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3D print your own chess set designed by Marcel Duchamp

A group of creators on Thingiverse have been 3D printing their own interpretations of a chess set designed by conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp.

Scott Kildall

When most people think of Marcel Duchamp, it's his art that comes to mind. Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 from 1912, for example -- one of the early examples of cubism -- or 1917's Fountain, a cheeky and controversial commentary on the nature of art; or L.H.O.O.Q., his defacement of a postcard of the Mona Lisa.

However, in the 1920s, he left the art world behind -- and took up chess in some form or another, and stayed with it for the rest of his life, first aspiring to become a champion player and then, when he realised he didn't have the skill, becoming a chess journalist.

It was during this time that he carved his own chess set. This was not for production, but for his own pleasure, and only one set was made; currently, it resides in a private collection, unseen by the public. But photos of it can be found, and it was by using one of these that artists Scott Kildall and Bryan Cera managed to recreate the set through 3D printing.

"The idea was not only to rebuild the lost objects, but to release open-source digital files to be 3D-printed by anyone interested in resurrecting the objects for themselves," Cera wrote. "In homage to the original set's owner, we decided to call this kind of re-animated, re-configured and re-claimed object a 'Readymake'."

Kildall elaborated, "Inspired by Marcel Duchamp's readymade -- an ordinary manufactured object that the artist selected and modified for exhibition -- the readymake brings the concept of the appropriated object to the realm of the internet, exploring the web's potential to re-frame information and data, and their reciprocal relationships to matter and ideas. Readymakes transform photographs of objects lost in time into shared 3D digital spaces to provide new forms and meanings."

Scott Kildall

The project is still in progress, but the print files created by Cera and Kildall are now available for free on Thingiverse, where other creators have printed their own variations on the set.

"Duchamp said in the 1960s, about his readymade creations, 'I'm not at all sure that the concept of the readymade isn't the most important single idea to come out of my work'," Kildall wrote. "Today, in an age of digital fabrication and open source design, the boundaries between concept and object continue to blur. We invite other thinkers and makers to join our exploration of conceptual-material formations -- to discover and create with our readymakes, and contribute their own."