You Call That Art?!

 Appreciating unconventional works of art.

VIA Psychology Today Magazine, Sep/Oct 2008


you’ve ever stared at a jar of bodily fluids at a gallery and
exclaimed, "They call this art?" you’re not alone. But neither are you
set in your curmudgeonly ways. Research shows that simply thinking
about the distant future puts those white canvases and Campbell’s soup
cans in a new, more artistic, light.

spent a few minutes writing about their lives tomorrow or a year from
now, and then rated a series of works on how well they matched "a
conventional concept of art." Those who prospected further ahead were
more likely to place unorthodox pieces under the umbrella of "art."

researcher Katrin Lo Baido explains that we tend to think more
abstractly about the far future, priming us to widen our conceptual
horizons. Near-future planning focuses us on the concrete here-and-now,
inducing us to, say, measure that new exhibit against familiar
prototypes, such as the Mona Lisa.

research suggests more tricks for seeing the forest for the trees at
MoMA. Keep your mood positive, ponder the whys rather than the hows of
the artworks, or simply stand farther from the pieces. Especially Piss Christ. —Matthew Hutson

From Questionable to Classic

Three historic works that pushed the boundaries of art.

  • Fountain, Marcel Duchamp. This urinal, Duchamp’s most famous readymade, was originally denied entry to an open art competition.
  • Brillo Boxes, Andy Warhol. If a Brillo box can be seen as art, philosopher Arthur Danto said, "anything is possible."
  • Fat Corner, Joseph Beuys. His pile of fat left rotting in a gallery corner was accidentally destroyed by the cleaning crew.