If Duchamp’s now infamous Fountain says anything, it is this: Sometimes art can be as plebeian as taking a ready-made and calling it art. Fast forward to the last fifty years and the ready-made metamorphoses into Piero Manzoni’s Merda d’artista, Andy Warhol’s Soup Cans, Sarah Lucas’s Au Naturel, and Damien Hirst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, to list just some of the more illustrious of the ready-mades.
In demoting art to the status of everyday commodity, the ready-made has democratized art. It has provided the comforting illusion that anyone can make art and that anything can be art. Following this train of thought, it could be argued that the visual ready-made has paved the road for the verbal/emotional ready-made personified in talk-show hosts like Oprah Winfrey and Jerry Springer who have turned the “tell-all” into a billion dollar industry. Got dirty laundry to air? Man, have we got a spot for you!
Enter the tell-all’s spin-offs – reality t.v. and bare-it-all art. Suddenly, stars we once thought untouchable are living their rather pathetic everyday lives in the screens of our t.v. sets. Suddenly, the answer to the question – How many people has Tracey Emin slept with? – can be answered by simply looking at some of her art. Curious about Adam Lambert’s liberation? Check out his risqué For Your Entertainment.
Like it or not, we live in the golden age of information-overkill. It is the strange Catch-22 syndrome of art mimics life mimics art mimics life… So no surprise that the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Chicago, should choose to exhibit Production Site: The Artist’s Studio Inside-Out. After all, if we can be privy to the homes of the stars, why not the studios of our artists?
Watching the artist is not new. Many artists have “lived” in museums, but in most of these exhibitions the artist, themselves, have been the subject, not the art studio. As the title “Inside-Out” suggests, the exhibition is, in a way, an odd reversal of the artistic process – we see the studio as the place where creation begins and not the place where creation is a finished commodity. Moreover, we see the studio as a source of creative and intellectual inspiration.
Most importantly, however, the exhibition allows us an intimate glimpse into something that is neither about shock value nor attention-seeking exploits. In many ways, the exhibition is like watching someone cook or garden. There is no great secret in this, no great revelation. Quite simply, it is what it is – an unassuming source of inspiration from which we can all derive meaning.