Two men walk into a gallery with a ping-pong ball and film it. So is it art?
Pranksters fool public and gallery assistants to prove anything can be art
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Tuesday 05 February 2013
Three weeks ago, two men dressed in matching outfits walked into Tate Modern, popped ping-pong balls into their mouths and took their place alongside masterpieces by Gerhard Richter.
After a few minutes, crowds soon began to gather around them, scratching their heads and asking the age-old question: “Is it art?” The results of the ingenious artistic experiment – which some have dismissed as a prank – were then uploaded to YouTube and spread across the internet.
Doug Fridlund and Mikael Alcock, the two men behind the guerrilla performance, have been compared to Gilbert & George, as well as the Dadaist movement, which included artists such as Marcel Duchamp.
But in an interview with The Independent they claimed no such credentials, saying they just wanted to know “what it felt like to be art”. The performance at Tate Modern was their third such gallery visit in the past few months, twice to the Tate and once to the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea.
The pair stood still back to back, side by side and on the floor at various points for up to six minutes, as visitors took photographs on their smartphones. “I think it’s OK to think of this as art. We wanted to feel like art in the material sense and I think we succeeded. If a statue or a painting or an installation had emotions I reckon they would feel quite good most of the time,” Fridlund said.
Alcock added: “We’d love to be sold as art, but whether it would be art is the eternal question.” The ideal choice of seller is the auction house Sotheby’s. “Wouldn’t that be cool? Like if we ended up in Rod Stewart’s house,” Fridlund said.
The pair reject the label of “pranksters” and insist they were not making a statement about modern art. “We weren’t competing with the other works. It was more of a case of change the routine for ourselves and everyone else who was in the gallery.”
Alcock, who is 28, grew up in Britain, while Fridlund, 26, lived in various European countries before moving here 18 months ago. They have not ruled out more “performances” in the future.
Art historian Ben Street commented: “One hundred years ago, artists were saying the same thing about life versus art in Zurich, Berlin and Cologne. Maybe these two were celebrating the centenary of Dadaism.” He added that their performances were probably still art. “Regardless of intentions, the gallery creates a framework for art,” he said.
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