In a book edited by Thierry de Duve, The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp, Francis Naumann traces the origin of the readymade to drawing exercises undertaken in nineteenth-century French schools. This class work was designed as preparation for lives devoted to the manufacture and sorting of industrial goods. It prescribed a deracinated line in service to the rational fantasy of pure description. Nonetheless, a residue of expression may have lingered, as this drawing was gendered according to the specific objects– a pail, a spade, a step stool, and other common things– faithfully rendered by male and female students.
Duchamp equated gesture with blunt choice, wherein classical notions of contour and volume, along with authenticity, style, taste, and judgement, were ruthlessly displaced by simple notation. His doing redefined a medium, or a concept of it, at a fundamental level. It also raised the question of drawing in space, albeit ironically, and led directly to activity where making assumed indexical qualities, with manual facility recuperated in the presentation of idea and form as one. This was a philosophical task with practical applications, useful for a time, but probably less so now.
The artist is a prejudice of the past. The world is awash in images. Everything has a price tag. These things have been said for years. Perhaps sometime soon the moment of thought itself will be sufficient to conjure sheer presence at once, and without delay. Exactly how this might happen would be of interest, with results at the user end not immediately understood as art.