Art & Language Chapter 7

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S.R. That's why I asked this question. The following question [...] is: In an idealistic way, how could a new or contemporary approach be realized in differentiation to these general heroic strategies that define themselves as [...] basically conceptualism? Do you think that there can be something like a contemporary approach, a new setting, [...] a epistemological point where you focus on?

Michael: Again, it comes down to ..., given the extraordinary changes, when you think of how many museums have been built, how many Kunsthallen there are, how many curators there are, how many managers there are, how many distributors there are, how many sponsors there are - you now are bound to think of a great deal of art has been the dream work of the triumph of global capital. The question is, is there a way that we can imagine resisting that co-option. I can imagine it, I don't know whether I can do it. And I think the game, if you like, has turned into one that perhaps has never deserted us but it's become one where ... [...] if you think of a Buren in penetrating this space, and it does immense credit to the architect, the curator [...]. It's connected and it's plugged into that system. Think, on the other hand, of Las Meninas in the Prado. Las Meninas outranks the Prado. You could argue that its internality is so great that the Prado is sucked into it rather than it into the Prado. Can we conceive of or can we think of a way of recognizing that this institutional power that has been exercised for at least the last twenty years and at the same time introduce art with a significant internality – I don't know. Certainly that puzzle we've got to try and solve. In other words, although the arguments for absolutely Wollheimian internality, material embodiment, are, I think, generally false or unsustainable, at the same time that argument still comes as a powerful critique to what have been the cultural consequences of institutional developments. And conceptual art has been [...] one of the chief instruments which brought in or created conditions in artists minds for this instititutional explosion to occur. It's often quite an interesting Gedankenexperiment to think to use a hypothesis, what if we hadn't had conceptual art and at the same time we'd have the global capital we have and the kinds of distribution networks [...]. Would they have been able to do it with something else? I suppose the answer is yes. But it still remains a question in how far conceptual art is really implicated in that system.

Mel: [...] It's much cheaper to have an artist go and live near a particular Kunsthalle for a month and create a work there than ship work from studios. A lot of that was [...] enabled by the notion that conceptual art didn't need a studio, they can work anywhere and so on.


Michael: It also created absurdities and scandals. One of the things that people are quite terrified of now is to see things as vacuous. We have so many Deleuzian rhizomes to follow that we might as well quit. Again, if we have to quit and we simply think the entire artefactual world is something which we can rhizome together [...], then fine, but if we do that, as Mel suggested earlier, it doesn't follow from this, that we've got rid of art and that we've reached voices, predicted moment. It means that we have to find some other set of distinction to make. [...] Forms of resistance.

Mel: Some of it has to do with what kind of presuppositions you make about your audience. Because I think a lot of early conceptual art didn't see itself as having an audience in particular, it wasn't facing its public. It wasn't just passively facing its public. It was trying to make social relations, in many cases, with other people [...] and it was trying to make those into co-producers. If you could figure out some way now to make people into co-producers then that would be probably some of way of going about having conceptual art again. Sometimes we thought that Conceptual art was [...] a bit like amateur painting.

Michael: In fact at one stage in the 80s we conceived work in which we used the purified style of conceptual art to promise to paint amateur paintings. We thought that was a promise. People didn't get it. (laughs)

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