Finding art in junk-A A +A
By Mimi Olarga
Saturday, July 21, 2012
THE idea of junk is not a pleasing theme. Moreover, the thought of dignifying these commonplace objects in an artistic way is a challenge to the proponent when there is the big demarcation between what is considered art as opposed to not art.
But for me who does not want to marginalize beauty and creativity, and because I believe that every person is talented and every object can be viewed in an artistic angle, ordinary objects can be turned into art.
Thus, my Humanities students have come to discover their innate artistic creativity and have come to appreciate and find beauty in their creations, which is the main objective of the class.
Why do I espouse assemblage, found or junk art?
Records showed that 19th century African art objects had the prominent use of found nails, cowry shells and hair. Marcel Duchamp in 1913 assembled a common front wheel and fork to the seat of a common stool and entitled his creation Bicycle Wheel. Duchamp’s Fountain, a urinal, confounded the art world in 1917. Bottle Rack is a bottle drying rack signed by Duchamp and is considered to be art.
On the other hand, the use of found objects by the Dada movement had Man Ray and Francis Picabia combine traditional art by sticking combs onto a painting to represent hair. A well-known work by Man Ray is Gift (1921), which is an iron with nails sticking out from its flat underside, thus rendering it useless.
The combination of several found objects is a type of readymade art known as assemblage. Marcel Duchamp's Why Not Sneeze, Rose Sélavy?, consisting of a small birdcage containing a thermometer, cuttlebone and 151 marble cubes resembling sugar cubes, is an example of assemblage.
In the 1960s, found objects were present in the Fluxus movement and in pop art. Joseph Beuys exhibited modified found objects, such as rocks with a hole in them stuffed with fur and fat, a van with sledges trailing behind it, and a rusty girder.
Trash art or junk art works primarily comprise components that have been discarded. Often they come quite literally from the trash. One example of trash art is Trashion, basically using trash to create fashion. Remember one of my articles about newspapers used as dresses or gowns? Moreover, trash arts also have a social purpose: that of raising awareness on the proper segregation and use of trash.
So with all these artistic historical supports, I encouraged my young artists to assemble their malfunctioning, throw-away and wrecked items: buttons, spoons and forks, computer mouse, old toys, nuts and bolts, door hinges, pliers, foams, old keys, nails, badges, papers and other recyclable stuff.
Together we conceptualized what we could do with them. And with the use of the soldering gun, glue stick and other adhesives, the young artists have made their little “magnum opus”: plenty of toy robots, small people as band members, miniature musical instruments, spiders, motorcycles, deco art frames, centerpieces, miniature houses, pencil holder, butterflies and even shoes!
The best part of the activity is having these art pieces presented and judged by the maker’s fellow “artists”. But the essence is the gratifying part is the sense of fulfillment of having made something “beautiful”.
We have found the common, throw-away things and turned them into something creative. To dispute whether they’re art or not is not ours to do. We leave that to the critics.
“God’s gift to us is our life. What we do with it is our gift to God”. Happy weekend everyone.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on July 21, 2012.