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Since Marcel Duchamp created his “readymades” a century ago—most famously christening a urinal as a fountain—the practice of incorporating commodity objects into art has become ever more pervasive. Uncommon Goods traces one particularly important aspect in that progression: the shift in artistic concern toward the hidden ethical dimensions of global commerce. Jaimey Hamilton discusses the work of, among many others, Ai Weiwei, Cory Arcangel, Thomas Hirschhorn, and Santiago Sierra, reading their artistic explorations as imbricated in debates about how common goods hold us and our world in common. The use of readymade now registers concerns about international migrant labor, outsourced manufacturing, access to natural resources, intellectual copyright, and the commoditization of virtual space.
In each chapter, Hamilton introduces artists who exemplify the focus of readymade aesthetics on aspects of global commodity culture, including consumption, marketing, bureaucracy, labor, and community. She explores how materially-intensive, “uncommon” aesthetic situations can offer moments to meditate on the kinds of objects, experiences, and values we ostensibly share in the age of globalization. The resulting volume will be an important contribution to scholarship on readymade art as well as to the study of materiality, embodiment, and globalization.