repairing art through instruction: conceptual art
A set of instructions is an interesting place to start. I instantly thought of Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings. LeWitt created a set of directions that could be carried out by a draftsperson to make the physical ‘artwork’. In this process the artist provided the concept, the instructions, and then the work itself is produced by someone else.
LeWitt: Wall Drawing 289
“In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” Sol LeWitt 1967
Perhaps it can be argued the LeWitt wanted to move to a more integral form of art, where the physical skills of the artist no longer restricted the work that they created. Through this art is repaired (or restored to something better) by allowing a concept to come from someone that may not have the specific skills, time, or desire to create that work.
This same idea can be seen in the more contemporary work of Jeff Koons. Koons has over 120 assistants that help him create his art, from massive sculpture to hyper real painting.
“I used to make all my own sculpture, my paintings, but if I did that it would severely limit the range of projects that I could be involved with. I follow my interests in some way that feels profound to me, those that seem to have a deeper meaning. I feel completely free to do whatever I want to do. But I have to edit my work a lot, because of the process, the amount of time it takes to actually make things, you really have to make the things you want to make, otherwise you’re wasting a lot of energy.” Koons 2009
couple (dots) 2008
People are quite polarized over Koons work, some people feeling that it is too kitch and doesn’t deserve the prestige and publicity it gets. This is embodied in the work of Hunter Jonakin in his video game “Jeff Koons must Die”. I thought I would include this as a sort of ‘anti-repair’. In the game players are in a Koons retrospective and must destroy as much work as possible without getting caught by the guards.
I’m split on my own view of Koons work. I love a lot of his work, I think it is bright and fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously. But I also find fact that he doesn’t always make the works himself a bit difficult. Although in the case of Koons, he is a skilled artist as well I think this is a dangerous precedent.
Coming from a craft based artistic practice, I find this disregard of the value of skill in creating art hard to take. I think that concept alone is not sustainable. I think that in many ways developing skill allows greater conceptual work as you have developed an understanding of the medium.