French artist-provocateur Marcel Duchamp may have been on to something when he displayed a commercially-manufactured urinal signed by ‘R. Mutt’ as ‘art’ in his famous 1917 work ‘Fountain’, if a Dutch study published in September is anything to go by.
The scientists say that just believing something is ‘art’ can completely change the way we perceive and respond to it. Presumably, it also means art collectors would suddenly be willing to part with wads of cash in exchange for it too. The researchers scanned students’ brains as they looked at images they had been told were either ‘art’, or simply photographs, and found activity in the brain’s outer layer – the cortex – was much lower when students thought they were looking at art.
That’s probably because they didn’t think of the image as ‘real’, and took a mental ‘step back’ to appreciate colour, shape and composition, said the scientists. When asked to rate the images, the students liked the ‘art’ more than the photographs.
Duchamp’s urinal sold for around $1.4m in 2002, which you could argue is taking the piss. Now, does anybody want to buy my kitchen sink?
Science isn’t always serious. The Weird Science series, collated by the Australian Science Media Centre, serves up the most quirky, curious and downright bizarre science stories of 2016.