What is a work of art? That is a question that has probably been debated by people somewhere every single day for millennia or even decades. When boiled down to its most essential and pure essence of meaning, a work of art is usually, at the very least, considered to be an entity that was created out of nothing or at least something else. The simple of act of creation is the basis of the inclusion of everything from Michelangelo’s statue of King David to Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup cans; a very broad range indeed that takes us from the sublime to the impossibly gullible. This definition can also be utilized to transform a 1930s Duisenberg into a work of art as well as Joan Rivers’ face; again, a very broad range taking us from, well, you know. Using this admittedly basic definition for what makes something a work of art, then, does that mean that the remote control for a DVD player or an enormous widescreen plasma TV is a work of art?
The sleek design of a remote control gives it the appearance of a work of art; most remote controls today certainly seem to be developed with form at a higher place in the mindset than pure function; many of the more sophisticated remote controls almost seem to have been designed with not a whit of thought toward functionality. If a Lamborghini Testarossa or a DeLonghi toaster can be considered a work of art (and they certainly are) then so should this Polaroid remote control I am looking at now. The remote control in a broader generic sense also meets another highly essential requirement for a work of art in that is worms its way into the cultural consciousness like a worm worming its way into something that be wormed into.
Few people in the late 1800s considered the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh to be genuine art, yet now when asked to name a painter, Van Gogh is undoubtedly among the top three responses of the masses. (Along with Da Vinci and Matt Groening, of course.) The remote control is so omnipresent today that a relatively recent movie (Click) revolved around the plot of a remote control that could stop time. The remote control is kind of in the same situation as Van Gogh; both hung around inside people’s houses and were taken for granted and both had buttons that nobody knew the purpose of, not even the designer or, in the case of Van Gogh, his parents.
There is one final element that transforms a created object into a true work of art and that is that a work of art creates an emotional connection to a person. The emotion that is created is not important; all that outrage expressed toward the work of Jackson Pollack by those funny people who think their kid could do the same thing is the perfect example of this. A remote control definitely fulfills the function of art as related to creating an emotional connection. Don’t believe me? Then just watch the state of agitation someone gets worked up into whenever they have lost their remote control.