February 1, 2006 - Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) - Conceptualism and Abjection
February 1, 2006

Conceptualism and Abjection

John Baldessari The Duress Series: Person Holding on to Pole Attached to Exterior of Tall Building, 2003
Annick and Anton Herbert Cellection
© John Baldessari, 2005

Conceptualism and Abjection. Towards Other Genealogies of Conceptual Art.
Debate around the Herbert Collection
Wed, 8th Feb. 2006, 6 pm. MACBA Auditorium.

With: Lawrence Weiner, Daniel Buren, Art And Language (Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden), Robert Barry, John Baldessari, Thomas Schütte and Luciano Fabro.
Chair: Carles Guerra and Jesús Carrillo

Free admission. Limited seating. Simultaneous interpretation service available.
MACBA, Museu dArt Contemporani de Barcelona
Plaça dels Angels, 1
08001 Barcelona, Spain www.macba.es

In the context of the exhibition Public Space/Two Audiences. Works and Documents from the Herbert Collection (February 8 May 1, 2006) MACBA will hold a panel discussion with some of the artists represented in it, such as Lawrence Weiner, Daniel Buren, Art And Language (Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden), Robert Barry, John Baldessari, Thomas Schütte and Luciano Fabro.

In his influential 1989 essay on conceptual art, From the Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions, Benjamin Buchloh describes how, after its closure, conceptualism became a kind of unconscious for all artistic production after 1969. Taking as his initial premise that conceptual art made the most rigorous investigation of the post-war period into the conventions of pictorial and sculptural representation, as well as a fundamental critique of traditional visual paradigms, Buchloh constructs a historical narrative that culminates in an information art that reactivates the postulates of the productivist avant-garde of the Russian Revolution whilst questioning the role of the artist, who is bureaucratically redefined as a mere employee who catalogues. This historical process of conceptual art is closed by such works as Hans Haackes Visitors Profile, a statistical compilation of the features of visitors to an exhibition and, most importantly, by Marcel Broodthaerss Musée a vendre par faillite, also a premonition of an imminent future: the disappearance of the space for critique inside the museum as a central, legitimising institution in the bourgeois public sphere and its transformation in the hands of the new mass entertainment industry (as reflected in the spectral reappearance of pictorial and sculptural paradigms from the past, which conceptualism had abolished). Nonetheless, the historic closure of conceptualism did not necessarily entail its disappearance; rather, it entailed its interiorisation into critical artistic practices, ushering in what we now call institutional critique, which itself emerged in the wake of conceptual art as a relative and ambiguous continuation of the radical avant-garde in the museum context, increasingly mediated by the cultural industries after the 1980s.

Buchlohs historical account of conceptualism has become a canonical reference, one that this debate aims to review. According to Buchloh, conceptualism has been historicised and displayed in museums like a dry administrative, bureaucratic aesthetics, lacking of plasticity, in a way culminating the high modernist avant-garde aesthetics of postwar art. The debate seeks to counter a teleological vision of modernity implicit in avant-gardism, sketching out other possible genealogies of conceptualism based on minor genres and popular culture. All this, from the standpoint that the ruptures of the 1960s imply the historic emergence of new, minority or peripheral political subjects that question the universality of the bourgeois liberal subject theorised by Habermas and implicit in Buchlohs avant-gardist account. The debate, therefore, poses questions about the heterodox, parodic, humoristic and grotesque aspects that can be identified with historic conceptualism and its evolution.

additional information about the debate: www.macba.es/controller.php?p_action=show_page&pagina_id=33&inst_id=20876

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