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ZKM_Events 11|2005

Art & Language & Luhmann III
What work does the artwork do?

Symposium in the ZKM-Media Theater
Sat-Sun 11/05-06/2005
Sat 2:30 pm, Sun 10:00 am
Admission free

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Speakers / Abstracts

Art & Language | Chris Gilbert | Charles Harrison | Matthew Jackson



Matthew Jesse Jackson [University of Chicago] : »Para-Performative Practices and Late Modernism«

My talk pivots on a simple contention: the modernist artists of the postwar period were gradually superseded by a generation of remarkable modernist art historians who converted a narrowly pedagogic medium, art history, into a crucial mode of para-artistic practice. As a result, somewhere around 1970 the panel discussion and the accompanying slide lecture had become crucial bastions of late modernism. Moreover, in hindsight these activities could be reinterpreted as the return of the repressed verbal field that all but disappeared from art practice after having been so prominent in the work of the 1920s and 1930s.

From this perspective, the panel discussion presents the sustained temporalization of the modernist grid, as well as the structuralist appropriation of Pollock’s performativity. Concerning the grid, Rosalind Krauss wrote: »As we have a more and more extended experience of this grid, we have discovered that one of the most modernist things about it is its capacity to serve as a paradigm or model for the anti-developmental, the anti-narrative, the anti-historical.« Needless to say, the panel discussion displays each of these traits in its anti-developmental, neutral, all but unchanging format; its scientistic juxtaposition of contrasting verbal and visual information hostile to overarching narratives; and its lack of self-consciousness towards the historicity of its own forms.

In other words, late modernism mutated into a kind of quasi-academic performance art that eventually culminates in Andrea Fraser's artist-centered projects and the Jackson Pollock Bar’s theory installations. From this perspective, we may soon realize that Art & Language’s Charles Harrison -- who has straddled the zone between artist and art historian for over three decades -- may not have been alone. Perhaps he simply realized the strangeness of his position sooner than most. That is, perhaps we have been dealing with a generation of »artist historians« all along.

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