See the Art Practise Cooperation / Critical Research III

Choice and Readymade

The conversation between photography and sculpture in Wentworth’s work is answering what is the relationship between photography and sculpture by approaches of readymade and photographic choice. The essential choice inherently connects sculpture to photography. Readymade is the choice of object, cancelling the useful function of an object and forming art. Photographing is an act of choosing, the point of which demonstrates photography is considered to be art. But, unlike now, choosing as a significant action for the inner similarity of photography and sculpture, the making and producing then granted as main methods in art before 1960s such as painting. Wentworth brings this relation to his both practice.

Duchamp’s readymades also asserted the principle that what is art is defined by the artist. Choosing the object is itself a creative act, cancelling out the useful function of the object makes it art, and its presentation in the gallery gives it a new meaning. This move from artist-as-maker to artist-as-chooser is often seen as the beginning of the movement to conceptual art, as the status of the artist and the object are called into question. At the time, the readymade was seen as an assault on the conventional understanding not only of the status of art but its very nature.

Art Term of Tate, 2019
Tract (from Boost toWham), 1993

The subversion of conventional classification system with the methods of readymade and juxtaposition is a core of Wentworth’s methodology in his sculpture practice. He alters the original function of manufactured objects, and the assembling and naming give them a new understanding. In Tract (1993), from the outside of the dictionary looks as if it were spike with bookmarks. (pic. 1) It is a Portuguese Student dictionary blown up to almost double its normal size by a host of found object on the street and wedged between its pages. In its formal execution, Passeio de Madrugada (dawn stroll in English) is as simple as its contents are complex. And thus we are led right to the centre of Richard Wentworth’s artistic world. As is always the case with this artist, what we see is what there is. Yet, at the same time, it is only just a fraction of its meaning. Like his other work, this one really results from Wentworth’s direct contact with his materials and form his penetrating perception of and inquiry into its functional purpose. Although the dictionary had been made redundant, it is nevertheless desperate, as it were, to serve a purpose. Hence it turns to the only form of existence still inherently available to it: that of being solely a work of art. Lying there, blown-up and out of proportion, the dictionary transforms itself from a usable object to self-contained sculpture signifying. On the one hand, that behind each paper-thin word stands physical object; on the other hand, continuing to insist on its original identity by means of displaying its still visible title ‘Dictionary’.

The methods of translating from the  language to the object and back — as well as the “translation” the objects themselves — are at the focal point of this artist’s view. Instead of satisfying the criteria of conventional systems of order or simply breaking them up into systems of disorder, he establishes a shimmering mid-empire filled with preciously subtle paradoxes in which — as one of his sons pointed out — a saw can simply serve to do nothing than produce a huge pile of sawdust.

Gregor Muir, 1997


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