Sartre, Wittgenstein, and
Learning from Imagination
A well-documented aim of conceptual art is the undermining of the traditional idea of an artwork as a single physically present object. A common method of achieving this is to present to the viewer a prompt designed to make her think of some absent thing. This may take the form of a written description, a title, a map or set of instructions; the absent entity may be a situation, an event, a process, or an object. To take some examples: Laurence Weiner's Statements, consisting of descriptions of objects or processes, such as 'One quart exterior green enamel thrown on a brick wall';1 Douglas Huebler's New York—Boston Shape Exchange, which uses 'maps and instructions to propose the creation of identical hexagons (one in each city) 3,000 feet on a side, whose points would be marked by white stickers 1 inch in diameter';2 Walter De Maria's Vertical Earth Kilometer (see Illustration 11), consisting of a one-kilometre long brass rod sunk into the ground with only the top end visible, a small brass disc 2 inches across; John Baldessari's text-only 'narrative paintings', such as 'Semi-close-up of girl
1 Documented in Lucy Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972, 2nd
edn. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2001), 37.
2 Roberta Smith, 'Conceptual Art' in Nikos Stangos (ed.), Concepts of Modern Art, 3rd edn.
(London: Thames and Hudson, 1994), 261.