The machine and the star, emblems bequeathed by Duchamp to the second half of the 20th century, provide the basis for three short essays on the theme of inspiration and its intermittency, a crucial point for the modernist tradition that is often overlooked by scholars. Michele Dantini seeks to shed new light on the metaphor of the artist as machine and how the first ready-mades (c. 1913) undermined the creative process as an ordered professional routine that had traditionally characterized the transposition of idea into image. Though liberating in some respects, this revolution also had alarming implications experienced in all their urgency by the Art Informel generation. How to find protection against the discontinuity of inspiration? How to endow interior time with duration if everything boils down to the unrepeatable exceptionality of the instant?
Ranging from the American movements of the 1950s to Conceptual Art and Arte Povera, Michele Dantini focuses on three fundamental stages, namely Duchamp’s “monster works”, the flags and the rotating devices of Jasper Johns, and the drawings and embroideries of Arrigo Boetti. The reinvention of the artist’s profession is analyzed step by step: the curious adoption of the ready-made in order to restore plausibility and vigour to traditional techniques; the indefinite dilation of the time of execution: the art of repetition and the creation of satisfying routines (series, catalogues and encyclopaedias) through “automatic” procedures that are impersonal and can even be delegated. It is the task of the “wretched viewers” and their perspicacity to identify continuity in transition within the works, to reconstruct the underlying metaphors and “to interpret a routine suddenly swept clean of recognizable points of reference and techniques”.