What is this and where is it? (2)

A few days ago, I posted a photograph on this blog and asked what it was and where one would find it. The first question was in one sense very easy and the second question was impossibly difficult. Thanks to my friend Nick for having ago at answering them.

Let’s start with the second question. The location is a cafe in Prague’s Small Square which I visited earlier this year.

As to the first question, it is of course a urinal – but is it more than that? is it actually a work of art?

Now this poses the question: what is art? I once went on a three-day course at London’s City Literary Institute which was about art appreciation and we kept coming back to and debating the question: what is art?

In so far as there was a clear answer and in so far as I can remember it, it was suggested that art is:

  • something constructed by human intervention (so, for instance, a wave pattern on a sandy beach does not qualify

and/or (this was never quite established)

  • something located in a place accepted as for art which need not actually be an art gallery but could be an exhibition or plinth

On this basis, I wonder whether the urinal in my photograph could be considered a work of art. After all, it is a manufactured object and not a natural one and famously Duchamp’s urinal became a controversial work of art. Also it was photographed by me and placed on my blog to be viewed by any one of two billion people connected to the Net.

If it is a work of art, I would like to call it simply “Contrasts”:

  • a contrast of objects: the manufactured urinal and fresheners contrasted with the natural fruits
  • a contrast of smells: the pungent odour of male urine contrasted with the pleasant smells of fruits and the fresheners
  • a contrast of colours: the white of the urinal, the yellow of the lemon slices. the orange of the grapefruit slices, the green of the fresheners
  • a contrast of shapes: the triangle of the urinal, the circles of the fruits, the cylinders of the fresheners

So what do you think? Is the object, or at least my photograph of it, a work of art. If not,why not?


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