With the semester coming to a close, I have been reflecting on the art and art movements that I got to study this semester. There were many that I instantly knew that I would love, like Art Nouveau, Frida Kahlo’s work, and Post-Impressionism, but there were certainly more than a few that made me quite angry. I want to reflect on one artwork in particular that I had mixed feelings towards but eventually, after studying it, came to absolutely love! Here it is…
…I know. I know! It’s a urinal!! How is this art? Why is this art? And why does Ivy love this art?? I’m sure these questions are running through your head and that’s fine. I have answers to all of them!
I didn’t understand this piece when I first saw it. I remember going on a class field trip to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and being wholly underwhelmed by this piece. My friends and I were confused and a bit condescending towards this piece even after the tour guide told us that “anything can be art!” It didn’t mean I thought it was art.
Well, flash forward to 2020 and I’m sitting at my computer listening to my professor tell me all about how this is art. I’ve learned to be more open-minded towards art now that studying it is my major, but there was still some of that initial shock and denial when seeing this piece during a class. However, once I heard about the inspiration and purpose for this art, I couldn’t think of scoffing at it any longer.
This piece is an example of a “ready-made”, or a manufactured object that was promoted to the dignity of art through the choice of the artist. The artist Marcel Duchamp took a urinal, turned it upside down, signed it with a pseudonym, and then called it art. This concept that the artist is the one who chooses what is and is not art was essential to the Dada movement that this piece was a part of.
The Dadaists questioned war, politics, and were anarchist in pretty much every way, so when it came to art, they wanted to attack preconceived notions about art, creative vision, and accepted canon. Marcel Duchamp was one of the most influential Dada artists, and with this piece he wanted to prove the nonsensical and the satirical aspects of art by pushing the limits. The Dadaists wanted to destroy the concept of aesthetics. People’s opinions of what is good or bad taste restricted the boundaries of what art could be, and thus, the artist and artist alone should decide what is art.
So now that I’ve answered that this is art because the artist said it was, I’ll answer why I love it. I love art that pushes the boundaries of how we conceptualize art! I love art that makes a big fuss in society because that means it is changing minds. (Granted, I don’t love art that makes a fuss because it offends or is hateful towards people.) I like art that just makes people uncomfortable. Being uncomfortable is how we grow! So I think this piece is funny and extremely witty. It made me question what I think is art and ultimately made me laugh. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I did!! Have a lovely week 🙂