1. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    My best friend and I have a long-running joke, where one of us asks about an object,

    But is it art, or is it a bicycle rack?

    This was inspired by many, many public objects in northern Europe (primarily France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark), where public sculpture is sometimes used by one of the many, many bicycle commuters as a convenient place to anchor their vehicle so as to prevent theft, while bicycle racks are frequently sculpted into shapes designed to draw attention to nearby businesses (e.g. a guitar- or violin-shaped rack on the sidewalk outside a music store or concert hall), to reflect the character of the local neighborhood, or to celebrate a nearby park or landmark.

    Search for images with the phrase “bicycle rack” plus any of those countries and you’ll easily see what I mean. It’s a little harder to find pictures of public sculptures being coopted as bicycle racks, but they are there as well. But what’s most interesting is that there really are some objects whose statuses are in doubt as to whether they were intended to be decorative sculpture (but later coopted for a function) or functional objects rendered decoratively.

    Arguments about what constitutes art have been occurring for hundreds of years, of course, but seem to have particularly accelerated in the early to mid 20th century (less so with the post-impressionists, more so with the Dada movement, Calder, Pollock, Lichtenstein, Warhol and a few others) and, if the conversations are no longer accelerating, they certainly seem to be maintaining a brisk clip.

    I remember the Blues Brothers’ joke: “We play both kinds of music here, Country and Western.” In a similar way, what may seem to be an inclusive position welcoming of more than one option is often seen by some as profoundly limiting. While I can accept a pair of socks on a floor as a statement about the limits some will attempt to set on art, since the statement has been made so many other times in so many other ways, the terrible lack of originality in the statement renders it insufficient to make a pair of socks on a floor into good art. At least for me.

    Try looking up Calder’s wire circus, if you interested in something that sparked a similar discussion 90 years ago. Oh heck, I’ll just link the video.

  2. Holms says

    Apparently it is art if someone declares it art, or puts it in an art gallery. Presto Change-o, socks dropped on the floor are not art.

  3. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    “Staring at them for a long time with other people, kinda makes it art.”

    That’s kind of profound, akshly.

  4. says

    I once took a photo of some stairs in Norwich (UK) with orange warning cones at either end and a sign on one of them assuring the public that “This is not a work of art. The stairs really are damaged”!

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