What Is Anti-Art?

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  • Topic: Art, Dada, Anti-art
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  • Published : January 25, 2013
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What is Anti-Art?

I am going to be writing about anti-art and what it is. I feel that before I can fully explore this concept in more depth, I must first look at the question ‘What is art?’ and ‘How do we know it is art?‘. To understand what art is, you have to look at its surroundings, the art world, you have the people who make the art work, the painters, the sculptors etc. Then you have the people that exhibit the work, and finally you have the viewers, the people who attend galleries to see the work. “The reason that a particular thing is a work of art is not (and never has been) that is possesses a certain observable characteristic or characteristics but because it has acquired a status within the art world”#

Chapter 1

Anti-art is a term, ‘It is generally agreed to have been coined by Marcel Duchamp around 1913 when he made his first ready-mades, which are still regarded in some quarters as Anti-art (for example by the Stuckist group)’.# The term ready-mades was used in America at this point to distinguish between mass produced items and those that were hand made, Duchamp used this term because that is exactly what his work was, he was using already existing objects, but by repositioning, titling and signing them, they then became art. This was his rebellion against what he called “retinal art”, art that was only visual, and so looked for a new way to express his concepts. One of his theories was to try to take his own tastes out of the work he created, “Cabanne: What determined your choice of ready-mades? Duchamp: That depended on the object. In general, I had to beware, at the end of fifteen days, you begin to like it or hate it. You have to approach something with indifference, as if you had no aesthetic emotion. The choice of ready-mades is always based on visual indifference and, at the same time, on the total absence of good or bad taste.”# The term anti-art is a combination of the words ’anti’ meaning, ‘“against,” “opposite of’’#, and ‘art’ meaning, ‘any field using the skills or techniques of art’.# The artists associated with this movement wanted to go against what was deemed as the rules of art, they intended to create something completely new and undefined.

‘Anti-art is a loosely-used term applied to an array of concepts and attitudes that reject prior definitions of art and question art in general. Anti-art tends to conduct this questioning and rejection from the vantage point of art.’# Anti-art almost tries to question whether art really exists, it apposes the general idea of what art is and how we look at it, it is an attack on art as an institution. Although this movement was trying to go against the norms of art, It is still technically art and is now generally accepted in the art world. Their work was non-conformist and unconventional, very similar to the punk movement of the 1970’s. Punks, had very different ideologies from the rest of society, they lived outside of the norm, this was shown in their fashion, music taste, but also their strong view on freedom and anti-establishment. This is a very similar theory to anti-art, it is going against the grain and trying to break the mould of what is commonly accepted among the culture of that day and age. The attitude of Punk was nihilistic, just as anti-art is, both share the same lack of rules and generally being in conflict with social norms.

Anti-art is associated with many movements, one of which is Dadaism, a movement that started in 1916 in Zurich where, ‘Hugo Ball (…) established a small music hall called the Caberet Voltaire’# Ball also coined this movement Dada after looking through a German-French dictionary. ‘Essentially (and probably deliberately) a nonsense word, Dada means Yes-Yes in Russian, and There-There in German (universal baby-talk); while in French it means hobbyhorse’.#

Dadaism was the first anti-art movement and was a reaction to Futurism, Nationalism, and to the horrifying events seen in World...
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