Artist Michael Newberry points out the subtle nature of Duchamp's pissoir as an exemplar of philosopher Immanuel Kant's view of art:
Kant states: "The beautiful in nature is a question of the form of the object, and this consists in limitation, whereas the sublime is to be found in an object even devoid of form."
Kant is contrasting the beautiful with the sublime. He connects, quite reasonably, the beautiful with the form of an object but, oddly, he attaches formlessness to the concept of sublime. To give you two examples, think of the Venus de Milo and Duchamp's Fountain. The Venus de Milo is a beautiful female form embodied in stone, which "consists in limitation" in the sense that she is a final concrete end. The Fountain, a urinal, on the other hand, derives its postmodern aesthetic value not because of its value as a sculpture but because of its "concept". Its purpose was, incidentally, to offend the sensibilities of the art-going public and artists by the act of exhibiting a toilet as art. Kant's concept of the formless nature of the sublime elevates the concept of the aesthetic work over the work itself. In other words, it is the concept that counts and not the artwork.
So what do you think this time? Is the pissoir good art? And if so, do you find Kant's view of art persuasive?
LINKS: Pandora's Box Part III: The Newsly Discovered Version - Michael Newberry, Free Radical
Nude descending a staircase - Marcel Duchamp - Not PC
RELATED: Art, Objectivism, Philosophy