Declaration of Art by Julian Spalding
The Art World has been lying to us. We’ve always known that stacks of bricks, sharks in tanks and unmade beds aren’t art. But the Art World tells us that they are. They all spring, they say, from the Urinal, which Duchamp submitted to an exhibition claiming anything can be a work of art if an artist says it is. But scholars have known for three decades that Duchamp was lying. The Urinal wasn’t submitted by him, but by a woman poet. It wasn’t an attack on art, but was a powerful work of art in itself.
Everyone knows that art can be created out of any materials if they’re imaginatively transformed, like Picasso’s Bull’s Head made from a bicycle saddle and handlebars or Dali’s Lobster Telephone. Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven’s Urinal, laid on its back, evokes the shadowy form of a veiled Madonna, an image of peace. It was her furious protest against America joining the First World War in 1917. She signed it R. Mutt, a pun on urmutter, meaning her German motherland. She was telling America, which she considered to be a men’s club (i.e. a gents), ‘Don’t piss on us’. It was the first great feminist work of art.
Duchamp stole Elsa’s urinal long after she was dead, and robbed it of its heartfelt meaning. He then sold replicas of it and turned in into an attack on all visual creativity. Conceptual Art is founded on this con. The Art World has long known that Duchamp didn’t do the urinal but they continue to lie to us that he did. The nine urinal copies in museums around the world should be relabeled as Elsa’s, and Conceptual Art should be consigned to recycling bins, where its worthless junk belongs.
Works of art can’t just be found. They are lovingly wrought creations that communicate our profoundest feelings across the luminous, immaterial sphere that is our shared consciousness.
The next new thing in art … is Art.