Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bad Art Or Not?

(banana peel on broken pieces of glass on wooden base)

Note: I've been struggling about whether or not the work of Deiter Roth deserves
the question "Is it art or not?". Namely because he is a noteworthy artist and much has been written about his work; some of it regarding the assumption that for this type of art, he was "the real deal". Because I run this feature on occasion and I enjoy getting people's reactions to the weird modern and contemporary ar I sometimes postt, I've decided to archive this post under the Bad Art or Not? category. Do I think it's bad art or even art at all? Read about it in comments! :-) My own opinions are just as informed as yours, in most cases. Perhaps I'm a bit more "open" to weird art for some reason I don't understand. As a lot of you know, discovering new art and artists is a passion of mine but I'm not an expert on art, nor an art critic. I present to you what I find interesting, amusing, beautiful or thought-provoking. Whether you think it's entirely foolish or you see some merit in Dieter's work, all opinions are invited!

So, my brilliant and lovely it art, or not?

Dieter Roth (April 21, 1930 - June 5, 1998) was a Swiss-German artist best known for his artist's books and for his sculptures and pictures made with rotting food stuffs [1]. He was also known as Dieter Rot and Diter Rot read the rest of the Wikipedia entry. Roth was a sort of fringes member of the Fluxus network of artists.

Roth's creative accomplishments include paintings, drawings, graphic works, books, sculptures, jewelry, installations, and film and video works.

"I hate it if I notice that I like something, if I am able to do something, so that I just have to repeat it, that it could become a habit. Then I stop immediately. Also if it threatens to become beautiful."
~ Dieter Roth
click on image to view larger

Insel (Island)

In a series of works called Insel ("Island", 1968), for instance, Roth would take a blue panel, cover it in foodstuffs arranged as islands on the background, cover the surface in yoghurt, then cover that in a layer of plaster, leaving the piece to undergo a series of transformations; mouldy stages, bacterial decay, insect attack, and then stability as only nondegradable elements were left.

Shit Hare
(yes, pressed from rabbit excrement. Don't say I didn't warn you in my introduction that I may feature the work of subversives! Sheesh. I don't look subversive... ;-)
I think I still have one of these hanging around from an Easter season of the past...uh... a chocolate one, I mean! ;-)

sausage decomposing
(exact title unknown at publishing time)

Small Sunset 1968
(sausage on blue & white paper in plastic cover)

click for larger view
Gartenskulptur (Garden sculpture)

Wood, wire, rope, metal, construction materials and objects, furnishings, plants, video equipment, monitors, painting utensils, liquids in glasses, foodstuffs, toys, clothing, pigments, photographs, drawings, multiples and collages.
Dimensions variable.

Ring: Ring with rotating components 1971
18 carat gold ring support with 15 screw-on shapes in coloured plexiglass

(Image used with permission from Klimt 02/Community
where you can view a couple of other rings by Dieter

Roth Time - A Dieter Roth Retrospective
from a 2004 MoMA exhibition

The Dieter Roth Foundation

Harvard Magazine
Impermanent Art

Dieter Roth: Breaking the Mold

I also want to give general credit to a cool online art magazine called

hEyOkA mAgAzInE

where I found a lot of great articles. please click on the linked logo and enjoy.


  1. Garden Sculpture and Ring are, to me, interesting in a weird sort of way. The rest you've shown here - No. I don't consider it art at all. To me, it's disgusting. I don't get the feeling he's even trying for art - just sensation. I think he's laughing up his sleeve.

  2. i like to think of art as inspiring and lifting- beautiful perhaps but always making the observer think. this is not art. it's quite literally crap- and the stupid thing is- he got paid for it. i could poop in a cup and call it art. it amounts to the same thing.

  3. Bet: you'd better make that a plexiglass cube or something. Then no one could accuse you of stinking! ;-)

    I get a charge out of that wacky ring! It rotates! :-D ha!

  4. Although I do like the look of the top one, to me none of it is really art.

  5. Pretty sensationalist. Does that make it bad or good? I'm no judge but I have the feeling it's not up to much but if others like it...

    Good to read your blog again, Gina. Thanks for your comment.


  6. Hey, Bear. It's good to have you back. In response to your comment: to me, a lot of weird art is not really about whether I like it or not. Art is not always beautiful and I don't personally believe that beauty is the only criterion to qualify something as "art". If that were so, then throughout the ages the likes of Van Gogh wouldn't be appreciated today. In his time, people thought that what he painted was not art. We know today that it is. I'm speaking in general terms and not specifically to the work of this particular artist.

    I actually do see value in an artist taking a totally original perspective on their work; even if I personally don't like it. I do think the work of Dieter Roth IS art. I may not like it especially but it did catch my interest and I'm always intrigued when something as odd as rotting food as art, captivates me enough to try to understand it. I'm fascinated by the power of art to elicit strong emotions in people - either positive or negative. AND...I think Dieter's work is kind of funny. The piece entitled Shit Hare made me laugh out loud! :-D Maybe that wasn't his intention, as it appears he took his work very seriously but anything that gets a rise out of me like that is, at the very least, a very cool form of expression.

    There is a lot more to the work of Dieter Roth than meets the eye. Those Fluxus people had an interesting philosophy that bears some understanding before the work is dismissed as being total crap. That's just my take on it, for what it's worth!

  7. You're perfectly correct that time is the only essential judge about whether an artist is producing art after he's (or she's) become established as having certain basic skills and the ability to be insightful. Beyond that it's a matter of how far along the conceptual path the viewer is willing to follow. I get what he's up to but I need go no further.

  8. I like the rabbit...very interesting art!

  9. it's art. might not be my type but it's art.

    the bunny tho, cracked me up.

    have to give him an A for originality for the idea of rotten stuffs a art.

  10. If something is created, it has to be art, whether its bad or good, I guess its folks own thoughts about it, like a pile of bricks, if you like that and buy it, ok, not my idea tho. Still, it would be a boring old world if ev1 thought the same.
    I enjoy my wifes art Mixed Media also mine photography.

  11. I was about to declare the banana peel and glass "bad art," as it reminded me of a turd on wax paper (!) but after seeing the actual "Shit Hare," I've decided to switch my vote - as a body of work, I find his stuff, um... interesting to say the least!

  12. My first reaction when I was young and living in Italy to the work Mark Rothko was rage. I had a friend who was a journalist and wrote the catalogues for major artists shows in Italy. He had a Rothko hanging on the living room wall of his flat and my first reaction to it was anger. I claimed any idiot child could paint something just a hideous. My friend laughed and said "Mark would heartily approve of your reaction. It is emotion he seeks in reaction to his work. So, you see, he has succeeded to arouse emotion in you." The more I saw it the more it grew on me and in the end I loved it.

    So I am not yet ready to call this shit crap and completely dismiss it. I actually think "Island" is quite lovely. I'd rather not know how it got to look like that, so in my case, ignorance might be bliss.

  13. it is a form of expression so art but not something that i would pay for.

  14. This person sure does know how to shake up our assumptions about beauty, meaning, art.

  15. Very intersting and thought provoking blog this! It is a delight to read your posts.

    To answer your question, whether the banana peel is art or not. I am not sure. I guess that art is in the eye of the beholder, highly subjective. Or to quote the not so modest Lawrence:

    “It's not art for art's sake, it's art for my sake.” (D. H Lawrence)



  16. Very intersting and thought provoking blog this! It is a delight to read your posts.

    To answer your question, whether the banana peel is art or not. I am not sure. I guess that art is in the eye of the beholder, highly subjective. Or to quote the not so modest Lawrence:

    “It's not art for art's sake, it's art for my sake.” (D. H Lawrence)



  17. Thank you all for the great comments.

    Jenny: I'm glad you like the blog and I hope you'll come back often. I love the D.H. Lawrence quote. He is one of my favorite authors.

  18. PS: Definetly not my cup of tea, sometime people try to create controversy in order to be known. I like pleasing art, not crap.

  19. It is art BUT like you said we have different opinions on it.

    I like some of it I think art is when people act with feeling on what they see, MB

  20. Fishing Guy: I think most people gravitate toward art that is pleasing. I know I do. Some art is for the head and not for the heart. I find it all interesting, if only fleetingly.

    I'm with Maria. Art that inspires feeling whether it be joy, rage or even disgust, bears recognition or at least acknowledgment.

    I'm glad so many people came by for this one. It actually took a long time to collect these images. Roth is not exactly a household name! :-)

  21. I just realized how phenomenal that banana peel is. Now, I don't know long after its creation this piece was photographed, but if it happens to be a particularly old banana peel, the fact that it's been preserved to the extent that one can still recognize it as a banana, is pretty interesting to me. But then again, given the luxury, I would contemplate my navel, too! :-D

  22. This kind of art always makes me sigh. It's tiresome.

    It's inevitable that someone would push things all the way to the extreme - someone has to go there, like going to the moon. But once it's been done, I see little reason for the repetition. After the first statement and exploration it just becomes playing with your food (or worse).

    So I don't deny it's art - and I'd have to agree it was unique and interesting. Once.

    I like the ring, though. That's different. The juxtaposition of the precious and rare with the manufactured and cheap makes me grin. And the two materials are so unlike each other, and yet seem to oddly complement each other. To me this is more interesting (and far more subtle)than the deliberately controversial works.


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