Saturday, March 5, 2011


One of the most upsetting conversations I've ever had about art was with an older couple, friends of friends, who were perfectly nice and well-meaning.

We were discussing an article in The New Yorker, my favorite magazine, about an internationally known artist, whose name is Rirkrit Tiravanija. This artist had reproduced his shabby Lower-East-Side apartment in a gallery, including his kitchen.

For his "work of art," he fixed his favorite Thai soup and served it to those who came to the gallery. Eating soup together was his work of art. 

Newsweek also did an article. It quoted a "French thinker" who described this as "relational aesthetics."  In other words, all these people eating soup together in a gallery is art because they call it art. I guess.

OK, then. If I have a barbecue for friends on my patio, is that a work of art? Or is it art only if we stage it in an art gallery and get a few academic theorists to call it art?

When I go to the bathroom, is that a work of art? Or is it art only if my buddies and I urinate in public at the same time and "relate"?

This seems like a mockery of art.
My friend's wife said, "Well, perhaps the soup can be a nice pleasant experience, like viewing a painting."

So anything that's nice and pleasant can be a work of art? If I take a nap in the afternoon, as I did today, is that a work of art? If I make love to my girlfriend (if I had one), that can be extremely pleasant. Is that a work of art? Is anything a work of art just because it is pleasant? Or do you have to stage it in a gallery and call it art?

What if we hire a couple to have sex in an art gallery, is that a work of art? Or is it pornography? Is it art only if ten or 20 couples do it at the same time and we call it art? Is it art if they are "relational"?

Is Michelangelo's "David" a work of art because it is pleasant to look at? Is it only a work of art if a group of people is looking at it at the same time and relating? What if they are all going "Oooooo" out of enjoyment? Is that the same as eating soup?

Does "art" depend on the thing itself, or on the experience of seeing it? Or on the experience of doing it? Or is it art only when you call it art?
So eating soup is relational art. I think this is a perfect example of "The Emperor's New Clothes." The art world has run out of ideas and out of common sense. 

Sorry, but a Bowl of Soup by any other name is still a Bowl of Soup. To re-phrase Gertrude Stein, BS is BS is BS. And I don't mean soup.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle

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