Mutt. 342. Duchamp's readymades are an attempt to think outside the logic of work. all three sisters were completely fluent and obviously needed no tutor-Duchamp largely managed to avoid working. this is an oeuvre marked by a proliferation of aliases.

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