A discussion of who is and is not an artist over on Edward Winkleman's blog reminded me of an experience I had in Milledgeville, Georgia, about 15 years ago. While standing in the check-out line at the local Piggly Wiggly (yes, the Piggly Wiggly) I was a little startled to see a very large, very dead hog, draped with a cloth, with one hoof dangling and bobbing over the edge of its gurney, being rolled through the automatic doors at the front of the store. At the time I thought (hypocritically, FIMP's resident philosopher would say, considering the meat that I'm sure I was buying at the time) "isn't this one of the reasons they have delivery entrances in supermarkets?".
In 1994, Damien Hirst created this sculpture, titled "Flock", from steel, glass, formaldehyde, and lamb. He made quite a stir with this work, which was accompanied by sculptures featuring bisected cows and a preserved shark.
It just goes to show that Marcel Duchamp had it right when he showed us that art is whatever the artist says it is. If you agree to that, you're still left with the question of who is an artist. An artist is the person who says "hey, look at this" and convinces someone else to look.
Now, whoever arranged that slaughtered pig on that gurney just so, with the hoof dangling over the edge, and decided to roll it through the front of the store, created a visual experience that was quite striking. I remember it with greater clarity than a lot of artwork I've seen in the years since. But no effort was made to dislocate that event from its surroundings and hold it up as art, removing it from the everyday Piggly Wiggly world and placing it in the artworld. The two things that were needed to change that supermarket performance into art were an artist - someone to say "wait, this is my statement, look at this" - and someone willing to watch.