Sekula Chapter 8

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S.R. You slightly drifted away from my question, but it doesn't matter ... I'll come back to conceptual art a little bit. Concerning what we already discussed in the earlier part of our discussion: Do you think that Conceptual paradigms are still in function? ... or that it's very needful to renew them in the contemporary art production?

A.S. If teaching is part of contemporary art-production, which I think it is, then I think that the lessons of conceptualism have to be revisited, if it represents a fundamental break; there are real debates about [...]... whether conceptualism represented the height of critical self-consciousness and of late-modernist practice. I'm not sure if that's true. I mean, if you follow the argument of Jeff Wall in his now pretty famous essay for the ... MOKA exhibition here in Los Angeles »Reconsidering the object of art« in 1995 ... If I could summarize it rather crudely ... what he says is that photography lacked a kind of critical self-consciousness until c.a. came along to stage a kind of meta-language of photo-journalism ... meta-language of documentary ... And to me that's (...) It's a very nice narrative because it opens up a highway ... Wall goes on to say that, you know, the death of the picture [...] ... the failure of conceptual art could only lead to the return of the picture, meaning all roads lead to Jeff Wall and his idea of the picture, which is in some ways rather self-serving. But I think if you go back and look at the actual practice of photographers, I mean is Edward Muybridge a kind of naive realist? Hardly. Is Julia Margaret Cameron ... is not art? There is already a kind of theory of the image in each of these practices and it has some relation to the philosophy of its time, you know. And that's what we need to tease out, not assume that the only significant ... It's a kind of teleology that I find just overly simplifying of the complexity and diversity of practices ... So for me there's a battle to position conceptual art within the history of modernism, but there's also the need to open up a new history of photography, of any medium that recognizes that there is thought going on all the time (0:15:20:20) ... And, [...]conceptual struggles, if you want. There's one problem with conceptual art, that's his name. What's the rest of art? Non-conceptual art? [...] It's like Duchamp's famous »Bête comme un paintre«, this idea that painting is a kind of idiot-practice [...]. So ... I think we need to open up a more multi- (..) a more heterogeneous lineage, an idea of multiple lineages. And when we do that I'm not sure conceptual art will be the central nodal point, but it might be [...].

S.R. Maybe we can ... it's possible to find some art critical aspects with which we can figure out something like the field of conceptual practices, but always keeping in mind that they don't have very much in common. (..) For example like in the end of the 60s ... works had very less (!) in common, ... most of them are coming from different points, from different etymological practices ... Maybe some of them painted before ... but painting is the common practice on art schools, so most of them were painting ... even Lawrence Weiner was painting ... There was this exhibition in New York [...] »Last Paintings« at the Swiss Institute ... You can see it easily as a sampling of attitudes or affects, affects to the artworld ...

A.S. Oh, I think also, what's happening now is that minimalism is being offered as a kind of alternative to conceptual art ... [...] One thing that makes the problematic of conceptual art, however fractured we see it ... Right, it's a multiple practice, and it's not a unified practice, absolutely, that multiple conceptualism. Now that minimalism is being kind of brought into play you can see (..) a kind of neo-neo-formalist evaluation. If conceptualism is too dour, too severe, too linguistic, too refusing of pictorial beauty, then let's revive minimalism ... and let's turn it into design, because that's also what's happening, in the current market context there's a way that it's being integrated into a generalized design, fashion paradigm which is harder to do with conceptual art, even though people wear T-Shirts with words on them, I mean it's, you just can't ... you know.

S.R. But what is interesting is, I also asked Barbara Krüger to join in this interview, and she totally refused. She said ... conceptual art was never interesting for me or art in the American context ... nobody is interested in America in conceptual art [...]... So she don't want to get associated to conceptual art. She's insisting that her resources are coming from advertisement. And I said: Advertisment, in my perspective advertisement is strongly influenced by conceptual art since the 70s ... In my perspective from Europe, I don't know how it...

A.S. Since she was a designer you would think that she would know that ... Perhaps she doesn't want to admit to it.

S.R. ...I don't know, she totally refused to say anything ... for her it seems to have no relevance in the American context. And she said that conceptual art in reception and collections is a totally European phenomenon, she said ... I don't know (...) And for me there was a lineage out of different works in conceptual art, so I didn't understand ...

A.S. But if you think of the metro-pictures ... James Welling# did an interview recently where he noted ... I mean in some ways he disassociated himself from his friends and said, you know, the photographers were interesting for me ... Weston# and Adams, and that's the work I was really thinking about ... I think people are now revising histories, and that's probably true when you look at James' work you can see an affiliation there ... [...] Well, going back to your point about the fragmentation of conceptualism ... If we think of certain careers have been identified, at least peripherally, with conceptualism like Gordon Matta-Clark (..) or Acconci; because performance and conceptualism have overlapped, especially in some recent exhibitions like »In and out of action«. There is a way that the line of, the promise of Gordon Matta-Clark and the actual trajectory of Acconci have brought them to architecture [...]So the painting, the edible drama of conceptualism with painting is then displaced to yet another discipline in the case of those two. And of course in the case of Acconci there's also the relation to poetry ... and a verbal practice. And there's all the connection to the New Yorkers poetry scene. The history still needs to be written I think. For my part, I don't think of myself as a conceptual artist, though a lot of the work interested me and intrigued me [...]. In some ways I wanted to ... a different attitude towards photography and towards language. But then if conceptualism is as heterodox as you are suggesting, then why not say, I'm a conceptual artist; if there is room for all sorts of things.

S.R. Of course...for my perspective the Jeff Wall statement was very important, what he was writing in (?) text ... where he's criticizing as you put it the theory of photography and the other way around the theory of conceptual art. And he was kind of refusing both in critique. [...] For me it was much more these three complexes I tried to point out in the beginning these three threads I found in your work, which fascinated me very early. That I was thinking that there's a true combination of very important streams of the end 60s, beginning of the 70s, and that was the thing that drove me to the point that I always thought that your work is conceptual. (..) Of course totally different to a kind of photography like Jeff Wall is using the more staged form of photography, but that can also have some reportage aspects sometimes [...].

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