According to de Duve and Krauss* to say of an object “this is art” you need four elements—an object, an author, a public and an institution—and these four elements need to undergo certain encounters:
- The encounter of object and author: necessary in order that the object can be chosen (even if in the end it ‘chooses you’). The skill of the author is no longer the ability to fabricate the art object, nor to make decisions based on visual or aesthetic emotion, but rather to choose an object with indifference.
- The encounter of object and public: the artist and the public are equally important poles of creation. For the object to rightly be called art, the public has to hear and repeat the statement “this is art”.
- The encounter of object and institution: the institution needs to verify the statement and record it, so it can reach us as given.
*De Duve, T. and Krauss, R. 1994. Echoes of the Readymade: Critique of Pure Modernism. October, No.70. pp.61-97.
This inscription of the object as art is necessary to distinguish otherwise materially coextensive events or artefacts. Hence the word is used of readymade art and lifelike art but does not normally enter the discussion of art practices using traditional and recognisable art materials, where it is the production rather than the inscription of the artefact that makes it art.
But in these practices the question still remains: when and how during the production process does the artefact become art? Can we also speak of a moment of inscription—an encounter between object and artist—for something like a painting? Perhaps it’s the moment at which the painting is understood to be finished or understood to be successful: the point at which it ceases to be an open amaglamation of its parts and finally sets as an artwork. I’d be interested to find out how other artists see this process, which is so often called ‘alchemic’ in the literature I’m reading.