e-flux journal issue 29 guest-edited by Boris Groys on Moscow Conceptualism

e-flux journal issue 29 guest-edited by Boris Groys on Moscow Conceptualism

e-flux journal

November 18, 2011


This month in e-flux journal, we are pleased to present a special issue focusing on Moscow Conceptualism, guest-edited by Boris Groys in conjunction with an exhibition of the work of Andrei Monastyrski and Collective Actions, curated by Groys and on view at e-flux until January 7, 2012.

The essays in the issue take the works and activities of the Moscow Conceptualists—among whom Monastyrski was a central figure—as a departure point for interrogating not only the specific concerns of a small group of advanced artists working in relative obscurity in the Soviet Union of the 1970s, but also how the modest artistic practices they developed reflect the resilience and flexibility of a more general sphere of conceptualisms in the plural.

Here Moscow Conceptualism presents itself as a window onto a proliferation of conceptual art practices that exceed their purported origins in canonical European and American art history. How can we begin to account for the many artists whose work overlaps with the aims of dematerialized, idea-driven conceptual art, but without direct contact with this lineage—or even predating it entirely? The same question has been posed over ten years ago by Luis Camnitzer, Jane Farver, and Rachel Weiss in their landmark Global Conceptualism exhibition at the Queens Museum in New York, in this journal by writers such as Carol Yinghua Lu, and in April 2011 in Moscow at a conference organized by Groys and the Stella Art Foundation, where the papers included in this issue of e-flux journal were first presented.

What seems key in addressing this question, as the essays in this issue suggest, is the exceptional nature of each of these conceptualisms, for, as Ekaterina Degot points out in her essay, “Moscow art of the ’70s inhabited an upside-down world, one defined by the victory of anticapitalism rather than the victory of communism, socialism, or the Soviet regime.” In this world, communist ideology had already converted objects to ideas (collective property) and citizen-subjects to (non-professional) artists, so the found object, the privileging of idea over material, and the disappearance of the artist’s hand were already indistinguishable from an ideological landscape taken for granted by the artists. Interestingly, it is in this sense that Moscow Conceptualism must be considered not only as the work of dissident artists confronting the triumphs and failures of socialism, but as a continuous line of inquiry producing radically unexpected terms for non-alienated art.

—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle

In collaboration with Stella Art Foundation, the collection of essays will be published as a book in 2012.
In this issue:

Boris Groys—Introduction—Global Conceptualism Revisited
I would argue that from today’s perspective, the biggest change that conceptualism brought about is this: after conceptualism we can no longer see art primarily as the production and exhibition of individual things—even readymades. However, this does not mean that conceptual or post-conceptual art became somehow “immaterial.” Conceptual artists shifted the emphasis of artmaking away from static, individual objects toward the presentation of new relationships in space and time.

Ekaterina Degot—Performing Objects, Narrating Installations: Moscow Conceptualism and the Rediscovery of the Art Object
But Moscow art of the ’70s inhabited an upside-down world, one defined by the victory of anticapitalism rather than the victory of communism, socialism, or the Soviet regime. Today’s—partly utopian, partly routine—critical “politics of resistance” was their everyday life, the official discourse they had to negotiate; they were born into it and worked with it.

Terry Smith—One and Three Ideas: Conceptualism Before, During, and After Conceptual Art
I think that we are getting close to the core of conceptualism worthy of the name, and to the basis of its appeal to serious young artists today: it is something to do with rigor, without cause, and with implacable commitment in the face of meaninglessness.

Keti Chukhrov—Soviet Material Culture and Socialist Ethics in Moscow Conceptualism
No matter what the conceptual work concentrates on—pure text, subversion, documentation, intervention, or animated situations (as in Hélio Oiticica’s parangolés)—the prevalence of index semiology makes conceptual work a machine that always preserves the gap between two correlated elements. What is most important in the indexicality of a conceptual work is this disjunctive gap that remains despite the act of correlation.

Anton Vidokle—Art without Work?
It seems to me that art resides within and in between subjects, and subjects don’t always require work to produce themselves. For example, falling in love, or having a religious or aesthetic experience does not require work, so why should art require work to come into being?

Sarah Wilson—Moscow Romantic Exceptionalism: The Suspension of Disbelief
Analysis of the movement by non-participants tends to follow the materialist, formalist pragmatism of secular American art history and American conceptual art (bearing in mind its absorption of French phenomenology and “theory” during the 1960s and 1970s). The philosophical, mystical background implicit in the Russian mind-set is hardly explained; it remains the “untransmissible secret.”

Claire Bishop—Zones of Indistinguishability: Collective Actions Group and Participatory Art
After the controversial Bulldozer exhibition of September 1974 (in which an exhibition of unofficial art was destroyed by bulldozer), cultural authorities decided to regulate and legalize their relationships with “underground” art via the State Committee for Security (KGB). Most unofficial art was exhibited inside private apartments, forcing a convergence of art and life that surpassed what the majority of twentieth-century avant-gardists had ever intended by this term.

Jörg Heiser—Moscow, Romantic, Conceptualism, and After
What I’m trying to aim at is a question about the relationship between the “inwardness” of the artistic, poetic self and “outwardness”—an orientation to something beyond artistic communication—and the way in which that relationship is situated for a respective political paradigm in the public sphere. What kinds of encounters between people are really possible, what is the possibility of intimacy?
The print edition of e-flux journal can now be found at:

Amsterdam: De Appel / Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten Andratx: CCA Andratx Antwerp: M HKA Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Athens: OMMU Auckland: split/fountain Austin: Arthouse at the Jones Center Baden-Baden: Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-BadenBanff: Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre Barcelona: Arts Santa Monica / MACBA Basel: Kunsthalle Basel, Museum fur Gegenwartskunst Beijing and Guangzhou: Vitamin Creative Space Beirut: 98weeks Belgrade: Cultural Center of Belgrade Bergen: Bergen Kunsthall / Rakett Berlin: b_books / Berliner Künstlerprogramm – DAAD / do you read me? / NBK, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein / Pro qm Berlin and Zurich: Motto Bern: Kunsthalle Bern Bialystok: Arsenal Gallery Bielefeld: Bielefelder Kunstverein Birmingham: Eastside Projects / Ikon Gallery Bologna: MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna Bregenz: Kunsthaus Bregenz Bristol: Arnolfini Brussels: Wiels Bucharest: National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest (MNAC) / Pavilion Unicredit Cairo: Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) / Townhouse Gallery Calgary: The New Gallery Cambridge: Wysing Arts Center Castello: Espai d´art contemporani de Castelló (EACC) Chicago: Graham Foundation / The Renaissance Society Cologne: Kölnischer Kunstverein Copenhagen: Overgaden Dubai: Traffic Dublin: Dublin City, The Hugh Lane / Project Arts Centre Dusseldorf: Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum Farsta: Konsthall C Frankfurt: Städelschule / Portikus Gdansk: Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Łaźnia Genève: Centre de la Photographie Ghent: S.M.A.K Glasgow: CCA Centre for Contemporary Arts / Sculpture Studios Graz: Grazer Kunstverein / Kunsthaus Graz / para_SITE Gallery Grijon: LABoral Centre for Art and Creative Industries Hamburg: Kunstverein Helsinki:Museum of Contemporary Art KIASMA Hobart: CAST Gallery / INFLIGHT Hong Kong: Asia Art Archive Istanbul: BAS / CDA – Projects / DEPO / SALT Innsbruck: Galerie im Taxispalais Johannesburg: Center for Historical Reenactments Kristiansand: SKMU Sørlandet Art Museum Kansas City: INKubator PRESS Leeds: Pavilion Lisbon: Caribic Residency / Maumaus, Escola de Artes Visuais / Oporto Ljubljana: Moderna Galerija LLandudno: Mostyn London: Architectural Association/Bedford Press / Gasworks / ICA / Serpentine Gallery/ The Showroom / Visiting Arts Los Angeles: REDCAT Luxembourg: Casino Luxembourg Madrid: Brumaria / CA2M / Pensart Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Academie Marfa: Ballroom Marfa Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art Mexico City: Proyectos Monclova Milan: Fondazione Nicola Trussardi Milton Keynes: Milton Keynes Gallery Minneapolis: Walker Arts Center Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture Moscow/ Garage Center for Contemporary Culture Munich: Museum Villa Stuck / Walther Koenig Bookshop, Haus der Kunst Munich New Delhi: Sarai CSDS New York: e-flux / Independent Curators International (ICI) / Printed Matter, Inc Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary Omaha: Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Oslo: Kunstnernes hus Oxford: Modern Art Oxford Padona: Fondazione March Paris: castillo/corrales – Section 7 Books / Centre Pompidou / Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers / Palais de Tokyo Philadelphia: Bodega Pori: Pori Art Museum Porto: Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves Portland: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, (PICA) / Publication Studio Prague: Dox Centre for Contemporary Art Prishtina: Stacion – Center for Contemporary Art Prishtina Providence: AS220 Reykjavik: Reykjavik Art Museum Riga: Kim? Rio de Janeiro: Capacete Rome: Opera Rebis Rotterdam: Witte de With Saint-Nazaire: Le Grand Cafe, Centre D’art Contemporain Salzburg: Salzburger Kunstverein San Antonio: Artpace São Paulo: Master in Visual Arts, Faculdade Santa Marcelina Sarajevo: Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Art Seoul: The Books / The Book Society Sherbrooke: Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University Skopje: Press to Exit Project Space Sofia: ICA Sofia / Sofia Art Gallery St Erme Outre et Ramecourt: Performing Arts Forum St Louis: White Flag Projects Stockholm: Bonniers Konsthall / IASPIS / Index / Konstfack, University College of Art, Craft and Design Stuttgart: Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart Sydney: Artspace Tallinn: Kumu Art Museum of Estonia The Hague: Stroom Den Haag Toronto: Mercer Union / The Power Plant Torun: Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Torun Utrecht: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst / Casco-Office for Art, Design and Theory Vaduz: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein Valletta: Malta Contemporary Art Foundation Vancouver: ARTSPEAK / Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia / Fillip / Motto / READ Books, Charles H. Scott Gallery, Emily Carr University of Art and Design Vigo: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo Vilnius: Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) Vitoria-Gasteiz: Montehermoso Kulturunea Visby: BAC, Baltic Art Center Warsaw: Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki / Zachęta National Gallery of Art Wiesbaden: Nassauischer Kunstverein (NKV) Yerevan: Armenian Center For Contemporary Experimental Art, NPAK Zagreb: Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic / Gallery Nova / Institute for Duration, Location and Variables, DeLVe Zurich: Postgraduate Program in Curating, Zürich University of the Arts / Shedhalle / White Space.

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