Conceptual Art vs Greenberg: clash in means, not the ends

Lawrence Weiner, As Long As It Lasts, 1992. Visual statement.

Lawrence Weiner, As Long As It Lasts, 1992. Visual statement.

“Ideas alone can be works of art,”[1] proclaimed American Minimalist artist Sol LeWitt in his 1968 Sentences on Conceptual Art, summoning up a new stream of thought that emerged in 1960s America[2] as a reaction to Clement Greenberg’s insistence on formalism and opticality, a stance that art should be experienced solely through ‘visual stimuli’ and in a disinterested manner.[3] In an anarchic Dada style,[4] Conceptual Art (as this new stream came to be known) proposed “perceptual withdrawal”[5] – instead of producing ‘sacred’ and valuable art objects, they offered only brief linguistic description of their ideas or simple visual statements such as Lawrence Weiner’s As Long As It Lasts (Figure 1). If a physical object of some sort was present it was either perplexingly bare or badly executed and aesthetically unappealing. What is more, these artworks mixed a variety of media (including everyday objects and all sorts of rubbish), thus attacking Greenberg’s “quest for medium-specific purity.”[6] Purposefully provocative, conceptual artworks encouraged a renewed enquiry into what art is or should be.

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A House is the People You Walk With

Nicole Foreshew and Jacob Nash, Hereby Make Protest, 2014.

Nicole Foreshew and Jacob Nash, Hereby Make Protest, 2014.

“Some experience of voyaging and exile is […] necessary for being’s complete fulfillment,”[2] wrote Martinican literary critic Édouard Glissant in his 1990 book Poetics of Relation. Similarly, art historian and curator Miwon Kwon suggests that it is through traveling and being out of a familiar place that one finds him/herself.[3] For Glissant, this newly found self is no longer connected to a single, unitary root. Once determined by geography of our origin and a single culture, our identity is now unmoored, diffused, and characterised by the “errant thought.”[5] We find ourselves in Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome – “an assemblage of connected multiplicities, without center or origin, […] always in process of becoming;”[6] detached, capricious, and able to swiftly shift course. [7] But this fluidity and flexibility in thoughts and actions is both exhilarating and  daunting. Unmoored and unbound, we also crave stability and belonging. Errantry is, thus, paired with melancholia and nostalgia; rhizome experienced as vertigo and tension.[8]

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In the sixteenth and seventeenth century, symbols of vanitas and momentum mori signified fragility of life and earthly pleasures. Opulent items such as exotic food, imported wine, and luscious flowers were painted as reminders of inevitable decay and brevity of material possessions. In the twenty-first century, the idea of impermanence is explored in significantly different forms and mediums. The core message, however, remains (more-less) the same.

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Queering the Language with Astrid Lorange

Nick Cave's personal dictionary

ASTRID LORANGE is Sydney based poet, performer, researcher and academic whose recently publish book ‘How Reading is Written’ explores the legacy of Gertrude Stein and challenges the settled conventions of language. Astrid believes that language – both in writing and reading – should be open to experimentation; always kept fresh and innovative. Language, in other words, should be a constant discovery. On 27 February 2015, I’ve interviewed Astrid on Eastside Radio 89.7FM.  Continue reading

Challenging the notion of Queer Art with Zvonimir Dobrovic

German choreographer Raimund Hoghe.

German choreographer Raimund Hoghe

Internationally acclaimed curator, Zvonimir Dobrovic is currently in Sydney as guest of Performance Space and 2015 Mardi Gras festival. On Friday 27 February, he joined me on Eastside Radio to talk about his practice and the new, extended meaning of queer art.

Zvonimir is known for his unconventional approach to curating queer. His vision of queer art widens the common association of queer with the LGBT related content and includes all art that is subversive (but never violent); all art that questions normativity and conventionality. The art, in other words, that is a disruption to business-as-usual, to normative assumptions that lead to marginalisation and discrimination of any kind.

Hear Zvonimir reflect on socio-political relevance of queer art and explain why he believes that art (and non-didactic art in particular) has a power to broaden the per-existing limiting and marginalising narratives, more effectively then some other initiatives. He also explains why it is important to keep queer art indexical rather then iconic, where iconic is seen as repetitive and formulaic while indexical points to something new and unexpected, something that we have not yet though of. The indexical art is an art of discovery. If we follow Zvonimir’s definition of queer art as disruption of status-quo then we could say that indexical art is by its very definition queer. Or, in other words, that art that is not indexical stops being queer.

“When trying to understand or determine queer art, let us remember that the beauty of queer is that there is no essential queer art object or subject. Queer art is not an objectifiable identity, domain, or dwelling, but is rather produced as a contrast against which normalcy is produced and codified. Hence, queer art never is, it never fully arrives. It is always, disrupting, refusing, and resisting the ever-shifting power of normativity and dominance, …” ~

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Dear Sylvia ~ Plath

Dear Sylvia

‘Dear Sylvia’, a group photomedia exhibition inspired by life of American poet Sylvia Plath is currently on at the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP) featuring the works of nine female international artists who examine the representation of the female body and the female condition in contemporary society – whether this society is developed, Western world (i.e. France, UK, Australia, Netherlands) or a country such as Romania, Ukraine, Palestine, South America, and Israel where not only female, but human rights in general are under constant and extreme threat.

Through variety of photographic styles and genres, these nine female photomedia artist depict female body as both fragile and suffocated, as well as a powerful and vibrant agent of revolutionary change. In doing so they portray the complexity of Sylvia Plath’s own condition as unconventionally passionate women, a spirit eager to fly high and free in a society where freedom, joy and superfluous love was discouraged, perhaps even ridiculed.

On Thursday 5 February, I spoke to Claire Monneraye, the exhibition’s curator and Marlous van der Sloot, a Dutch photographer whose body of work features in the exhibition and examines the ways photography can be used to restore physicality to our overly rational minds; to encourage return to senses in what could be seen as a “touch starved” society. Marlous images re-establish connection between animal and human creating distortions that prompt us to re-learn to see.
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