“Ideas alone can be works of art,” 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 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. In an anarchic Dada style, Conceptual Art (as this new stream came to be known) proposed “perceptual withdrawal” – 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.” Purposefully provocative, conceptual artworks encouraged a renewed enquiry into what art is or should be.
Relational art has been fiercely criticised in the last couple of decades for facilitating fleeting moments of sociability and resulting in a numbing spectacle it allegedly endeavours to evade. Under the pretense of re-establishing genuine social bonds and shared human values it cultivates an artificial community and suffocates individual rational thought. Conceived as a creative journey and concerned with “process rather than end result”, it emphasizes use over contemplation and fails to emancipate its audience – relational art “becomes practical but it is an art that enthrals”, writes German critic Peter Burger. Focusing on democratisation and flexible formats and “blurring the imprint of individual authorial status”, relational art attempts to create an environment for dialogue and active, meaningful engagement. But critics argue that the so-called “authorial renunciation” only masks this art’s innate hollowness and visionary void.
For the duration of twelve weeks, artist Yingmei Duan inhabits a little forest within the walls of the Art Gallery of NSW (Sydney).
Yoko Ono ventured into the art world in the late 1950s when artists were still expected to produce aesthetically enticing and commercially valuable objects. There was little understanding, at the time, for the offbeat art that looked at being intellectually intriguing and politically provocative rather than visually palatable. Ono was amongst the forerunners of the buoyant movement that shook the establishment, revolutionised conventional conceptions of art, and “established a radically different sensibility — one whose style and notoriety were to have a lasting impact on the philosophy of artmaking and on the relationship between art and society.“[i]
Measuring the Universe by acclaimed Slovakian artist Roman Ondák is not an art piece one comes to admire but an event to which one comes wanting to be involved, to participate in the creation of an unfolding, living artwork.