In spring, we nurture seeds by providing them with water and sunlight. We delight when our humble work generates sprouts, and eventually, flowers. This process reminds us of our ability to nurture, and the beautiful products that result from our efforts. Making art is similar, in a sense. It demands care and nourishment, but the growth period can be as long or short as we wish. Art can fully develop in one day, one week, or over the course of several years. For those of us who are visual, who like to see as well as feel, making art can be a satisfying and enriching way to feed our minds and bodies.
In 1913, artist Marcel Duchamp (usually associated with the New York Dada movement) created his first “readymade”—a work of art comprised solely of one or more objects with preexisting, non-art functions. This early readymade was a bicycle wheel, balanced steadily atop and attached to a kitchen stool. Like Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, readymades are usually mass produced and rarely bear any trace of human touch. They only become art once they are perceived as such, and are removed from the utilitarian realm and placed within the realm of aesthetics. Duchamp successfully introduced a major debate about what makes art art. Must it require extensive time and talent? Are there certain regulations by which we must abide? Or can art be found and then named? The individual parts that form Bicycle Wheel were once functional, but were re-imagined by Duchamp as artistic materials.
Fashioning a readymade calls for very little from within: just a simple shift in perception and a little intuition. The process takes you out of that everyday go-go energy and makes you pause to see the beauty of the world around you. Those moments of pause, in conjunction with the time you take to envision and create your art, stimulate relaxation. We all need a bit less stress and a lot more calm for a healthier mind and body.
- Find objects. Look closely at the world around you for seven days. On each day, choose objects that are visually appealing, interestingly formed, or to which you are connected. Collect your first object—one on which other objects can be attached and hung; for example, a long thin branch, a metal rod, or a hanger. All other objects can possess any shape and characteristics, so long as they are of equal size or smaller than your first one. They can be from nature or man/machine-made.
- Build. Each day, tie your found object onto the first object with a string so that it hangs from it. Some objects may be much heavier than others, but find a way to distribute the weight evenly. The trick is to maintain balance with each successive part, and you’ll have to play around with the placement of the individual elements to do so.
- Enjoy. On the seventh day, secure your final object to your mobile. Hang your mobile by tying a sturdy twine or rope from the center of your original piece. Your mobile, like Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, is an “assisted readymade.” You assembled a variety of found, pre-formed objects to create a work of art. In doing so, you blurred the boundaries between life and art, applying your personal vision to things that are otherwise located outside of the realm of art.