Clement Emeka Akpang
Invented in 1912, the genre of found object art was the most radical art form of the Euro-American modernist period. A century after, its artifactuality still dominates contemporary art space but in a different context. However, like modernist art history, the discourse of found object art is Eurocentrically institutionalized; examples of the genre from ‘Other’ cultures are devalued as belated imitation of Western avantgardism. Using formalism and iconography as analytical tools, this research proposes to establish the cultural ramifications and distinctiveness of the found object in art by comparatively analyzing the works of a select number of artists from Europe and Africa. My study will focus on the following questions: is the appropriation of the found object in artistic expression a universal construct? And what are the cultural ramifications of found objects in European and African arts? Through this research, I hope to establish that found object art is culture/context-specific by differentiating its Euro-American modernist context from the pre-modern and postcolonial re-contextualization of waste/found objects in African art. In a broader humanistic sense, the findings of this research will contribute to decentralizing the discourse and history of this art genre for a wider embrace of its dynamism, eclecticism and cultural iconography.