Part Two: of Transubstantiation
The object as object and the object as a metaphor, as a representation, as a pretext, such as a sublimation. Once it was simple: to be a vase, you painted or sculpt it as a jar. Simple, linear, almost embarrassing in its representative coerence. To represent a fountain, you paint a fountain, which meant a fountain.
What would you say if I should take a urinal, then put it upside down, put it in the middle of a well lit room and call him “Fountain”? Astonishing, isn’t? I picked up an object and I turned it in something else.
Magic? No, it is the first dogma of contemporary art, the transubstantiation.
According to this doctrine, the essence of an object is transformed through an act of faith or a miracle. What we see is not what we think we see, it is something different, something that is not obvious to the material or physical presence, since its substance is changed. It is invisible to the naked eye. For it to exist, you must believe in his transformation.
Transubstantiation is based on two secondary dogmas: concept and infallibility. First, the doctrine of the concept. When Marcel Duchamp claimed responsibility for the urinal as a work of ‘art, in 1917, in his text signed R. Mutt, he said, verbatim: “That Richard Mutt did the fountain or less with his own hands does not matter, he has chosen. He took an ordinary article of life, placing it so that its original significance disappeared under the new title and the new point of view, has created a new thought for that object.”And this new idea, this concept, which has transformed into a fountain an urinal, and then into a work of art. The urinal has not moved an inch, it always seems the same and it is what it is, an object prefabricated commonly used, but the will of Duchamp gave rise to his religious metamorphosis.
Be careful. The discussion above plays a crucial role: the change is not visible, the change is announced. So how does the priest with the host, verbalize this transformation is essential for its effective implementation in the mind of the beholder. It obviously required an act of faith. We are not asked to give meaning to what we see (as could happen for an informal picture), we are told what it actually is. We are asked to rely on the dogma of transubstantiation and to accept her without questioning it.
From this moment on, we are faced to the second basic concept, that infallibility. If the public said that the direction is absent (“is not a fountain but a pisser!”), is that he is mistaken, because the artist, the curator and the critic have a culture, a particular feeling, metaphysics and demiurgic that allows them to see what is not obvious to the mob.
The notional amounts of work are irrefutable and infallible.
Why did we decide to believe? Because access to this truth makes us superior: this from a value to what he has not, but also defines the intellectual status of those involved in the miracle. In this process really matter the way in which the description or title, trigger the mental mechanism of transubstantiation.
Hirst puts a tiger shark 4 meters over in a display case filled with formaldehyde. OK. It’s a work of taxidermy, it’s more you ‘unless the stuffed owl on the of grandfather’s chimney. Then because it was at the time estimated $ 12 million?
Attention to the title: “The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living”. Here that is no longer a stuffed animal but a work of art expensive and coveted. A curiosity: having wrong – it seems – the composition of formaldehyde, the shark was deteriorating. No problem, we open everything and replace the animal. No scandal, no sacrilege. Just because it is not the shark itself, the artwork, but the concept expressed.
For fun we could make a nice artistic game: take the first thing that you have on hand or at least something common, take a picture with your smartphone and give it a title that creates the magic. And post it here in the comments… you’ll see, it could be fun.
And, of course, artistic.