spring 2011 Friends lecture series

Global Conceptualism

Art as An Installation Some History and Some Theory

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

17.30 - 18.30, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, Front Hall

photo of Joseph Kosuth with arms crossed and wearing a hat
Joseph Kosuth. Photo: Luci Lux

Speaker(s): Joseph Kosuth (artist and Professor at IUAV - Istituto Universitario di Architettura, Venice, Italy)

Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission. N.B. Limited seats, first-come-first served.

Organised by: Dr Sarah Wilson and Professor Boris Groys

This lecture is an historical and theoretical overview of installations as a specific and singularly postmodern practice of art, utilizing Joseph Kosuth's own recent permanent and temporary installations as concrete examples. The lecture begins with a discussion of his current installation at ACCA in Melbourne based on the writings of Samuel Beckett and then of several other installations done in the past five years, such as his large installation work Neither Appearance Nor Illusion at the Louvre in Paris; in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh International Festival his work titled ‘An Interpretation of This Title’, Nietzsche, Darwin and the Paradox of Content; and Venice during the 52.Venice Biennale, The Language of Equilibrium on the Armenian monastery on the island of San Lazzaro, among others. An objective of the talk is to discuss the distinguishing differences between the basis of modernist work, such as painting and sculpture, and compare that with installation work, contrasting their profound historical and philosophical differences. The lecture clarifies the defining characteristic of installations through the history of Joseph Kosuth's own practice and in conclusion it aims at articulating the complexity that permits the possibility of art having a political life in culture, namely one dependent on a dialectical relationship between what is a necessarily transformative autonomy while simultaneously being 'in the world' -- this being a definitive and rooted aspect of all installation art.

Joseph Kosuth is one of the pioneers of Conceptual art and installation art, initiating language based works and appropriation strategies in the 1960’s. His work has consistently explored the production and role of language and meaning within art. His nearly forty-year inquiry into the relation of language to art has taken the form of installations, museum exhibitions, public commissions and publications throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia, including five Documenta(s) and six Venice Biennale(s), one of which was presented in the Hungarian Pavilion (1993). Awards include the Brandeis Award, 1990, Frederick Weisman Award, 1991, the Menzione d'Onore at the Venice Biennale, 1993, and the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government in 1993. He received a Cassandra Foundation Grant in 1968, being the choice of Marcel Duchamp one week before he died. In June 1999, a 3.00 franc postage stamp was issued by the French Government in honour of his work in Figeac. In February 2001, he received the Laurea Honoris Causa, doctorate in Philosophy and Letters from the University of Bologna. In 2001 his novel ‘Purloined’ was published by Salon Verlag. In October 2003 he received the Austrian Republic’s highest honour for accomplishments in science and culture, the Decoration of Honour in Gold for services to the Republic of Austria. In 2009, Kosuth’s exhibition 'ni apparence ni illusion,' an installation work throughout the 12th century walls of the Louvre palace, opened at the Musée du Louvre in Paris, and will become a permanent work in October 2012.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, January 31, 1945. Educated at the Cleveland Institute of Art, 1963-64; The School of Visual Arts, New York City, 1965-67; New School for Social Research, New York, (anthropology and philosophy) 1971-72. Faculty, Department of Fine Art, The School of Visual Arts, New York City 1967-1985; Professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Hamburg, 1988-90; Staatliche Akademie der Bildende Künste, Stuttgart, 1991-1997; and the Kunstakademie Munich, 2001-2006. Currently Professor at Istituto Universitario di Architettura, Venice, Italy, he has functioned as visiting professor and guest lecturer at various universities and institutions for nearly forty years, some of which include: Yale University, Cornell University, New York University, Duke University, UCLA, Cal Arts, Cooper Union, Pratt Institute, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Art Institute of Chicago, Royal Academy, Copenhagen, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University, University of Rome, Berlin Kunstakademie, Royal College of Art, London, Glasgow School of Art, The Hayward Gallery, London, The Sorbonne, Paris, The Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna. He lives in New York City and Rome.

This lecture series will complement the new Research Forum/Andrew W Mellon Foundation M.A. on ‘Global Conceptualism’, run by Dr Sarah Wilson with Visiting Professor Groys (New York University) who will be teaching its philosophy-based component in the Spring term. Known for his active role in the Moscow Conceptualist art movement, Groys’ The Communist Postscript (Verso 2009) pursues a story which is now playing out in the reconfiguration of the global art world. The impact of the conceptual art to which he responded in the late 1960s was felt across the world, from West to East and from northern to southern hemispheres. Here the father-figure of the movement, Joseph Kosuth, returns in the company of younger generations of artists, art historians and curators who extend reflections upon art, object, image and word through time and space from their specific geographies and histories to the immaterial.

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