Felix Gonzalez-Torres (1957-1996) is one of the most influential artists of his generation. This catalogue includes both rarely seen and more known paintings, sculptures, photographic works, and public projects, reflecting the full scope of the artist’s short yet prolific career.
Specific Objects without Specific Form offered several exhibition versions (and none the authoritative one), all the better to present the oeuvre of an artist who put fragility, the passage of time, and the questioning of authority at the centre of his artwork.
At each venue in which the show was hosted, the exhibition was co-curated with, and re-installed/re-imagined by a different invited artist whose practice has been informed by Gonzalez-Torres’ work. Those artists are Danh Vo, Carol Bove, and Tino Sehgal.
Specific Objects without Specific Form acknowledges that the way an exhibition begins and ends its ‘story’, the emphasis it places on one aspect more than another, the way it presents individual artworks, the juxtapositions it constructs, the mood it creates, in addition to the way an exhibition is discursively presented — all of these potentially shift the way that a body of work might be understood by its public. And all of these participate in the construction of the meaning and reception of an oeuvre, which is to say, nothing less than the construction of history.
Published retrospectively after the exhibition at WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (January – April 2010); Fondation Beyeler, Basel (May – August 2010); and MMK, Frankfurt am Main (January – April 2011).
- Felix Gonzalez-Torres - Specific Objects without Specific Form
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edited by Petra Lange-Berndt
Materiality has reappeared as a highly contested topic in recent art. Modernist criticism tended to privilege form over matter—considering material as the essentialized basis of medium specificity—and technically based approaches in art history reinforced connoisseurship through the science of artistic materials. But in order to engage critically with the meaning, for example, of hair in David Hammons’s installations, milk in the work of Dieter Roth, or latex in the sculptures of Eva Hesse, we need a very different set of methodological tools.
This anthology focuses on the moments when materials become willful actors and agents within artistic processes, entangling their audience in a web of connections. It investigates the role of materiality in art that attempts to expand notions of time, space, process, or participation. And it looks at the ways in which materials obstruct, disrupt, or interfere with social norms, emerging as impure formations and messy, unstable substances. It reexamines the notion of “dematerialization”; addresses materialist critiques of artistic production; surveys relationships between matter and bodies, from the hierarchies of gender to the abject and phobic; explores the vitality of substances; and addresses the concepts of intermateriality and transmateriality emerging in the hybrid zones of digital experimentation.
Artists surveyed include
Georges Adéagbo, Carl Andre, Janine Antoni, Amy Balkin, Artur Barrio, Helen Chadwick, Mel Chin, Mark Dion, Jimmie Durham, Tessa Farmer, Chohreh Feyzdjou, Romuald Hazoumè, Pierre Huyghe, Ilya Kabakov, Mike Kelley, Anthony McCall, Teresa Margolles, Robert Morris, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Tino Sehgal, Shozo Shimamoto, Santiago Sierra, Robert Smithson, Simon Starling, Paul Thek, Paul Vanouse, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Kara Walker
Joseph D. Amato, Karen Barad, Judith Butler, Elizabeth Grosz, Georges Didi-Huberman, Natasha Eaton, Jens Hauser, Dieter Hoffmann-Axthelm, Tim Ingold, Wolfgang Kemp, Julia Kristeva, Esther Leslie, Jean-François Lyotard, Dietmar Rübel, Monika Wagner, Gillian Whiteley
About the Editor
Petra Lange-Berndt is Chair of Modern and Contemporary art in the Art History Department at the University of Hamburg and a leading researcher in the field of material studies in art history. She is coeditor, with Dietmar Rübel, of Sigmar Polke: We Petty Bourgeois! Contemporaries and Comrades, the 1970s.
- Materiality (Documents of Contemporary Art)
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Dorothea von Hantelmann
How to Do Things with Art
The Meaning of Art's Performativity
At the heart of “How to Do Things with Art” lies the question of art’s relevance to society. How does art become politically or socially significant? This book attempts to answer this question on a theoretical level, and to indicate, through the analysis of works by James Coleman, Daniel Buren, Jeff Koons, and Tino Sehgal, how artists can create and shape social relevance; in other words, to provide what could be called a pragmatic understanding of art’s societal impact. The title of the book itself is a play on John Langshaw Austin’s seminal lecture series “How to Do Things with Words,” in which he discussed the performative, or reality-producing, capacity of language.
If Dorothea von Hantelmann’s line of argument is based on the two theoretical premises of Austin’s and Judith Butler’s notion of performativity, this book offers a real semantic of how an artwork, not in spite of, but rather by virtue of its integration in certain conventions, “acts”: how, for example, via the museum it sustains or co-produces a certain notion of history, progress, and development. The model of performativity that the author argues for, points toward these fundamental levels of meaning production, putting the conventions of art production, presentation, and historical persistence into focus, showing how these conventions are co-produced by any artwork, and proposing that it is precisely this dependency on conventions that opens up the possibility of changing them.
The question of how to do things with art seems particularly pertinent today: never before has what we call art been so important to Western societies—more art museums are being built than ever before, exhibitions attract mass audiences, the art world has not only expanded globally but also socially, and probably no other profession has received such a dramatic boost in status as the artist, who perfectly embodies today’s prevailing idea of a creative, self-determined subjectivity.
The book is part of the Documents series, co-published with Les presses du réel and dedicated to critical writings.
- Dorothea von Hantelmann - How to Do Things with Art The Meaning of Art's Performativity
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