What is art?    

Indeed, what is a loaded gun, if that pertains to the life of Miss Emily?

Where am I going with all this…it’s almost 1AM & I finally see the horizon of two days off after fourteen, so stay with me if you are boarding this train. This is a one-way trip with a few smoke breaks. We start with poetry and end with art.

What? Wait! Are they not the same thing? Maybe.

What is art? Art is Art.

ModPo forum topic questions posted below are in bold. These were posed by fellow students.
I spent the evening contemplating a few of them and shall post my responses. If you’ve your own theory/ideology, please chime in.

– Did anyone else actually find “Portrait” funny??? (re: William Carlos Williams’s Portrait of a Lady)

Though many do not call Waiting for Godot funny, I found Williams’s internal convo of that type of absurdist humor. WA had not come to mind, but indeed, certainly of that mocking tone.

On a more serious note, what I found interesting was the use of two French artist who were both known for ‘rocking the brush’ be it too evocative, too stylistic, etc.. Ergo, when the mocking voice keeps questioning ‘which shore’, it made me wonder if he was signaling the absurd nature of the arts movement on American shores vs French. Duchamp’s Nude was not just a problem on our shores, but riled his contemporary’s in France, which is why he came to America in the first place.

Meh, to play devils advocate…or to just offer up one more theory, when looking up Portrait, I found that T.S. Elliot wrote a poem around the same time with the same title. After reading this rather lengthy poem, with much repetitive rhyme and filled with metaphor, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was not a parody of Elliot’s poem, as if to say, your poem does not work.

– Nude Descending a Staircase (This was questioning the meaning behind Duchamp’s rather famous picutre.

*The modern artist must hate Picasso in order to make something new, just as Coubet hated Delacroix. The son must hate the father in order to be a good son. Such hatred seems to be the only means of producing that necessary reaction against the achievements of the previous period. * ~ M. Duchamp, Art News 32, 1933

The above quote was actually Duchamp’s response to an interview question regarding the Nude painting. I’m not an art history person, but purchased Debating American Modernism: Stieglitz, Duchamp, and the New York Avant Garde this summer at a used book shop. (Thankfully, this course has inspired me to read more of the text, not just look at the pictures! )

What I’ve gleaned from Duchamp’s commentary, and the above quote, he despised Picasso and his ilk, he wished to mock it via Nude. It was never his vision for art. Duchamp’s actions as artist are an apt parallel to WCW’s actions as poet. Both seemed to question what was the movement at the time, and perhaps felt they could ascend to formulate their own vision. Hmmm… perhaps that is why Duchamp also chose the action/title to descend verse ascend… He makes no qualms that he did choose his title to rile many, and was not forthright whenever questioned about the sex of the nude. He knew he was bucking convention, much as he would do later with Fountain. Perhaps that is why I have such respect for Duchamp – rules were meant to be broken.

– A Prankster Who Stood the Art World On Its Head? (a critical question regarding Duchamp’s intention with “Fountain”. The student felt that perhaps “Fountain” was a way to encourage higher standards to be set for art. The student also questioned why we were studying WCW & Duchamp together.)

The fact that they are regarded with the same reverence as objects of art probably means I have failed to solve the problem of trying to do away entirely with art. ~M. Duchamp, “I propose to Strain the Laws of Physics”

I don’t believe he wished to make the standards higher, but wished to draw into question, “what is art”. The above quote came after the fact, when Duchamp was no longer the ‘prankster’ of the art scene. He was not trying to kill art, but kill the idea that there was only one vision, i.e. cubism.

There has already been some wonderful discussion as to why place Duchamp and Williams together, but thought I’d throw this into the mix as well. Not only were Duchamp and Williams questioning the roll of art in their respective fields, but also questioning how we attach our preconceived notions; a moral compass – if that can be broken, disrupted.

Art is art is art ….it is created (or not created) from the same place in the end, no? Granted, conceptual art can set people off with the ‘is that art’ question, but in my mind, even if they call it non-creative it can be creative for one had to think up the original concept. I think it does more harm than good when writers try to disassociate with painters, as if one is more of an ‘artist’ than the other. If anything, as we look back at these movements, we find that the artist is actually influenced/enriched by a circle of various talents.

When we limit our influences, we shall surely stagnate and die — perhaps that is what Duchamp & Williams wished to avoid most – death, not of self, but of vision.

There you have it…a bit of ‘deep think’ on a Friday night (meh Saturday morn) …take it, leave it, marry it, divorce it, just don’t go to bed angry…vent in the complaints, I will get back to you.

good night (good day) & good luck ~


2 thoughts on “art is art is art –

    • Hello Joseph, glad you said hello. I was swamped tonight with trying to catch up on our readings/viewings, so hope to pay your blog a visit tomorrow! Stein…it is a love/hate relationship sometimes. ~ a

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