Porcelain Urinals and Farting Baboons

In 1917, Marcel Duchamp went to a store and bought a porcelain urinal. He signed it, “R.Mutt”, and poetically titled his creation the Fountain. Then Duchamp submitted the urinal to an art exhibition held by Society of Independent Artists, who, backtracking on their own policy of inclusion, flatly rejected the piece. Clearly, a readymade urinal is not artistic artifact, they insisted.

In 2014, acting on an idea by Chuck Wendig, a Twitter user named @phronk published an ebook on Amazon that simply contained the word “fart” repeated 100,000 times. It was titled, Baboon Fart Story. Despite promising initial sales, Amazon removed the product.

Duchamp’s Fountain is considered by many to be a masterpiece of avant-garde art. What will be the impact of Baboon Fart Story?

Potty art seems to be a timeless way to rile up the gatekeepers of creative society. And, perhaps, what makes toilet humour art is the very fact that it is rejected. Would we know about Fountain if it had been accepted in the 1917 art exhibition? Would we be talking about Baboon Fart Story right now if it hadn’t been rejected by Amazon? This is the mystery that makes it worth discussing.

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