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ARTH408: Contemporary Art

Unit 2: Contesting Modernism: Art Beyond Painting and Sculpture  

In this unit, we will focus on a series of mostly international and collective art practices that would trigger a powerful contestation of modernist canon and challenge of its most important principles as encapsulated by Greenberg’s writings and growing pressure of the art market.  It was not an accident that most of the artists were very young, bringing a sense of intensity and irreverence to the artistic practice. We will start this unit by examining the ideas of the Parisian collective known as the Situationist International (Situationists), whose work addressed the nature and function of art and culture in contemporary society, thus moving away from purely artistic issues. 

 

We will continue by looking at the work of another international group of artists who called themselves “Fluxus” (Flux).  We will study their strategies and examine the ways in which they challenged the modernist canon and the formalist definition of art as a visual “object” (i.e., painting or sculpture), introducing pluralism of expression involving music, performance, and design.  We will continue our examination with a series of experimental artistic practices associated with Lucy Lippard’s influential publication Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, where she presented a documentation of “so-called conceptual or information or idea art with mentions of such vaguely designated areas as minimal, anti-form, systems, earth, or process art,” summarizing some of the most important artistic explorations at that time.

Unit 2 Time Advisory
This unit will take you approximately 21 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 2.1: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2: 5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.3: 5 hours

☐    Museum Visit: 3 hours

☐    Writing Assignment: 3 hours

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

  • Describe the way contemporary artists began to contest modernism in the 1960s.
  • Describe the role and importance of historical and social context for the development of contemporary art.
  • Identify and discuss the work and main concepts of the Situationist International.
  • Explain the main actions and identify main representatives of the Fluxus group.
  • Describe the reasons for the emergence of the dematerialization of the art object.
  • Identify main characteristics and examples of dematerialized artworks.
  • Identify the similarities and differences between different forms of such dematerialized artwork as earthwork, Arte Povera, and conceptual art.
  • Describe and discuss the way contemporary artistic practice became international in its scope.
  • Explain and discuss Lucy Lippard’s art criticism and in what way it was and is different from Greenberg’s critical position.

2.1 The Situationists (Situationist International)   2.1.1 Who Were the Situationists and What Exactly They Were Interested In?   - Reading: Situationist International Online: “Chronology” Link: Situationist International Online: “Situationist Chronology” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read through Situationist Chronology for an introduction to the group’s activity.

Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.
  • Web Media: Eagainst.com: “Situationist International”

    Link: Eagainst.com: “Situationist International” (Flash Video)

     
    Instructions: Please watch the video in its entirety.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • Reading: Guy Debord: “Report on the Construction of the Situations and on the International Situationist Tendency’s Conditions of Organization and Action”

    Link: Guy Debord: “Report on the Construction of the Situations and on the International Situationist Tendency’s Conditions of Organization and Action” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction to the main ideas and span of activities of this group.  To get a better sense of Situationist activities, please examine the Situationist chronology here.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

2.1.2 Situationist Art Tactics   - Reading: Guy Debord: “Definitions”; Guy Debord and Gil J. Wolman: “A User’s Guide to Détournement”; and Guy Debord: “Theory of the Dérive” Links: Guy Debord: “Definitions” (HTML); Guy Debord and Gil J.  Wolman: “A User’s Guide to Détournement” (HTML); and Guy Debord: “Theory of the Dérive” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for more
information on this group. All of these resources are in HTML
format.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

2.1.3 Situationist Artworks   2.1.3.1 Asger Jorn and Guy Debord: Mémoires   - Reading: Dr. Richard L. Edwards: “Uneasy Arrangements: Looking at Guy Debord’s Memoires” Link: Dr. Richard L. Edwards: “Uneasy Arrangements: Looking at Guy Debord’s Memoires” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to this very interesting and thought-provoking artwork.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.3.2 Asger Jorn and Modified (Disfigured) Paintings   - Reading: Asger Jorn: “Détourned Painting” Link: Asger Jorn: “Détourned Painting” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction to Jorn’s often humorous explanation about what modified paintings were.  You can view two examples by Jorn here: The Disquieting Duck (gif) and The Avant-Garde Doesn’t Give Up (gif).  Follow the link and scroll down the page to find the two titles.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

2.2 Fluxus   2.2.1 What Was Fluxus All About?   - Reading: Dick Higgins “A Child’s History of Fluxus” Link: Dick Higgins “A Child’s History of Fluxus” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please red through this playful account on Fluxus’ history by one of the group’s member for an introduction to their activity.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages.

  • Web Media: UbuWeb: William Woods: “George Maciunas’s Seattle Interview” Link: UbuWeb: William Woods: “George Maciunas’s Seattle Interview” (mp3)

    Instructions: Please listen to at least the first 15 minutes of this interview from 1977 (the entire interview lasts approximately 45 minutes) for an introduction to Fluxus ideas as explained by the group’s founder, George Maciunas.  Maciunas often tells the Fluxus story in a humorous way while simultaneously giving an interesting overview of contemporary artistic practice.  The question that punctuates the interview and keeps coming back is “George, what is Fluxus?” and different natural or manmade noises are heard, suggesting that improvisation and the unexpected are the group’s most important tactics.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: UbuWeb: “37 Short Fluxus Films” Link: UbuWeb: “37 Short Fluxus Films” (Adobe Flash or MPG)

    Instructions: Please watch the first 12 films (produced by Nam June Paik, George Maciunas, George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Chieko Shiomi, John Cavanaugh, James Riddle, and Robert Watts—approximately 50 minutes total) for an introduction to Fluxus ideas and works.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.2.2 Fluxus Artists   2.2.2.1 Nam June Paik   - Reading: MoMA: “Nam June Paik” and the Museum of Broadcast Communications: “Paik, Nam June” Links: MoMA: “Nam June Paik” (HTML) and the Museum of Broadcast Communications: “Paik, Nam June” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction
to the work of Fluxus artist Nam June Paik.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

2.2.2.2 Yoko Ono   - Web Media: YouTube: Yoko Ono: “Cut Piece – Carnegie Recital Hall NYC 1965” Link: YouTube: Yoko Ono: “Cut Piece – Carnegie Recital Hall NYC 1965” (YouTube)

 Instructions: Please watch this entire video (approximately 8
minutes) about Yoko Ono’s most important Fluxus event.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: George Maciunas Foundation: “Yoko Ono ‘Grapefruit’ at Stendhal Gallery” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

    Submit Materials

2.2.2.3 Joseph Beuys: We Are the Revolution   - Reading: The Art Story: “Joseph Beuys” and Flash Art: Giancarlo Politi: “Joseph Beuys: We Are the Revolution” Links: The Art Story: “Joseph Beuys” (PDF) and Flash Art: Giancarlo Politi: “Joseph Beuys: We Are the Revolution” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction to the work of Fluxus artist Joseph Beuys. 
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

2.3 Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972   2.3.1 Lucy Lippard: Art Critic as an Activist   - Reading: Dictionary of Art Historians: “Lippard, Lucy”; Tate Papers: Lucy R. Lippard: “Curating by Numbers”; and Smithsonian Institution: “Lucy R. Lippard Papers, 1940s-2006, Bulk, 1968-1990” Links: Dictionary of Art Historians: “Lippard,Lucy” (HTML); Tate Papers: Lucy R. Lippard: “Curating By Numbers” (PDF); and Smithsonian Institution: “Lucy R.LippardPapers, 1940s-2006,Bulk, 1968-1990” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction
to this extremely important art critic’s work, which spans more than
50 years and coincides with the development of contemporary art.
 First, read the biographical notice and then read Lippard’s own
text, where she reflects on her work as a critic and curator in the
1970s.  Finally, have a glimpse at her extensive critical activity
as stored in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian
Institution.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

2.3.2 Other Dematerialized Artworks   - Reading: The Art Story: Justin Wolf’s “Conceptual Art” Link: The Art Story: Justin Wolf’s “Conceptual Art

 Instructions: Please read this page as an introduction to
Conceptual art. When you are finished, click on the link at the
bottom of the page to view groundbreaking works and read about three
examples of Conceptual art.  

 Terms of Use: The linked material above has been reposted by the
kind permission of the *[The Art
Story](http://www.theartstory.org/index.html)* and can be viewed in
its original form
[here](http://www.theartstory.org/movement-conceptual-art.htm). 
Please note that this material is under copyright and cannot be
reproduced in any capacity without explicit permission from the
copyright holder. 

2.3.2.1 Hanne Darboven   - Reading: UbuWeb: “Hanne Darboven” Link: UbuWeb: “Hanne Darboven” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read this entire webpage for an introduction
to the main ideas of conceptual artist Hanne Darboven.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: MoMA: “Hanne Darboven. Quartett >88<. 1990; Hanne Darboven. Untitled for the Journal Studio International. vol. 180, no. 924. July-August, 1970” Link: MoMA: “Hanne Darboven. Quartett >88<. 1990; Hanne Darboven. Untitledfor the Journal Studio International. vol. 180, no. 924. July-August, 1970” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please listen to this entire presentation (approximately 2 minutes) about two artworks by German artist Hanne Darboven—one made in 1970 and one made in 1990—for an introduction to conceptual art, which is an artistic practice that used ideas and words as an art medium.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.3.2.2 Daniel Buren   - Reading: Daniel Buren: “Beware! (1970)” and Tate Papers: Koen Brams: “Two Exhibition-Related Films by Jef Cornelis” Links: UbuWeb: Daniel Buren: “Beware! (1970)” (HTML) and Tate Papers: Koen Brams: “Two Exhibition-Related Films by Jef Cornelis” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction
to the main ideas and span of activities of Daniel Buren.  First,
read the artist’s text, written in the 1970s, and then read the
first section of Brams’s article, where the author describes very
specific ways in which Buren realized and exhibited his work at that
time.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Web Media: Lisson Gallery: “Daniel Buren” Link: Lisson Gallery: “Daniel Buren

    Instructions: Please view these artworks by Daniel Buren for an introduction to his artwork and the ideas he was explaining in “Beware!”

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.3.2.3 Robert Smithson   - Reading: The Art Story: Justin Wolf: “Robert Smithson” and Robert Smithson: “Cultural Confinement” Links: The Art Story: Justin Wolf: “Robert Smithson” (PDF) and Robert Smithson: “Cultural Confinement” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction
to the main ideas and span of activities of Robert Smithson.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.
  • Web Media: Robert Smithson: “Earthworks” Link: Robert Smithson: “Earthworks” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please carefully examine some of Smithson’s most famous works, such as Asphalt Rundown, Partially Buried Woodshed, and Spiral Jetty.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.3.2.4 Giovanni Anselmo   - Reading: Flash Art: Germano Celant: “Notes for a Guerrilla War”; Tate Collection: “Giovanni Anselmo”; and MoMA: “Giovanni Anselmo”

Links: *Flash Art*: Germano Celant:
“[Notes](http://www.flashartonline.com/interno.php?pagina=articolo_det&id_art=352&det=ok&title=ARTE-POVERA)[for](http://www.flashartonline.com/interno.php?pagina=articolo_det&id_art=352&det=ok&title=ARTE-POVERA)[a](http://www.flashartonline.com/interno.php?pagina=articolo_det&id_art=352&det=ok&title=ARTE-POVERA)[Guerrilla](http://www.flashartonline.com/interno.php?pagina=articolo_det&id_art=352&det=ok&title=ARTE-POVERA)[War](http://www.flashartonline.com/interno.php?pagina=articolo_det&id_art=352&det=ok&title=ARTE-POVERA)”
(HTML); Tate Collection: “[Giovanni
Anselmo](http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/anselmo-direction-t12953)”
(HTML); and MoMA:
“[Giovanni](http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=8211)[Anselmo](http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=8211)”
(HTML)  

 Instructions: Please read these entire webpages for an introduction
to the main ideas of the Italian art movement called Arte Povera
(Poor Art) and to the work of Giovanni Anselmo.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

2.3.2.5 John Baldessari   - Reading: Tate Channel: John Baldessari: “Pure Beauty” and “Talking Art” Links: Tate Channel: John Baldessari: “Pure Beauty” (Adobe Flash) and “Talking Art” (Adobe Flash)

 Instructions: Please watch these entire videos (approximately 14
minutes and 87 minutes, respectively) for an introduction to the
main ideas of John Baldessari’s conceptual art.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

2.3.2.6 Cildo Meireles   - Activity: The Museum of Modern Art: “Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples/1960 to Now” Link: The Museum of Modern Art: “Eye on Europe: Prints, Books & Multiples/1960 to Now” (Adobe Flash)

 Instructions: Please click the “Confrontations” link to explore
this specific aspect of the exhibit.  
  

Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.<span class="Apple-style-span"
style="font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: 'Times New Roman'; ">.</span>
  • Web Media: Tate Channel: “Cildo Meireles” Link: Tate Channel: “Cildo Meireles” (Adobe Flash)

    Instructions: Please watch this entire video (approximately 48 minutes) for an introduction to Cildo Meireles’s work, which is often designated conceptual art.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Activity: Joseph Beuys: We Are the Revolution Instructions: Write an essay to examine the work We Are the Revolution by Joseph Beuys. Explain in what way the work references the most important ideas of its time.