I had a good day today. Ive been dreading writing this dissertation proposal all week.
Buuuut It had to be done, so I set aside my whole Wednesday to wade through it, and it wasn’t so bad really. I love researching and writing, its often difficult to start but its great when you get into something like that and can start piecing together a line of thought.
My thoughts are on ‘the everyday object as art’.
“A natural or man made object found by an artist and kept because of some intrinsic interest the artist sees in it. Found objects may be put on a shelf and treated as works of art in themselves.”
The official website for Tate galleries online offers this definition of the ‘Found Object’ in relation to art. The explanation is given that if an object, any object, is put on a shelf by an artist it is automatically referred to as ‘art’. Is the power then, of transforming an object into an artwork, with the artist, the object or more simply with the gallery space? Can anything be put into a white room and be viewed at with wonder?
Marcel Duchamp writes in a 1918 edition of an avant-garde magazine, ‘The Blind Man’ that the artists’ physical involvement in an artwork is irrelevant, if he has created the object or not is unnecessary to evaluate. What makes an object art is that it has been chosen by the artist to be viewed as art. By choosing to place an object in front of the viewer as art, the artist gives the object a new identity to be considered, and therefore redefines the purpose of the object. One cannot begin to discuss the object as art without turning attention to Marcel Duchamp’s 1917 work, ‘Fountain’. Presented originally as a humorous jibe at the serious attitude towards modern art in America, ‘Fountain’ presents a perfect example of a common object being completely redefined. This event marks the groundwork for a change in social perception of the definition of art and the object as art. Progressing on from this, artists such as Claus Oldenburg, Joseph Beuys and Robert Rauschenberg must also be considered. These are all examples of artists who use found objects and adapt them within their art. Rauschenberg’s ‘Bed’ defies preconceptions of the everyday object. By simply being hung on a wall with some additional paintwork and scribbles, the viewer is confronted with something new to contemplate, regardless of the fact that they see a bed everyday.
Similarly, Christian Boltanski is able to encourage this change of perception of a common object. With Boltanski, its usually not the object he manipulates, but the surroundings and other components of the installation. In his work ‘Personnes’, the feature piece is a huge room filled with heaps of clothes and a large crane redistributing the clothes into different piles. The average viewer wears clothes everyday, sees rails of clothes in the highstreet and dumps bags of them in charity shops. However, when viewing the piles of clothes in Boltanski’s piece, one thinks of loss, scale, and remnants of the dead. Christian Boltanski manages to provoke fresh thought in objects that we, the viewer, are surrounded by day to day.
In studying the object as art one must consider the artists ability to achieve this change of perception while looking at examples of artists who have done so and how they have done so; whether by changing the object, the setting, or simply placing it within an artistic context, and public perception of the untouched object being called ‘art’.
After some hefty note taking, and an encouraging cup of coffee, I threw the above statement together to outline what my line of thought is at the moment. Its going to change, I can tell, so I wasn’t too fussy on the wording.
Right now this is a pretty broad theme. I’m hoping to specify more once I’ve built up my research and identified the key points that interest me. Aside from reading books and researching artists, I’m considering visiting charity shops and recycling centres in Dundee, to interview staff about what percentage of their customers are art students, buying old ‘junk’ to use in their art. I feel this would give my research a fresh insight and provide a modern and relatable side to the argument.
I’d like my dissertation to be centred around a mature understanding of this medium and be able to convey a clear argument. I’d also like for it to be of interest to members of the general public who perhaps feel they don’t understand contemporary art. I’d like for people to be able to read this piece and take some knowledge and appreciation away from it.