Exercise 1: Responding to Duchamp’s Fountain
Exercise 2: Thinking about art
What is art?
Art can be, but isn’t necessarily—anything created, curated, re-purposed or re-contextualized with the intention of generating or inspiring a physical or emotional response. That’s my current definition, anyhow.
How do we know it is art?
I’m not convinced that we can know if a thing is or isn’t art.
For me, art is a subjective experience, so the decision about what constitutes art is equally so. Any created object or sensory experience has infinite possible lives and its “beauty” or just plain “artiness” lies in the eyes (or whatever sense(s) is/are being addressed) of the person experiencing it.
Of course, many works of art (Michealangelo’s David, to take a classic example) are indisputably so, and—as Grayson Perry says—failing that, one can always look around: if you find yourself in a gallery or a museum, it’s probably art.
Who decides what is art?
According to Grayson Perry, it’s the (self-proclaimed) artist who decides if what s/he’s made is art. However, if I’m an artist, and what I’m after is recognition (and so success) in the still relatively small and elite art world, I need the validation of an “influential cast” (Perry’s words, and basically a select group of curators, critics and collectors) who will or won’t go on to promote my work as art.
Duchamp wanted to “put art back in the service of the mind.” What did he mean by this?
I think Duchamp meant to restore—or perhaps innovate—a kind of intellectual hierarchy: the thought and function of art should precede its design. I’m not entirely confident when I say this. What career artist could deny the value of art for art’s sake, or—more simply—aesthetic pleasure? Perhaps he was not excluding those things at all, but simply believed in art that gets us thinking, and asks more of its viewer than admiration.