Over the last 40 years artists have been persistently pushing the boundaries of art ideologies such as values, traditions and limitations. By interpreting the world around them in new ways visually artists could challenge established cultural traditions. With the use of new technology these artists are able to explore an idea which previously was thought of as un-artistic, making new dimensions in the art world possible. Many traditional artists claimed that these art catalysts were unskilled or not 'genuine' artist because they lacked high painting, drawing or sculpting technique.
Forces like the First and Second World War were both bringing depressions and poverty in numerous nations causing various artists of the era to change and develop new emotions and perceptions on their outlook of the world and society in which they lived. Groups began to arise which challenged traditional art and its conform ities. Groups like the 'Angry Penguins', 'Gorilla Girls" and the 'Dadaists'. Each of these groups lashed out at society through their art work, for instance Albert Tucker an Australian artist From The Angry Penguins painted rough, textured artworks which displayed Australian women as whores and American soldiers as sleazy and wealthy men, the envy of every Australian man. In this instance he wanted to show the decay of Australian society due to the effects of war. The Gorilla Girls screamed out to the art community pushing women's role in art and feminism.
They wanted equality and chose shocking artworks and magazine articles to promote their cause. Dadaists (1916-1922) however rejected art in their art work, startling their audience in a hope for everything against war as opposed to the futurists whose ideals were based around the glorification of war and revolution. Dadaists took it upon themselves to challenge their world by ridiculing, making it clear that all recognised values and morals in society were rendered meaningless in the devastation of war. Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) one of the many key artists in the Dada movement used technologies in his art making practice to evoke his view of the world.
In doing this Duchamp shocked and mortified his audience. In Nude Descending a Staircase (1912) where Duchamp painted with the Cubists movement in his earlier years as a painter, the painting of a nude was depicted in a violent, radical and mechanized which was later asked to be withdrawn from exhibition as the audience could not cope with seeing a nude being painted in such an nonconformist technique. Duchamp also exhibited a piece in 1917 briefly, aptly named Fountain which consisted of a male standing urinal laid flat and signed chaotically R. mott. Duchamp wanted to convey to his audience that art had become "rubbish and of no more use than of everyday objects". Many art critics claimed his artwork was gratuitous and repulsive fearful that this would lead to demoralization in society. During Duchamps and the Dadaists era the reaction and response to their art was shocking and absurd.
The art community and society surrounding were accustomed to movements and artists who did not challenge art as a form or set out in their ambition's to ridicule an activity which, they in an ironic sense themselves contributed to. "We ridiculed everything for nothing was sacred, and we spat on everything because that's what Dada was all about" - George Grosz. A significant member of the Dadaist group. Duchamps' relationship in terms of his art making practice and relationship with his art work and audience were inclined towards passive involvement as the audience was required to view the finished product rather than the art making in progress becoming part of the artwork itself.
In the 40 years since Duchamp, the Dadaists, Albert Tucker and the Gorilla Girls, technology has advanced at a rate in the art world and western culture which is constantly progressing without recession. Along with subject matter, the communication link between the artwork and the audience and artists practice have all taken leaps and bounds with technology. Artists like Australian Ken Unsworth (born 1931) who in the late 1970's began to engage in performance art, instillation and land art hence changing the way we view art and the materials like performance art and sound, light and movement which are non-conventional in traditional art making practices. By using non conformist materials Unsworth like Duchamp in 1912 is questioning 'What is art?' leaving the audience to ponder the question as they interact and examine their artwork. Although Unsworth and Duchamp belong to different movements of art with different cultural values and a considerable time gap lay between, them they both aimed to implore the audience to understand that their art is merely a visual projection of an emotion, feeling, mood, reaction or sensation, which they experience, then composing these emotions into symbols and reflections of their current state of mind. Unsworths art contrasting with Duchamps is more interactive in relation with the audience.
We know this because unlike Duchamp's art Unsworths performance art requires an audience to view whilst the artwork is being produced, rather than seeing just a finished project. Unsworth also utilises the audience's reactions of the performances to make the concept true to Unsworths ideology within his art. Ken Unsworth uses a significant amount and variety of natural resources to produce his installations; including large and small river stones, which he suspends in the air with wire to make them look as though they are floating or levitating almost mystical in their presence. "I like this idea of making art that is timeless or ancient", said Unsworth. "You can't say these pieces are from now or 20 years ago or even a hundred years".
Suspended Stone Series Circle II (2003). In this art work when the audience encounters the suspended river stones symbolism bodies held in suspension. Conjuring thoughts of levitating between consciousness and unconsciousness, the material and immaterial, the trapped, o pinioned or bound works are concerning equilibrium, balance and formal relations. Through all these emotions Unsworth reflects it is also violent and claustrophobic experiences he is projecting. Audiences in today's society and culture respond to art in a more accepting and open minded view as western cultures amongst others continue to become acculturated and more involved in the art world. Movements like Dadaism, The Angry Penguins and feminist groups paved the path which would manifest, making innovation in art practices, art subject and the relationship between the artist and the audience global.
Artists like Duchamp who embarked on ridiculing the art work through shock value and Anti-Art in turn opened up the possibilities of 'What is art?' and how concepts could be explored.
Books: o Ken Unsworth - Art Gallery NSW o Dada, Art and Anti Art - Hans Richter o Duchamp - Janis Mink Internet Resources: o web (Sydney Morning Herald) o web.