Bicycles, beds, chairs, doors – the use of modern art


‘Mr. Beckett’s patient concern with bicycles, amputees, battered hats, and the letter M’ starts Hugh Kenner’s still impressive Samuel Beckett: A Critical Study (New York: Grove Press, 1961, p. 1). My previous post tried to talk about the same things, respectively a human-centred ethos for designing our technologies, the power of the imprint of the object world on our bodies/minds, and the humanity/dignity of being wrong. Notice that Kenner helps us see in Beckett that the alphabet and writing press in on us too. ‘Patient concern’? Supposedly fierce and uncompromising modern art runs the full range of human emotions …

First off, let’s see where we get to on Marcel Duchamp’s improbable marriage of bike and chair. Perhaps Duchamp’s ‘readymades’ are, on one level, snook-cocking swipes at William Morris’s ‘have nothing in your home but what you know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’. In spite of Duchamp’s cool sarcasm I believe he…

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