Saturday, January 28, 2006

Making the world (un)safe for Dada


Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain"

A significant story you might have missed. The Dada defense fails in Paris:
A French court convicted a 77-year-old French man for attacking artist Marcel Duchamp's famed porcelain urinal ["Fountain"] with a hammer, rejecting the defendant's contention that he had increased the value of the art work by making it an "original." . . . .

[Defendant] Pinoncelli -- who announced that he plans to appeal the decision -- told reporters that what he had done was not vandalism but a "wink" at Dadaism that had Duchamp's blessing. "I told him in 1967 that I would do something," Pinoncelli said.

"I added to its value," he said, assuring that Duchamp would "have had a good laugh."

Duchamp, who died in 1968, emphasized the creative process, and a role for the spectator.

The work has an estimated value of $3.9-million, said Marie Delion, a lawyer for the Pompidou. The original was lost but in 1964 Duchamp created eight other versions of the work.

After buying his ticket to the exhibit on Jan. 4, Pinoncelli attacked Fountain with a hammer before writing "Dada" on the sculpture.

Pinoncelli, a former salesman who calls himself a participant in the creative process as conceived by Duchamp, said that his hammer attack was an artistic endeavour.

The January urinal attack was not the first for Pinoncelli. He urinated on the piece during a 1993 exhibition in Nîmes in southern France.
From Toronto Globe & Mail.

Injustice? Perhaps Pinoncelli had a point. What's a urinal for anyway, if not for peeing on? And wasn't Pinoncelli acting in accord with Dada principles?
Dada or Dadaism [French, from dada, child's word for a horse] Nihilistic movement in the arts that flourished chiefly in France, Switzerland, and Germany from about 1916 to about 1920 [and later -ed.] and that was based on the principles of deliberate irrationality, anarchy, and cynicism and the rejection of laws of beauty and social organization.
From Dada Online; see also Wikipedia.

Isn't the very idea of an estimated value for the urinal -- $3.9 million -- funny in itself? Surely Duchamp would've laughed to see the State's prosecutors valiantly defending his pisspot? The whole episode is a magnificent Dada joke. Sadly, Pinoncelli's paying dearly for that joke.

UPDATE: Someone in Ireland agrees with me. Also, a supporting quote from Duchamp: ""I threw the urinal in their faces and now they come and admire it for its beauty . . . ." From CBC.

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