Beginning in the early 1900’s when Dadaism came to the forefront, people started to question exactly what constituted art. Dadaism rejected the prevailing standards of art that dominated the cultural scene at the time. These artists, in a political protest, rejected the bourgeois culture and created a sort of anarchistic anti-art movement.
So then, what is art? And who decides what makes art art? The Dadaists believed that the snobbish upper class and their stark white-walled galleries controlled the art scene. So they decided to change it. Marcel Duchamp famously created a lovely ceramic sculpture of a fountain—or a urinal; however you’d like to look at it—to call into question the sort of exclusivity of art placed in galleries.
What about a urinal doesn’t make it art? And what in turn makes the Statue of David art instead? It’s these kind of questions that have become much more common in recent years by contemporary artists. The Modern Museum of Art stands as a living testament to the questioning of what truly constitutes a piece of art.
In a sense, I think it is the meaning infused into a piece of art that makes it art—and not what it looks like itself. Jackson Pollock , famous for splatter paintings, and Piet Mondrian, known for his contributions to the De Stijl art movement, may agree with this. Many would argue that their works don’t have the aesthetic value that a nice painting of a landscape does, but they do have meaning.
Art blog rhizome.org posted an interesting article this week that also calls into question what constitutes art. The article suggests that instead of art existing solely in galleries, contemporary art is omnipresent in something called “relational aesthetics.”
Relational aesthetics, founded by Nicholas Bourriaud, suggests that social exchanges may be considered an art form. A website 4Chan.org (don’t peruse the website unless you are completely ok with seeing unnerving images) recently has been the focus of the idea of relational aesthetics.
4Chan.org is a social site that allows users to post anonymously. On the website exists anything from crude images to insightful political commentary. Can these posts be considered art then? Just because an “lolcat” isn’t hanging in a gallery doesn’t necessarily mean that it is art. There is a message in what some may see as just an object of amusement—or maybe that’s all it is. I think that it is this could constitute as the kind of anti-art that Marcel Duchamp promoted in his fountain and in L.H.O.O.Q.
The internet has provided an outlet for artistic endeavors that would not have been possible before. This new media is helping to break down the exclusiveness that dominated the art scene in previous centuries and is creating a new meaning of what art is altogether.