Alfred Stieglitz

A Centennial Homage to Duchamps’s “Fountaine”

Urinal at Palmares Shopping Center, Mendoza, Argentina, 2017
Urinal at Palmares Shopping Center, Mendoza, Argentina, 2017

 

One hundred years ago, a urinal (and, later, a Stieglitz photograph of that same urinal) caused quite a…uh…well…”splash” on the New York art scene.

Here is a wiki commons image of that iconic piece of white porcelain signed, in jest, by one “R. Mutt”:

Marcel Duchamp's "Fountaine". Photo by Alfred Stieglitz, 1917
Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountaine”. Photo by Alfred Stieglitz, 1917

 

Duchamp’s “Fountain” was rejected by the Society of Independent Artists (SIA) for their 1917 open exhibition even though the artist had paid the required entry fee. Surprise, surprise, surprise!

What was Marcel Duchamp really up to with this stunt? Well, apparently, it was both a practical joke and a challenge to conventional notions about the nature of art. It certainly prompted a lot of discourse–and burst blood vessels–among the highfalutin museum and gallery elite of the time. (With noses in the air and eyes averted, the SIA board euphemistically referred to the porcelain piss pail as a “bathroom appliance” in order to keep the scandal to a minimum.)

For more background on this incident, see Martin Gayford’s 2008 article in The Telegraph, Duchamp’s Fountain: The practical joke that launched an artistic revolution.

These days, even if you made photographs of actual human turds floating about in toilets I doubt you would raise many eyebrows–at least in New York (in Iowa, maybe).

After all, it would be pretty hard to outdo Immersion (Piss Christ) by Andres Serrano, no? (Dang, and that was 30 years ago now! Just looked it up.)

Cloudscapes and Equivalents

In honor of Alfred Stieglitz and his concept of “equivalents” (photographs made between 1925-1934), I’ll offer up some cloudscapes of my own for your free-form interpretation.

First, a quick and juicy Stieglitz anecdote:

Man (looking at a Stieglitz Equivalent): Is this a photograph of water?
Stieglitz: What difference does it make of what it is?
Man: But is it a photograph of water?
Stieglitz: I tell you it does not matter.
Man: Well, then, is it a picture of the sky?
Stieglitz: It happens to be a picture of the sky. But I cannot understand why that is of any importance.

The following images were made this very morning whilst feeling a bit peckish and awaiting a sunrise on the high peaks that never really developed. The clouds, though, shredded by the high winds ripping and rippling over the Rockies, offered a very satisfactory alternative subject while a crescent Moon played hide and seek.

 

Cloudscape, #1. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Cloudscape, #1. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Cloudscape, #2. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Cloudscape, #2. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Cloudscape, #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Cloudscape, #3. Boulder, Colorado, 2016

 

Cloudscape, #5. Boulder, Colorado, 2016
Cloudscape, #5. Boulder, Colorado, 2016