Shave / Matthew Davies

Photo by M. Bowman
Art is such a slippery term. Maybe because artists have spent more than century subverting and undermining traditional concepts of art. Marcel Duchamp's seminal “readymades” were simple everyday objects plucked from normal society and presented as art. The creative act was confined entirely to his selection of the object, his designation of it as art . . . and signing a pseudonym. As Duchamp himself explained “[a]n ordinary object [could be] elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of an artist.”

Andy Warhol similarly utilized the idea of “readymades” to question what is means to “create” art. Using the Brillo box or Campbell's soup can to accomplish similar ends. But Warhol built upon Duchamp in other ways as well. Not only did Warhol exhaustively explore art's tempestuous relationship with celebrity and money, but he also was an early experimenter and provocateur when it came to using technology to document one's own personal life.

Two of Warhol's films are worth pointing out. In Sleep, one of Warhol's earliest films, the entire 5 hour and 20 minute run-time consists entirely of a loop of Warhol's then lover John Giorno asleep. Warhol created the work by splicing and looping various pieces of film he shot together, all quite literally showing nothing more than a man sleeping. Similarly, in Haircut No. 1, Warhol turns the mundane act of a friend receiving a haircut into a minimalist masterpiece by artfully selecting and composing the visual presentation of the physical act.

Both Duchamp and Warhol can be considered “conceptual” artists. Artists who explored whether the idea (or concept) behind a work is more important than the finished art object.

One of my own personal favorite conceptual artists is Sol LeWitt whose most famous and widely known works are his “wall drawings.” Art works in which LeWitt solely produced minimal written directions for the production of large wall drawings or painting by others.

LeWitt included the general visual and architectural contours governing the "wall drawing," but similar to Warhol, frequently left the actual creation of the work to others. To LeWitt, the instructions (the concept) is equally as important to viewer as the final produced piece. In many ways, it is the independence and eccentricities injected by the individuals tasked with following LeWitt's instructions that make the finished piece compelling.

After this long winded introduction, I present my interpretation of this week's Zinc Asterisk prompt: shave.

A 1 minute and 34 second video of me shaving my mustache. A very literally and short interpretation of the prompt.

As Sol LeWitt said, in conceptual art “[t]he idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”