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Marcel Duchamp: Art of the Possible

The recently released Art of the Possible is a feature documentary exploring the life, work, and impact of one of the most influential early 20th century artists, Marcel Duchamp. 

Inventive and controversial, Duchamp was the catalyst for many of the artistic developments of his time, and the source of significant changes in popular views of art and culture through both his artwork and his essays.

Living through a period of scientific discovery and dynamic change,  Duchamp allowed new ways of thinking and new forms of technology to influence and inform his art, while attempting to use his artwork, in turn, to express ideologies and provoke new ways of thinking. The same was done by various schools of art at the time, including Dada and Cubism, but few artists had the broad influence of Duchamp. Largely responsible for the spread of conceptual art, and the inventor of the genre known as Readymade, he is perhaps best known for a distinctive form of found art, in which common objects are altered in such a way as to prevent the viewer from comfortably defining their purpose, forcing further thought. 

The film begins with Duchamp’s childhood and his controversial early Cubist work, including his initially rejected Nude Descending a Staircase, and further developments in his work which inspired a flurry of discussions over the question “what is art?” and on through his influence on significant artists such as Andy Warhol, John Cage, Yoko Ono, and Jasper Johns, among others, as well as on the mid-20th century Fluxus art movement, and even on contemporary graphic artists and musicians. In the process, the film also examines Duchamp’s views on aesthetics, culture, and the impact of technology on society, exploring the ways in which Duchamp’s philosophy has influenced 21st-century thinking and historical events. 

Filmmaker and art scholar Matthew Taylor dates his interest in Duchamp from his early days in art school, where he first read Calvin Tomkins’ biography of the artist, and became fascinated by the revolutionary attitude toward conventional rules of art. Years later, having developed his craft in the making of over 100 short films, he began the five-year project by seeking out artists who were personally acquainted with Duchamp, travelling the world to interview them and collect background for a biographical film. Duchamp’s broad influence is made clear by the range of fellow artists and admirers involved in the production, including David Bowie, who opens the film’s third act with a discussion of Duchamp’s Creative Act Essay and its prediction of present-day social media. The film also features an array of prominent names in the art world, including filmmakers Marina Abramovic and Michel Gondry, artist and inventor Paul Matisse, pop-art painter Edward Ruscha, and photographer and architect Hiroshi Sugimoto. 

Following a series of international screenings, Art of the Possible will be released on iTunes and Amazon beginning March 10.