It's Not Aesthetically Pleasing

Adorno does not believe that art can clearly be defined by any one definition.  Yet, the dictionary does give us a definition of art.  Dictionary.com defines art as:

1.  the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Such a simple definition surely does not satisfy Adorno’s need to flush out what it truly means to be a work of art.  He says, “all efforts to restore art by giving it a social function-of which itself uncertain and by which it expresses its own uncertainty-are doomed.”  Everything about art is uncertain.  Society has a need to define and place everything it encounters into certain categories.  The uncertainty of what actually defines art and what its purpose is makes art impossible to place into any sort of category.  Unlike most other definitions art cannot be defined by its history.  The first work of art does not give a basis for what all other works of should be compared to. “The concept of art is located in a historically changing constellation of elements; it refuses definition.  Its essence cannot be deduced from its origin as if the first work were a foundation on which everything that followed were constructed and would collapse if shaken.”

I am comparing the essay with Duchamp’s 1917 work of art called “Fountain”.  It was created during the Dada movement in which artists mocked and ignored artistic and social conventions of what was thought to make art, art.   “Fountain” is essentially a men’s urinal turned sideways and signed with an alias of R. Mutt.  He didn’t use his own name when he sent it in for an exhibit because he wanted to see if it would still be considered art if it didn’t have his already famous name on it.  

The "Fountain" is not aesthetically pleasing to the eye.  It is obviously, and clearly a urinal. What makes this urinal art? Is it art simply because we call it art? I read up on some information about Adorno as well and wikipedia said that he also held interest in social conventions and culture.  He thinks of culture as an industry.  The urinal is a great example of how the industry of culture would lead us to believe the urinal to be art.  We are told through culture and mass media that the urinal is art so therefore it is. 

-Also, we have/had one of the urinals here at IU in the Art Museum.  I tried to look up if we still have it or not but could not find it posted online anywhere.

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