Conceptual Art by Ursula Meyer (review)
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Books 261 Morrocchi, more conventional, composes coherent verbal texts by clipping words from newspapers and periodicals and arranging them in tasteful patterns. He exploits the similarity of political pronouncements and advertising slogans, thereby producing mild satire, based more on serendipity than on the burning indignation that inspired his forerunners, the radical dadaists of the 1920’s. References 1. Mary Ellen Solt, Concrete Poetry: A World View 2. Emmett Williams, An Anthology of Concrete Poetry (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1970). (New York: Something Else Press, 1967). Conceptual Art. Ursula Meyer. Dutton, New York, 1972. 227 pp., illus. Paper. $3.45. Reviewed by Donald Brook* The apologetics of conceptual art constitute an intellectual morass in which everything lucid and articulate crumbles. It is as if the very word ‘conceptual’ had the power to strip its users of literacy and to rot all natural languages down to instant compost. Meyer’s compendium of about 40 artists is destined, inevitably, for the reading list of college courses on recent art, simply because it collects together quite a lot of it in one small, cheap, portable museum. But the introductory essay does not succeed (it does not even try) to say what is the principle of selection; nor does it develop any intelligible thesis about conceptual art. There are innumerable theses-roughly one to each successive declarative sentence-but nothing is sustained or argued. The author begins with Joseph Kosuth’s assertion that conceptual art does not need critics and ends with his claim that it does not need an audience either. But in between there is no connective intellectual tissue, only the steady hail of sentences falling with an inexorable even clatter as if they came o f f a teleprinter driven by a computer on Planet X that has almost learnt to speak English. Occasionally, oddly, a phrase from the wrong vocabulary creeps in. ‘Daniel Buren’s stripes applied to walls, doors and billboards. . .’ are not ‘ideational’ or ‘conceptual’ or even (worse than death) ‘morphological’. They have, it seems, the dispositional property of creating ‘a focussed tension within the environment’. That sounds very like the bad old days, before ‘the treasured assumptions of traditional aesthetics proved inadequate’, when focussed tensions were the very stuff of criticism. The earthship wrecked on Planet X must have carried an old copy of Artforum as well as The Best of Merleau-Ponty and Gems from Barthes. The anthologised writings of the artists themselves are not vulnerable to the same charge, for they did not address themselves to Meyer’s problem. They range from the lucid David Bainbridge to the turgid Kosuth and surely include a few of the best flights of imagination, and some of the most egregious absurdities, of the last few years. As a pocket museum of post-object art it is an innocent lucky dip. As an elucidation of conceptual art it is a non-starter. Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972. Lucy R. Lippard, ed. Studio Vista, London, 1973. 272 pp., illus. M.60. Reviewed by Clive Phillpot** The concern of this book is with ‘so-called conceptual or information or idea art’ and it is ‘basically a bibliography and list of events’ but the full title, which consists of some 80 words, explains that into this bibliography ‘are inserted a fragmented text, art works, documents, interviews and symposia’. *School of Humanities, Flinders University, Bedford Park, South Australia 5042. **9 Grangecliffe Gardens, London SE25 6SY, England. The bibliography is arranged chronologically first by year and within this framework by month, one of the purposes of the book being to document ‘ideas changing over a period of time’. The author states that the book ‘reflects chaos rather than imposing order’ and that she enjoys ‘the prospect of forcing the reader to make up his or her own mind when confronted with such a curious mass of information’. These statements would seem to suggest that the reader was being exposed to random information, albeit pertaining to conceptual art but this cannot be so when the author also states that ‘personal prejudice and an idiosyncratic method of categorization’ were factors in the selection of material. Thus we are presented not...


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