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: thoughts on art/toilets craft/toilets

updated mon 29 dec 03


John Jensen on sat 27 dec 03

I'm a bit lost as to just what point you wanted to make.

I do think the craftsmanship in the urinal would be considered quite
high by any standard.
The hypothetical archaeologist of the future would be seeing these
objects outside of any cultural context and would only be able to judge
the art according to their own cultural paradigm. Impossible for us to
know what that might be, but whatever art DuChamp might have seen in the
piece was just a likely to be observed by these future critics as the
art in the tea bowl. The same would go for the craftsmanship, except I
would guess the teabowl would likely rate a bit lower on that scale.
My feeling is that you use the words "art" and "craft" interchangeably
or not to suit your purposes. To say that we have a cultural preference
for using art (as opposed to craft) to communicate emotion is to set up
a false dichotomy, and somewhat circuitous definitions.
I have no special feeling for urinals, per se, though I see them more
or less every day. To encounter one upside down and with a rather
fanciful label on it (such as "fountain") might help me see it in a
different light. As an object of what might be called industrial art,
it is no less a singular object for being almost exactly like many
thousands of duplicates. The qualities manifest in that singular object
can be traced back to human hands, mind and perhaps even soul. No less
than the tea bowl.

I am also not a student of the tea bowl, though I have seen a few from
time to time. I've made a few as well, but probably not the sort you
have in mind. Many of the tea bowls I have seen seem awkward, misshaped
and poorly glazed. I can imagine that these qualities might make them
attractive, charming, emotionally evocative; but I don't see them as
being particularly craftsmanlike. On the other hand I do see the beauty
in them and realize that some craftsman might intentionally "misshape"
oddly glaze his bowls to achieve an end. But I would call that just

I agree with you about the is just a test of how well you know
what the critics have said about certain objects. There isn't enough
information in the images for a person to make a real judgment.

John Jensen, Mudbug Pottery ,

Lee Love on sun 28 dec 03

----- Original Message -----
From: "John Jensen"

> Probably the archaeologist of the future would be more able than we to
> see the urinal as DuChamp saw it

I didn't say they'd see it as we saw it. And you are not addressing
DuChamp's meaning as "art." Actually, while the artistic meaning of
Duchamp might be lost, the craft of the object would have a better chance of
being understood.

> I'm assuming that you think the teabowl would
> endure as a work of art ant the toilet would be seen as a purely
> functional object, but you might be wrong.

No, I didn't say art. I said as functional craft. Actually,
they would have no idea that this bowl was used in tea ceremony unless they
also knew some history. That is something you and I know because we know
the bowl's history. What they would know is that it was probably used
for holding food or drink and because of its size and shape, made to be used
in the hands. One of the more consistent markers of art throughout time
is BEAUTY. It is one way to put value on the Yi teabowl in the far
future that will not work with DuChamp's urinal.

I think you help me make my original point, our cultural
preference of using art as a vehicle for transmitting emotional information
is not universal. It is not superior to craft in being able to do this.

Here is a fun quiz (Is it Art or is it Crap):  

To continue with my point (that by nature, art that is dependent
upon current events is not universal.) Of course, it can be, if the maker
is sensitive to trying to communicate beyond their time, but typically, it
is not.

I believe how well you will do on this test will depend more on
what you know about modern art and not by any universal measure that will
stand the test of time.

Lee In Mashiko, Japan
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