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Is a pile of laundry art? Challenging an earlier debate

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/17/2014 Category: Arts
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,633 times Debate No: 54935
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
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This is my first debate, so greeting to all who read it :).

After reading an earlier debate involving the con (1) the area of the debate i am referring to is in round 2. I did comment the following statement but i thought it might be interesting to take this into a debate.

I would have to say that a pile of laundry could in fact be art. For example if you look at one of the works of Tracey Emin entitled 'My Bed', Emin presents us with nothing more than an untidy bed surrounded by various personal items such as dirty underwear, sheets, cigarette ends, empty alcohol bottles etc. Whilst you could argue that this could be classed as lazy art you also have the reasoning behind the creation of the work which is Emin giving us an insight into a part of her life where she suffered a mental breakdown. The 'mess' around the bed alluding to the mental state of Emin during this time, the fact that the bed was in fact Emins actual bed and the fact that during this time she spent countless hours suffering in this us such a personal insight into the world of the artist which revolutionises your view of the bed. No longer is it a conglomeration of random items but a personal expression of suffering and pain expressed. Therefor a pile of laundry could very much so 'be art', it could allude to any form of methodology...Identity, Feminism, Social History to name but a few along with being a direct representation of the artists and maybe the perceived role that person has had to take in society in order to progress through life. Speaking as a female artist i could easily tie my under ware to the end of a pole and proceed to produced painted works that are a representation of the submissive and responsible role that i as a woman have time and time again been expected to take in society and then photograph myself whilst doing this and exhibit the photographic images as a serious yet slightly humorous statement.....would this be considered lazy art? some yes but to those who take the time to understand the meaning behind the work then the answer in my opinion would be would not be considered lazy art but instead an expression of emotion, frustration and an attempt to reach out and bring awareness to that specific issue along with highlighting the suffering i have gone through in trying to fight that oppressiveness.



I'd like to thank my opponent for the challenge and hope for an entertaining debate. I'm sorry how long it took me to respond but unfortunatly the challenge arrived during my finals and I had a lot of real life duties to attend to first.

Defining the terms

In order to be able to discuss this topic to begin with we must first find a definition on what art is and define the terms. This not only does this help us clear up the debate and express our arguments but it also keeps us from debating semantics and derailing the debate.

Assuming my opponent has no objections (if she does she should come to an agreement with me via PM or comments before posting her next round. Posting without objecting or reaching an agreement signals that she agrees to these definitions)


  • MASS NOUN] The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. Works produced by human creative skill and imagination

Pile of laundry: Both the literal meaning along with any art that does not require skill, effort, imagination nor originality, “lazy” art.

Art and Artforms (introduction)
There is a lot of debate on what “art” is. Art can be subjective, objective, emotional, moving, imspiring, require

creativity and skill of the artist... or apparently a group of belts pinned to the wall.

To avoid repeating myself I already defined and discussed the definition and objectivity of art in the debate my opponent cited, and as such this debate will be an extension of that debate. In the last debate I
went over the idea that not everything is art, and that any form of art should require skill, require originality, imagination or be able to awaken a predefined set of emotions.

My opponent has challenged the notion that a pile of laundry is art and in his case she pointed out this artwork

I will tackle this in two ways: The first, lesser, way is that this isn't a pile of laundry and as such isn't lazy art as I described it, but more importantly, this isn't the art. We'll get there.

Lazy art requires no thoughts

When I first discussed lazy art I referenced to this artwork as a pile of dirty laundry.

This takes no thought (I checked, there isn't a back story as far as I could tell), it took absolutely no effort and it by no standard is art. To prove that I went into my closet and recreated the artwork. The longest time required in its construction was the time it took for me to upload the image to DDO.

[After the night, Oculus_de_logicia]

Is this, by default, art? It's a pile of clean trousers, boxers and socks. There is nothing artistic about this and It took under half a minute creating it. In contrast to “my bed” that did require thought, effort (Have you ever carried a bed ? That thing is heavy!) and is intended to awaken emotion, instead of the usual “I nailed belts to the wall, now give me money!” Emin is trying to invite us into her life and her depression at the time which is incredibly brave of her, and it required an artistic mind to try and express that in such an unorthodox way. Her art may not have required skill per say, but it was intended to awaken emotions. Thus we see the contrast between my “After the Night” and “My bed”. However, this is only part of the explanation why “My bed” might be considered art. The other part is, the art is all in “My” and not in “Bed”. Let me explain:

The story is the art

let's circle back to my bed. Scroll up and look at the image of the piece. Let's assume that there is absolutely no story behind it. Nothing to cry over. Just imagine you're in the museum and stumbled across it. Would your first reaction honestly be: “Oh, that poor artist, I can just feel the depressing sorrow radiate from that piece, how she lay there hours and hours on in her own torment during a sad period in her life.”?

I'm sorry if I am mistaking, but I am going to doubt it. Your first reaction most likely will be: “what the fritz happened here?”

it's not until after you've read the description that you start to understand why the bed is as it is: and you by no mean will consider it to be art until you've received that back story. From that we conclude that the art is directly bound to the story that is attached to the artwork, that on its own my bed isn't art but a messy undone bed. In comparison to the Sistine Chapel we can admire it by the pure emotional power it awakens within us without a back story, the skill it required to both build and paint it and the overwhelming knowledge that it took 4 years to create it.

So, without taking anything away from Emin and her art style we can see that her art, in this case, has no power on its own. We need the back story. To fully understand and appreciate it. Because art is defined by the audience, as stated in the former debate, my bed would not be considered art without the story as the audience cannot read the original intention, they see a bed where she sees pain.

For instance: let's go back to “The Night After.” We'll all agree that this isn't art, all right? But, what if this note was attached to the wall next to it?:

After the night


This artwork represents the inner turmoil that occurred within the artist the last time he wore these pants and boxers. It was a dark evening and he had gone out with his sweetheart, his fianceé and lover of 4 years. It was dark and cold when they decided to leave the diner, a bit intoxicated but happy. They crossed over the street and into their own neighbourhood. They had let their guard down as they enjoyed their total euphoric experience that followed the loving presence of each other. Without warning the artist heard a heavy sound of a car engine over the chilling wind. He turned around and witnessed a man, driving a shining red car, speed towards them. The artist looked at the car as it speed toward them, and before he could react heard a shearing scream. The next thing he knew was his bloody hands wrapped around his lover as she gasped for air. the red car speeding away from the scene. The next hours came crashing down on him the ambulance delivered them to the hospital. As he witnessed the love of his life fade into the hands of god he felt as all life had been struck from him as well. His last memory of the night was how he stumbled home, dropped his trousers on to the floor and entered the most void and heartbreaking depression that he had ever felt, the trousers remaining on the floor for days to come.

Now, assuming you had seen this in a museum and not the internet; would you have considered it art at that point? Why/why not? It fulfilled the exact same criteria as “My bed” reached for in it's quest of becoming art and is in all accounts an emotional tale, albeit a bit cheesy. But what had changed about the artwork? Nothing, we just added a story that expressed emotion and it turned into art.

To conclude

Art is not defined by the artist, it is defined by the audience. A pile of laundry by itself is not art, but what surrounds the laundry is. The laundry isn't art, the laundry isn't even important in the art, it's the story that followed the laundry that is the art. It's the story that intrigues and moves the audience and it Is the story that the audience will remember when they leave. It's the story that will grab the attention of the viewer once the shear shock of the strange notion that trousers are art will fade. Nobody wants to buy “my bed” just because it's a shocking sight on its own. They want to participate in the pain the artist felt, they want to be a part of the experience. Without the story, the laundry on the floor is just another pair of pants someone forgot to pick up After the Night. Disposable, easy to forget, and will fade away once the museum reaches its closing hours.

Debate Round No. 1


I thank the Opp for an intriguing counter to my argument. I will admit he has raised many valid points about the notion of what art is and what it is not. However..

1. Art
MASS NOUN] The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power. Works produced by human creative skill and imagination

Firstly i agree in full with the definition of art you have provided in the sense that it is one definition of what art is, in fact i feel your definition helps my case but we will come to that shortly. Also i agree that art is subjective, so to start let us look at the definition of the word 'subjective' and a short commentary on art before we delve into my counter.

based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

To understand why a pile of laundry can be considered art we first have to understand, as the Opp correctly stated, that art in itself can be or in my personal opinion 'is' subjective. Subjective being defined above as 'based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.'. Art is not only the process of creating a work that gives the viewer a form of aesthetic pleasure, it is a way of portraying a message or even telling a story in more creative manner. In order to truly understand a piece of art you need to know not only the message that the artist is trying to portray but in many cases an understanding of the methodology behind the piece.
Also Art at one point in human history may have been considered a practice for creative minds to create aesthetically pleasing work for the masses (as per the more classical biblical paintings, also please note i use the phrase 'may have been' i am well aware of the deeper meanings behind some of theses pieces), but as per recent years it has become increasingly obscure as artists try to experiment with more creative ways to portray their message, such is the case of the Minimalist Movement where the notion of less is more in an attempt to show the essence of the subject rather than the subject itself. Therefore as artists seek to push the boundaries further on what could be considered art, art is in a state of constant flux, ever changing, growing, developing, evolving where the definitions we held to yesterday would be considered incorrect the following day. Therefore whilst i do agree with the Opp's definition provided and i am happy to adhere to those terms, there is no one true definition of what art is or is not as art is very much perceived to be what it is by the viewer him/herself rather than the collective world as a whole. Whether or not these individuals agree with each other is irrelevant because for every 1 person who agrees there will always be 5 others who think differently.
Whether or not a pile of laundry could be considered art is dependant on the artist behind the works. We have to first question how did the pile of laundry come into being?. Is it a carefully placed installation piece or is it in fact just a case of the artists dumping his/her clothes on the floor and attempting to try and deceive us all into thinking that this is a great masterpiece?.

To create my argument i intend to use the Opp's example entitled 'After the night' which i will analyse and use to attempt to prove that a pile of laundry could in fact be considered art.

Firstly i partially agree with the Opp on the fact that 'The story is the art', if we do take the back story to 'After the night' to be factually true then we do gain a deeper understanding of the sculptural piece in question. The piece jumps from being a random pile of neatly arranged clothes on the floor to a piece that holds great and deep meaning. For example the emotion and power held within the threads that speak of the last memories the artist has of their lost love, her scent that will remain forever on the clothing as well as the pain and the suffering that the memory of the clothes will hold. Whilst the piece may not be considered as important to the rest of the world who view it, to the artist it is a constant reminder of anguish of that fateful night in question.....a memory and feeling they are trying to share with the wider audience. Based on this notion i would like to put to the Opp that if, in this case, only the story is the art....could that story and the meaning behind it that i have mentioned above be portrayed in any other way? Therefore could it be argued that the pile of laundry has now become as essential to the story as the story itself?. In a sense the pile of laundry is essential as it asks the viewer to look beyond the outer appearance to the deeper meaning that is contained within....which while is in partial agreement with your notion of the story being the art...still renders the art itself relevant in this case.
Granted this is a rather obscure way to portray that kind of message but even without the provided back story we can still observe this piece with no information what so ever, as an aesthetically pleasing, albeit random, installation and attempt to have some fun by analysing it ourselves using a variety of methodologies. For example we could approach it under the methodologies of Gender and Identity and ask ourselves if the Opp is attempting to invite us into a humorous discussion on the notion of the masculine gender. Is it a crude statement against the stereotypical general view of the male population as sex crazed, messy individuals with no sense of decorum? seen by the phallic shape of the socks, wrapped around the waist of the jeans referring to the thought that men only think with their d***s, untidily places on the floor...left for some mother or spouse figure to deal with at a later time. Created as a way to say that the identity of the male is not to be defined by the stereotypical view of how the majority are perceived to act?.

Granted yes this is also a cheesy statement and i understand that you may be wondering why i wrote this last paragraph. It is to further attempt to make my point that the art in itself is just as essential as the story because without that specific piece of art, the story in itself may be re told using a different medium but it will never be perceived in the same way that it would when viewing 'After The Night'. Let us take the Opp's original story, yes the essence of the story may be present in the new medium but the Aesthetic 'After The Night' provides would not...the scent on the clothing, the reminder of the painful memories, we can also question if the jeans were in fact a last gift.


I disagree with the Opp in that art can be defined by the artist who creates it, but in a wider sense i also agree that yes it is defined by the audience but that does not mean that a pile of laundry can not be considered art because that pile of laundry regardless of its story gives the viewer a unique insight into the world of the artist or the message they are trying to portray that, as previously stated, no other medium could achieve. Also as stated, whilst other mediums could portray the same message, if not better, the perception you gain would not be the same. Thus rendering the pile of clothing an essential part of the art if not the art itself. For, as stated, while the story can remain the same through a range of disciplines it is the 'art' i.e the physical piece before us that gives us that unique view and insight that the artist is trying to achieve.

I do apologies if i have missed any points you have wanted me to cover but alas i am running out of characters. If so please notify me and i will answer them in the following argument.


I'd like to thank my opponent for the response.
She starts out with a short introduction to her round explaining, in a way, what art is and how it is subjective. How it once was intended to be atheistically: both visually and auditory beautiful. However, there are a few things I'd like to object to right off the bat.

Subjective or objective:

First off I already went over in the previous debate how art is in theory objective. The feelings it may portray is subjective but the initial impact the artist want's to convey is objective, the methods he used to create the artwork are almost always objective methods and there is a predefined array of objects that we will by default find to be artistic. Humans are incredibly predictable as a group. There may be subjective fluctuations within individuals but as a group we will almost always head for a similar, objective direction when it comes to art. We don't need unanimity, we need somewhat of a majority. As such we need to think as a group and consider: “will a majority of our current culture find this to be art.” This is done in an objectified method to cut our own biased opinion out of the debate. So, will they? I'll get to that again in a moment.

Pushing the boundry:

She then says, I quote:
“but as per recent years it [art] has become increasingly obscure as artists try to experiment with more creative ways to portray their message, [...] Therefore as artists seek to push the boundaries further on what could be considered art“

Problem with that is that when you push a boundary it will eventually break. You cannot hide behind “this is obscure, I'm pushing art to it's limit!” At some point you will cease being artistic and just be obscure. Let m explain:

There are in my opinion three overlapping main genres/goals of art.
– Art that is meant to be aesthetically pleasing: such as paintings, statues, music e.t.c
Art that is meant to show off the skill of the artist. Such as architecture or mechanical art.
– Art that is supposed to convey a message (for instance emotions).

A pile of laundry is obviously not supposed to be skillful or something to marvel at. My bed Is supposed to give you a message. However. When you have to explain the emotion to the audience via the description you've killed that artwork. That artwork is now no longer the center piece and is just to support the story. The story can stand as art on it's own but the artwork cannot stand on it's own without the story as it would revert back to being laundry. It cannot convey the message on it's own. It shouldn't depend on the artist, as the artist isn't the one that decides it is art, the audience does.

So, if the art medium cannot emit the general message on its own it has failed as an art form. It isn't pleasing, it isn't skillful and it cannot emit the correct message. Without a premise it will just be a random piece with no value. It cannot even be considered an artistic product seeing how not only can I recreate the work at home (see above) but I also realize that it is just a pair of pants I can get anywhere for a lot less. Buying After the night just signals that you have way to much money and have nothing better to spend it on.

The description should not be the artform:
Now, I have to praise my opponent for making me laugh with her brilliant over-analyzes of my “artwork”, I didn't expect her to interpret it so in-depth and for it to become so entertaining. But in the process she also helped me show another point. The point that the art revolves around the story and the medium is irrelevant.

Being, among other things, a poet I could just as well have written a poem around that premise and eliminated the need to describe that back story because it is by default integrated into the art form. I could have created a painting and even if the story would have gaps I could still make the piece itself the art by having a skillful painting or embedding the sad emotion as a theme and emit that to the audience. I could have written a song, composed a musical piece, a novel, 3D rendered graphics, a play, video art, graffiti, the description that followed the laundry before,tried to create her face out of scrap car parts (preferably the car that killed her), or juststand in the corner of the museum and cried her name for a few hours. All of those are medium that have the possibility to emit a message without needing to really push the limit of what is art. Some of these are pleasing, some are skillful, some are really strange but they all have better potential to emit a message unaided than the clothes I had on when the accident occurred. Just putting the clothes on a wire frame that made them look like a human crouching over someone gave a clearer message.

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against artworks that require you to interpret and decipher the message. But, I will set as a standard that if the sole purpose of the artwork is to portray a message it has to be clear enough to not include every single message there is. For instance, my opponent managed to come up with 4 different meanings to the piece under a gender view. 5 if you count my own story, and approaching this under society, capitalism, as an attack against modern art itself and so forth I could make a plethora of interpretations that more often than not portray opposite emotions and messages within a single piece. It relies on me to be the artist and create the art from a pair of pants. That's akin to placing a blank canvas to the wall and then expecting the audience to imagine what could be on the canvas. That's not art, it's not even subjective anymore, it is literally a $20 canvas that was nailed to the wall.

Again, this circles back to the three main points: if the story is the art, the art is not the art;the audience must agree with the artist that it is art;art should not rely on the audience to convey the message.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (Conclusion)
Let's get back down to a personal level. Both my opponent and I are artists. We may deal with different spectra, with me being a storyteller, writer, poet, designing and programming games and expressing the world within my imagination. My opponent however, as far as she has described to us, deals with modern or contemporary art intended to work on a more raw emotional level and critique the real world. We both however share the one common goal of art: To establish a relationship with our audience. We aspire to move those that view our art, we want to make them understand what we are doing. We can do this in numerous ways, but neither of us would want to create a piece that fails to intrigue the audience.

A pile of laundry as an artform does not establish a connection unaided. It relies on a different artwork, the story, to be understood. I can tell you that a pile of laundry will note score with the wast majority of people. If we ignore the entire premise of the three artworks (well two, the center one doesn't have a premise) we will suddenly see that outside that gallery we would never recognize it as art as opposed, the context of “this is intended as art” is note present anymore. As a medium an ordinary object cannot fulfill the intention the artist wants and will instead just be itself, an object with no further meaning.

If the audience cannot identify it as art then it isn't art. Art isn't created with intention; it is created by perception. A pile of laundry cannot be art in itself. It will always require help, it will always require context and it will never manage to create a message the audience can understand. If the audience will in a majority of cases fail to understand the message, will have at most comments on how lazy or unoriginal the piece is or will in general not conceive the intention of the artist and are required to over analyze the piece to find enjoyment or artistic value in it the artist has failed: he has not created art, but the default pile of dirty laundry.

Debate Round No. 2


darkchie forfeited this round.


I'd like to notify voters that my opponent could not complete the debate due to personal and educational reasons and did alert me via the PM system. We agreed to simply end the debate as a two round debate and thus I'd ask all potential voters to ignore the third round and vote as this was a two round debate from the start.

I'd like to thank my opponent for an entertaining and educated debate and hope to debate her again in the future.
Au revoir.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by darkchie 7 years ago
Also....i refer to the Con as the Opp (Opponent) in my second argument...idk why i did this, it just happened and i went with it
Posted by darkchie 7 years ago
In the conclusion where i write 'that no other medium could achieve' i missed a few words it should read 'that no other medium could achieve in that same unique way' apologies for missing that out :)
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