Friday, August 27, 2010

Can Art Be Clutter? Can Clutter Be Art?

Short answer to both: yes.

Of course, art definitely is not supposed to be clutter. It's supposed to be something that, when you look at it, touches your heart, or stimulates your mind, or reminds you of your dreams, or challenges your thinking, or transports you to another time and place, or any other worthwhile response that makes you feel good that you have the piece of art in your life. It's not just supposed to fill up empty space, or match the sofa, or be in your life because Great-Aunt Winnie left it to your mother, who hated it, but felt obligated to keep it because it had belonged to Aunt Winnie, and who, in turn, left it to you and now you hate it, but it belonged to both Great-Aunt Winnie and your mother, so it has double the family obligation attached. That makes it clutter.

However, even if your possessions, including your art, are of excellent quality and are appreciated fully by you and all who see them, if they are simply overwhelming your space and your life, you still have a clutter problem. This is often what motivates society's wealthiest and most notable families and individuals to have huge auctions in which they part with beautiful items that appear invaluable to us. They have decided to unburden themselves rather than cart around forever all of the accumulated treasures of the years, no matter how fine, because those treasures have turned into clutter in the lives of their owners.

But how can clutter be art? Many of you may be familiar with the work of artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Robert Rauschenberg who sometimes made art out of found objects, the commonplace, the detritus of life that most of us would ignore and many of us would consider to be clutter. Not all viewers of their artwork respond positively to this type of creative effort, but many art critics certainly have shown their appreciation, as have collectors of contemporary art who are willing to pay astronomical sums to own it.

Most interesting, to me, however is a new opportunity for anyone to participate in making a found object work of art, even if you've never considered yourself even remotely artistic. Best of all, you'll be part of an art project that is devoted to uncluttering, if only on a very small scale. The clever curators at The Brooklyn Art Library are soliciting "artistic" contributions for "Pockets." Here's the description of the project:

We all carry excess baggage with us every day: keys to forgotten locks, expired chewing gum, intimidating balls of lint. These freeloading objects take our pockets, purses, and bags for granted, weighing us down and holding us back.

The International Association for Empty Pockets is a worldwide movement dedicated to the end of pocket clutter. Contributions to the Pockets Project will form a communal burial ground for the detritus of everyday life – and mark a new era of freedom for your pants.

Our pockets are overflowing. The time to empty is now!

To be a participating artist, you simply put individual items that were in your pockets into plastic baggies and send the baggies to the gallery. (There's a classification system that's explained on the website.) Then all of the baggies will be made into a giant installation work of art. The reason? Here:

Developed by the International Association for Empty Pockets, the Pocket Artifact Classification System encompasses the entire spectrum of pocket, purse, and bag clutter. By organizing contributions into a common system, the Pockets Project seeks to illuminate the objects that share our pockets' darkest corners.

The Pockets Project imagines a second life for the stuff we've forgotten and offers each of us a chance at a new beginning. Everyone is welcome to participate – there is no artifact too insignificant or contribution too small. As people from all over the world empty their pockets together, these ordinary objects hint at the common threads of our daily lives.
How can you not love a project from the "International Association for Empty Pockets" that encourages uncluttering, that creates art and offers participants "a chance at a new beginning?" The whole idea makes me smile! Check it out if you're looking for a creative place to begin your efforts to unclutter and simplify your life.


© 2010 Cynthia Friedlob
Image: Carlos Paes at stock.xchng

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