Museum of Art Lodz

and Gallery Foksal (Warszawa) Exhibition



Michael Craig-Martin

An Oak Tree

An Oak Tree
Question:
To begin with, could you describe this work?
Answer:
Yes, of course. What I've done is change a glass of water into a full-grown oak tree without altering the accident of the glass of water.
Q:
The accidents?
A:
Yes. The colour, feel, weight, size...
Q:
Do you mean that the glass of water is a symbol of an oak tree?
A:
No. It's not a symbol. I've hanged the physical substance of the glass of water into that of an oak tree.
Q:
It looks like a glass of water...
A:
Of course it does. I didn't change its appearance. But it's not a glass of water. It's an oak tree.
Q:
Can you prove what you claim to have done?
A:
Well, yes and no. I claim to have maintained the physical form of the glass of water and, as you can see, I have. However, as one normally looks for evidence of physical change in terms of altered form, no such proof exist.
Q:
Haven't you simply called this glass of water an oak tree?
A:
Absolutely not. It is not a glass of water anymore. I have changed its actual substance. It would no longer be accurate to call it a glass of water. One could call it anything one wished but that would not alter the fact that it is an oak tree.
Q:
Isn't this just a case of the emperor's new clothes?
A:
No. With the emperor's new clothes people claimed to see something which wasn't there because they felt they should. I would be very surprised if anyone told me they saw an oak tree.
Q:
Was it difficult to effect the change?
A:
No effort at all. But it took me years of work before i realised I could do it.
Q:
When precisely did the glass of water become an oak tree?
A:
When I put water in the glass.
Q:
Does this happen every time you fill a glass with water?
A:
No, of course not. Only when I intend to change it into an oak tree.
Q:
Then intention causes the change?
A:
I would say that it precipitates the change.
Q:
You don't know how you do it?
A:
It contradicts what feel I know about cause and effect.
Q:
It seems to me you're claiming to have worked a miracle. Isn't that the case?
A:
I'm flattered that you think so.
Q:
But aren't you the only person who can do something like this?
A:
How could I know?
Q:
Could you teach others to do it?
A:
No. It's not something one can teach.
Q:
Do you consider that changing the glass of water into an oak constitutes an artwork?
A:
Yes.
Q:
What precisely is the artwork? The glass of water?
A:
There is no glass of water any more.
Q:
The process change?
A:
There is no process involved in the change.
Q:
The oak tree?
A:
Yes. The oak tree.
Q:
But the oak tree only exist in the mind.
A:
No. The actual oak tree is physically present but in the form of the glass of water. As the glass of water was a particular glass of water, the oak tree is also particular. To conceive the category "oak tree" or to picture a particular oak tree is not to understand and experience what appears to be a glass of water as an oak tree. Just as it is imperceivable, it is also inconceivable.
Q:
Did the particular oak tree exist somewhere else before it took the form of the glass water?
A:
No. This particular oak tree did not exist previously. I should also point out that it does not and will ever have any other form but that of a glass of water.
Q:
How long will it continue to be an oak tree?
A:
Until I change it.

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