My relationship to art is complicated. There is a certain reverence I have that is tainted with its opposite (irreverence?) As a teacher, I have to have some degree of reverence right? But as an artist I made a shift a long time ago due to circumstance and personality.
I remember not understanding Duchamp at all when I first learned about him. I was really put off by his confusing take. I mean, I had just spent a semester learning about the gods of art (Michelangelo, Rembrant, Cezanne, etc) and who is this clown besmirching all that with a toilet and a mustache on Mona Lisa? How dare he!
But time heals all wounds right? So jump to 2004, I am in a gallery in Chelsea and see these silver shapes on the wall. At first and from afar, I think this is some high tech thing (like a NASA material). When I get close however I see that these are in fact potato chip bags turned inside/out with holes punched with a.. holepunch, I laugh out loud.
Then and there I got Duchamp. But THEN, I ask the gallery lady how much the piece is and she tells me and then and there I get... Warhol, Koons, etc. Or maybe "get" is to vague , I see what they do, these moves they make are within my grasp all of a sudden. Their relationship to art and the world is understandable to me.
I am working on a paper for a panel session for SECAC. The topic is humor in art. As I formulate my thoughts the above story looms medium to large. I think this sort of Duchampian irreverence is fully embraced by contemporary art. Its no longer an offense BUT I still notice the same confusion and disgust I had towards Marcel in my students today. There is still opportunity to desecrate the gods in the minds of the yoots.
The further funny thing is that Duchamp becomes a god himself right? I remember going to an art fair and seeing some of Franz West's adaptive pieces, these white plaster sculptures originally intended to be worn or adapted in some way by the audience. I asked knowing the answer if I could adapt it and was told no of course. I immediately thought "well is it the same work?" Probably not but maybe thats okay, It seems to me to be even funnier that we revere the work originally intended to punch holes in the holy realm of art.
I like to be funny. I try anyway. Its probably a crutch masquerading as sincerity. Lets see where this goes...
image above is a work by Tony Feher.