In the last few years, I’ve found myself increasingly inspired by the subversion of expectations, by pushing the boundaries of art in new directions.
It’s how you get Kind of Blue, Miles Davis’ masterpiece and arguably the greatest jazz album of all time. It’s an album that’s entirely improvised. Performers were given some very general musical themes a few hours before recording then told, “Play in the sound of these scales.”
It’s the spirit that inspired the Dada movement and the Beat poets.
In early 2020—while visiting things was still something you could just, you know, go do—I visited the Marcel Duchamp exhibit at DC’s Hirshhorn Museum. If we’re ever out of quarantine, I highly recommend it.
While there I was reminded of one of my favorite Duchamp lines, regarding his (in)famous readymades:
One simply notes that it is a bottle rack or that it was a bottle rack and has changed direction.
That an object that has changed direction can be an entirely new thing—a work of art, even—requires us to see things in juxtaposition.
A bottle rack upside down presumes an understanding of a bottle rack. It’s only by way of understanding how a bottle rack works that we can see why changing direction makes it a new thing.