February 8, 2007

"yBa's" as Critique

Administrator's note: This week's topic post is by Mia Montazzoli, who addresses questions raised concerning the use of Duchamp's "readymade" technique by the emergent British artists of the 1990's.

In July of 1988 Damien Hirst organized an exhibition of his own work as well as fellow students from the Goldsmiths College in London. The show was called “Freeze” and the artists became well known for their rebellion against conventional boundaries. The artists in “Freeze” would later be known by a title of “yBa’s” (young British artists), and would dominate the British art scene in the 1990’s.

In James Gaywood’s “Yba as Critique: The Socio-Political Inferences of the Mediated Identity of Recent British Art he discusses the techniques in which this group of self-promoting young artists operates to set themselves a place in history. Gaywood recognizes that without artists like Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters the work in “Freeze” would not have had the same significance. The work of Duchamp may also be a source from where the yBa’s harshest critique was derived. Gaywood does not take a particular stance, but states, “overt appropriation of avant-garde technique, brought back into the fold of consumable art, could be criticized for its misrepresentation of the former practice”. Where the work of the yBa’s makes reference to the past it exists side by side with our consumer culture, therefore functioning in a different way from Duchamp’s “readymades”.

The yBa’s took the history of the readymade and extended it to become more relevant to the current time. Duchamp’s previous gestures that exposed the commodification of art paved the way for these artists to use that history. While seemingly doing the opposite gesture the works’ similarity to consumerism is what makes it ironic because the actual meaning is often related to Duchamp’s questioning of what art is or what it could be. The work in “Freeze” marked an important exhibition of contemporary artists who used the readymade’s past to make a point that is just as progressive in a subtler manner.

Reading for 14 February: Chapter 8: Video Projection: The Space Between Screens by Liz Kotz.


nicholas said...

I do not feel that the implications of the yba's readymades can be seen nearly as progressive as duchamps. That implies that given the proper context a readymade can be impacting no matter when it is done or how many times it has been done before.

If you place a tennis ball on a tennis court, it is simply a tennis ball, is this only because of the contextual information provided?

Antea Roberts said...

Even though in the nineteen- teens when Duchamp started constructing his readymades, consumerism wasn't a major part of society, I feel that Duchamp was commenting on consumerism in the way that we are told what objects are and how to use them by society. (ie, The Fountain) The fact that yBa's have referenced Duchamp in their work does not mean that what they are doing is a continuation of what Duchamp started, as readymades were original when they were first constructed, and there would be no way to use them in any other way that would make them new and unique.