Louise Paramour

Bottleneck
200 Gertrude Street, Melbourne

The bottle in art (bottle in actuality too) is a loaded term ever since Duchamp's bottlerack of 1914: as perhaps the feminine counterpart in the eroticized, though unfulfilled, mechanics of Duchamp's models and machines. In this work by Duchamp, the absent bottle is implied by a residual, functional innuendo. The functional relation between the two operates as an erotic leitmotif wherein the objects' potential utility is never consummated. Without the bottle the rack is impotent; its function arrested by and subordinate to the art institutional context (and, therein, the rack's prevailing aesthetic dimension). Within Duchamp's oeuvre the realm of art always seems to be a realm of impotency; a place where things are not required to work but, if anything, to dysfunction endlessly as a form of profound entelechy.

"The choice of [the] 'readymades' was never dictated by esthetic delectation. This choice was based on a reaction of visual indifference." (Duchamp) The subsequent reaction, of course, has been to valorize the aesthetic dimension of these everyday or found objects, despite Duchamp's disavowal: for example, the formalist chorus led by Motherwell who pronounced the bottle rack among the most beautiful objects in the world produced in 1914.

To deploy the bottle as a unit of construction, as Paramour does, inevitably raises the spectre of Duchamp – who spoke for all bottles in 1914 – to which her work might relate in two ways: first in providing the supplement to the bottlerack; second in appropriating from the same everyday realm of objects (though not one but many of the same). Thus there are two given logics which might associate the bottle with Paramour's art; one functional and the other dysfunctional (apropos the readymade). (These logics are, of course, not necessarily those of the artist but inhere in the base material of her work).

Function or utility, eschewed within the aesthetic context, returns as a legitimate art historical reason for Paramour's choice of art materials, connecting her medium with Duchamp's in a logical, functional succession. And the effect of placing a found object in an improper art institutional context – and upon which the import of so much recent work still tirelessly turns – does not arise here because of the fanciful and lyrical (that is to say artful) configuration of the objet trouvé in what are essentially formalist and figurative compositions.

It is not the material qualities of glass per se which provide the aesthetic content of Paramour's compositions, but these qualities embodied within a rhetorical bottle-form. In Paramour's configurations these qualities – transparency, translucence, reflection, refraction, colour – do not attend the work (as they might the readymades of Duchamp) as a justification of the banal or everyday object being exhibited, but belong instead to the subsequent composite forms such as a guitar or treble clef, where they inveigh against the abandonment of form for concept, or of the retinal for the conceptual. In short, the predominant logic of the readymade is reversed.

Of course a precondition for this reversal is the superabundance of industrially produced objects since Duchamp, wherein the commercial rather than functional aspect of the readymade becomes a pre-eminent motif of the successive vanguarde, American Popism, and consumerism rather than pragmatism is the key to understanding the implied social critique. Paramour's work engages with the rhetorical import of the bottle as both a readymade and a commodity form. This is an inevitable consequence of her materials. But just as the bottle is subordinate to its lyrical combination in other subsequent forms in her work, so certain prevailing avant-garde paradigms associated with the bottle, or found object generally, are set against their original, typical forms in a disjunction of those tropes which characterize a major part of the art institution today.