“Beauty and art were once thought of as belonging together, with beauty as among arts principal aims and art as beauty’s highest calling.” Beech 2009
This quote proposes that once, the existence of art was purely for the benefit of creating something beautiful and the most potent way for this to be realised was through art. And this quote has even more weight nowadays, in the 21st century where greed, vanity and strong subjective views run rampant, the artists that rise to the top are generally those that aren’t visions of beauty but more so works of art that are created to shock. A quick look at Tracy Urmins works is enough to unsettle your stomach, a closer analysis would probably create a Tracy Urmin art work in your mouth! She is the perfect example of the state of the art world, her works may seem standard, random, you may think nothing of it if these objects were placed out of context on table or in a home but placed in the critical context of art Urmin’s works are twisted, morbid and vulgar depictions dripping with dark, distasteful meaning and full frontal sexual innuendos.
This of course is just one layer seen in the art world (of course not all spectators rave about such things, but for the benefit of this discussion, I am focusing on the ones who are drawn in by this illusion) it would seem that to be noticed you have to have a degree of shock, to bring something new that has not been seen before. In the case of Urmin’s the Unmade Bed, critics said it was a farce and that anyone could create something like that. She responded with “Well, they didn’t, did they?” No one had ever done that before. The more deranged and distorted art is produced the more the bar is raised until it becomes a bar in a parallell dystopian world, more disturbing, startling art is produced, more madness concealed in grotesque shapes, rotting animal corpses and direct sexual references in seemingly innocent objects.
Perhaps anything given the name of art can be immortilised, beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all. Is this a strange game we are all playing? No-one wants to admit they don’t see anything for fear of being outcast by society. This is what Marchel Duchamp’s ground breaking experiment in 1917 brought to light. Duchamp had recently submitted a nude portrait to the gallery but several days before the exhibition opened, he was instructed to remove it. Perhaps this motivated him and become the reason he sent ‘Fountain’ the Urinal to the Society of Independent Artists that had just been established. He submitted the Urinal under a pseudonym, R.Mutt which he scrawled on the implement. Despite the gallery being unorthodox in that they must accept every submission, it was refused. However Duchamp had it photographed and it was put on display at Stieglitz studio and soon it reached the publics eyes.
“The Fountain may be a very useful object in its place, but its place is not in an art exhibition and it is, by no definition, a work of art.” was a statement given by the official board when approached by the press.
It raises questions, are we seeing this as a piece of work in itself or the message it conveys, and the ridicule it places on those who see the elite or sublime in it? In that sense it became a piece of art in itself, become a beacon, scorning the art industry and those that scrutinise it.
An experiment similar to Marchel Duchamp was initated in SanFrancisco’s Museum of Modern Art. Two American teenagers, Kevin Nguyen and TJ Khayatan were so Unimpressed by the standard of art at the gallery that they decided to prove whether they could pass off an innocent object as a piece of revered art work. They placed Nguyen’s glasses on the floor of the gallery and stepped back.
It began as a joke, as visitors started taking photos of the glasses and the teenagers in turn retweeted these photos on their Twitter page but what this prank goes to prove is that within this practical jokes, a hidden metaphor comes to light , is there such a high bar that it is all in actual fact, a joke? Is Big Brother watching, laughing at everyone’s fight and desperation to see hidden meanings? Yet no matter how high the bar is raised it feels like we are on a rollercoaster, clamped in, unable to get off this ride, Why must everything be so deep, why cannot it exist for the pure purpose of being beautiful?
Such experiments challenge perceptions of art and make a mockery of the art world degrading other works in the gallery showing it was all due to elite subjective POV and perhaps due to the mounting pressure of wanting to see something they didn’t, yet pretending to anyway.
This may seem a rather grim and morbid look at the future of art, yet, just as a pair of glasses on a museum floor or a urinal in an exhibition, can be perceived in one way, like two ends of a magnet there is always another different perception. On one hand it can be presented as mocking the system but on the other, it can, at the same time, be used to enlighten and to overall, inspire others to realise that anything given the chance can be art.
At the end of the day, when it comes to art, it’s not about what’s popular, what’s just sold for £150,000 dollars or what the art world is raving over, it comes down to that one subjective viewpoint, yours, it’s what you feel, what you enjoy, what you are drawn to. So this goes to prove that art is simply a two or three-dimensional object, the story comes from the viewer.