Game Readymades?

Bicycle Wheel

Just an idle thought, really, but what would a “Readymade” (as in Duchamp) game be? A readymade in the art sense is an”ordinary manufactured object that the artist selected and modified” (thanks Wikipedia). And in fact that “modified” isn’t 100% necessary, really, although Duchamp did sign and write on these things (such as Fountain or Prelude to a Broken Arm). The core of the activity seemed to be to propel, with minimal effort, a pre-existing object into an Art Context. So you put a urinal on a pedestal, tip it on its side, sign it: Art. It’s all that’s wrong with Art. All that’s right.

But what would a digital game readymade be?

You’d have to take some pre-existing digital thing and position it as a Game, right? Would the pre-existing object need to be a game as well? Perhaps on the contrary it should not be a game, in fact – most of Duchamp’s readymades were explicitly non-art objects (although something like Pharmacy was a modification/re-mix of an art-like thing). Nonetheless this thing could be a game if, say, we agreed we were transforming it into/recontextualising it as an “art game”.

What about the issue of signing it and thus making it one’s own. Fine with a bottle rack, say, but existing digital games and other existing digital products are, in their own way, creative work – so taking ownership of them is kind of stealing them?

And if you were to use something that isn’t a game (which I think best) how do you “recontextualise” such a thing as a game exactly? Duchamp did so largely be being an artist and claiming these things to be art – and in particular by exhibiting them in an art context (a gallery – even if people didn’t always notice). So you would need to place this pre-existing digital product in a “game context”. Perhaps you could submit it to Newgrounds? Perhaps you could place it on your own website?

Do you need to provide additional context in order to transform the digital product into a game? Do you need to provide objectives, a sense of progression, points? Do you need to tell people how to play? What would make this thing that is not a videogame, a video game?

Anyway, that’s something to think about, isn’t it? Perhaps even to do?

9 January 2015
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