Contemporary art emerged in a socially and politically troubled age – the twentieth century – marked by events such as the two World Wars, the Cold War, the Vietnam War etc. The perspective on the old values that had influenced society in the previous centuries changed, the artists feeling that the only relevant attitude towards the new world was to question the principles that theoretically should have prevented the dehumanization and the moral degradation of society.
It follows that contemporary art was born, more or less directly, from the effects that suffering had on humanity and man’s disillusionment with principles that previously were considered axiomatic and rooted in Christian morality. Man’s inability to keep the promise he had made to himself, that of building a stable and lasting world, led to an attitude of revolt and sabotage of the old views on the world-building principles. Contemporary art was therefore born at a time of dissolving the concepts of value, tradition, morality, sacredness, which became irrelevant since they could not stop the outbreak of wars that dehumanized the individual irreparably.
Marcel Duchamp’s placing of a urinal in an exhibition (1887-1968) was a satire on the artistic scene of the time and on himself as an artist, questioning the “work-of-art” status of visual art. At first glance, Duchamp’s approach can be perceived as slightly theatrical and meant to attract attention, but the gesture itself was about something completely different. In a world badly afflicted with crime, war, immorality, ignorance and cynicism, the artist considered that the relevance of art should lie in an approach that questioned the legitimacy of new values, in a type of art that was synonymous with the decadent and desecrated society it addressed. Duchamp debunked the mystification of the concept of artistic creation and challenged all artistic values that had been unanimously accepted and validated until then, in a world eroded by a war (World War I) in which God, whom he considered man’s invention, was absent. He also challenged the so-called “eternal value” of painting as a medium of plastic expression, experimenting with various materials such as wood, stones, textiles and plexiglass.
Total freedom of human actions determines a certain type of approach in contemporary art, one of its consequences being interdisciplinarity. Arts merge and produce series of works as well as individual works that can no longer be classified as based on a single technique or medium of expression. This kind of experiment becomes more intense and interactive both for the creating artists and for the viewer who sees their works. Art is a form of language that wants to address intellect and emotion as directly as possible. Artworks become more and more immersive, and the formal boundaries of perceiving them gradually dissolve, allowing the viewers to relate to art not as an intangible entity, but as a reinterpreted extension and projection of their own existence. Consequently, contemporary art is born from life and is life, death always lying latently in the subconscious.