This installation was created in response to the subject - Anagram - for an Art Prize hosted by Kingston Museum. Working on this project was a departure from my previous work. I was inspired by the power I had to interpret, experiment, research and define a theme that was outside of my usual area of focus. It was the perfect project for challenging and forcing me to think outside of the box
“But is it RAT?” is a light hearted installation and satirical play on words presenting the viewer with the question “But is it art?”
How one answers the question changes depending on how you are viewing the artwork. Are you in the gallery as one of the figures or are you a third party observer?
When I created the installation it was based on the work of two artists: Andy Warhol’s ‘Campbell Soup Cans’ 1962 and Damien Hirst’s ‘The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living’ 1991. Both game changers, they generated a tremendous amount of controversy pushing the boundaries of contemporary art during their respective times.
My goal here was to give you the opportunity to, on the one hand, engage this controversial artwork as though you were visiting this exhibition and faced with the spectacle of it for the first time. You may be shocked, offended or delighted by the novelty of something different. On the other hand, I created it to position you as a third party observer – now watching the watchers. The contemporary and historical juxtaposition of the installation was intended to play a significant impact on your senses and on your viewpoint.
Artists like Marcel Duchamp as well as Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst were creating something significant by pushing the boundaries of how we perceived art and changed our perspective. We did not have to like it, but in hindsight we may not have acknowledged it at the time but it became valuable and important once we were able to view it from a broader context.
Art history allows us the luxury of understanding the importance of the journey and complexity of art and an appreciation of how art has developed through the ages. An artist today exhibiting a piece similar to Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ (a porcelain urinal), wouldn’t achieve the same reaction as Duchamp did in 1917. It would seem derivative now, because when he produced the original work, it changed the way art goers perceived art and as a result, paved the way for artists like Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst.
But this question of time is an important component. When we first view something that is challenging our perception, we don’t always have a frame of reference. Whereas, years later, we are more equipped to view and be familiar with conceptual artwork and see how significant it was in moving art forward, or indeed maybe backwards!
But not everyone who views “But is it RAT?” will have an art history background and so their viewing experience will be from different points of view, drawing different conclusions. The two scenarios I created entitled: ‘Rat in Formaldehyde – Dieman Hirts, 1991’ and ‘Rentokil Buckets – Randy H AWOL, 1962’, were aimed at drawing on one’s experience of fear, the unknown, the misunderstood, the diabolical and alternatively based on the known, the familiar, the pre-conceived ideas of the subject; therefore allowing you to be now more worldly and yes, maybe even superior.
So which are you – the first-hand viewer or the bigger more knowledgeable observer?