Christine Kozlov (b. 1945, USA – d. 2005) 271 Blank Sheets of Paper Corresponding to 271 Days of Concepts Rejected, 1968
I would have a room full of paper if I had followed Christine’s example. Maybe a house. Although my productivity in idea rejection has significantly decreased over the last few years, and in particular over the last semester. But it is interesting to see another artist to make that internal process visible – and turning it into art at that. Then again, she did not exactly turn rejection of ideas into art, but rather representation of that happening, which is then perhaps more of the novelty in terms of the motif rather than kind. And yet, it triggers that kind of consideration that I find interesting. I am also trying to make works that can trigger new considerations and shifted perspectives.
Unfocused. Incoherent. Vague. Those could be valid impressions of my blog, since I am mixing genres, media, themes etc quite wildly. Yet, rather conspicuous tags like “conceptual”, “experimental” and “interdisciplinary” might signal to a discerning reader that all of that is deliberate. In fact, to invoke chaos theory, it only looks chaotic on this particular level of abstraction, where categories are fixed and mutually exclusive. My artistic agenda currently is heavily relying on attempts to bypass these restrictive verbal categories in search for novel ways to make sense of the world.
McEvilly (2005) described it as “the quest for the unaccountable” (p. 207), I – after an assist from Dr Rendall – phrase it as “making sense of the stuff that doesn’t” (see http://jusles.art). And that’s the reason and the source of my commitment to conceptual art – art for me is primarily a mode of exploration. I am not very interested in perfecting crafty skills, replicating a canon, gaining recognition or generating ‘beauty’ for their own sake, unless they become instrumental in my larger quest. Thus, I cannot express enough gratitude to Duchamp who brought cognition back to art (McEvilly, 2005, p.25), effectively enabling me to pursue my interests through artistic means. That explains also presence of numerous conceptual classics (e.g. Baldessari, Asher) in my list along with some experimentalists (e.g. McRae, Cardoso) exploring interfaces between art and science.
However, focus on cognitive faculty does not exclude aesthetical or ethical or any others. It only helps me to organise it all into something that makes the effort worthwhile. If it can be distinguished at all, that is, since Aristotelian division of the human into the cognitive, the ethical and the aesthetic faculties seems very arbitrary. I do assume that “beauty” (aesthetics) has some kind of logics to it (cognition) that also involves occasional assessments of rights and wrongs (ethics). Thus, I can see meaning in beauty and that meaning does not always have to be articulated in words to make sense – we are equipped with variety of senses and there is no clear-cut distinction between sensing and cognition. Therefore, my list is also populated with works that are very strong in percepts, just because they happen to tingle my concepts in the right way (e.g. McQueen, Between Music, Mulga, Christo).
While trying deliberately to bypass and blur those unproductive categories, I cannot remain oblivious to the fact that some world leaders have embraced the very same technique, making them arguably the most prominent conceptual artists of the day (I also have a work in progress on this theme) and raising a number of ethical issues. Thus, I have some works on the list provoking ethical considerations (e.g. Sierra, Raila, Rogalska).
All listed works have some element that is relevant or inspiring for my own endeavours regardless of the genre, media or even my arbitrary tags. The wilder the mix – the more unaccountable the concept. The next step is to find a vantage point from where all of this no longer will appear chaotic.
McEvilley, T. (2005). The Triumph of Anti-Art. Kingston, NY: McPherson & Co.
I envy people’s boldness to put up their stuff in public space.
I don’t even know for sure why I don’t do that myself – just chickening out, too conditioned to respect the rules, having conceptual concerns with unsolicited enforcement of something onto somebody when I can myself complain about others doing that… since I kinda only appreciate it when I like the message, artistic content or the aesthetics of the contribution… so yeah, firstly I would need to pass my internal quality control, then to find a place and way to place it that feels right and finally find the guts to carry it out… oh well, maybe tomorrow.
To be able to do things like that after quitting from art… Awe…
I’ve done a couple of works on much smaller scale and of much smaller beauty that have certain resemblance with this.
But it is for his early conceptual works (after which he resigned from art, to come back a few years later) that I wanted to place him on my list – only that I could not find any relevant images. And I was surprised to find plenty of this… monumental, almost minimalist.
I find support to some of my thinking in his avoidance of subjectivity and exploration of the border – or the interface – between art and science.
François Morellet (b. 1926, France – d. 2016) La Défonce, 1990
Monumental minimalism again.
But I do like his smaller works a lot, too. His obsession with mathematics and geometry appeals to me, as I do see a lot of aesthetics in there, too – and very conceptual aesthetics at that. That nevertheless are embodied and eye-pleasing 🙂
Robert Morris (b. 1931, USA – d. 2018) Box with the Sound of its Own Making, 1961
Why do I find self-referential objects exciting? I don’t know. Maybe it’s this illusion of particular completeness and autonomy? Or strengthened emphasis on the object rather than its maker or conditions of its creation (although some might choose to trace the reference in opposite direction and think of all that it took to be made). Or some kind of anchorage to reality? …whatever that is, I keep painting a self-referential painting without a clear reason, too. Maybe I am doing it in order to find out why I am doing it.
Ralph Rugoff (b. 1957, USA) Invisible: Art about the Unseen, 2012
Hayward Gallery, London, UK
I wouldn’t have considered Rugoff for my list as he is a curator. And exactly because I wouldn’t have considered him that I had to add him. Curatorial practice nowadays is clearly overlapping with artistic practice, so it actually could be quite interesting to test making a work based on a curatorial process. To some extent – or some particular versions of it – are actually pretty close to hand. Firstly, I am doing quite a lot of seemingly ‘random’ stuff, so in order to present it as ‘coherent body of work’ takes some curatorial effort. Secondly, as I am seriously considering what options I may have to make art without making more stuff, a ‘curatorial approach’ could also be a part of a solution.
And then, of course, it is always exciting to deal with invisible works. Reasons for that may remain invisible for now.
Artūras Raila (b. 1962, Lithuania) It’s not the girl’s fault, 1998
A video from moderation (including also a rather controversial piece in one female student’s folio) in Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts. It is quite amazing to see the ‘kitchen’ and hear what aspects – from aesthetical and art theoretical to social, ideological, institutional and psychological – that are brought into the process and how they are negotiated in this very male-gendered faculty.
I wonder if I would be allowed to re-stage the piece in RMIT 🙂