Art Criticism and Art History

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  • Topic: Art, Marcel Duchamp, Dada
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  • Published : October 15, 2010
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Art criticism and Art History

Case Study: The use of assemblage and the found object in historical and contemporary art practice.

The origins of the practice of assemblage can be traced back to its early twentieth century roots based on ideas presented by Dadaists. The Dada movement was a literary and artistic movement during the First World War and further developed as a non-art movement. The main idea of Dada was to not follow a uniform rule of what an artwork entails in order to be valued. This movement was significant in the development and history of art as it challenged society with new ideas therefore provoking change in our perspective of what can be classified as aesthetically pleasing and all the possibilities of what art is. Also, the emergence of Dadaism occurred when the world was in an affluent, strong, materialistic and consumer oriented mindset and was created out of the frustration and pain felt by young artists provoked by a revolt against the horrors of war. By their governments allowing such barbarism to take place, they then adapted beliefs in opposite to those implemented onto them: For example, in a time where impressionism was celebrated as influenced by realism, romanticism, baroque and renaissance movements, Dadaists disregarded past influences and made their own art from whatever was considered non-artistic.

The Dadaists stood for anything that wasn’t classified as art due to criticism of this war and created non art by using Shock Art to capture the attention of viewers at the time. The Dadaists would use vulgar words, scatological humour, visual puns and found objects to create non artistic pieces. This generated reactions of offence and shock by society at the time and therefore achieved its purpose, which was to provoke an emotional reaction from an audience. A clear example of this is represented in Marcel Duchamp’s ‘L.H.O.O.Q’ where the artist has painted moustache on a copy of the Mona Lisa. This became one of the most well known acts of degrading a famous artwork as Duchamp’s postmodern viewpoint challenged what the image originally had to offer and changed its meaning completely. This ‘degrading’ of the Mona Lisa achieved another level of offence through the title of the image being a pun, which, when translated in French, the letters’ pronunciation says “She has a hot ass” whilst being displayed as post-card size rather than being large and therefore admired as Da Vinci’s masterpiece was as well as many influential artworks of the past. The subjective viewpoint of this artwork is to provoke an emotive response from viewers and is a form of satire against the ‘Mona Lisa”.

The Dada movement was a revolt against the "high cultural" content of the visual arts of the time. To truly act against high content of artwork, the Dadaists elevated ordinary objects into the outlook of the ‘aesthetic’ by forcing viewers to observe everyday objects in new frameworks. Assemblage in the Dada movement varied widely as there was no predominant medium of use in any of these artworks and left the construction of the work to the imagination of the creator rather than implying that only a painting suiting the era is considered art. The Dada movement self destructed when it was in danger of becoming an acceptable art practice in society.

Due to use of assemblage, ready made objects and montage of all sorts, these techniques of art gained acceptance from Dadaism and became popular within the upcoming years of the movement. Dada was influential in the creation of surrealism as these works are not only an attempt to express the mechanism of the mysterious subconscious but are also characterized by fantastic imagery and bizarre juxtaposition of subject matter trying to be represented in this form. Another representation of Dada is Marcel Duchamp’s exhibition of a urinal (left) as his sculpture aiming to persuade audiences to view the urinal as a work of art and called it a “readymade”. Due to...
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