Photography after Conceptual Art

Photography after Conceptual Art

Photography after Conceptual Art

Photography after Conceptual Art

Synopsis

Photography After Conceptual Art presents a series of original essays that address substantive theoretical, historical, and aesthetic issues raised by post-1960s photography as a mainstream artistic medium
  • Selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2011
  • Appeals to people interested in artist's use of photography and in contemporary art
  • Tracks the efflorescence of photography as one of the most important mediums for contemporary art
  • Explores the relation between recent art, theory and aesthetics, for which photography serves as an important test case
  • Includes a number of the essays with previously unpublished photographs
  • Artists discussed include Ed Ruscha, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Douglas Huebler, Mel Bochner, Sherrie Levine, Roni Horn, Thomas Demand, and Jeff Wall

Excerpt

Diarmuid Costello and Margaret Iversen

This Art History book aims to open up a debate about what is at stake in contemporary photographic art. It forms part of a large ahrc funded research project, ‘Aesthetics after Photography’, which focuses on the challenges that recent art photography poses for aesthetic theory. a collaborative and cross-disciplinary endeavour, the research project is directed by Margaret Iversen of the Department of Art History and Theory at the University of Essex and Diarmuid Costello of the Philosophy Department, University of Warwick. They have also guest edited this volume. the chapters’ original incarnation was as a two-day session at the annual Association of Art Historians conference held at Tate Britain, London, in 2008. We called for papers that addressed substantive theoretical or aesthetic issues raised by photography of the post-1960s period as an artistic medium, particularly in light of the oft-heard claim that the arts now inhabit a ‘post-medium’ condition. Our goal was to explore the remarkable shifts in the dominant forms of photography as a mainstream contemporary art, as opposed to a specialist domain, notably the significance of its apparent transformation from anti-aesthetic to aesthetic medium of choice. This can be seen in the way in which the a- or nonaesthetic uses of photography associated with various conceptual, proto-conceptual and post-conceptual practices of the 1960s and 1970s, and their documentation, gave way in the 1980s to the self-consciously ‘anti-aesthetic’ practices of postmodern appropriation, only to be overtaken in turn by the large-scale, pictorial and frequently digital, colour photography that has dominated photographic art since the 1990s. This last is a form of photography that is often compared to painting in the range of aesthetic effects to which it aspires. Certainly, it has been welcomed by museums, galleries, and the market in these terms.

One way we approached our theme was by taking up Jeff Wall’s claim that recent photography represents a turn away from conceptual art – ‘the last moment of the pre-history of photography as art’ – and exploring its implications. One critical question this raised is whether the majority of recent photographic art is merely ‘after’ conceptual art in a weak historical sense, or whether it is truly post-conceptual in the more substantive sense of not merely coming after, but also internalizing and building upon the lessons of conceptual art. in practice, this has meant dealing with the way photography was conceived within the original conceptual and proto-conceptual practices of, say, Ed Ruscha, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Douglas Huebler and Mel Bochner, on the one hand, and the pictorial . . .

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