I’ve been reading some Ayn Rand lately. I’m about 80 pages into The Romantic Manifesto, a collection of essays in which Rand argues the objectivity of art, why man creates art, philosophies roll in art, and what makes good art good and bad art atrocious. I often wonder whether art can be judged objectively and by what criterion. Rand ostensibly answers this question by defining art as something that reflects the values of man; art is an expression of philosophical and psychological archetypes that resonate with the most visceral values of man. Rand asserts that art is the expression of man’s metaphysical philosophy, of man’s sense of life. Art is a concretization of our sense of life. So far what I can gather from the mere 80 pages that I have read on this subject; art must serve a utilitarian purpose, but why? Can’t something just be attractive? I’m no
philosopher so maybe there is something implicitly flawed with that question. Take for example Marcel Duchamp’s, Fountain, 1917/1964. Duchamp, a french artist, in 1917 purchased a urinal at a plumbing supply company called Mott’s, and submitted the “piece” to an art exhibition. A urinal turned on its side, signed and dated; is it art? Is there something beautiful about the aesthetic qualities of a urinal (No need to think too long about that)? “The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act,”(Marcel Duchamp). Does Fountain tell us something profound about our values and about what art is?