Most of the last century went under the sign of using ready-made elements in traditional media (like, Cubists including real newspapers into their paintings) or on their own (like Duchamp’s Urinal). The idea is that when you take an ordinary object and move it from its mundane surroundings into artistic space, it gets imbued with new meaning.
Sometimes this meaning is interesting, sometimes it is not, and sometimes it is so deeply hidden in the mind of the artist that you need two shrinks working in shifts to extract it (in the latter case all you actually need to sell it is just one Charles Saatchi).
I will not be taking you through the history of ready-made art today, but I will share three objects that I think are worth thinking about.
Richard Wentsworth did a stint with Henry Moore as his assistant, got brilliant education and is known as a very clever man with a great sense of humour.
He made his career, combining and juxtaposing materials and objects we see daily in our life in a way that gives these objects new qualities. For instance, he once suspended books from a ceiling, making them fly. A nice metaphor for knowledge, reading, and the role of literature in our life.
This art object is titled “Time and Place”.
I showed this picture to a lot of people, and asked them for associations. Each viewer was feeding back A LOT of things, but each time those things were different and highly individual. “Time and Place” is a perfect example of contemporary art that does not have an explicit idea embedded in it, but triggers mental processes that a message which is purely your own.
We step next to Wentsworth’s “Siege” which has a double meaning. First, it is a siege, like that of a castle; second, it is an ordinary French word, meaning “stool” or “chair”.
What is it? Some people of the more expressive and less formal persuasion even ask me “What the F**k is it?”, when I show them this photo. It is, well, two chairs with one straddling the other. The one on top has the balls. The one that’s straddled has a hole. The balls idea comes from “bola”. It was a device consisting of a rope and two balls that was used by cowboys to fetter, or hobble animals. The process is clear from this picture:
Most viewers agree the results work of art is somewhat indecent. A chair straddled a chair hobbling it with its balls, basically saying, “I’ve got the balls, that’s why I am on top”.
This was the artist’s response to the feminist ideas in the 1980s.
Many feminists would think it is a rude joke that is also not funny. Well, it is not rude, and it is funny. It is anti-feminist only on the surface. The funny thing is that is says, we, anti-feminist have only one argument left. We’ve got the balls, so we should be on top. We know we are losing this debate, and we know we can’t use this argument any more, so we’ll just show it.
It is the middle finger shown by the losing side to the winner. The fact that the losing side is perfectly aware of being left with the dumbest sort of argument makes it funny.
ROMANTIC BUT TRUE
“Perfect Lovers” by Félix González-Torres (of whom Wiki says, “an American, Cuban-born, gay visual artist”. Why his sexual orientation should be right there in the first line about him, is beyond me. He was just a very good artist.) This is the artist who was chosen to represent the US at the Venice Biennale in 2007, ten years after his death.
When you first see it, you think, well, that’s too simple. Two clocks mounted on the wall. They show the same time. Perfect Lovers. He could have put a pair of any identical objects instead of the clocks and nothing would change. A simple metaphor. Not worth a second look.
And here is the trick. For it is worth a second look. The longer the cheap clocks stay side by side, the more obvious their differences become to the viewer. These are cheap clocks, they get out of sync with each other pretty fast. And the longer they are “together”, the more they get out of sync. That’s life. And, perhaps, one of the few moments when the romantic idea is reflected on by an artist in a way that is not sickeningly sweet.
Why this intallation is called Perfect Lovers if the clocks get out of sync with each other? How could these lovers stay perfect when the lag becomes obvious?
What needs to be changed in this installation for it to represent imperfect lovers?
I’d love to hear what you think. Please remember that these clocks can be a symbol of not only thoughts, actions, emotions, but stand for biological clock as well.
Another CLEVER example of ready-made art, one of my super favourites, is here. It is a naked Venus confronted by a pile of second-hand clothes. Fashion bloggers/lovers simply MUST read it.
Learning from Siege I’d say keep one of the clocks, but place above it a pendulum clock that regularly cuffs it around the head with its massive donger! Also your explanation that the seige is the last argument from a losing side would be fine if only the battle was won
Well, that would be a male-controlled family, the one with the pendulum, probably with kids showing a different time-zone at that )))
The battle of arguments is won, I think. But the massive donger still swings mindlessly endangering those who get in the way.
This conversation has reminded me of the horse statue you posted. The image that won’t fade!
Maybe I’m too simple-minded, but no, I don’t feel they are perfect lovers cause they are getting out of sync. For me, they are perfect lovers right now, now and here. It will not last forever but now they are perfect lovers and this is the thing to appreciate for them. Who knows may be they were initially unsync. and going differently they met now, 23 minutes to 12. If it was the life time – even easier, people are living in a different way. One day they can meet to become like this but in some months/years life will take its own and they will continue following their own ways or one will die and only the other one will stay alive keeping the past in his/her memory. Or they will stay together though being ‘not perfect’ lovers .
For me they can stay perfect lovers forever if they have totally the same error and showing wrong time they will still be able to show the same time. Or if the batteries are out… Like Romeo and Juliette – they didn’t have enough time to get out of sync. )
You are not simple minded. You are straightforward. Match clocks, make love, split, when the clocks get out of sync. That’s just lovers. Perfect lovers meet and recognise each other when their clocks are synchronised, but unlike simple lovers, they recognise their clocks will inevitably get out of sync. In life, clocks get out of sync, and most people split. Perfect lovers learn how to live with and love each other when they get out of sync. That’s why they are perfect.
To remember how it was to be p.l. and try to keep close is great but not the same as naturally being perfect lovers. If they learn they will not get out of sync., if they got out of sync. they are not perfect anymore. Though they can be good, better than others and etc) I would say perfect lovers learn how to be just lovers but not split when they get out of sync.
Staying perfect lovers is not about remembering how it was before. Staying in sync is boring. Staying in sync kills love. Staying perfect lovers means constant change. Change means different speed. Perfect lovers learn to love their partner at 10 minute, 1 hour, 1 year time-difference )
I think it’s very right but has nothing to do with being perfect. perfect is just perfect, learn is about right or good) But fine, we don’t need to sync. our thoughs, right?)))
The good thing about this simple installation, as our discussion has just proven, is that it makes you and me, and many others think complex thoughts )
Great post and enjoyed your take on these works- really interesting to view them in this way
Thank you ) Did you have any ideas on how to make imperfect lovers? If you happen to have one – please let me know!
Hi I’m supposed to be doing something creative like this for an art course I’m doing at the moment. It’s hard when you have a direct question posed isn’t it? I have an imperfect lover – but he’s married to me – c’est la vie.
Well, think about two clocks, one of which has just the hour hand, and the other – only the minute hand. Or the joke of one clock being broken, and the other – running. They’d show the same time twice a day )