Part Five – Exercise 5.3: In the Name of Art

Take a work of contemporary art and imagine it was not and never had been a work of art. What is the difference? (100 words)

The dilemma of the Triple Eye [1] in House Beautiful


Stefan513593 - part 5 - Exercise 3 - art as non art

Fig. 1 & 2: Cleaning the Drapes – Electrolux advertisment



The task to step out of art context is already a dilemma[2]. With an ‘innocent’ pretence, one could consider it as an advertisement for an Electrolux vacuum[3]. As an advertisement, the viewer is left in the illusion of a comfortable domestic life. As art, it moves into imitation questioning our sense of reality whether it is disrupted or continuous[4]. Disruption begins with challenging cultural conventions of that time impacting audience reception. Being a mere thing without title[5], the viewer’s attention is kept on internal aspects and depicted objects, the vacuum. Being art, reception shifts from a psychic distance over to aesthetic perception and further towards deferred social conceptions.

(word count: 108)




[1] Triple ‘Eye = I: ‘Imitation, Illusion, Imagination

[2] Andrea Fraser described the inescapable condition in context of the ‘double bind’: that ‘the institution is inside of us, and we can’t get outside of ourselves’. (Fraser, 2005: 414)

[3] Martha Rosler (1967-72) Cleaning the Drapes,(Fig.1, photomontage) from the series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home. One could compare it with the advertisement (Fig.2, illustration)

[4] Arthur Danto explored the dilemma of failure of mimetic art that pleasure in imitation derives from the knowledge of being imitation. In case of continuity with reality it would than depend on context related to site, cultural conventions.(Danto, 2006: 24 – 28)

[5] Danto described the difference between mere things and art as latter been entitled to titles as an act of affirmation. Even ‘untitled’ is a title. Mere things don’t have ((Danto, 2006: 3)



The main aspect in Rosler’s art-work relates to the increaslingly military engagment of the USA in the Vietname war. The work is a collage and juxtaposition of photographs og Vietnamese people from LIFE magazine and interior images from House Beautiful journal.  The war image as a wallpaper in a living room, already part of daily life. The remote reality on the other side of the world was mediated through televison.

Rosler was known as an activist at a time of radical and conceptual art. Her ‘interior’ image a few years after Richard Hamilton’s Interior II. Also Hamilton based his collage painting on television imagery and even placed inside a background TV set the image of the assassination of John F. Kennedy (22 Nov 1963).

Rosler’s collage or photomontage reveals how we perceive reality mediated through media and television imagery. It is the time of Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding of Media (1964) and The Medium is the Massage (1967) and Guy Debord’s  The Society of the Spectacle (1967). It challenges the normality and comfort zone of our domestic life, far away from cruelty and death. And before Baudrillard could describe the Gulf war as hyperreality and simulated war brought to us through a constant flux of moving television imagery (1981), the sensibility of artists as Rosler confronted us with our mediated collective experience.




  • Danto, A. C. (2006) ‘Works of Art and More Real Thinga’, in:  The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,,  pp. 1 – 32.
  • Fraser, A. (2005) ‘From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique’, in: ArtForum. [online]. 44(1),  pp. 278–83278-83283,83332,83210,  At:  (Accessed on 14 Oct 2017).

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