Jan Verwoert at CCA

Jan Verwoert will lecture at California College of the Arts on September 23rd.

A recent series of lectures at the New Museum, Banff Centre and Barnicke Gallery was entitled Why Are Conceptual Artists Painting Again? Because They Think It Is a Good Idea. An October 2009 interview is online at BadAtSports.

Discussing the motivations for production, the attempt was to try and replace the vocabulary of the strategical paradigm—the lingo of declared intentions and the cocksure construction of references—with more shaky terms like inspiration, vocation and dedication: terms that, precisely because of their existential dimension, exist on the threshold of the unverifiable, and therefore always remain riddled by Iron Maiden’s tormenting question “How can I be sure that what I saw last night was real and not just fantasy?” (Orpheus tried to check and he blew it.)

Since solitude is what you treasure most, that solitude is what you like to share with those, who feel the same. At the heart of an artistic subjectivity of any depth, there is a collectivity of discordant voices. Conversely, a collective capable of free creative action, will form itself, unbound from ideologies, most likely through sharing subjectivity: in an act of sharing what cannot be shared, but only performed in a mode of synchronous asynchronicity.

 The social and political dimension of Conceptualism has been discussed, but often only in apodictic terms, not acknowledging the humor, the wit, the existential, emotional or erotic aspects, as well as the iconophile, not just iconoclast motives, that have always also been at play in the dialectics and politics of lifelong Conceptual practices.

The talk will start off addressing the conditions of contemporary practice. The idea is to invent a new language that would acknowledge a shared sense of crisis and doubt, yet fight the senseless paranoia over legitimation that too much bad-faith criticism today exploits in the wake of second-generation institutional critique together, through discussions that describe potentials. [Art Fag City posted a summary and review.]

Unfortunately, a certain understanding of conceptualism has had incredibly stifling effects on how people approach their practice, namely the idea that to have a concept in art means to know exactly why you do what you do – before you ever even do it. This assumption has effectively increased the pressure on artists to occupy the genius-like position of a strategist who would clearly know the rules of how to do the right thing, the legitimate thing. How could we invent a language that would describe the potentials of contemporary practice, acknowledge a sense of crisis and doubt, yet break the spell of the senseless paranoia over legitimation – and instead help to transform critical art practice into a truly gay science based on a shared sense of appreciation and irreverence?

Updated October 2010.