Lecture 2- Concepts and Approaches

The linguistic turn: Photoconceptualism and thinking photography

  • The avante-garde
  • The photoconceptualism
  • The linguistic turn

The Avant-Garde:

  • A movement in the arts that breaks away from the norm
  • Derives from the French, experiments or pushes art, culture and society forward
  • Along side Dada or Situationism
  • Conceptual art is considered avant-garde

Interpretations of conceptual art:

  • Marcel Duchamp– the urinal into art, open call- rejected, ‘need not be made by the hand of the artist, but could be a selected object from everyday’- moving the contexts (1917)
  • Joseph Kosuth, one and three chairs (1965) chair, photo and panel of text, blending 3 different art works, not defined or connected by genre, something to encourage through our work, allows experimentation, more than one genre, understanding more than one genre allows a broader knowledge, blending art forms
  • Conceptual art must:
  1. Consider each part of the art object and abandon technical skill
  2. Detract from the material qualities of the artwork by equalising it with its context
  3. Disregard notions of beauty and aesthetics and instead produce art as ‘information’
  4. Fuse the work with its site of display and consider the public nature and the possibility of its distribution (photographic reproductions)
  • Lawrence Weiner, earth to earth (1970) self taught artist- didn’t go to art school, text in a form of sculpture, in and outside the gallery space- relationship between art and language. Reduces art concept to a single statement in text, relationship between text and image Crushed between cobblestones (1988), Direct comment and connection to the audience
  1. The artist may construct the piece
  2. The piece may be fabricated
  3. The piece may not be built

Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist, the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership

-Lawrence Weiner (1968)

Provides and answer for ‘what is it? What does it mean?’

  • ‘Understanding conceptual art relies on the acknowledgement of the political discourse that surrounds it’- Blake Stimson
  • Art and Language at Documenta Germany (1972), The studio at 3 Wesley place, in the dark- photography and mixed media on paper (1982) arts relationship to language, politics

The Linguistic term:

  • Term taken from philosophy
  • Related to the intellectual obsession with language
  • Equally said of the conceptual arts relationship to language- which became a philosophy


  • Nancy Foote quote (1976)- on Moodle, unlikely that conceptual art could of existed without photography
  • Few galleries exhibited photography in 1960’s- New York, not accepting photography as an art form
  • Making documents (truth, reality), now we know to be incorrect)
  • Roger Fenton, valley of the shadow of death, 1855– rearranged the foreground- lies, not completely truthful, can be staged and edited, early form of conceptual art
  • Not reality, more fiction, changing the world to what you want or what you want to show
  • ‘There’s no point in making anymore images’ –Victor Burgin, video on TATE website, tateshots
  • Already enough photographs, reinterpret/reread what is already there
  • Put existing images in a new context to create a critical response
  • Fiction film, film lost apart from a few fragments, 9 images
  • Critical deconstruction of a photograph, how do people react?
  • Are there too many images in the world? Without us not properly reading into them? Why make more before we fully understand them?
  • Advertising- manipulation, white lies
  • Critically engaging with images
  • I’m not sure if I necessarily agree or disagree with this opinion, I do think that to an extent no image is original anymore due to the vast amounts of images being taken, both by professionals and amateurs. However I do not believe that this is a reason to stop taking photos, although nothing is entirely original, you are able to put your own spin on things, and able to get different reactions. Although this is true I also think that we aren’t reading the existing photos properly and almost disregarding the true meaning or not giving the images the time they deserve to let multiple meanings and opinions form. I do not think that we need to fully understand every photo, and that is almost the beauty in it, sometimes they are not made to be understood. Victor Burgin makes some interesting points, and watching this video certainly made me think a lot more about how the image is meant to be seen, and other opinions that are put on it. I also starting to think about putting pictures in different contexts to what they were meant to be seen, this is certainly something that interests me and I think it would be good to see other peoples opinions on this.
  • Source magazine- what is conceptual photography, 3 part video on you tube
  • Watch
  • Few photographers embrace ‘conceptual’, taken for granted, its just taken as a given that photography is conceptual, too easy or obvious, very diverse but has been happening for a long time and is in most images we look at
  • John Hilliard- not many people use the term conceptual, more a term applied to artists by other people
  • John Roberts- link between what was going on in late 60’s/70’s and now
  • ‘Idea art’
  • Working in a way that is not easily spoken about- ‘it works’ ‘it doesn’t work’, things not being communicated very well, a need for more clarity when making and speaking about work
  • More people looking at photos of art rather than the art itself- photography was called upon to document
  • Mel Bochner with his working drawings and other visible things on paper not meant to be viewed as art (1966)- photographed by Gretchen Lambert, chanced upon photography to document his work, post minimalistic response, Misunderstandings (a theory of photography) 1967-70
  • Perhaps we can think of conceptual art as the last avant-garde movement
  • Edward Ruscha, 26 Gasoline stations (1962) engage with the environments, look for small differences, incessantly documenting things that are related, trait of 1960’s/70’s, anti aesthetic, LOOK
  • Martha Rosler, red stripe kitchen (1967-72), politically created art, response to Vietnam war, lets not look at photos as truthful documents, probably something underlying and not as obvious to see