Conceptual Art Movement and Examples April 6, Lorenzo Pereira The Conceptual art movement is probably the most radical and the most controversial plane in modern and contemporary art. Some artists, experts and art historians even dismiss it as art.
By its nature, conceptual art has a tendency to provoke intense and perhaps even extreme reactions in its audiences. While some people find conceptual art very refreshing and relevant, many others consider it shocking, distasteful, and conspicuously lacking in craftsmanship.
Some even simply deny that it is art at all. Conceptual art, it seems, is something that we either love or hate. This divisive character is, however, far from accidental. Most conceptual art actively sets out to be controversial in so far as it seeks to challenge and probe us about what we tend to take as given in the domain of art.
In fact, this capacity to evoke argument and debate lies at the very heart of what conceptual art sets out to do, namely to make us question our assumptions not only about what may properly qualify as art and what the function of the artist should be, but also about what our role as spectators should involve.
It should come as no surprise, then, that conceptual art can cause frustration or vexation — to raise difficult and sometimes even annoying questions is precisely what conceptual art in general aspires to do. In reacting strongly to conceptual art we are, in some important sense, playing right into its hands.
The first difficulty that a philosophical investigation of conceptual art encounters has to do with identifying the object of examination, or at least the category of objects under scrutiny.
Art, early conceptual artists held, is redundant if it does not make us think. In their belief that most artistic institutions were not conducive to reflection but merely promoted a conservative and even consumerist conception of art and artists, conceptual artists in the mids to the early s instead tried to encourage a revisionary understanding of art, the artist, and artistic experience.
While conceptual art in its purest form might arguably be limited to works produced during these five or six years nearly half a century ago, it seems overly narrow — certainly from a philosophical perspective — to limit our inquiry to works produced during that period alone. The highly individualised character of the intellectual exploration that conceptual art urges us to engage in has always been such that any attempt to pinpoint a specific common denominator other than this general vision and approach to art, art-making and society at large invariably fails to catch its very essence.
The means of artistic expression, we are told, are infinite and the topics available for questioning and discussion are limitless. Conceptual artists, be it Joseph Beuys or Marina Abramovic, pursue artistic originality and representation in every possible way.
Nevertheless, in the midst of this deliberately produced uncertainty about the nature of conceptual art, a handful of characteristics and general aims do seem to recur, and although they should not be seen as criteria for conceptual art strictly speaking, they may be considered tenets fundamental to most conceptual art.
A characteristic way in which conceptual art explores the boundaries of the artwork is by a process of questioning where the realm of the artistic ends and that of utility begins.
The artwork is a process rather than a material thing, and as such it is no longer something that can be grasped merely by seeing, hearing or touching the end product of that process.
The notion of agency in art-making is thus particularly emphasised. Instead, it has found itself drawn to alternative means of expression, including performances, photography, films, videos, events, bodies, new ready-mades and new mixed media.
Because creative process tends to be given more weight than physical material, and because art should be about intellectual inquiry and reflection rather than beauty and aesthetic pleasure as traditionally conceivedthe identity of the work of art is said to lie in the idea at the heart of the piece in question.
The claim that the conceptual artwork is to be identified with an idea that may be seen to underlie it has far-reaching ramifications.
It not only affects the ontology of the conceptual artwork but also profoundly alters the role of the artist by casting her in the role of thinker rather than object-maker. Moreover, it calls for a thorough review of the way in which we perceive, engage and appreciate artworks.
Further still, it links art so intimately to ideas and concepts that even a principled distinction between the domain of art and the realm of thought seems difficult to preserve.
In conceptual art, the representation at work can generally be seen as semantic rather than illustrative. That is to say, it sets out to have and convey a specific meaning rather than to depict a scene, person or event.
Even in cases where a work makes use of illustrative representation, conceptual art is still putting that representation to a distinctively semantic use, in the sense of there being an intention to represent something one cannot see with the naked eye.
The Philosophy of Conceptual Art — What is it? The philosophical concerns raised by conceptual art can be divided into two main categories. First, there are specific questions to do with conceptual art itself, and the claims which underpin the project that drives it.
Philosophical investigations might thus be called for not only in relation to the internal consistency and coherence of the project and its set goals, but also with regards to the particular tenets outlined above.
For example, what does it mean to say that every single thing, person or event is a possible candidate for an artistic medium and does that suggestion not render the category of art, as we know it, redundant?
Second, conceptual art poses philosophical problems from a wider perspective, in so far as one might expect philosophy to provide us with unitary accounts of the nature of art, the role of the artist, and artistic experience.
In many important respects, conceptual art sits very uncomfortably with other, often more traditional artforms and artworks, and this tension highlights a pressing issue for anyone interested in the possibility of a universal theory of art.
For if there is to be one rule for conceptual art and another for all other kinds of art, are there still good grounds for thinking of conceptual art as a kind of art? Moreover, could not every particular kind of artform or artwork demand a separate theory of art, artist and artistic experience?
If we are to sidestep such an intrinsic division between conceptual art on the one hand, and other kinds of art on the other, then theories concerned mainly with art that is not conceptual will have to make many significant concessions in order to incorporate the problematic case that conceptual artworks present.
One of the over-riding concerns that beset the philosophy of conceptual art is thus whether and, if so, why one should actively pursue unified accounts in the philosophy of art.
Whether one comes out of that investigation embracing a broader — albeit perhaps vaguer — set of concepts and tools than one started off with, or whether one considers oneself forced to abandon any hope of anything but very specific theories of art, artist, and artistic experience, conceptual art obliges us to think about where we stand on these issues.If we are to sidestep such an intrinsic division between conceptual art on the one hand, and other kinds of art on the other, then theories concerned mainly with art that is not conceptual will have to make many significant concessions in order to incorporate the problematic case that conceptual artworks present.
Conceptual art, also called post-object art or art-as-idea, artwork whose medium is an idea (or a concept), usually manipulated by the tools of language and sometimes documented by photography. Its concerns are idea-based rather than formal. Conceptual art is a movement that prizes ideas over the formal or visual components of art works.
An amalgam of various tendencies rather than a tightly cohesive movement, Conceptualism took myriad forms, such as performances, happenings, and ephemera.
Although Goldie and Schellekens edited an earlier collection of philosophical essays on Conceptual art (OUP, ), this is the first book-length consideration of Conceptual art in the history of philosophy. Experts from art, fashion, and design share their picks with you. Explore their collections. Conceptual art, also called post-object art or art-as-idea, artwork whose medium is an idea (or a concept), usually manipulated by the tools of language and sometimes documented by photography. Its concerns are idea-based rather than formal.
Conceptual art can take many forms, including, most frequently, descriptions and seemingly objective photographic documentation. The use of Conceptualism in contemporary practice is often referred to as Contemporary Conceptualism.
“In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work,” LeWitt wrote. “When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair.” That planning is, essentially, a set of strategies.
Conceptual art is based on the notion that the essence of art is an idea, or concept, and may exist distinct from and in the absence of an object as its representation.