While it’s fun to hear news about various publicity stunts, it often leaves me feeling like I’ve just eaten a fast food “Happy Meal”! Bold flavors, but no real nutrition. The same thing happens when I hear about an art-related publicity stunt. Among other things I work as a painter. For me, art has served a very definite purpose in the life of societies. However, the modern art that began to appear in our Western civilization over 100 years ago brought with it a questioning of its very own purpose.

What’s the purpose of life?

Since art is related to the life of people then the fact that people were asking “What is the purpose of art?” may grow out of the broader question: “What’s the purpose of life?” In those all-too-rare moments when I’m simultaneously experiencing my physical, mental and emotional presence on this planet the question “What’s the purpose of life?” disappears. It’s replaced by the actual experience of being alive.

What’s the purpose of art?

In a similar way, once people started to ask what was the purpose of art then, to me, it was a sign that people were no longer creating things. If they had been involved in creating things then I believe that the question would not have appeared.

Nowadays, many people in the world are still asking this very question about art. This leads me to conclude that we as a global society are, for the most part, not currently involved in creating things.

The urinal that Marcel Duchamp submitted for exhibition in New York in 1917 was referred to as a “readymade” work of art. The banana that Maurizio Cattelan duct taped to a wall for an exhibition in Miami in 2019 was referred to as an artwork as well.

The problem here is that, in my view, neither the urinal nor the duct taped banana are truly works of art. That is to say, neither of those objects are the result of a human creating something. In contrast to the more holistic presence/experience that I mentioned above, if I’m only thinking about something, or only having an emotional reaction to something, or only having a physical sensation of something it’s not likely that I’ll be able to create anything.

Again, this is not to say that urinals and duct taped bananas are not entertaining when brought into an art gallery. On the contrary, they seem to be extremely entertaining. In the case of Cattelan’s publicity stunt, the many spin offs of the duct taped banana, viewable all over the Web, are equally entertaining. Anyone and everyone is capable of swapping out the banana with any object of their choosing. This results in duct taped radios, duct taped urinals, and/or duct taped giraffes.

In Conclusion . . .

While diversions like these can be a great deal of fun, I think that, from time to time, it’s also worthwhile to strive to create something. But, to create something I feel that I have to keep certain questions close to me, so I’ll end this post with these questions:

  1. “How can I have more than just a mental experience as a prompt for cleverly duct-taping an unexpected object on a gallery wall?”
  2. “How can I have more than just a physical experience that may come from throwing paint across the room onto a canvas?”
  3. “How can I have more than just an emotional experience of joy, sorrow or anger as the basis for using yellow, blue or red paint?”
  4. “Is it possible for me to experience thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings all at once?”
  5. “Is it possible that working diligently over time to develop the ability to simultaneously experience thoughts, physical sensations, and feelings could enable me to really create things?”