Rejected Proposal for the Peter Stuyvesant ‘City Sculpture Project’ (For Cardiff City) 1972 is a small, single panel work split horizontally into two halves; the upper half contains text and the lower half a photographic image of two billboards in a car park in Cardiff. The billboard on the left states ‘keith arnatt is an artist’ while the one of the right declares ‘keith arnatt is not an artist’. The text in the top half is taken from the philosopher Wesley C. Salmon’s (1825–2001) book Logic (first published in 1963) which aimed to show how contradiction may be defined, that even if we do not know which of two contradictory statements may be true or false, it is certain that one is true and the other false. Trouser–Word Piece 1972 (Tate T07649), to which this work directly relates, acted out the notion that one can only consider something to be real by knowing what is posited as not real. For this work, Arnatt joined a text drawn from the British philosopher John Langshaw Austin’s (1911–1960) Sense and Sensibilia (first published in 1962) with a photographic self-portrait in which he holds a sandwich board declaring ‘I’M A REAL ARTIST’. The Rejected Proposal for the Peter Stuyvesant ‘City Sculpture Project’ (For Cardiff City) exchanges the photographic self-portrait of the earlier work for text, and the declarative emphasis of the upper-case text used in Trouser-Word Piece for the quieter lower case. This work was, as the title indicates, a proposal for the 1972 City Sculpture Project. Funded by the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation, this sited sculptures in cities around Britain for a minimum period of six months. The projects chosen for Cardiff were by Garth Evans (born 1934) and William Pye (born 1938).
This is one of a group of works which were exhibited, or intended to be exhibited in Keith Arnatt’s participation in Seven Exhibitions at the Tate Gallery, London in 1972. Other works from this group are Invisible Hole Revealed by the Shadow of the Artist 1968 (Tate P13145), Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of his Former Self 1969–72 (Tate P13143), Art as an Act of Retraction 1971 (Tate P13140), Art as an Act of Omission 1971 (Tate P13144) and I Have Decided to Go to the Tate Gallery next Friday 1971 (Tate P13142). In their range they illustrate the move in Arnatt’s work from the making of situational sculptures to a documentation of performative acts that question – through a linking of philosophical text with image – the status of art and the role and identity of the artist, whom Arnatt shows to be in different states of disappearance. This group of work was presented by the artist to Tate Gallery Archive in 1972 and transferred to the collection in 2010.
Seven Exhibitions, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1972.
The New Art, exhibition catalogue, Hayward Gallery, London 1972.
I’m a Real Photographer: Keith Arnatt Photographs 1974–2002, exhibition catalogue, Photographer’s Gallery, London 2007.