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Is It Really Art?
Found Art or Guerilla Marketing
When LED signs were placed all around the city of Boston displaying a cartoon character, people screamed, “TERRORIST ATTACK!!” But instead of instilling fear, this little slice of guerilla marketing set off a chain reaction in the media, garnering more publicity for the TV show than the creators ever dreamed possible. So, is this a brilliant example of how clever advertising used at the right time and in the right place can reap tremendous profits…or is it art?
Recently I went to an exhibit at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston called “Figuring Color,” which showcased four artists who worked in diverse mediums, Kathy Butterly (ceramics), Roy McMakin (sculpture), Sue Williams (painting), and Felix Gonzalez-Torres (mixed media).
Felix Gonzalez-Torres had an interesting piece called “Untitled” (Lover Boys). This piece represented the combined weight (355 lbs approx.) of the artist and his then lover, Ross, who passed away due to AIDs-related complications in 1991. The piece consisted of little blue and white candies spread across the floor. Participants are encouraged to take a piece, eat it, and for a short time become part of the exhibit.
I love audience participation in art. I also love the fact that the viewer will affect the work by interacting with it. But is it art? Found art sculpture is nothing new. In 1917, Marcel Duchamp put a men’s urinal on a pedestal, signed it R.Mutt, and called it “Fountain.” Picasso once took a bicycle seat and handlebars and transformed it into the image of a bull.
Discussing the merits or flaws in the piece gives it validity; therefore, the art exists physically as well as conceptually. Just like the Boston Bomb Scare of 2007, if you saw a pile of candy on the subway platform or in a park with a sign telling you to try some, what would you think – a marketing campaign by Hersheys or a fine art exhibit? What the creative views as art can sometimes come into question, especially when the line is blurred between artistic endeavor and capital gain.
Photo credit: maaikelauwaert