Philosophy and Conceptual Art

By Peter Goldie; Elisabeth Schellekens | Go to book overview

Introduction

Peter Goldie and Elisabeth Schellekens


Philosophy and Conceptual Art

Art devoid of ideas is seldom good art. Ideas can wear many guises in an artistic context: they can be highly focused and convey one specific concern (such as the idea of the threat of domestic violence), or, alternatively, they can be quite indefinite (such as the idea of the wilderness of nature as evocative of the sublime). There are, in fact, many different kinds of ideas that can be conveyed by art, and so the claim that good art should involve ideas need not imply that only art which sets out to communicate specific thoughts is worthy of our attention.

However, there is one artistic movement which has claimed that art should invariably aim to engage its audience intellectually, and, moreover, that it need not do so aesthetically or emotionally. Art, on this view, should aim to be 'of the mind', not simply because it demands a primarily intellectual approach, but also because such artwork is best understood as an idea. The purpose of art, according to this movement, is analytic, and as such, art is in the business of creating and transmitting ideas. Artists are authors of meaning rather than skilled craftsmen, since it is the idea, and not the art object, that is at the heart of artistic experience.

With a plethora of bold claims such as these, the conceptual art movement placed itself firmly within a stream of controversy from its very outset.1

1 Although the first publication to use the expression 'Conceptual Art' appears in Sol LeWitt's
'Paragraphs on Conceptual Art' (1967), Henry Flynt was already exploring the idea in his 'Essay:

-ix-

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