Brian Eno has, quite justly, a reputation for being an intellectual
. But complementing his endless curiosity and experimentation is his rather bizarre sense of humour. This is very apparent in his diary, "A Year With Swollen Appendices
". One of the incidents he relates in the book is almost beyond belief, although I have to say that I personally am inclined to take his word for it.
The story revolves around Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain", which is basically a porcelain urinal which Ducamp chose at random and subsequently exhibited. In 1995, Eno saw it on display in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, being treated as if it was a holy relic rather than a randomly chosen object. He was appalled that Duchamp’s message, which Eno characterizes as, "I can call any old urinal — or anything else for that matter — a piece of art", had been so badly misunderstood. But Eno had far more pressing things on his mind. The following is quoted from his diary.
“I’ve always wanted to urinate on that piece of art, to leave my small mark on art history. I thought this might be my last chance — for each time it was shown it was more heavily defended. At MoMA it was being shown behind glass, in a large display case. There was, however, a narrow slit between the two front sheets of glass. It was about three-sixteenths of an inch wide.
I went to the plumber’s on the corner and obtained a couple of feet of clear plastic tubing of that thickness, along with a similar length of galvanized wire. Back in my hotel room, I inserted the wire down the tubing to stiffen it. Then I urinated into the sink and, using the tube as a pipette, managed to fill it with urine. I then inserted the whole apparatus down my trouser-leg and returned to the museum, keeping my thumb over the top end so as to ensure that the urine stayed in the tube.
At the museum, I positioned myself before the display case, concentrating intensely on its contents. There was a guard standing behind me and about 12 feet away. I opened my fly and slipped out the tube, feeding it carefully through the slot in the glass. It was a perfect fit, and slid in quite easily until its end was poised above the famous john. I released my thumb, and a small but distinct trickle of my urine splashed on to the work of art."
A deranged act of an obsessive mind? A childish prank by someone with too much time on their hands? An astonishingly apt and astute comment on attitudes to art? Whatever, Duchamp would have loved it.