Darren Richardson

When, nearly a hundred and fifty years ago, the French writer Isidore-Lucien Ducasse (Compte de Lautréamont) wrote of a young boy that he was “as beautiful as the chance meeting on an operating table of a sewing machine and an umbrella”, he signaled the inception of one of the most influential, and, to the uninitiated, most bewildering, themes of modern day fine art: disorientation. From dada through surrealism to today, the innovations of collage and assemblage aesthetics consisted of putting things in the wrong place at the right time.

A century ago, when Marcel Duchamp found a ready-made ceramic urinal, signed it R. Mutt, titled it Fountain, and placed it in an art gallery, he committed the most radical historic affront to cultural predictabilities. In a creative act comparable to a Friday night drunk appropriating a traffic cone as a novel form of hat, Duchamp used the most basic of utilitarian objects for utterly useless purposes – fine art.

Which begs the question: what if that drunk was to infiltrate the gallery and urinate in Duchamp’s masterpiece? Would it necessarily revert to its role as a practical piece of manufactured design, or would it now be open to redefinition as some radical species of public performance art?

As the skyline of the City of London comes increasingly to resemble a vast futuristic sculpture, it seems to me that some of the most challenging, not to say cheeky, art of our time plays in the spaces between the previously mutually exclusive disciplines of fine art on the one hand and practically crafted architecture or design on the other.

When, decades ago, I used to run into Darren Richardson in the then almost legendary cultural establishments of the Broadfield and the Washington in Sheffield, he always seemed up to some kind of constructive something or other. It is reassuring to meet up with him again and discover he is studiously and creatively reflecting on some of the very issues I outline here. On past evidence, I bet he is doing so with characteristic brightness of spirit and creative sense of mischief.

Good on you Daz.

Robert Clark