07 October 2017

If Marcel Duchamp Had Done It....

Last week, I gave the students in one of my classes a very short piece of writing. Some said it looked like a haiku and, perhaps, it bears a passing resemblance to one.  I asked the students why that particular piece of writing--which doesn't rhyme, at least not in the way of, say, a ballad or sonnet--was published in a poetry magazine.

At first, there was the silence of students afraid of seeming ignorant.  But I reassured them that I wasn't looking for a right answer: I just wanted to know what they thought, and why.

Then, a student pointed out the imagery and figurative language.  Another student said the piece of writing didn't rhyme but had "echoes"--internal rhymes.  Finally, another student mused, "Well, the writer said it's a poem and the people at the magazine thought it was a poem.  So I guess it must be a poem."

I still don't know what to make of that answer.  I told him--and the rest of the class--to take a look at Marcel Duchamp's "Bicycle Wheel"--which, in fact, is a bicycle wheel in a bicycle fork mounted upside-down in a stool--and ask themselves whether or not it's a work of art.

Funny I should give that assignment and, soon afterward, come across this:

Police in Springfield, Missouri are investigating what they are calling a "property situation" at a house that's been vacant for some time.  In addition to the bicycle wheel hanging from a tree, there are bicycles and parts strewn about the property.  Bicycle tires had been thrown through windows.  A large trampoline hung from the chimney and a smaller one, with a bicycle on it, topped the house.

When police officers asked a man at the house next door whether he knew what happened, this was his reply:  "Bicycles."  Other neighbors wouldn't talk to the cops.  An employee at a nearby Domino's pizza said she noticed the bike parts, but not the trampolines, a couple of days earlier.

Since no one seems to know how or those bikes and parts ended up on the property, some folks--including a writer for a local newspaper--wonder whether it was an act of vandalism or an art installation.

Hmm...If Marcel Duchamp had done it...