Joseph Kosuth

Clock (One and Five), English/Latin Version


Joseph Kosuth born 1945
Clock, photograph, colour, on paper and printed papers
Support: 610 x 2902 mm
Purchased 1974

Not on display

Display caption

Like many conceptual works, this is concerned with different modes of representation. It is thus an examination of a fundamental aspect of art. It brings together a real object with representations of different aspects of that object. It consists of a working clock, a photograph of it on the same scale, and enlarged entries from an English/Latin dictionary for the words, 'time,' 'machination' and 'object'. At the time, the artist was interested in 'linguistic anthropology' and the effect language has on the way we see and represent the world. He made a number of such works combining everyday things with photographs and descriptions or definitions translated from English into other European languages.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Joseph Kosuth born 1945

T01909 Clock (One and Five) English/Latin Version 1965

Not inscribed
Clock, photograph of clock and three definitions, 24 x 114 1/4 (61 x 290.2)
Purchased from the artist through Nigel Greenwood Inc. Ltd. (Grant-in-Aid) 1974
Repr: Joseph Kosuth: Investigation über Kunst & 'Problemreise' seit 1965 (Kunstmuseum, Lucerne 1973), Vol.1, p.35; The Tate Gallery 1974-6 (London 1976), p.47

This work consists of a clock, a photograph of this clock on the same scale, and three blown-up photographs of entries from an English-Latin dictionary for the words 'time', 'machination' and 'object'. It is one of a series of works comprising a real object such as a clock, a chair or a hammer, together with its photograph and one or more entries for words relating to descriptions or definitions of it taken from dictionaries (usually dictionaries from English into another language).

The artist writes (letter of 15 October 1974) that: 'All the works in this series are either English/Latin (for example) or English/German, English/French, English/Italian, etc. - except for work which is all English. There is only one in each language. This means that the first word (be it clock, chair, hammer, etc.) is always in English, with the description/definition text in a different language (again, except the all English one). Certainly at least on one level a change of language can change the work quite significantly ... this English/Latin version is the only one from this series which is not in my possession. I've made an effort to keep all of the English/Latin works ...

'This work, which is from 1965, is limited explicitly to what was done at that time. 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 ... Work which is English/German can only be exhibited in Germany, Switzerland, or Austria, for instance. In fact each certificate is stamped with the following stamp:

'It is the intention of Joseph Kosuth that this work be owned or exhibited exclusively in a ------------ speaking cultural/linguistic context. Fulfillment of this requirement is absolutely essential to the existence of the work (as art).

'Your certificate does not have such a stamp because the works in English, and English/Latin are the only works which can be exhibited anywhere. This might appear a bit arbitrary so let me explain. At the time of this work, and for several years after (roughly the "Proto-Investigations" through the Fifth Investigation) I was perhaps overly influenced by the Whorf-Sapier hypothesis. In case you are not familiar with linguistic anthropology let me say roughly that it has to do with the effect of language on one's perception of the world and organization of reality. Since I speak English it seemed to me that this work in English would have to have a somewhat different status than work using other languages. It all gets rather (deliberately) tautological since the problems of other languages was intended and used .... One use of the use of languages I couldn't speak was meant to imply or underscore the "trans-linguistic" aspect of European (Western) culture, and to some extent a reification of that as its own "cultural object". The intent was to set up a kind of "dialectic" between a "trans-linguistic" (art) level of Western culture and the contextually-bound function (meaning) of art.

'The body of work in English/Latin is different again from English/English and English/German etc. I believe some of the same features are maintained as in the English/German, but since Latin is "dead" it functions only operationally, not really. (As if ...) This work is the "richest" insofar as it has the most amount of sedimentation, is more operationally extended. Its own contradictions could prove to be a decoding device for the whole system - the way my "myths" dovetail with our "myths" and describe reality in spite of themselves. (What can the experience of a description of reality tell us about our world?)

'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.'

The Gallery also received at the time of purchase 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.

The artist said of this certificate, which is not intended for exhibition: 'One of the aspects of this work which concerned me at the time was the (positive) problematic aspect of "value" and meaning. Ownership was dependent on possession of the "instructions" (this certificate/diagram) and the experiental/ informational props (things in the world) only had value within the discourse of (art) ideas. At the time I even liked the idea that interested parties could "counterfeit" my work and it would be accurate and have "value" (would be meaningful) within an art context but at the same time would be worthless in the art market.'

Published in:
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, reproduced p.399