One of our favorite works at CFile is Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (1917). The concept was an important contribution to how people think about art and the snotty teenagers in us love the snark that surrounds the piece like a heavy fog.
We’ve written before about the myriad ways in which other artists have adapted and reacted to the work— some clever, some thought-provoking, some tediously self indulgent. Perhaps we should start up a new category called “Fountain Files” because it seems to be a (cough) font (cough) of material for us.
We’re back with a Fountain story that is more accessible to those outside of the art world. Well, sort of back. These are toilets not urinals. A urinal is a male piece of bathroom furniture and tied to fluids of one gender wheras the toilet is gender unspecific The story mirrors that of the original Fountain, and it’s so simple that you could call it an art parable.
Tonie Atkinson is a self-described “tacky” artist in Arkansas who uses porcelain toilets to create flower planters. We’re not fans of them, but that’s not the point. In creating these planters (and this is the fun part: we don’t think the players in this story realize this) Atkinson has taken the role of Duchamp. Her antagonist, her Society of Independent Artists committee, is the Garland County Property Inspector, who is fining her $10,000 for leaving the works in her front yard. The property inspector calls her planters “appliance and yard waste.” Atkinson, as politely as she can, calls the property inspector a cretin.
“This is my version of art,” she told KTHV news, “Just because you can’t appreciate it doesn’t make it not art.”
Atkinson shifts the perspective a little: she lives next door to an alligator farm. If her town is weird enough to have a tourist trap full of maneating reptiles, why isn’t it weird enough to have toilet planters? The property inspector, like any nebbish coward who works in local government, declined to comment to reporters, citing pending litigation.
We’re sympathetic to Atkinson, obviously, and we wish her well at her hearing in October. In our society you have creators like Atkinson and you have the kind of NIMBY losers who complain about Atkinson to their homeowners associations. People like Atkinson contribute to the local color. Their work (even if it’s weird, maybe especially if it’s weird) is like a bizarre present to the community. The latter group of people seems to exist only for the vampiric joy of sapping the vitality out of their hometown, not resting until everything is a boring, taupe-colored purgatory of acceptable property values. These people should take their misery somewhere else, somewhere quiet and boring where they won’t be challenged or made uncomfortable by their neighbor’s absurd toilet muse.
Long live the Absurd Toilet Muse!
Bill Rodgers is the General Editor of CFile.
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