Joseph Kosuth

Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version (Exhibition Version)

1965, 1997

Clock and 4 works on paper, photograph and printed paper
Transferred from the Irish Museum of Modern Art 1997


Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version (Exhibition Version) is an installation by the American conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth. It comprises five elements arranged in a row along the gallery wall: a life-sized photograph of a clock, a real clock and three enlarged entries from an English–Latin dictionary for the words ‘time’, ‘machination’ and ‘object’. The commercially manufactured clock is battery operated, has functioning mechanisms and is set to local time when exhibited. It has a white-grey face, a domed glass front and a brushed aluminium bezel rim. The photograph and printed entries are black and white, mounted on board and installed directly onto the gallery wall.

The original installation from 1965, entitled Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version, is also in Tate’s collection (Tate T01909) and was conceived in New York when Kosuth was a student there at the School of the Visual Arts. The 1965 version belongs to a wider series of works made at this time that Kosuth retrospectively entitled Proto-Investigations. Each of these featured a real object, a photograph of this object and one or more printed definitions of associated words taken from a dictionary or pair of dictionaries, usually English and one other language (see, for instance, One and Three Chairs 1965, Museum of Modern Art, New York).

Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version 1965 is accompanied by a set of artist-provided ‘production instructions that doubled as Certificates’ that are intended to inform future installations of the work (Kosuth quoted in Biggiero 2009, p.21). In 1974 Kosuth explained:

The photographs should be apparently casually push-pinned to the wall. Important: if your wall is noticeably different than the wall in the photograph of the clock which you received then it must be rephotographed. The photo of the clock must be identical to the clock and its surrounding wall. The lighting and reflections on the clock and in the photo of the clock should also be as close as possible.
(Kosuth in a letter of 15 October 1974, quoted in Alley 1981, pp.400–1.)

Clock (One and Five), English/Latin (Exhibition Version) 1965, 1997 was made in New York in 1997 to be displayed that same year at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, as part of the exhibition Joseph Kosuth: New Installation and Survey 1965–1997. In making it Kosuth partly deviated from his original instructions, as each of the photographs have been affixed to a stiff board rather than being ‘casually push-pinned to the wall’. On its acquisition Kosuth also provided Tate with what curator Ronald Alley describes as ‘paste-ups of the dictionary sources, from which further photographs can be taken if replacements are needed, and a diagram with instructions for the installation, which also serves as a certificate of ownership’ (Alley 1981, p.401).

At the time that this work was first conceived in 1965, Kosuth was interested in linguistic anthropology – the study of how language influences social behaviour – and the operation of language in our understanding of and relationship with real objects. In a 1974 letter to Tate he explained his choice to use the English–Latin binary for the installation: ‘an important aspect of my work which uses other languages is that it can only be exhibited (exist as art) in a location where that language is spoken’, the only exception being those in English and English/Latin which ‘can be exhibited anywhere’ due to the fact that ‘Latin is “dead”’ and therefore ‘functions only operationally, not really’ (quoted in Alley 1981, p.400). The definitions provided offer the viewer expanded contexts for viewing the photograph of the clock and the clock itself. By presenting us with a visual tautology – five different ‘versions’ of a clock – Kosuth questions the notion of representation, as curator Anne Rorimer has explained:

Having been extracted from the ‘real’ world of use and replaced to function within the world of art, the objects re-present themselves. Kosuth thereby represented the idea of representation per se through photographic and/or linguistic means. As the combination of … equal parts … these works are statements of fact, not simply about external reality, but about the means to represent it.
(Ann Goldstein and Anne Rorimer, Reconsidering the Object of Art 1965–1975, Los Angeles 1995, p.150.)

Furthermore, art historian Liz Kotz has described the movement between each element of these installations as an ‘ascending spiral of abstraction’ which led Kosuth to remove the ‘real’ object altogether in favour of purely linguistic representation in his Investigations series of the late 1960s and the 1970s (Kotz 2005, p.9).

Although Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version was first conceived and made early in Kosuth’s career, the subsequent version was produced when he was an established artist. Kosuth has frequently rejected attempts to associate him with wider art movements. However, he has acknowledged the influence on his work of French artist Marcel Duchamp’s (1887–1968) readymades and has links to both postminimalism and conceptualism, publishing an essay in 1969 entitled Art After Philosophy that is now considered seminal in theories of conceptual art.

Further reading
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery’s Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.399–401.
Liz Kotz, ‘Language Between Performance and Photography’, October, vol.111, Winter 2005, pp.3–21.
Fiona Biggiero (ed.), Joseph Kosuth: The Language of Equilibrium, Milan 2009.

Jo Kear
July 2015

Supported by Christie’s.

Display caption

This work comprises a clock, a photograph of it, and three enlarged entries from an English/Latin dictionary for the words ‘time’, ‘machination’ and ‘object’. In its combination of a real clock with a photographic image and related linguistic definitions, this work can be seen as a meditation on the nature of time and on ways of representing the concept of a clock.

Gallery label, September 2004