Marcel Duchamp started work on “A Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even” in 1915.

In 1923 he was ready to exhibit it.

He said “I didn’t finish it, I just stopped”.

That was the point of all Duchamp’s art, it was work in progress.

His position was that all of life, all of nature, everything in the universe is constantly changing.

It is ridiculous to say of anything ‘This is finished and will remain totally unchanged, forever’.

Everything will change, and grow, and decay, that’s entropy.

That’s how stuff works.

“A Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even” was one of Duchamp’s largest works.

It measured nine feet by six feet, and was made entirely of glass.

It combined meticulous draughtsmanship, lead foil, fuse wire, and dust.

It was shipped to America for exhibition.

But while being delivered the glass was totally shattered.

No one knew what to do, this was a major disaster.

For everyone except Duchamp.

He preferred it that way.

He thought the cracks improved it, and it was assembled just like that.

This is the opposite of conventional thinking.

Which is to cover up and disguise the damage with ‘invisible mending’.

But I recently read this.

“When the Japanese mend broken pottery they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold.

They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

That’s something John Webster tried to teach me.

When an accident or a mistake happens, don’t automatically assume it’s a bad thing, stand back and take a look.

Now something different has happened, but see if it’s better or worse.

Wipe your mind clean and look at the new thing in front of you.

It’s not what you had in mind, but that may be a good thing.

It may be something you hadn’t thought of.

It may be better.

Stanley Kubrick, Marshal MacLuhan, Ridley Scott, Alex Ferguson, Ron Arad and Stephen Spielberg were all forced to stay open to accidents, problems, and changes.

And in each case it made their finished product so much better.

John Webster used to treat research that way.

After an idea had bombed in research groups, he’d think “What if what they said made the idea better?”

And he’d spend a day thinking about it before he reacted.

Which is why he did more, and better, work than the rest of us.

He did what the rest of us find really difficult to do.

He kept an open mind.


As Edward de Bono said “A conclusion is just a place where you stopped thinking”.