Everything leaning towards the extreme, is bound for a near miss with becoming so loud no one’s going to listen. Feeling the balance is an art in itself. Especially when being raised by intellectuals you start to notice differences between other kids, just to throw higher-being spoiled-brat tantrum in the middle of adolescence. It was especially the case when after detonating the first nuclear bomb modernism had to start fighting with its younger sibling. Family dispute X: ideology edition. Even with over the top parties all around the so-called civilised world, the general rule of thumb so far was to build a huge base first. Once you’ve got that covered, going higher and higher towards your singular source somewhere is permitted. But why? Questioning it to get things blurry again, people got angry. Up till yesterday, even when edgy and getting out of comfort zones, innovation have never tried to question what’s expected even if unnatural. Counterintuitiveness arising with our perception turning upside down been quite easy and wasn’t that much of an issue. Hidden messages stayed like that waiting for trained eyes. But how do you teach somebody to read Cubism…
Look at Hieronymus Bosch when he made The Garden of Earthly Delights. It was innovative and artistic enough, to stay among the masterpieces after 500 years, never bypassing simplicity of the universal message within. Concentrate on the title alone before looking at the work itself. You start to anticipate? Some imagery pops in your head? <english-accent-on> Wonderful <english-accent-off>. Of course it’s a bit poetic, isn’t it? Garden is pretty much self-explanatory, but it’s full of enigmatic, earthly delights, not necessarily moles and eggplants. Your mind may wonder into more spiritual synonyms of potential contents populating the garden in question. There could be lots of purity to sooth your soul, tables with food, sex, free unlimited Netflix subscriptions – it is joyful thrill, or pleasure if you will, that we’re supposed to catch. Doesn’t matter where you go with your potential interpretation, finally seeing the artwork in its entirety isn’t a letdown. Completion is what I felt. Of course there’s something off, with literal devil in the details. Suffering, mutilation and people being boiled alive on hell panel is a bit scary nuance in its entirety, but not off-putting. Darkness of our world needs to be addressed, and if it’s coupled with fulfilling addition for the sake of presenting cohesive message, you don’t have to flee looking for peace and order. There’s no masturbatory take on i.e. violence, no ideas trying to diminish your intellect. We need contrast, and there it is, on the central panel. Lots of visual humour with nun-looking pigs and people riding on… whatever that is. Some got together in sensual chaos, others dance around symbolic circle of life. Quite simple, but good. You don’t need any pseudo-intellectual metaphors to get across this good old truth.
Destruction that people are always aware of , was in our western civilisation intertwined with Christianity-driven story. You rise, you work hard, and every tragedy or failure on your path, is a moment for falling to pieces and rebirth. Now, what came after the nuclear test we all know. This hell on earth blew even the minds of those who made the calculations beforehand. Anticipation and warnings, were nothing compared to being there, standing, in awe of what we’ve done with our hands. Seeing new face of dark future, possibility of destructive force vaporizing everything faster than you’re able to reconcile with the inevitable. Piss the wrong person off, they’ll snap their fingers, and let the power of wrath come down on innocent. Nothing left to pick up and start over. Barren land, toxic air, and notion, that we’re now able to destroy everything with finger-snapping ease to the point of poisoning the Earth for years to come after our demise. It dissected willingness to chase everlasting legacies for many people. Creation of new movement and ideology – just a matter of time. “What’s the point” some threw with a question mark missing. Huge echoing march of befalled followers, answered anyway. Why work hard, if it’s all just ash anyway.
So here we are, The Fountain. Looking away from Bosch, it sounds grand. Like a final stage of one’s journey. Where from or to – doesn’t matter. You’re near the source of everything, energy is being catapulted upwards, direction representing progress and flourishing. Growth happens upwards, most flowers have their most beautiful parts at the very top. Access to such place is a blessing on its own, with huge room for wondering as to where the tunnel leads to. Its exit, is the only thing visible to us with fruits falling on the surface populated by us. Shape of it is usually round, as is the eternity. Everlasting wellspring. All there is to do now, is enjoy. Then Duchamp comes, opens up his fly and takes a piss straight into it with yellow stream splashing in our eyes. 1917 version of The Fountain by Mr Marcel is pure deconstruction of meaning by subverting expectations. So there are your presumptions that supposedly matter? The beautiful irony of it, is that the original premiered in 291 gallery is now lost. What’s now in Tate inventory available for spectators – nothing but a replica of pissoir laying on its back. Protest against what’s expected. Anti-jury, pro-artist piece, challenging usual idea of what art is or should be, by going for a straight on collision. Stepping on the gas isn’t a drunken mistake here. Contrast, seen on Hyeronimus’ tryptic is gone. Only extreme is left. You crash, glass shutters, metal bends. Unfasten body shoots out of the windshield and simply splatters bouncing off of the car ahead. Which is where all of the backlash comes from. Duchamp alone said that he chose such item, deliberately thinking about something with the least chance of being liked. Provocation on purpose. Not even thoroughly planned. Again, what’s the point? When you can create such sensation without trying too hard it’s difficult to advocate any higher mental input, right?
Well, not really. He expressed what he wanted. Or rather WE helped to fabricate deeper meaning. It’s not as huge as Earthly Delights or da Vinci – I understand some will think like that. In wide spectrum of possible additions to spectators’ way of thinking it’s either a mosquito bite or full on revolution turning brain matter into coal-burned piece of steak or something people crusade against. But it’s not as different from what came before as some tend to assume. Marcel assessed his resources well. He could’ve overdone it, think about it. The Fountain doesn’t imply anything above itself, and people whining about meaninglessness of it only prove the point the author is trying to make. Remember the comparison I’ve made about the concept of fountain after being under the influence of Bosch. The same people came in 1917, to see what is up inside 291 Gallery. And contrast, made so clear on three panels by Hieronymus, was strangely apparent in the air. This time though, among the spectators, in between us. With heaven and hell contrast. Seeing, open eyes, strolling down the hall, full of understanding, disappear in the crowd.