Wednesday, January 25, 2006

True story

Man held for vandalizing Duchamp's "fountain" for performance art

I love it. I actually like Duchamp's fountain, but since there are seven of them (or something like that), I don't mind one or two being destroyed for the sake of ironic performance art. Although, I think he had the right idea last time by just urinating on it.


  1. Ah, the problem is that he didn't sign it. That must be what makes it art.

  2. Is it art to take someone else's art and change it? Maybe . . . probably. . . but its not good art (but then again neither was Duchamp's fountain.) Would Duchamp have approved? I can imagine him applauding. Now there is an interesting ethical point. Does the fact that Duchamp probably would have approved make the man any less blameworthy or the act any less . . . [insert favorite reactive attitude here]? Does our value of Duchamp's art extend beyond the value he places on it himself? Or to put it in terms at least a few of us can relate to: What if Lincoln came back went into the Smithsonian and wanted his pen back just so he could throw it away? Do we give it to him?

  3. If one admits that performance art and ready-made art are legitimate forms of artistic expression, I can't see the use of someone else's artwork within a new piece as diminishing the final creation in any way. It is a fair question to ask if it is GOOD art. I think it certainly could be. It even seems possible to increase the value of a work of art by using it as a part of a larger piece (though in most cases, it is likely to decrease the value). But imagine taking a mediocre work of art and incorporating it masterfully into a beautiful larger work. I don't favor thinking of "history" being an aesthetic property, but we can also imagine taking a mediocre work of art, and making it part of an important historical event, thereby increasing it's significance (or aesthetic value, if you like).

    The ethical and aesthetic can be separated in these issues, I think. We can say that peeing on Duchamp's fountain is a legitimate work of performance art, but for all sorts of other reasons it should not be allowed.

    About Lincoln and his pen, first, it's plausible that the pen was not lincoln's property in the first place. I think currently, pens that presidents use to sign important documents are kept as historical artifacts, and presidents are not permitted to keep them. If it was lincoln's property, and he wanted it back, I don't know what I'd say. On the one hand, it's good for people and countries to have ownership of what is theirs (for instance, I think the british museum should give the elgin marbles back to Greece). On the other hand, why does lincoln need it back so badly? If it's serving an important purpose in a museum, is he going to use it for something better? It would be a shame if he threw it away...

  4. thats not necessarily true, lincoln would never get his pen back because now the museum owns it. once art or artifacts leave the hand of the artist or owner, in most cases, there is only the chance that they can buy them back (pretty impossible). the museum would never just give duchamp his fountain back - they would lose too much. if pierre buys the fountain he can do whatever he wants with it - like michael landy destroying YBA things in break down - and that would still be art.