During the last hundred years or so there have been numerous attempts, successful and unsuccessful, by pranksters and artists alike, to leave their mark—in other words, urinate—on Duchamp’s upturned Fountain. On the 17th of this month, the latest attempt aired on a Youtube channel. Two artists, positioned across from one another with the Fountain between them as though in competition, relieved themselves over Duchamp’s piece at the Tate museum. Whether or not this particular Fountain was constructed by Duchamp himself or bought as a piece initially meant for that very purpose and later appropriated by him is a subject for debate; however, what is notable in this supposed gesture of insurrection is, well, absolutely nothing.
In other words, this has been done. In fact, it has been done better. At the Tate museum, the Fountain stands encased in a glass box on a pedestal, and the “performance artists” couldn’t have come close to reaching their target. Even if they had, what would it have accomplished? Perhaps it might serve to remind us of how fine the line between art and waste can be. Or it might incite us to ruminate on the different ways art should or shouldn’t be experienced, appreciated, understood, or not understood. But there are more intelligent ways of posing these questions, ways that aren’t unnecessarily insensitive to the museum’s janitorial staff. What is lacking here is, to put it in Thierry De Duve’s terms, an insightful “indignation.” I truly can’t help but be saddened and overwhelmed by the “phoniness” of the whole thing.
Please don't watch the video here: