Project 1: Exercises 1 & 2

Marcel Duchamp, 1917, Fountain, photograph by Alfred Stieglitz
Marcel Duchamp, 1917, Fountain, photograph by Alfred Stieglitz [Public Domain]

Exercise 1 asks us to write down a few words about our first response to Marcel Duchamp’s piece Fountain, shown in the photograph.

Looking at the original work, right, I would say it does not surprise me that this is presented as a piece of art, but, at the same time, it does not appeal to me and I don’t understand how anybody could see this is art. My first impression, without looking up any further information about the piece, would be that it is representative of something important to the artist, perhaps it came from somewhere specific, or maybe R. Mutt has some deeper meaning.

Exercise 2 asks us to spend 15 minutes recording our thoughts on the questions below:

  • What is art?

My thoughts on this is that art is anything that the viewer thinks is art. To me, art is images, paintings, mixed media, sculptures, digital pictures and other items that I find appealing in appearance.

  • How do we know it is art?

In general, I don’t think there is any ‘official’ way to know something is art, and it’s down to people’s opinion. At the same time, I do think there are some pieces that most people would consider to be art, for instance, traditional landscapes or still life paintings.

  • Who decides what is art?

Again, I think it is the viewer, although, perhaps more emphasis is placed on the opinions of art ‘experts’ and critics, organisers of exhibitions, or judges of competitions. You could say that if someone wants to pay money for something purported to be art, then they have clearly decided that it is art.

  • Is it enough just to display a found object and say ‘this is art’ because it’s in an art gallery?

I imagine that in the cases of found objects or ‘readymades’, many people will accept that it is indeed art just because it is in a gallery. In the case of Fountain, above, I would personally like to know the full rationale and story behind it before I would consider it a piece of art, regardless of whether it was in a gallery.

  • Duchamp said he wanted “to put art back in the service of the mind”. What do you think he meant by this?

I imagine he meant that he wanted people to really think hard about a piece and decide for themselves whether it was art or not.


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