The implications of Bernard Stiegler's critique of the amateur are far-reaching for art, aesthetics, and critical thought. In the three lectures on aesthetics published in this special issue, Stiegler explores those implications and their relation to the amare—the loving that is etymologically at the root of the word amateur—that is required for art-work. For Stiegler, Marcel Duchamp is an exemplar of this work precisely because of his libidinal discourse with art, most evident in the readymades, referred to by Stiegler as “not a burning scandal but something like a mute surprise.” This essay reconsiders the nature of Duchamp's love affair with art as désamour, or lovelessness, in which work ceases to be work and art is “trans-formed” into “anart.” Duchamp's trajectory from the Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 of 1912 and the infamous Fountain of 1917, the period Stiegler addresses, is complex and worth tracking, not from 1912 but from 1910, with the transitional Bilboquet, in which the very nature of art-making is interrogated. Nothing less than the nature of art and the love of art are at the heart of this adventure. Following Duchamp's path from Bilboquet onward yields insights into both Duchamp's désoeuvrement and Stiegler's pivotal concern with the pharmakon. Duchamp is thus revealed as his own best “mute surprise,” his own most provocative artwork, and the key to his lasting contemporaneity.
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Stephen Barker; Unwork and the Duchampian Contemporary. boundary 2 1 February 2017; 44 (1): 53–78. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-3725869
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