Idea Art: Response Conceptualism

Today was our second lecture with Daniel Campbell Blight, curator and writer at The Photographers Gallery. Lucky guy!

This lecture was all about The Linguistic Turn: Photoconceptualism and Thinking Photography.

So the big word, Conceptual! Conceptual Art is an art form birthed in the 1960s. The development of the genre was so adventurous and fast-growing that critics couldn’t keep up enough to give an official name, for example Lucy Lippards Conceptual Art book ‘Six Years’ although if you do feel like getting technical the whole book is named as pictured below.


This is because nobody was really sure what to call what would soon become ‘Conceptualism’, in fact the title ‘Idea Art’ was considered (hence my blog post name).

So what started off this a new genre of photography that would be considered as unusual and adventurous as the Avante-Garde? One word, ‘Fountain’ although I do think ‘Urinal’ is a better name but hey ho I will leave that to the creator himself Marcel Duchamp. ‘Fountain’ is a 1917 artwork that consists of, yes you guessed it, a urinal that was also signed ‘R.Mutt’. The urinal is a obviously a form of appropriation art as Duchamp believed that art “need not be made from the hand of the artist” and as unusual work that it is, I side with Duchamp in defence of his work. Although it is difficult to settle on one solid purpose of the work, it created a new way of thinking and brought about years of change and new arguments that caused the critical side of Art and Photography to grow.

In this lecture we discovered the 4 precursors of the medium:

1)Consider each part of the art object equal and abandon technical skill.

2)Detract from the material qualities of the art work by equalising it with its context.

3) Disregard notions of beauty and aesthetics and instead produce art as information

4) fuse the work with its site of display and consider the public nature and possibility of its distribution (photographic reproductions).

Basically this means accepting other mediums into our work is a good idea, such as text and sculpture. Another saying we got from this lecture which sums up the 4 precursors are that the artist may contrast the piece, The piece need not be built, The piece may be fabricated. Still following? No me neither.

Anyway, it was interesting to see the relationship between art and language come alive when we viewed the work of some conceptual artists such Lawrence Weiner. Weiner is a self-taught conceptual artist who uses text as a form of sculpture, reducing the complex to a simple line or two of text.


We also looked at the Photographer, Victor Burgin, in a video for TateShots. I had actually watched this video before (to my own surprise) and literally want to rip my own heart out because I love his work and admire his passion but do not agree with his views, which is fine as they are personal to him but they aren’t expressed that way. Burgin is well known to be quoted saying “There’s no point in making anymore images. There are already enough photographs in the world… What we need to do is re-read the images we already have.” Now if these words were spoken about a decade or two ago, I would find them more agreeable but if my studies so far at Coventry University have showed me anything, it’s that we are re-reading images. In depth. My eyes have been opened to the thousands of books,essays and online journals conducted over the vast amount of years which explore photography and the photographs that have been taken by the new and the old practicers. And whilst we’ve been doing that or reading that we have been making images, new images with our own style and individual marks. So for that reason, Burgin i’m sorry but it’s a no from me.

My last paragraph is the realisation that advancements in Photography was that is was brought about by the Artists need for Photographer to document their conceptual work in the 60’s and 70’s, thus photography becoming part of the work in a way. Soon potential was realised between the relationship of the artist and Photography, then it quickly became a part of Conceptual Art and forming its own “sub form” if you like of Conceptual Photography.

I am going to leave this post with my thoughts and questions, to return to later, with my “makes me think” area which is remnants of my lecture note taking where I ponder over whats been said.

Makes me think:

  • Conceptual art was more visually blatant back in the 60s (refer to Martha Rosler ‘Red Stripe Kitchen’)
  • Do we really need to make our photography as edgy as a Lady Gaga dress?
  •  Why do we need to critique art? (critique didn’t exists like it does now)
  • Once we label art, is that it forever? why must it be labelled? Can it ever not be labelled?

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