Beyond the Canon. The Paradoxes of Conceptual Art

Beyond the Canon. The Paradoxes of Conceptual art. Photo: Dario Punales

Friday, March 22, 2012, 4–8 p.m.
Symposium (Englisch) 

Based on the exhibition Amazing! Clever! Linguistic! An Adventure in Conceptual Art, the symposium raises and discusses questions around curating and exhibiting Conceptual art, examining its definitions, canonizations, and reterritorializations, its paradoxes and its aesthetic. The curator Guillaume Désanges uses his current show as an example to explain what “conceptual” curating can mean today; Camiel van Winkel talks about the paradoxes—the successes and failures—of Conceptual art and about its afterlife in contemporary art. Luke Skrebowski, meanwhile, proposes that, as part of the historicization of Conceptual art, we reassess the status of aesthetics. And Sabeth Buchmann discusses the exhibition practices that were established in the context of the historic Conceptual art, focusing on presentation and reception as well as on new media and publication formats and their consequences for the emergence of a new type of curator.


4 p.m.
Welcome: Sabine Folie, Director and Curator, Generali Foundation
Introduction: Christian Höller

4:15 p.m.

Guillaume Désanges
Curating Conceptual Art: The “Deskilled” Hypothesis
For a curator, each exhibition may be a new situation, a way to challenge the obvious and find a form that syncopates the rhythm with its topic. In the case of the show Amazing! Clever! Linguistic! An Adventure in Conceptual Art, it was about wondering what it might mean to “curate conceptually,” more in spirit than in form. This involved working in the register of “deskilling,” opposing academic discipline with a certain kind of amateurism. Deskilled curating meant avoiding reflexes and the temptations of virtuosity, with the goal of reconnecting with the spirit of freedom and risk-taking that animated the pioneers of Conceptual art. Taking other examples, I will try to critically go back to this attempt to decode curatorial conventions while accepting the inevitability of their immediate recoding. A deterritorialization prompting a precarious, plural, uncomfortable reterritorialization, with the aim of fighting against indifference.

5 p.m.
Camiel van Winkel
The Paradoxes of Conceptual Art
The talk will deal with the paradoxes of Conceptual art (both a failure and a success), the relationships between Conceptual art and contemporary art, and the consequences this has for the position of the curator today.


6 p.m.

Luke Skrebowski
Conceptual Aesthetics
Conceptual art is widely noted for its project to produce an anti-aesthetic art, seeking to break what Joseph Kosuth described as “the still prevalent belief that there is a conceptual connection between art and aesthetics.” Conceptual art is equally well known for the failure of this project, for its ultimate demonstration that art and aesthetics cannot be completely disambiguated. Yet the ineliminability of the aesthetic in visual art has become in certain strands of recent critical, curatorial, and artistic practice an occasion for a fetishizing focus on the “look” of Conceptual art, a “conceptual aesthetics” in the most impoverished critical sense of the term. The paper argues against this development, but for a reconsideration of the place of the aesthetic in the historicization of Conceptual art. It does so by means of a consideration of an alternative, non-“Analytic,” genealogy of the practice that addresses post-Kantian aesthetics.

6:45 p.m.
Sabeth Buchmann
Curatorial Media
With a view to the exhibition practices established in the context of the historic Conceptual art, the talk will discuss how the focus on presentation and reception or on new media and publication formats affected the emergence of a novel type of curator. Taking up the concept of the “curatorial system” as used by Magda Tyzlik-Carver and others, we may describe Conceptual art as a field that ideally illustrates a development in which the curatorial expands beyond the conception and arrangement of exhibitions into areas of the production of knowledge and signification as well as into social formations and cultural technologies. The lecture will focus on the question of the transformations of the spatial and temporal structures that organize exhibitions of Conceptual art in a wide sense.

7:30–8:00 p.m.
Panel discussion with all participants
Moderation: Christian Höller