Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Why Duchamp was Lowering the Bar

Duchamps Urinal "Fountian"
was by some been hailed as genius.

For those who don't know about this piece, its basically a urinal bought from a builders merchant and signed R Mutt, which possibly means poverty in German, but it could just be a mis-spelling of the Mott a sanitation manufacture. (Duchamp says it was the second) Duchamp entered it into a gallery and called it art.

This then was the start of the end. If we can take any object and present it as art anyone and everyone can become an artist. Skill, technique and even thought can be entirely removed.

For some this was a liberation, and allows anything to go. But the real effect has been that many see this form of art as an insult to them. It asks a great deal more from the audience, than it does from the artist. Who didn't make it, but just chose it.

What it really does, is it lowers the bar for entry so anyone cane say they are an artist. This on the face of it, sounds like a grand utopia of free expression. But what it has lead to, is that since anyone can be an artist, it's more important who you know, than what skill you have. To judge what is an isn't good looses it's importance and the power of the buyer to declare something art has increased. Ironically this is probably the last thing Duchamp would have wanted being a socialist. But this piece handed the Capitalist of the Art world, a fantastic gift of power.

This effect is essentially an emperors new clothes and puts off the real people. By inference it means that those who declare they "know" about art can feel superior. But if everyone can make invisible empty art, then how can we choose what is to be the great art? We can't, because we are not blind, and we can see that it takes no skill. But for those who wish to pretend to see the invisible clothes of this "art", they will have to pretend to keep seeing them, teaching others to see it and convince us we can see them too. They must do this or they the loose value of their worthless art.
This leads to the trade, publicity and inflated price of this junk art. It comes from the same place as the tulip mania effect that happened in the Netherlands in the early 1600s. Deluding art students, critics, gallery owners and dealers to make, buy and sell rubbish to each other. However just like the tulip trade fell to pieces when people realised that a tulip was not worth a years salary, this art can only have value while we keep being deluded that it's worth anything.

In the mean time the internet has burst the art world wide open and those who used to hold control over what is and isn't art are slowly losing to the people. Now artist's all over the world show their art to real people ready to spend their hard earn money on art they like. This could mean the end to art movements and the true liberation of art.

Of course If you do like Duchamps urinal and the concept is of course more important that the object, you can pick one up at any builders merchant and a permanent marker from the stationers next door. It should cost about $201/$402 ($2 for the marker). Sure you can't buy the "concept" or the "statement" it made. But if concept and statement where all that was needed to make a piece of art, then a fart in a bath tub is of equal import. (and some fans of Duchamp will probably agree that it is...) We can all do it, but I thought it and If I sit in a gallery farting into a bathtub, or better still employ someone else to fart in the bath tub, it makes a statement about something (make up what ever you like, the artist can't be bothered). But the real statement that it makes is I'm a pretentious (insert your expletive here) with no respect for my audience.

But I'm sure the circus will continue and we'll keep seeing rubbish displayed as art. All the while sensible people will buy art that took some kind of skill to make.

1 comment:

strummer said...

Great post!... any thoughts about the work of Damien Hirst, he is like profiting from the pop tastes from the public with no concept and no shame at all