Duchamp’s Urinal and Climate Changes

In 1917, amidst the chaos of World War I, Marcel Duchamp profoundly challenged the (art) world, giving birth to the term “readymade.” Today, a century later, we find ourselves imperiling our planet, jeopardizing the future of humanity.

The Earth’s average temperature is gradually climbing by 0.1 degrees every few years. In the coming decades, this rise will usher in a paradigm shift that reshapes our understanding of the world. Oceans void of fish, fields bereft of wheat, and catastrophic floods and hurricanes become the norm. Amidst this tumult, humanity will grapple for dwindling resources until only a handful remain. Emerging from a prolonged stone age, nascent civilizations will emerge anew. These future archaeologists will discover the fragments of this mug, pondering its significance in museums while wondering about our era.

Duchamp 2017

Duchamp’s urinal bore the signature “R. MUTT 1917” and the title Fountain. Captured by Alfred Stieglitz in a photograph, its original was lost. In 1960, Duchamp sanctioned the creation of 17 replicas, autographing each. Remarkably, due to the inscription “R. MUTT 1917,” these humble urinals, initially procured for a mere few dollars, now command millions. This inability to distinguish between fact (a urinal) and perception (a renowned artwork), as vividly depicted in “The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Anderson, is the genesis of our most dire calamities.

Indeed, the disparity between our daily choices and environmental implications is stark. Every purchase, every journey, every digital interaction contributes incrementally to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a force driving climate transformation. Yet, the vision of a just society void of consumption remains elusive. Amidst new products flaunting eco and bio labels, the world’s CO2 footprint swells unceasingly. While an underlying awareness lingers, we brush aside our responsibility, adding to CO2 emissions and hastening climate fluctuations. It’s akin to a self-destructive inebriate, cognizant of the damage but incapable of foregoing another drink.

Urinal Duchamp

In 2017, exactly a century later, Matic Kos, Teo Spiller, and Ernest Ženko—professors from Arthouse College—inscribed “Mutt 2017” and conceived “ready 2 B made” objects, custom-printed mugs. Marrying mass production with Lev Manovich’s notion of on-demand creations, their endeavor embodies Beuys’s vision of a social sculpture—a collective of inventive individuals. By elevating the value of production over consumption through strategic pricing, a new economic paradigm may emerge, where more revenue circulates within a sustainable framework.

Marcel Duchamp fountain
Duchamp fountain 2017

However, even the creation, distribution, and use of “R. MUTT 2017” mugs would contribute to the CO2 footprint. To mitigate this impact, we abstain from production and purchasing. Our aim is not to sell but to impart a message. These mugs exist solely as digital concepts, destined to evaporate with the next internet server reset. Should someone attempt to manifest them, they would imbibe from a mug eerily resembling a urinal—an apt allegory for our recklessness.

Exhibited on Zamisli in zasnove in Galerija ZDSLU