Conceptual Art in Britain: Room 4

By the mid-1970s the changing focus for conceptual art in Britain led to its redefinition through the rest of the decade. Having questioned the material, aesthetic and theoretical condition of the art object, it then addressed the role of art in society by combining theory and practice to carry out a critical, activist agenda. This repurposing of conceptual art was in some ways a return to original principles seeking a re-engagement with the wider world.

Conceptual art’s initial concern had been to challenge the validity of a modernist practice that did not look for meaning beyond its own material and aesthetic definitions. One approach had entailed shifting the focus of attention from the art object to its context or siting. The artwork might be conceived as an open-ended project of critical research that could have a constructive or even polemical purpose in society. An important aspect of this shift was the change in character for much of conceptual art whereby the bringing together of theory and practice was achieved through the introduction of subjective experience which acknowledged that ‘the personal is political’. This can be recognised especially in works that explicitly addressed socio-political issues from a personal or collaborative perspective.