My major question after I visit MoMa last week is that “should art be self-explanatory?”, especially for contemporary art. As far as I am concerned, one of the significant differences that stand out for me between traditional art and contemporary art is that contemporary art is more conceptual. I might be wrong but for me, contemporary art is not so limited in terms of format. The conceptual expressions of some contemporary art pieces make them especially hard to understand when viewing at the first glance.
I start to question, if one is not able to understand a contemporary art piece, is it because of a lack of art knowledge of that person, or is it because the art piece does not express itself enough. Or it can be both? How do we value a contemporary piece, are their specific standards? Do fine arts belong to only a small group of people (meaning the so-called art circles)? And why do we feel certain that something is art while being very skeptical towards something else?
These questions were echoing back and forth in my brain when I was at MoMA. There are some pieces that are especially memorable for me.
This first piece is called Shovel or In Advance of the Broken Arm(1915) and is created by artist Marcel Duchamp. To be honest, this stands nothing like an “art piece” for me. It seems like it is just a shovel that anyone is able to hang onto the ceiling and call it an artwork. Feeling super curious, I did some research on this piece and according to what I read, “Shovel was the first Readymade to be made by Duchamp after his move to the United States. It seems a rather direct result of this relocation; the American snow shovel was something that Duchamp had never seen before, having moved from France where no such thing was in production. In a sense, this proves quite ironic. This core Readymade was supposedly meant to be an everyday, ordinary object”(http://www.toutfait.com/unmaking_the_museum/Shovel.html). So it seems that the artist was trying to juxtaposing the supposedly familiarity one should have with this tool and his unfamiliarity towards it. And he achieved to deliver this message by displacing the shovel where it normally does not belong to — the ceiling. But isn’t it the “correct” placement(in an art museum) that actually approves the status of it being a “qualified” artwork? If it is just a shovel hanging from a random ceiling, what would people think about it?
I feel like after reading some of the critique about this work, it starts to make sense to me. However, I feel it does so only because I feel the art critics who wrote reviews on this piece has made some great arguments. As for the work itself, I remain skeptical.
I kind of have the same feeling towards these above two pieces as well. I can feel something artistic about them, but am more curious towards the exact meanings behind.
I feel these three are the most hard-to-understand pieces that I have encountered during my visit to MoMa this time. And I feel like my major thoughts towards them are like “What do these artwork mean?” “Am I wrong if I do not consider them as art?” “But wait, what exactly is art?” I feel I was struggling with “feeling nothing” and the idea of “should feel something”.
This one, for some reason I like it though I could not find any deeper meaning behind besides its apparent “cat sitter” message. Probably the font is cute and it is just so random that it becomes cool.
The last one is also cool because it is one of the examples that show why contemporary art is so popular.