In much the same way that photography forced painting to move in new directions, the advent of the World Wide Web, with its proliferation of easily transferable and manipulated text, forces us to think about writing, creativity, and the materiality of language in new ways. In Against Expression, editors Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith present the most innovative works responding to the challenges posed by these developments.
Charles Bernstein has described conceptual poetry as "poetry pregnant with thought." Against Expression, the premier anthology of conceptual writing, presents work that is by turns thoughtful, funny, provocative, and disturbing. Dworkin and Goldsmith, two of the leading spokespersons and practitioners of conceptual writing, chart the trajectory of the conceptual aesthetic from early precursors including Samuel Beckett and Marcel Duchamp to the most prominent of today’s writers. Nearly all of the major avant-garde groups of the past century are represented here, including Dada, OuLiPo, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, and Flarf to name just a few, but all the writers are united in their imaginative appropriation of found and generated texts and their exploration of nonexpressive language. Against Expression is a timely collection and an invaluable resource for readers and writers alike.
In Art & Language International Robert Bailey reconstructs the history of the conceptual art collective Art & Language, situating it in a geographical context to rethink its implications for the broader histories of contemporary art. Focusing on its international collaborations with dozens of artists and critics in and outside the collective between 1969 and 1977, Bailey positions Art & Language at the center of a historical shift from Euro-American modernism to a global contemporary art. He documents the collective’s growth and reach, from transatlantic discussions on the nature of conceptual art and the establishment of distinct working groups in New York and England to the collective’s later work in Australia, New Zealand, and Yugoslavia. Bailey also details its publications, associations with political organizations, and the internal power struggles that precipitated its breakdown. Analyzing a wide range of artworks, texts, music, and films, he reveals how Art & Language navigated between art worlds to shape the international profile of conceptual art. Above all, Bailey underscores how the group's rigorous and interdisciplinary work provides a gateway to understanding how conceptual art operates as a mode of thinking that exceeds the visual to shape the philosophical, historical, and political.
Stretching lengths of yarn across interior spaces, American artist Fred Sandback (1943–2003) created expansive works that underscore the physical presence of the viewer. This book, the first major study of Sandback, explores the full range of his art, which not only disrupts traditional conceptions of material presence, but also stages an ethics of interaction between object and observer.
Drawing on Sandback’s substantial archive, Edward A. Vazquez demonstrates that the artist’s work—with all its physical slightness and attentiveness to place, as well as its relationship to minimal and conceptual art of the 1960s—creates a link between viewers and space that is best understood as sculptural even as it almost surpasses physical form. At the same time, the economy of Sandback’s site-determined practice draws viewers’ focus to their connection to space and others sharing it. As Vazquez shows, Sandback’s art aims for nothing less than a total recalibration of the senses, as the spectator is caught on neither one side nor the other of an object or space, but powerfully within it.
“There they rest, inert, impertinent, in gallery space—those book forms either imitated or mutilated, replicas of reading matter or its vestiges. Strange, after its long and robust career, for the book to take early retirement in a museum, not as rare manuscript but as functionless sculpture. Readymade or constructed, such book shapes are canceled as text when deposited as gallery objects, shut off from their normal reading when not, in some yet more drastic way, dismembered or reassembled.” So begins Bookwork, which follows our passion for books to its logical extreme in artists who employ found or simulated books as a sculptural medium. Investigating the conceptual labor behind this proliferating international art practice, Garrett Stewart looks at hundreds of book-like objects, alone or as part of gallery installations, in this original account of works that force attention upon a book’s material identity and cultural resonance.
Less an inquiry into the artist’s book than an exploration of the book form’s contemporary objecthood, Stewart’s interdisciplinary approach traces the lineage of these aggressive artifacts from the 1919 Unhappy Readymade of Marcel Duchamp down to the current crisis of paper-based media in the digital era. Bookwork surveys and illustrates a stunning variety of appropriated and fabricated books alike, ranging from hacksawed discards to the giant lead folios of Anselm Kiefer. The unreadable books Stewart engages with in this timely study are found, again and again, to generate graphic metaphors for the textual experience they preclude, becoming in this sense legible after all.
Innovative poets such as Vsevolod Nekrasov, Lev Rubinstein, and Dmitry Prigov are among the most prominent literary figures of Russia in the 1980s and 1990s, yet they are virtually unknown outside Russia. The same is true of the numerous active Russian performance art groups, especially the pioneering Collective Actions group led by the brilliantly inventive Andrei Monastyrsky. Everything Has Already Been Written strives to make Moscow Conceptualism more accessible, to break the language barrier and to foster understanding among an international readership by thoroughly discussing a broad range of specific works and theories. Janecek’s study is the first comprehensive analysis of Moscow Conceptualist poetry and theory, vital for an understanding of Russian culture in the post-Conceptualist era.
A compelling study of unofficial postwar Soviet art, The Experimental Group takes as its point of departure a subject of strange fascination: the life and work of renowned professional illustrator and conceptual artist Ilya Kabakov.
Kabakov’s art—iconoclastic installations, paintings, illustrations, and texts—delicately experiments with such issues as history, mortality, and disappearance, and here exemplifies a much larger narrative about the work of the artists who rose to prominence just as the Soviet Union began to disintegrate. By placing Kabakov and his conceptualist peers in line with our own contemporary perspective, Matthew Jesse Jackson suggests that the art that emerged in the wake of Stalin belongs neither entirely to its lost communist past nor to a future free from socialist nostalgia. Instead, these artists and their work produced a critical and controversial chapter in the as yet unwritten history of global contemporary art.
Gutai: Decentering Modernism
Ming Tiampo University of Chicago Press, 2011 Library of Congress N7355.5.G87T53 2010 | Dewey Decimal 709.5209045
Gutai is the first book in English to examine Japan’s best-known modern art movement, a circle of postwar artists whose avant-garde paintings, performances, and installations foreshadowed many key developments in American and European experimental art.
Working with previously unpublished photographs and archival resources, Ming Tiampo considers Gutai’s pioneering transnational practice, spurred on by mid-century developments in mass media and travel that made the movement’s field of reception and influence global in scope. Using these lines of transmission to claim a place for Gutai among modernist art practices while tracing the impact of Japan on art in Europe and America, Tiampo demonstrates the fundamental transnationality of modernism. Ultimately, Tiampo offers a new conceptual model for writing a global history of art, making Gutai an important and original contribution to modern art history.
Liquor Store Theatre
Maya Stovall Duke University Press, 2020 Library of Congress PN2193.E86S768 2020
For six years Maya Stovall staged Liquor Store Theatre, a conceptual art and anthropology video project---included in the Whitney Biennial in 2017---in which she danced near the liquor stores in her Detroit neighborhood as a way to start conversations with her neighbors. In this book of the same name, Stovall uses the project as a point of departure for understanding everyday life in Detroit and the possibilities for ethnographic research, art, and knowledge creation. Her conversations with her neighbors—which touch on everything from economics, aesthetics, and sex to the political and economic racism that undergirds Detroit's history—bring to light rarely acknowledged experiences of longtime Detroiters. In these exchanges, Stovall enacts an innovative form of ethnographic engagement that offers new modes of integrating the social sciences with the arts in ways that exceed what either approach can achieve alone.
In One and Five Ideas eminent critic, historian, and former member of the Art & Language collective Terry Smith explores the artistic, philosophical, political, and geographical dimensions of Conceptual Art and conceptualism. These four essays and a conversation with Mary Kelly—published between 1974 and 2012—contain Smith's most essential work on Conceptual Art and his argument that conceptualism was key to the historical transition from modern to contemporary art. Nothing less than a distinctive theory of Conceptual and contemporary art, One and Five Ideas showcases the critical voice of one of the major art theorists of our time.
An international movement that followed specific geographical-cultural patterns, Conceptual Art built on the legacy of Marcel Duchamp, redefining the institutional and social relationships among production, work and audience in ways which have comprehensively transformed the nature of the art object and forms of artistic practice, both historically and in the present.
Investigating and documenting the histories, theories and forms of Conceptual Art, this timely book, including both established writers and a new generation of art historians, shows that Conceptual Art was a broad movement encompassing a range of artistic tendencies. This is the most stimulating account of the movement to date, arguing forcefully for its vitality and potential as well as examining its influence on art today.
With essays by Alex Alberro, Stephen Bann, Jon Bird, David Campany, Helen Molesworth, Michael Newman, Peter Osborne, Birgit Pelzer, Desa Philipagesi, Anne Rorimer, Peter Wollen and William Wood.
By the early 1960s, theorists like Lévi-Strauss, Lacan, Foucault, and Barthes had created a world ruled by signifying structures and pictured through the grids of language, information, and systems. Artists soon followed, turning to language and its related forms to devise a new, conceptual approach to art making. Examining the ways in which artists shared the structuralist devotion to systems of many sorts, Systems We Have Loved shows that even as structuralism encouraged the advent of conceptual art, it also raised intractable problems that artists were forced to confront.
Considering such notable art figures as Mary Kelly, Robert Morris, Robert Smithson, and Rosalind Krauss, Eve Meltzer argues that during this period the visual arts depicted and tested the far-reaching claims about subjectivity espoused by theorists. She offers a new way of framing two of the twentieth century’s most transformative movements—one artistic, one expansively theoretical—and she reveals their shared dream—or nightmare—of the world as a system of signs. By endorsing this view, Meltzer proposes, these artists drew attention to the fictions and limitations of this dream, even as they risked getting caught in the very systems they had adopted. The first book to describe art’s embrace of the world as an information system, Systems We Have Loved breathes new life into the study of conceptual art.
If you attend a contemporary art exhibition today, you’re unlikely to see much traditional painting or sculpture. Indeed, artists today are preoccupied with what happens when you leave behind assumptions about particular media—such as painting, or woodcuts—and instead focus on collisions between them, and the new forms and ideas that those collisions generate.
Garrett Stewart in Transmedium dubs this new approach Conceptualism 2.0, an allusion in part to the computer images that are so often addressed by these works. A successor to 1960s Conceptualism, which posited that a material medium was unnecessary to the making of art, Conceptualism 2.0 features artworks that are transmedial, that place the aesthetic experience itself deliberately at the boundary between often incommensurable media. The result, Stewart shows, is art whose forced convergences break open new possibilities that are wholly surprising, intellectually enlightening, and often uncanny.
Writing in Space, 1973-2019 gathers the writings of conceptual artist Lorraine O'Grady, who for over forty years has investigated the complicated relationship between text and image. A firsthand account of O'Grady's wide-ranging practice, this volume contains statements, scripts, and previously unpublished notes charting the development of her performance work and conceptual photography; her art and music criticism that appeared in the Village Voice and Artforum; critical and theoretical essays on art and culture, including her classic "Olympia's Maid"; and interviews in which O'Grady maps, expands, and complicates the intellectual terrain of her work. She examines issues ranging from black female subjectivity to diaspora and race and representation in contemporary art, exploring both their personal and their institutional implications. O'Grady's writings—introduced in this collection by critic and curator Aruna D'Souza—offer a unique window into her artistic and intellectual evolution while consistently plumbing the political possibilities of art.