Hmm. Okay. A dorm room fridge with a Black Flag sticker on it.
Well, let’s see….
…it’s in a museum.
…it’s in a nice plexiglass box.
…a label describes the piece (Kaz Oshiro, “Small Fridge #5 (Black Flag)”, acrylic, bondo, canvas, 2005)
So, yes, it must be art…right?
I’m no philistine: from curio cabinets of the 16th century to Duchamp’s bicycle wheel to Tracey Emin’s messy bed…
…I’m open to the “found object” as art. It is a history is defined not by any intrinsic quality of the pieces on display, but rather by the artist’s choice to call them Art. It’s a pretty big idea: it means I can call my old tennis shoe “art,” and if somebody else nods their head and sticks it in a museum, I’ve just created art.
Obviously plenty of room for debate here: is that dorm fridge art or not? And who decides?
(Duchamp’s “Bicycle Wheel.” But I suppose it could just as easily have been called Duchamp’s “Stool.” – is the wheel any more “art” than the chair it sits on?)
I walked around the dorm fridge, and this is what I found:
It’s fake. That is to say, it’s a fake “real” dorm fridge. Oshiro took the time to painstakingly recreate a common dorm fridge out of paint, bondo, canvas and wood.
Does that make a difference as to whether you consider it art or not?
Here he is with a real “fake” trash dumpster.
When I thought the dorm fridge was real, I thought, “Okay, yeah, I guess so. It could be seen as art, sorta. Maybe the artist is challenging me to look at the other more ‘conventional’ works of art in this museum and asking me to pinpoint – precisely – what constitutes art. Or maybe he has his tongue in his cheek, and is making a fool of me: I’m going to agree that this is art just because somebody stuck it in that box and put it in a museum.”
(btw, it’s just a general rule of thumb for me: a work of art that requires a paragraph of explanation is simply not as good as a work of art – painting, sculpture, music, film – that does not.)
When I walked around the case and realized it was fake, though, I felt a little jolt – a happy jolt: “this guy had me going. I was going to grudgingly give him credit for calling a fridge ‘art,’ but now he’s really got me thinking. And because some craftsmanship was required to make it, well, hell, yes, I think I can call it art.”
In fact, I will call it art.