At my latest show in the Alcott Gallery at the Hanes Art Center, I discussed with attendees and viewers my idea behind this blog. I quickly realized that I talked a lot about the physical thing I was doing in the discovery of cardboard, but never my complete rational for it. Also, the reasons I had formed for this blog needed further theoretical rebuttal. In this blog post I intend to touch on three theoretical subjects of art, with the aim to open up discussion, and for these ideas and statements to be challenged. The ideas will be broken down into three categories of questions asked by Beth Grabowski: aesthetics, objecthood, and conceptualism. This post will show where I have come from, what is in the near future, and what is in the distant future for my art.
What is your relationship to aesthetic?
Aesthetic is a tough term to tackle, especially trying to consider a material in a conceptualist’s point of view. In Art after Philosophy, Joseph Kosuth defines an item with its main purpose being aesthetic is a decoration. I do not solely believe that decoration is inherently separate from aesthetic, as art to this day is used as a decoration (whether this is good or bad art is an entirely separate discussion but it is nonetheless denoted as art); but Luise Morton’s perspective that Kosuth and the conceptualists completely disregarded the idea of aesthetic.¹ The conceptualists idea of aesthetic is the precedent for relational aesthetics: not an aesthetic defined by the system of art, but defined by the cultural systems that surround the viewer. However, I disagree with Bourriaud’s objective of activating the viewer in physical space, because the viewer has always been active in informational space vis-à-vis communication (see Rancière). Aesthetic is still an integral part of the art work, but my aesthetic works on using the everyday, domestic and industrial (I prefer industrial because I do not have a personal relationship to the urban setting). The use of an everyday aesthetic is in part to call the contradictions in accessibility this aesthetic brings. For example, Kaprow’s Yard from 1961 fills a space with tires which is an item that is ubiquitously recognized, but the art piece is ignorant of this accessibility. First, in most of the pictures of Yard, the viewers (people interacting with the piece) are white, suburban 20-something-year-olds. Kaprow’s work is not accessible through physical content and is usually supplemented by his writings. I do not intend to cast sole blame on Kaprow, but the societal constructs his work is critiquing. But the idea of physicality in art leads to my next question.
What is your relationship to the object?
Since beginning my studio art major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, my relationship to objecthood has changed radically. I started off as a painter, with the ideal to make great compositions that separate the viewer from the reality of the painting. This switched in last semester’s work embracing the objecthood of the paintings and sculptures I produced. The art pieces became consumed, mass produced in the paperboxes series.
My intention, facilitated and utilized by this blog, is to deconstruct the material of cardboard which I previously used to make art into object, and then rebuild my conceptions of that material and my art. At first I took a horizontal approach to this, trying to discover how cardboard is made, what cardboard is used for, why cardboard is used, etc. After an email correspondence with Laura Charlton, I discovered that a vertical approach to discovering cardboard would be more effective in reaching the conclusion of the essence of cardboard. Laura uses print-making to discover the minute details of cardboard which leads to overarching themes like architecture, so I would like to use one facilitator to find truth and materiality in cardboard. In my next post I will discuss the physical and concrete ideas more, but I am currently using the audio aspects of cardboard to learn more about the material. I also intend for this in-depth material study of cardboard to help, support or revise my idea of what objecthood in art is.
How are you defining conceptual and what are my relationships to the 60’s and 70’s conceptualists?
Lastly, when I refer to the conceptualists I am mainly referring to classical conceptualists. This distinction is because of the primary sources I am studying include Baldessari, Lewitt, Kosuth, etc. This is not to say I am staying ignorant of where conceptualism has lead in the past 40+ years, but art is still responding to these artists, their work and their writings. They defined conceptualism as the idea is art, and the object is superfluous. This does raise a contradiction when embarking on a material study, as most of work and focus is into an object. I discovered in my past two posts that conceptualism is a legitimate route to a material study as the material is the idea. This is summed up in trying to grasp the essence of a material through a facilitator: the essence of cardboard is the idea, I discover and demonstrate this through a facilitator, and then I reach a revised idea of cardboard. Through this repeated, overarching process, I hope to reach the point where a book can be produced. Then what is the art? I have not to this point claimed any of this is art, but rather a material study. Maybe some of the ideas and writings will become art, maybe the book will be considered art.
For now, I will continue my journey on a material discovery of cardboard. This writing should open up discussion, challenge my ideas, revise my ideas, but most importantly voice your ideas on this.
1. Morton, Luise. 1983. ”Theories and Inquiries of Conceptual Artists: An Aesthetic Inquiry.” Marilyn Zurmuehlen Working Papers in Art Education.