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Who’s the Duchamp of design?

Guest posted by Michael Crowe,

This week we welcome something of an It’s Nice That favourite, Michael Crowe. Michael was part of the first evening of talks back in April this year and then wrote the fantastic The Shameful Alternative to Stamp Collecting for our second issue of the publication. This week he instigates the investigation into “Who’s the Duchamp of Design?”.

My first idea for frenzied discussion here was: Which “It’s Nice That” gent is better looking, Alex or Will? Will or Alex? Thrilled with my question, I demanded they posted photos of themselves without make up and let the public have a little beauty brawl. But, as neither would agree to be seen without a touch of foundation, a snifter of mascara, some rouge, a dab of lip gloss, copious eyeliner and an ocean of concealer I have been forced to think up some other tripe, which is this:

Who is the Duchamp of design? One might say Cage is the Marcel of music, but what about design? If the answer is insultingly obvious to you, then please play around with the question a bit more: Who is the Jack Vettriano of design? Or who is the Michael Flatley of dance? Etc. Etc. Of course suggesting that Design should have a Duchamp might be wholly wrong, and if the discussion focuses on the logical nonsense of the question I think that would still be interesting.

I would like everybody who joins in with this discussion to bear in mind that this must all eventually end in complete and utter agreement. There are to be no loose ends. If at any stage the discussion feels like it is drifting then please do feel free to post a link to the best (classy) free fonts. (Would seriously be much appreciated.)

Also: The summary by Will or Alex must, and on this point I absolutely insist, must be written this time in Ottava rima, a rhyming scheme using a stanza of eight lines with an alternating a-b rhyming scheme for the first six lines followed by a closing couplet. First used by Boccaccio, it was developed for heroic epics but has also been used for mock-heroic poetry. (source: Wikipedia)

Michael Crowe is a writer and an artist. His writing, mostly short fiction, combines deadpan wit with absurd sentimentality. In recent stories he noticed your bank statement slowly appearing as the sunrise, combined all Chinatowns to make a second actual China and suggested that Jupiter rotates in the opposite direction every time you say nah. He’s currently working on Mysterious Letters Part 2 with Lenka Clayton. figcrumbs.blogspot.com

Comments

12942304153401344 MathewWilson on Mon Nov 2nd 2009

By 'Duchamp' and then mentioning Vettriano and Flatley, do you mean who is popular to the masses yet disliked by the industry - or are you a fan of all three? Either way, in design right now it would have to be Starck. Love him or loath him, he is the most recognisable face and accent on the scene.

12942304163996968 nikondriver on Mon Nov 2nd 2009

Considering Duchamp was such an iconoclast. I think Wolfgang Weingart would be a good candidate.

12942304171101549 MathewWilson on Mon Nov 2nd 2009

If we're being serious then, Stefan Sagmeister.

12942304178351283 figcrumbs on Mon Nov 2nd 2009

Hi Mathew, I mention Vettriano as the antithesis of Duchamp. I admire Duchamp as much as I find Flatley to be a hilarious, egocentric character (I recommend his autobiography, Lord of the Dance).

12942304185492315 gerrrsh on Mon Nov 2nd 2009

If there is a Duchamp of design I'd say James Victore.

He subverts images similar to Duchamp (Columbus Day poster with the Native American), he has used popular imagery, his work is heavily conceptual much in the Duchamp's was, and full of parodies.

Not to mention his use of strange medium with his plates, cars, and surfboards.

12942304195804205 farleyideas on Tue Nov 3rd 2009

What about David Carson? I thing you would have to think about which Duchamp really.

12942304203536763 harrietplatts on Tue Nov 3rd 2009

Duchamp's real significance lies in the way in which he brought into question the very definition of art with his ready-mades. His art contained no ostentation, was not intended to be visual and left the art establishment reeling. I therefore agree with Mathew Wilson that the only possible contender for the Duchamp of design is the design minimalist par excellence Philippe Starck.

He has challenged the very definition of design, applying his principles to everything from toothbrushes to juicers to windmills. Like Duchamp he doesn't specialise in the creation of provocative and expensive single pieces like other designers. Instead, his product designs are of usable household items which Starck himself helps to market for mass production. In particular, his recent anti-fashion cashmere designs for Ballantyne, deliberately intended to be un-photogenic, were obviously conceived in the light of Duchamp’s Dadaism or anti-art.

It seems that Starck himself even identified himself with Duchamp. Significantly when he designed the men's wash room for the Peninsula hotel in Hong Kong he deliberately chose not to include urinals of the Duchamp and traditional type, instead replacing them with a floor to ceiling glass wall looking out onto the city for users to urinate against. If that isn't a tongue in cheek nod to Duchamp then I don't know what is.

12942304210792856 letsget_awesome on Thu Nov 5th 2009

I am not sure that there is/can/will be a Duchamp of Design. That would require a single person to reject design completely, and change the very nature of it forever. I suppose if we were to simply look at the surface/aesthetic of Duchamp and draw parallels between a designers practice and that, we could, but I don't think that can be justified.

1294230422028015 mvmnt09 on Thu Nov 5th 2009

personally.. i think its me.. hehehaha.. common guys.. why so serious ?

Posted by Michael Crowe