How do you know when you’ve encountered conceptual art? When you recognise it for yourself, or if someone points out that you’ve been standing in it?
I ask because conceptual art was high on my list of ‘most dreaded’ perhaps because of all the practices (I must practice getting used to saying that: ‘practice’) it's also most likely to inspire the reaction: “Call that art?”
Don’t think I am dismissing all conceptual art, especially as the only artwork ever to have made me cry in public arguably qualifies for that label: Steve McQueen’s ‘For Queen and Country,’ where he turned snapshots of UK military personnel killed in action into postage stamps. I cried.
My best guess is this: the idea is everything, so without a grand philosophy the art produced is creatively worthless (that’s if any is produced). So where will it end? The absolute limit must be someone walking into a room and declaring their concept to anyone present (actually, do we even require an audience) then adding: will this do? Or writing an idea on a piece of paper, and passing it around, so that people can read your thoughts. Oh, I feel like such a fool: I bet that’s already been done, hasn’t it?
With a heavy heart, I began my research (conceptual artists love their research) and immediately encounter a problem: what the hell is conceptual art? Nobody seems to know, not so that they can explain it to me anyway. In desperation I consulted the wise and flawless oracle that is Wikipedia, which summarised the notion nicely enough: ‘Conceptual art is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns.’
Right then: inspired I use all the usual buzzwords and phrases, like there being no need for a gallery outcome or an artefact, so I don’t really need to make anything, which is difficult as I also term myself as a ‘maker’ (listen carefully, I shall say this only once: my text embroideries are NOT CRAFT!!!) Anyway: I am not averse to the occasional installation, in fact I have some form in that regard. I like the notion of ideas led art, but I am floundering.
And so I need to conjure up a concept. Well it just happens I have one close by that I made earlier, and it’s this: we can organise our lives online. We don’t book with travel agents, but seek all info on the web. How far can we go? By far, I mean can I get to
– can I find a life, ie a home, a gallery show, friends, everything, all online? Ideally, my admittedly ambitious ‘outcome’ will be an installation of my project shown in a Berlin Gallery, along with footage/tweets/posts about the journey both real and metaphorical. Berlin
Speaking of concepts, here’s another idea: a novice artist tries to organise a solo show or sell work, on the basis of experimenting with various visual art forms all for the first time. It’s certainly a concept. But is it art?