Whereas the dominant conceptual art in the US and UK considered itself to be a critique of the notion of modernism developed by Clement Greenberg in his criticism, art that could be considered as ‘conceptual’ coming from continental Europe had a different genealogy and different concerns. Whereas US/UK conceptual art (with some exceptions in the UK) carried over Greenberg’s attempt to exclude literature from painting and sculpture (although he thought it to be essential to photography), some of the most important sources of continental conceptualism could be considered to be the poetry of Mallarmé, the writings of Raymond Roussel, dada sound and typographic art and the notes and writings of Duchamp. I would like to make a case for the fruitfulness of this tradition of ‘poetic conceptualism’ in artists’ artwriting, although, to modify a little, if continental conceptualism drew on poetry, the literary source for US conceptual writing was rather the prose of the nouveau roman, with a common inheritance via Duchamp and Fluxus of the instruction.
Then and Now: Conceptual Art, Writing, Artwriting
This short paper will introduce some of the critical issues associated with the retrospective temporality of viewing writings by conceptual artists of the late 1960s from the standpoint of the subsequent categories of ‘conceptualism’ and ‘artwriting’.
Studio International as Site: Victor Burgin’s ‘Situational Aesthetics’ and Hélio Oiticica’s ‘The Senses Pointing Towards a New Transformation‘
In the 1960s the British art magazine Studio International – then under the editorship of Peter Townsend and the assistant editorship of Charles Harrison – proved an important site for the mediation of a nascent conceptual art. Famously, Joseph Kosuth first published ‘Art After Philosophy’ in the October 1969 issue of the magazine. This paper, however, focuses on two less well-known texts: Victor Burgin’s ‘Situational Aesthetics’ (also published in the October 1969 issue) and Hélio Oiticica’s obscure ‘The Senses Pointing Towards a New Transformation’ (submitted in December 1969 in response to a commission but not published). It explores the arguments presented by each artist and argues that these essays, considered in the context of their authors’ broader practices, hold important, underdeveloped implications for our understanding not only of historical conceptual art but also the emergent practice of ‘conceptual writing’ that has developed recently in dialogue with it. The paper argues for the significance of Studio International as a contested discursive site within the still-expanding circuits of conceptualism.
Was it Possible for Keith Arnatt to Contribute Nothing?
Keith Arnatt’s work as a conceptualist tested to the limits the capacity of artworks to incorporate the language that might otherwise have been used to describe, criticise or interpret them. His works around 1970, such as Is It Possible For Me To Do Nothing As My Contribution To This Exhibition or Excerpt from ‘ART AND EGOCENTRICITY – a perlocutionary act?’ relied heavily on dense texts, deftly borrowing from and parodying analytical philosophy, to create a logical hall of mirrors in which works attempted to account for their own conditions of possibility. His abrupt abandonment of conceptualism – and of the designation of ‘artist’ in favour of ‘photographer’ – suggests some possible sidesteps in relation to current perplexities around self-reflexivity.
Yaiza Hernández Velázquez
One of the Two Things is Usually Lacking: Notes on Artwriting
The term ‘artwriting’ – coined in the late eighties by David Carrier to refer to a specific kind of philosophically-informed art criticism – has recently enjoyed a revival of sorts. However, its original usage seems to have been largely neglected, adopting in its new incarnation a meaning that manages to be simultaneously more restrictive and imprecise. In this way, for example, the recently established MA in Artwriting at Goldsmiths College takes artwriting to refer to ‘work that addresses art as writing, writing as art, and writing about art’. I consider this characterisation of artwriting in the light of the wider prominence of what I call ‘theory in general’. It will be argued that despite the (frequent but largely fruitless) attempts to differentiate artwriting from literary, critical or theoretical writing, it is from its affinity to such theory that artwriting makes its claim on a post-Romantic and post-conceptual contemporary art.
Michael Archer, critic and writer on art
Mark A. Cheetham, Professor, Department of the History of Art, University of Toronto
Michael Corris, Professor and Chair, Division of Art, Southern Methodist University
Helen Delaney, Curator, Contemporary British Art, Tate Britain
Anthony Gardner, Lecturer, Contemporary Art History and Theory, Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, University of Oxford
Adrian Glew, Archivist, Tate Britain
Christopher Griffin, Collection Research Manager, Tate
Yaiza Hernández Velázquez, PhD candidate, Kingston University
Helen Little, Assistant Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art, Tate Britain
Jo Melvin, Senior Lecturer, Chelsea College of Art, University of the Arts London
Stephen Moonie, Lecturer, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University
Jennifer Mundy, Head of Collection Research, Tate
Michael Newman, Professor of Art Writing, Department of Art, Goldsmiths
Peter Osborne, Professor of Modern European Philosophy, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University
Luke Skrebowski, Lecturer, Department of Art History, University of Cambridge
Mike Sperlinger, Assistant Director, LUX
Lucy Steeds, Editor of Afterall’s Exhibition Histories series and Co-Pathway Leader for MRes Art: Exhibition Studies at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts London
Josefine Wikström, PhD candidate, Kingston University
Andrew Wilson, Curator, Modern and Contemporary British Art, Tate Britain