Kosuth Chapter 4

From Paradise

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S.R.: I think the next question is in relation to that what you just said. Do you think that the conceptual paradigms are still in function or can they be renewed?

J.K.: Well the paradigms are that they are transformatory. So yes, but they are not prescriptive, that's the important thing. I mean, one of the things –  what I had to fight for, what people, painters were tried to beat me up in bars in the 60s because I was running art and to be really on the battle line... I mean, people said: «Why do you care that Dan Graham did his work four years or five years after you? But this point is almost, it's all the same time. And I said »well the point is that Dan, who made some of the most interesting video work at that time, pioneer of it really, it's quite a different thing than the magazine ads which were done not as artworks – that's an ontological, ethical issue here as an artist. And they were dated from the time he wrote them, but that wasn't the time they were conceived as art etc.. So for me it is all (...), because we did the fight, I took actual death threats and things in fighting for this body of ideas. So five years at that moment in history – by the time I convinced Lawrence Weiner to stop painting, by the time I did all this, which means I hated me for the rest of the life, but meanwhile I gave them a career. So we have to acknowledge that being at the beginning does matter in this kind of things; it matters also because if you want to understand how things developed. Even as art historians are very important, and the problem with the October crew and Buchloh and all them, they are not doing it anymore, but at one moment they felt this need to re-write this history for their own candidates, and this, I felt, from a scholarly point of view was really a shame for everybody, not just for those of us who were having our history changed for other peoples' career reasons. But that's all settled now, and I think that people are being much more accurate about really »who did what when« and all that. But there was a lot, it was quite upsetting to see people messing around with this. But the thing is that what's interesting so I had to give a name for it, I had to fight for that other idea of art, and also I wanted to make a distinction between that and modern art essentially that preceded. And the thing that's so great – and this is true if you look at all international exhibitions like documentas or what ever – artists don't have to call it Conceptual art anymore; it's just art. So in that sense, what we fought for 35 years ago, in some sense it's a kind of victory to understand that artists can use language, can deal with issues of context, installation, use of photography, all the things that I had battles with to tragedy at the beginning, now are accepted ways of working. It's a problem for me as an artist of course, because I don't want somebody to carry around the baggage of my history, I want to do new, relevant work. So it makes it much more difficult. I mean there's always a certain resonance between what you have done and what you are doing; that's understandable, you end up in your own context when you are an artist who has been working as long as I have. It's a different kind of challenge certainly.

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