Duct Tape Banana

A comedic act of rebellion

A comedic act of rebellion

So far, it’s certainly sure you have already heard about the banana duct-taped to a wall at an art fair in Miami. And maybe you so did the crowds, have created their own gestures. And you might already have a firm opinion about the hundred and fifty thousand dollar banana.

Let’s get the facts in front of us. A piece of work, titled ‘Comedian’ by the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, was presented at this gallery booth at Art Basel Miami, a fair which has been held since 2002. 

The following sequence demonstrates once again that fiction overcomes reality. First: Cattelan tapes a banana in the gallery of the Art Basel art fair: it was sold to a French collector for $ 120,000. Second: a guy named David Datuna, an American artist, walks towards the banana, takes it off the wall, peels it and eats it. And it is filmed. A happening has taken place, let's say.

This brings us once again the controversy over what is a work of art and what is not. And for a greater degree of interest, this time we talked about two acts: the gesture of sticking the banana on the wall and, then, of eating the work.

 

Conceptual art arises in the second half of the XX. Take things from Dadaism and Surrealism, a phenomenon born as a reaction to the First and Second World War. The truth, say theorists, is that in this type of work, the object or event produced is not by virtue of its aesthetic qualities in the ordinary sense, but of the critical, paradoxical, provocative, controversial, sarcastic character that accompanies the act of proposing such a thing as a work of art.

The list of works of this type is endless. John Cage and his work of silence in 1952 (someone sits on the piano and plays nothing): the works of the Serbian Marina Abramovic (like the one who sat for 700 hours in a museum to look at the public); the Argentine Alberto Greco making chalk circles on passersby in Buenos Aires; Cuban Tania Bruguera, in 2009, sat at a table reading her reflections on political art while taking a gun and trigger as in a Russian roulette.

MIAMI BEACH, FL - DECEMBER 06: People post in front of Maurizio Cattelan's "Comedian" presented by Perrotin Gallery and on view at Art Basel Miami 2019 at Miami Beach Convention Center on December 6, 2019 in Miami Beach, Florida. Two of the three editions of the piece, which feature a banana duct-taped to a wall, have reportedly sold for $120,000. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)

But the nature of 'Comedian' contrasts significantly with these examples. That is when the question is no longer "what is art?" but what is not? Therefore, the "idea" of a banana attached to the wall goes from being a work of art to becoming a meme, and so we come to: is it a meme, a conceptual work of art?

According to the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, art is an act of resistance against death, a defensive fact that aims to transcend the life of thought, the work of the human being, shape it in time and space. Then, in the case of memes, its existential moment would be the current moment and its fundamental geography would correspond to the cybernetic web.

The repetition of an idea is also a social, political and aesthetic manifestation of a historical-cultural context. In the past, conceptual works were born in a context of crisis and rebellion, but not as a passive reflection of them, but as refraction: actively building their own unique language in art.

As Ernst Gombrich put it, “every art history is not a history of the progress of technical improvements, but a history of changing ideas and demands”. So, stepping in 2020, the continuity of these provocative works implies a resignification of the current crises and political rebellions that caused them to be born?

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