BUT, IS IT ART?
Wearing my Specific Research Institute lab coat, I start this piece by spelling out the question, “but is it art?” in bananas, in the language of the country in which I’m presenting it, on the sidewalk/entry way to the venue. I ask spectators to hand me bananas from the box; asking for ones that are curved or straight(er). When the question is completely spelled in bananas, I hand out my research forms and ask the spectators to come inside and assist in my research for answers to this question. Inside, I project thirty images of art, giving a brief description of the artist with each image. Twenty-five of the works are banana-themed, by well-known (Claes Oldenburg) and unknown artists. I ask the participants to indicate yes/no if they consider image shown to be art, and to check which qualities on the form that influenced their decision. After the images are shown, I ask participants to complete the other side of the research form, which includes blanks for name, address/email, age, sex, education, career, special interests, as well as questions relating to art, some completion puzzles, a request for a self portrait, thumb print, what’s their favorite art/artist, etc. As a finale, each participant receives a handshake, a membership card in the FBI (the Feral Bureau of Instigation), with words to the effect that they are now qualified to instigate some creative actions of their own, and encouragement to do so.I have a personal interest in people’s responses to art, not in any attempt to define art, but to find out what they consider to be art and what criteria defines it for them. I use the research modus operandi, because parody is one of the more effective ways of getting people to look at news, information, and scientific research/practice with a more critical eye. In poking gentle fun at the “Temple of Scientific Research” it is my intent to remind participants that when hearing about the wonderful new developments that the scientific community (often funded by corporate interests) presents to us, to take it with a grain of salt. The problem/issue the work was made to address was to activate people from being passive audience to participants in a creative process. This is accomplished by engaging their assistance with the banana spelling, and giving their responses to the images I project, and to other queries/fields on my research form.