Ruminating on Readymade Resolutions

How to work Better Photo

Readymades – transforming the ordinary into something extraordinary

Many of you will know this famous artwork, others may not and so bear with me. I’m delighted to introduce How to Work Better – By Peter Fischli and David Weiss.

From 1979 to 2012, the renowned Swiss artistic duo, Peter Fischli (b. 1952) and David Weiss (1946–2012) collaborated on a body of work that offered a meditation on how we perceive everyday life. In the spirit of Marcel Duchamp’s readymade legacy they transformed the ordinary into something thought provoking and indeed extraordinary. Readymades are created when an everyday object is taken out of its normal context and elevated to the status of art. In effect, the artist focuses the viewer’s attention to the commonplace object and in its new novel setting – voila! – declares it art!

Below are some famous Readymades, my personal favourite is  Picasso’s Bulls Head – genius!

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, PHOTO
Marcel Duchamp, Fountain, 1917
Pablo Picasso, Tete de Taureau, PHOTO
Pablo Picasso, Tete de Taureau (Bull’s Head), 1942
Joseph Beuys, The Sled, 1969
Tracy Emin, My Bed, 1998

The story goes that the two conceptual pranksters found this manifesto of 10 self-helpish, motivational sloganeering, pinned to a bulletin board in a ceramics factory in Thailand and appropriated it for their work How to Work Better (1991). Creating stencils, the artists replicated the beautifully flawed hand-lettering of the original (Typography Police look away). From postcards to screen prints, the piece has taken many different forms, most famously, it was first recreated it as a jaw-dropping 20m high mural on an office building in Zurich in 1991. Ironically, the people who work in the office building can’t actually see the motivational 10 point list on the façade outside.

The work is caught between reading it as a deadpan set of genuine common-sense directions and a playful display of the poetics of the mundane and banal, and perhaps, with just a hint of sarcasm in the mix. So the question to ponder is… Is it OK to accept it just at face value and reject its quasi intellectual conceptual nature? Mmm, while I get what the artists were doing here, it seems to me that taken literally, these truisms are bigger and broader that just a means to increase productivity to feed the factory fat cats and can be read equally as a personal approach to self betterment. Hello, that seems perfect for this time of year where traditionally people attempt to redefine themselves, not just their waistline, with the closely related New Years Resolution.

How to Work Better (1991) Building Photo

A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one Year and out the other


The much maligned annual resolutions are unfortunately statically doomed to failure, however in contrast I see the success of this artwork. The artists have achieved their goal by making us look closely at the content, inviting discussion and indeed inspiring this topical blog. 

In case you hadn’t guessed, my resolution this year was to write more regularly. Let’s see if I keep it. Happy New Year!