Philosophy and Conceptual Art

By Peter Goldie; Elisabeth Schellekens | Go to book overview

14

Emergency Conditionals
Art & Language

We were surprised to be invited to speak at the conference on Philosophy and Conceptual Art. In fact the invitation was made to Charles Harrison. He is sometimes an academic. But he felt (a) that it would be inappropriate to respond as such, and (b) that together we would probably represent our relations with philosophy (whatever that is) to greater practical purpose; that's to say that we might be able to represent our practice—as something that absorbs or spits out 'philosophy'—in such a way as to reflect the thirty-odd years of our conversation. The brief for the conference seemed historically naive—unaware of the vicissitudes and variations in the use of the term conceptual art. So we began to trace a sort of narrative. To do this it was necessary to distinguish our sense of conceptual art from at least two possible others. To this extent, we were adding philosophical and practical flesh to what seemed at the outset some very meagre bones—or not even bones, just vague and ambiguous usage…. Not that that's always so bad. What was disturbing was the sense of aestheticians' dreariness: a sort of killing abstraction that failed to recognize the practical and philosophical connectedness of the territory. Edwardian uncles get round to it after thirty-five years and get it wrong. (Imagine philosophy discovering cubism in 1947.)

Anyway, what we offered was not a performance. It was a sort of expository paper converted to the representation of an artistic practice. This practice is discursive and reflexive—talkative. How do we represent ourselves among philosophers? Not as philosophers. Was what we said philosophy? Is it affected

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