Kosuth Chapter 3

From Paradise

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S.R.: Can you say what your aim is with your practice? Is it possible to say something like that?

J.K.: Well, there are general ones... In some ways, of course, all art is expressionistic, but all with a small «e«, not an institutionalized capital »E.» So in that sense, as you live your life and you learn things and thing interest you, it gets pulled into your work and it gets utilized in a way. But I mean other than my mother, why should anyone care about my personal biography about it really? It should have some relevance in terms of a relation to the world or the way in which one is looking at what is meaningful about life in certain issues. For me, I'll make it very clear – one of the things I got from philosophy when I was young is that religion had really collapsed, in a sense. That with the beginning.. – preceding modernity we really increasingly didn't go to the priest or the rabbi, the minister to tell us about the really important things about life. From an anthropological point of view, our religion is science. We go to the family doctor, we go to the physicist, we go to the engineer. And the web of reality is constructed by science. Science as religion is very impoverished in answering big questions about life. So, increasingly we had a meaning crisis I think in modern society. I found it very fascinating how contemporary art has always been seen as elitist, specialized etc. Meanwhile, more and more museums of contemporary art are built, the numbers of people who see exhibitions get larger and larger. When I was young, it wasn't even considered as a... profession, parents' worst nightmare if their son or daughter would say, I want to be an artist. Now it's a legitimate career; we have more and more artists and massively more artists than ever in history. The reason for that is that taking from Ludwig, that in fact art has ability to answer certain questions we once concerned philosophical without doing it in a speculative way; they no longer are systems built of philosophers like Hegel or Kant; you have theory, like French theory; nobody wants to really call it philosophy; there is certainly a philosophical enterprise in that engagement, but, in fact, art which is increasingly made from the horizon of mass culture that forms all of our consciousness, rather than with issues had been previously, which had to do much more with formal... you know forms and colours kind of issues, which ended up making it really like a necktie over the couch and that's meaningless. So the artists had to re-assert their control of the meaning-making process. What is bankrupt about the art of the 80s – wild painting, transavanguardia – is the fact that the artists lost control of the meaning-making process and the dealers pretty much took over. And the artists made references to the past to get validation so it looked like high modern art. And there is... at least in America – the important artists of the 80s are not going to be seen as Schnabel and Salle, they are going to be seen as men making big phallocentric paintings, they are going to be seen as women essentially who made photos, like Cindy Sherman, for example. So there was a real shift. One of the - I think realy important thing too, which is related to all this, is – we have internalized as an idea of art that the artist – and this is the expressionist, monographic tradition – they don't say anything they just act, and then they make the nature, so the art historian can make culture from it. Some people like we came along, we really did not get a very warm reception from the art historical establishment, it took younger people to embrace what are ideas because we went against the whole art historical market complex in that regard. But essentially the idea of the expressionist artist is the prize figure, it's the shaman, it's the magic maker. And this is a male idea, the idea of a female expressionist painter just doesn't work. But what Conceptual art did – because for my generation, as a New Yorker, we internalized the ideas of feminism in a profound way; we realized that it was not just about the liberation of women, but also about the liberation of men. And one of the interesting things about what Conceptual art initiated, it was the idea that... it was ideas; you know the ideas are either interesting enough, it doesn't matter if a man or a woman made them. And if you look back you began to see more and more women be taken seriously and to make important contribution and it begins with post modernity and Conceptual art. To the point that now, that I would say more than half of the most interesting new artists are women. And I think, politcally speaking, it's one of the... I'm proud of that liberating process that we initiated. Because you no longer had to have a man being an artist for it to be believable. Any questions after that?

S.R.: Yes yes yes.


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