Sunday, October 5, 2008

Claes Oldenburg's "I Am for an Art" (1961)

I recently bought Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, an anthology of essays, interviews, ideas and manifestos written by artists working from the 1940's through today. One of the more interesting and illuminating texts I've read so far is Claes Oldenburg's "I Am for an Art", a lyrical celebration of the small wonders of everyday life. Below are a few excerpts from the text:

I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum.
I am for an art that grows up not knowing it is art at all, an art given the chance of having a starting point of zero.
I am for an art that embroils itself with the everyday crap & still comes out on top.
I am for an art that imitates the human, that is comic, if necessary, or violent, or whatever is necessary.
I am for an art that takes its form from the lines of life itself, that twists and extends and accumulates and spits and drips, and is heavy and coarse and blunt and sweet and stupid as life itself...

I am for the art of conversation between the sidewalk and a blind man's metal stick.
I am for the art that grows in a pot, that comes down out of the skies at night, like lightning, that hides in the clouds. I am for art that is flipped on and off with a switch.
I am for art that unfolds like a map, that you can squeeze, like your sweety's arm, or kiss, like a pet dog. Which expands and squeaks, like an accordion, which you can spill your dinner on, like an old tablecloth.

"I Am for an Art" originally appeared in Environments, Situations, Spaces, and was then reprinted in Store Days: Documents From The Store.

Softlight Switches, 1963-9

Work © Claes Oldenburg