Where art thou?
In a very clever book whose name escapes me, a scene in which the main characters are at an art gallery opening stuck to my mind. It is the kind of love triangle story where the overly-intelligent-but-hopelessly-perfect-guy is left aside whilst the cool-and-actually-sensitive-bad-boy wins the girl over.
The three of them end up at this art gallery together, and, after 5 minutes of the intelligent-but-hopelessly-perfect-guy describing the revolutionary aspect of a smaller piece set in the center of the room, the cool-and-actually-sensitive-bad-boy who works as a security guard for the gallery steps in and says: “As much as I enjoy your lecture bro’, this actually is a fire extinguisher and you’re blocking the way."
Obviously everyone laughs at that point and ends up supporting the security guard in our triangular love chase. But, although I do agree with the masses to say that badies are goldies, I still feel for the poor overly analytical guy: how could anyone expect him to recognize works of art from simple commodities in a world that puts these two things on the same level?
Art critic Holger Liebs summed it up when he declared that “The biggest secret in the art world is that no one knows what’s contemporary art!”
I’ve always felt that art was one of the only, if not the sole, tangible things in the world because, art business set aside, it does not belong to the never ending circle of “sleep-eat-work-repeat” with work being the element that allows you to continue sleeping eating and consequently working again. Art challenges the human brain, the human emotions and feelings. Whether it is the incredible discomfort that takes a hold of me when I contemplate Dali’s persistence of memory (tell me melting clocks on a desert plain don’t make you question the meaning of time or do not creep you out for the least bit, and I won’t believe you) or the feeling of peace and fascination that triggers the strangely long curve of Ingres’ Grande Odalisque’s back, art makes me live because it makes me feel.
In the same way, Duchamp’s fountain, a porcelain urinal that caused much controversy in 1917, challenges our brain. First of all because the common reaction, that pushed the 1917 Society of Independent Artists to refuse Duchamp’s work, is a plain:” What the F.afoodling U.ncanny C.oconut K.iwi?” Secondly because the chain of ideas that follow this righteous question are precisely what the artist was expecting. Why would this porcelain urinal be deemed as art? What is its meaning? Why did the artist use this fragile and dignified material for such a trivial object that basically mocks every piece of classical art? And there you go, reactions, emotions and virulence: in a word, art.
However, something major seems to have been ignored by some of our contemporary (in a chronological sense) artists, like this man who at Hong Kong’s 2017 Art Basel, was selling for a couple thousands of dollars, a doorknob on a white wall. Yes sir. The element that causes this artistic hiccup is no more than a socio-temporal issue: what outraged the masses in 1917 does no more than irritate and sadden the viewer in 2017. After a century of revolutionary and liberation movements on various scales and subjects, breaking the rules of classical or even modern aesthetic and materials looses its meaning for the simple reason that it is done in a world that is accustomed to shock, accustomed to constantly questioning the littlest symbolism of life, so much that this over-analytical attitude shades what we call the big picture.
This doorknob man, because I could not bare to call him an artist, used an artistic Topos in order to show the depth of his reflection. He miserably failed and only showed the depth of his arrogance and laziness.
I am not quite sure that Art can answer one definition, or that we can ever really understand what contemporary and modern art, above a chronological distinction, are. But what I know and believe with all of the forceful hope of my little art lover’s heart is that Art takes work, dedication and emotions.
All this said, I would like to state that I truly respect doorknobs. They’re really useful. Shout out to them.