Exploring the world one word…and one mile…at a time

Life as Art…Art as Life

L: Me transformed into Kafka on Dusni Street in Prague (2012); R: J as part of an installation at Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris (2011)

L: Me transformed into Kafka on Dusni Street in Prague (2012); R: J as part of an installation at Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris (2011)

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.

The Variables:

2 Individuals (Me and J); The Road; The Destinations; Time; Weather; Life

The Process:

Each individual answers a set of static questions each day, along with one variable question per day.

The Art:

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…

5 responses

  1. This strikes me as an utterly cool and fascinating venture…ideas for questions that occurred to me off the top of my head…what was the first thing you thought of this morning? what was the last thing you thought of last night? what was the least interesting thing you noticed yesterday (or today?)…will be in touch if I think of anything else…or anything better…(not that I think these are THAT but are, as I say, the first things that occurred to me…)

    June 13, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    • Thanks for checking out the post and for the suggestions. We love the “least interesting thing you noticed” concept…because, in part, it must have been at least somewhat interesting to make us notice it in the first place. We’re open to any other suggestions you come up with…even weeks from now…since we’ll still be on the road and possibly at the end of our list.

      June 14, 2013 at 6:46 pm

  2. Dad

    Deep write up. Read this over several times. You make one think long and hard to get to your full meaning. Thank you!!

    June 14, 2013 at 10:10 am

    • Thanks for reading! We are excited about starting the project next week. 🙂

      June 14, 2013 at 6:42 pm

  3. Pingback: And We’re Back… | Words Per Gallon

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