Artists have taken raw material and created masterpieces. Modern artists have taken a bed, a teacup and a bicycle wheel and done
the same. This video is called Transforming Everyday Objects. A theme we will explore
using three works. This is Marcel Duchamp's Bicycle Wheel. Duchamp created it in 1913
and it has been in MoMA's collection for almost fifty years. It looks a lot like a bicycle
wheel on a stool because it's a bicycle wheel on a stool. But much more interesting than
the way it looks is the ideas associated with this work. It was one of many works Duchamp
called Readymades. A shovel, a bottle rack, a hat rack, a coat rack and a bicycle wheel.
Readymades challenged every definition of art ever. Art is handmade by the artist. It's
a normal bicycle wheel, it's a normal stool. These are already made objects. Art is beautiful.
If you want to look at a bicycle wheel upside down, stuck in a stool and find that beautiful,
it's possible but I think we're on the wrong track. Duchamp in fact criticized so many
modern artists as being in his words, retinal. In other words, eye candy. Something to look
at. And if you introduce your taste, you go back to the old ideals of taste and taste
is the great enemy of art. Of course, Duchamp's own taste is critical here. Duchamp's a trouble
maker. We're talking about an artist who questions every single aspect of everything that is
stated as a fact. Duchamp was forcing the art world to define what was art. His readymades
paved the way for modern art for decades. Twenty years after Duchamp tried to shock
the world with a bicycle wheel, Meret Oppenheim was about to do the same with a teacup. In
1936, after having tea with Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar, returns to her studio and creates
this. This object was created at sort of this perfect storm moment. There were all these
artists looking at the world in a totally new way. Oppenheim, a 22-year old art student,
had already caught the attention of Andre Breton, the founder of Surrealism. Breton
and the Surrealists believed there was a crisis. Society had become stuck. They believed Surrealism
could shock people out of the limits of reality. As Breton put it, "we must not hesitate to
bewilder sensation." An iron with nails. A metronome with an eye. A fur-covered teacup.
The idea that, if you alter an object, it alters your perception of what that object
is. Oppenheim's teacup was viewed as threatening, repulsive. A woman even fainted. Breton declared
it the perfect Surrealist object. Oppenheim claimed, "it was a fluke...I had been making
fur-covered jewelry to make a little money. I showed a piece to Picasso and Dora Maar
and they joked that anything could be covered in fur. Today, Meret Oppenheim's fluke remains
the definitive Surrealist object. Twenty years later in New York, art was being very serious.
It was called Abstract Expressionism. It was brooding. It was personal. Enter Robert Rauschenberg.
You have to have a lot of time to feel sorry for yourself if you're going to be a good
abstract expressionist. And this was his response to Abstract Expressionism. He called it "Bed,"
because it was his quilt and pillow. It was called art because it was on the wall. "Painting
relates to both art and life. I try to act in the gap between the two." Critics didn't
know what to call it. Was it a painting? was it a sculpture? Rauschenberg ended up calling
it a combine. "It was the economy. I didn't have anything to paint on." Rauschenberg painted
on quilts, pillows, newspapers, bald eagles, garbage, pictures. He helped art to be more
than just paint on a canvas. Now it could be, well, a bed on a wall. "Bed." "Object."
And "Bicycle Wheel." Transforming everyday objects.