Saturday, January 07, 2006

Duchamp, Urinals, and the Press


Yes, Duchamp's Fountain is safe. It was attacked by an old man with a hammer, but without success. Only some pieces of porcelain were chipped away. The porcelain seems to be of good quality.
The author of the act considers them performance art. Maybe in an act of revenge, the police wouldn't reveal his name - although we know it's Pierre Pinoncelli, as this wasn't his first act of performance art with this piece - in 1993 he peed into it (and I think he also tried hitting it with a hammer).
The act itself isn't particularly original. The fact that Duchamp disapproved of museums could be an argument, but then of course, he tried, unseccessfuly, to put Fountain in an exhibition. Is messing with other people's work bad? Using other people's works for the creation of new ones is an entire tradition. A few years ago Maurizio Cattelan stole another artist's (Paul de Reus's) entire exhibition and put it as his own (and had troubles with the police because of that), Robert Rauschenberg erased drawings by De Kooning, etc, etc...
I have no problem seeing both a piece of art and a crime in such an event. I don't see why these two should be incompatible.
There is another interesting thing about the recent art attack. The way it was described by the media. Comapre the title in USA Today: "Dada artist accused of vandalizing Duchamp piece" with the one in The Independent: "Protester tries to chip away at the reputation of Duchamp's urinal". The latter refers to the artwork as to "the urinal", without even giving its title! Fortunately, other sources of information are available: the Polish Gazeta Wyborcza writes about the object's history, Le Monde has the longest and by far the most comprehensive article, citing the perpetrator/artist ("It was going to have a miserable existance...it was better to end it using a hammer"), and even mentions a rarely mentioned fact: the urinal is not the original Fountain, but one of the eight copies (??) that were made by the artist in 1964 (!!!), since the original was "lost" in 1917.
PS. According to one commentator, the dadaists made an exhibition in the 1920's where every visitor received a hammer, thus allowing her to participate in the art...

9 comments:

vvoi said...

I've just thought of something... This means that the work that was recently considered the most influential work of art of the 20th century didn't even exist for almost half of this century (1917-1964)!

Shane said...

the ny times covered this as well and did, i think, a decent job. it doesn't matter if it didn't rematerialize for half a century, it had either already left its stamp -which seems like the better interpretation due to some statements by cage in the 50's- or we have invented art history.

vvoi said...

good point, shane. i must admit i don't know the statements you mention, or at least don't remember them.
of course, we could still ask if cage's (or some other artist's) statements would still be enough even if the object wasn't there. enough for us to consider the "fountain" as a central, universal reference in art history.
in a certain sense art history seems even more "invented" than normal history, as it is pretty distant from facts and fairly close to speculation. that's also why the recreating the object so much later seems a lot like a great marketing move - the sort that numerous other artists made(like the gutai, who restaged their most known performances for the press, while maintaining those were unique acts), but in the case of duchamp with a lot more "gunpower", so to speak.
it's also interesting for another reason: duchamp's argument about the exceptional nature of an object because it was chosen instinctively could appear as weaker - if any amount of objects can be chosen at any time, it just doesn't seem special enough. the next step is warhol's factory - but that is warhol, not duchamp.

dan said...

um bom ano, vvoi! para partir de vez a arte.)

Theodore Diran Lyons III said...

Yes, and with Warhol we find, I think, an even more perplexing phrasing of the problem between the difficulty to differentiate an artwork from reality, IE there is no visually perceptible difference between the boxes of Brillo in the alley trash dumpster and his silk-screened ones in a gallery space which sell for astronomical amounts of capital.

Theodore Diran Lyons III said...
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Theodore Diran Lyons III said...
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Shane said...

i'm hesitant to really go into this, but isn't the whole problem about the fetishization of the object and in using copies of the original isn't he probably commenting on this? -it surely seems like an extension of his original critique on art. also, it would seem to me, that duchamp's fountain was chosen exactly because it's capable of being duplicated and then he plays with the signature of the artist a play on the word 'poverty' in german. it's just crying to be a critique on fetishization....
While your critique may be right (I'm not fighting the possibility of its power, just it's intention both from the artist's standpoint and from those who create history), it seems to be approaching the problem from the wrong side. If you can tease journalists into believing they are witnessing 'the real deal' the type of thing people wet their pants about, then I say all the better. (I think the most beautiful work of art would be the one taking place outside of a theater while everyone watched a man tie his shoes for an hour and a half on the inside, but maybe I'm just crazy).
history is created later, of course. there's tons of work dealing with this etc etc.
Don't mean to be picky or even too persistent, just coming out of my 'reader only' coccoon...you get a blog one day and then look what happens...a butterfly of ****

vvoi said...

Shane says "I think the most beautiful work of art would be the one taking place outside of a theater while everyone watched a man tie his shoes for an hour and a half on the inside, but maybe I'm just crazy"
- stay in touch for my review of Pawel Althamer's latest work in Warsaw - it has a lot to do with it.

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