Life as Art…Art as Life
Conceptual art, or idea art, is an art form in which the concept (or idea) that generates a piece of art is more important than the art itself. For example, poet Kenneth Goldsmith (of @ubuweb) recently announced his plan to “print out the internet.” Clearly, Mr. Goldsmith’s idea is loaded with intention. The idea, and the public’s response to the idea, is the art. I hope we never actually see the internet on paper, but the idea has given us much to contemplate.
Another common aspect of conceptual art is the rejection of self-expression. Once the idea and rules are set by the artist, expression is abandoned and the piece becomes what the rules and form allow, nothing more. Many would compare this to the process of computer programming, although I would argue that this comparison ignores an enormous amount of human variation, innovation and expression that exists in the programming and software development world (another blog post altogether).
I, however, am a believer that self-expression cannot be taken out of art. The moment an artist makes a decision (at the highest or lowest level) that influences the piece, self-expression has occurred. But I often wonder if there is an opportunity to embrace the self in conceptual art. An individual comes equipped with as many biases, limitations, and capabilities as a programming script, language or filter. What if the self is placed into the idea like any other variable and becomes part of the content/art creation process?
This idea first came to me while working on the Pulitzer Remix project for National Poetry Month in April. I was writing 30 found poems from a Pulitzer Prize winning novel in 30 days. All poems needed to be initiated by me, all poems needed to be from the same novel, and the poems needed to be delivered once a day for 30 days. Whatever happened from there, happened. Sounds like conceptual art to me… I was just one of the variables in the process.
As I pondered our upcoming road trip across the United States and Canada, I wanted to test the idea of utilizing the (or more appropriately “a”) self as a limiting variable in conceptual art. Perhaps we could turn a memoir about the trip into a conceptual art project:
The Idea: Put two individuals on a six-week road trip to varied destinations across the United States and Canada; collect their responses to several pre-planned, probing questions each day; make art. Will the individual responses include self-expression? Absolutely. Can the individuals respond any differently than they are already capable of responding? Perhaps not.
2 Individuals (Me and J); The Road; The Destinations; Time; Weather; Life
Each individual answers a set of static questions each day, along with one variable question per day.
Wait and see! – M
P.S. Be part of the process! Comment below if you have a suggestion for the daily variable questions. We’ve conjured up 20 or so but need a total of 40-60…