Freitag, 13. Dezember 2013

Conceptual art is a bunk... It’s a felt, it’s feeling, it’s felt (Robert Smithson)

Symposium: Conceptual art is a bunk...It’s a felt, it’s feeling, it’s felt (Robert Smithson), 2013. Photo: Dario Punales

December 12, 2013, 5–8 p.m. (English)

The symposium takes up themes and motifs in Gertrud Sandqvist’s exhibition Against Method—the curator chose the title as a reference to Paul Feyerabend’s widely read book Against Method: Outline of an Anarchist Theory of Knowledge (1975), in which he turns against the rationalist methodology of a theory of science aiming for universal validity and casts doubt on the scientific ambition to attain knowledge through the application of exact and systematic methods. He instead proposes “irrational means” as the basis for experimental research. Scientists, he argues, should adapt approaches from the arts. Feyerabend’s critique came during the heyday of Conceptual art, when artists, for their part, sought to integrate structuralism and scientific methodology into their work. The various contributions to the symposium address the interrelations between structuralism and Conceptual art and elaborate on the question: to which extent did the appropriation of structuralist theories bring Conceptual art to the limits of its attempts at rationalization?
Eve Meltzer’s lecture investigates the reintegration of the human subject into conceptual works and examines how affect and system condition and complement each other. The artist Joachim Koester, meanwhile, explores the analysis of the non-rational in Sol LeWitt’s writings and minimalist objects. Elisabeth von Samsonow and the artist Ida-Marie Corell collaborate to stage a lecture-performance, a critical dialogue on the question of method and the production of knowledge.

Eve MeltzerSystems We Have Loved
Lecture (English)

Joachim KoesterConceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists
Lecture (English)

Elisabeth von Samsonow with Ida-Marie Corell, ArtistHybrid Knowledge
Lecture-performance (English)

Moderator: Gertrud Sandqvist, Curator

Montag, 2. Dezember 2013

Anniversary's publication

Cover, A Book about Collecting and Exhibiting Conceptual Art after Conceptual Art, 2013. Photo: Dario Punales

A Book about Collecting and Exhibiting Conceptual Art after Conceptual Art
Eds. Sabine Folie, Georgia Holz, Ilse Lafer
With texts by Sabeth Buchmann, Juli Carson, Guillaume Désanges, Helmut Draxler, Sabine Folie, Christian Höller, Eve Meltzer, Gertrud Sandqvist, Luke Skrebowski, Ian Wallace, Camiel van Winkel, and a conversation between Hal Foster und Helmut Draxler
Germ./Engl., 540 p., 430 color- and b&w-ill., hardcover
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne


Mittwoch, 27. November 2013

Curator Gertrud Sandqvist on her current exhibition at Generali Foundation "Against Method"

Georgia Holz: This year’s guest curators—Guillaume Désanges, Helmut Draxler, and now you—have chosen very diverse approaches in presenting the collection. While Guillaume brought together a rather didactic and as he called it popular exhibition for which he selected many “pioneers” of Conceptual art, Helmut reflected on the interaction of collecting and exhibition making at the Generali Foundation. Your approach again is a different one, how would you describe it?

Gertrud Sandqvist: A collection could be there mainly for study purposes, but as soon as one exhibits it, it also creates an art experience, and it is this experience I would like to focus on. When it comes to Conceptual art, this focus is not at all self-evident on the contrary many of the experiments and thoughts about Conceptual art have questioned what this “experience” consists of. But if one looks closer into many of the works in the Generali Foundation Collection, they point at or call for precisely the experience, which means that there is a difference between seeing them in reality and reading about them or to "get the idea". If this difference exists, I mean that one could talk about an art experience also when it comes to Conceptual art, which means that there is integrity in the artwork which goes beyond its concept.

Georgia Holz: You said, what interests you most in the Generali Foundation Collection is its ambiguities, fissures as you call them. While the collection as a whole is striving for identity as a coherent Conceptual art collection, it is the autonomy of artworks themselves that is able to break with this reading. You use the phrase "to spill over" for describing this autonomy. Could you further explain what this "spilling over" of the art works means?

Gertrud Sandqvist: I believe Marcel Duchamp had a point when he was writing about the “art co-efficient,” which according to him is there in all art. The art co-efficient means that there is something in the artwork that the artist didn't intend, and it is precisely the unintended, which transforms a work into art. This is of course exactly what the conceptual artists denied or at least tried to avoid. But as soon as one materializes an idea something happens, which cannot be completely controlled—not to say what happens when this artwork meets the spectator. This is becoming even more obvious when you find such a fine and coherent collection as the one in the Generali Foundation. A collection is a result of choices, of decisions, in the end of interpretations. It means that one, from the extremely rich “intensity field,” which is an artwork, decides on one (or two or more) parameters which make it possible to include the work in, for instance a collection of Conceptual art. But even here there are aspects of the artwork which act diversely. This is a great strength, I think, which makes it possible for the artwork to expand over the moment in time and context when it ws conceived.

Georgia Holz is Assistant-Curator at Generali Foundation.

Donnerstag, 21. November 2013

Lili Dujourie, artist, in conversation with Gertrud Sandqvist, curator

November 20, 2013, 7 p.m. (English)

In her early video pieces from the 1970s and 1980s, the Belgian artist Lili Dujourie radically and rigorously explored the still-young medium. Video technology not only enabled her to document her actions in real time, it also allowed her to stage intimacy. Hommage à … I–V, a series of five videos, revolves around a dual regime of the gaze between theatrical pose and voyeuristic control. The artist presents her own body in a play between exposure, concealment, and the camera as a proxy for the viewer, an embodiment of the “pure” gaze. She showcases the entire register of female exhibitionism and reenacts the poses of art history’s nudes. Yet Dujourie is not a passive exponent of a desiring gaze but a self-determined agent creating an alternative narrative of the female body. The subject-object dichotomy gives way to a subject-subject relationship.

Held as part of Vienna Art Week.

Mittwoch, 20. November 2013

Mary Kelly, artist, in conversation with Gertrud Sandqvist, curator

November 19, 2013, 7 p.m. (English)

If there is a work of art that has comprehensively grasped, visualized, and contextualized the complexities of sensory and bodily experience in relation to a system, or more precisely, a structuralist matrix, it is Mary Kelly’s Post-Partum Document (1974–79). In this pioneering work, the artist addressed a topic that had been taboo—the subjective and physical experience of birth and motherhood—and lent it form by translating it into the systematic structure of a decidedly conceptualist aesthetic. Post-Partum Document was unsparingly analytical and revealed the conventions and stereotypes at work in feminism as well as Conceptual art. Kelly transcended the artistic and conceptual agenda of by resorting to methods from both psychoanalysis (Lacan) and the sciences. With its critical and yet affirmative stance toward Conceptual art, Post-Partum Document I. Prototype manifests the same “cracks,” contradictions, and paradoxes within Conceptual art that Gertrud Sandqvist traces in the exhibition Against Method.

Held as part of Vienna Art Week

Montag, 14. Oktober 2013

Book launch: A Book about Collecting and Exhibiting Conceptual Art after Conceptual Art

Book launch, 2013 © Generali Foundation. Photos: Dario Punales

Friday, October 11, 2013, 7 p.m.
Presentation of the anniversary’s publication
Korrektur, performance by Heinrich Dunst
Food will be served by Schorsch Böhme, playlist by Nora Kapfer

Montag, 16. September 2013

Donnerstag, 12. September 2013

Kuratorisches Statement: Against Method

Gertrud Sandqvist. Foto: Steffi Dittrich
Wird eine Sammlung ausgestellt, eröffnet sich der Raum für eine Kunsterfahrung. Und genau auf diese möchte ich mich konzentrieren. In Verbindung mit konzeptueller Kunst ist das keineswegs selbstverständlich, zumal ein Großteil der in der konzeptuellen Kunst unternommenen Experimente und deren Theoretisierung eben diese Erfahrung infrage stellten. Ich habe beschlossen, mich auf Paul Feyerabends berühmten Essay Wider den Methodenzwang (1975) zu beziehen, weil er darin das angeblich systematische Denken der Wissenschaft infrage stellt und stattdessen behauptet, Wissenschaftler_innen würden opportunistisch alles aufgreifen, was funktioniert, wie es seiner Meinung nach auch Künstler_innen tun. Er schrieb den Essay auf dem Höhepunkt der konzeptuellen Kunst, als Künstler_innen umgekehrt die Wissenschaft nach Strukturen und Methoden durchforsteten, welche der Kunst dieselbe Eindeutigkeit verleihen sollten, die sie der Wissenschaft zu schrieben. Aus der Sammlung der Generali Foundation habe ich Werke ausgewählt, die alles das zeigen, was gewöhnlich nicht mit konzeptueller Kunst verbunden wird: Geste, Prozess, Körperlichkeit, Sexualität, optische Qualitäten, Blick. Schlüsselwerke sind Mary Kellys Post-Partum Document (1974) und Ana Torfs’ Elective Affinities (2002). Kelly war eine Pionierin, die Fragen des Prozesses, der Materialität und der Mutter-Kind-Beziehung in die konzeptuelle Kunst einführte. Ana Torfs geht vom chemischen Begriff der „Wahlverwandtschaft“ aus, der die Fähigkeit zweier wohlbekannter Substanzen beschreibt, sich beim Hinzukommen einer dritten zu etwas noch Unbekanntem und Neuem zu verbinden. Genau das passiert für mich auch beim Ausstellung-Machen.

Donnerstag, 27. Juni 2013

Symposium: Der Wert des "Ausstellungswertes"

Mittwoch, 26. Juni 2013, 17–20 Uhr (Deutsch)

Walter Benjamin setzt den Ausstellungswert dem Kultwert entgegen, ohne ihn genauer zu bestimmen. Das Symposium versucht an unterschiedlichen Lektüren, diesen Begriff zwischen den Werten der Sammlung und dem Wert des Werks historisch und systematisch zu verorten.

Eva Kernbauer: Conversation Pieces (Vortrag)
Kathrin Busch: Bild – Berührung – Exposition (Vortrag)
Gregor Stemmrich: Ökonomien der Aufmerksamkeit (Vortrag)
Podiumsdiskussion mit allen Teilnehmenden
Moderation: Helmut Draxler

Dienstag, 25. Juni 2013

The Curatorial. A Philosophy of Curating / On Collecting Critical Art Practices

Lecture by Jean-Paul Martinon, The Content of Form, 2013 © Generali Foundation. Photo: Dario Punales

Hal Foster in conversation with Helmut Draxler, The Content of Form, 2013 © Generali Foundation. Photo: Dario Punales

June 22, 2013 5-7 p.m. 

The Curatorial. A Philosophy of Curating
Lecture by Jean-Paul Martinon, philosopher, followed by a conversation with 
Helmut Draxler, art historian

On Collecting Critical Art Practices
Hal Foster, art historian, art critic in conversation with Helmut Draxler

This talk will put forward ten theses on the philosophy of curating. These short theses will not comment on the exhibition, nor put forward other examples or attempts to create a chronology of key exhibitions (thus generating an art history of exhibition practices). Instead, they intend to discuss the differences between ‘curating’ and ‘the curatorial’. If ‘curating’ is a gamut of professional practices for setting up exhibitions, then ‘the curatorial’ explores what takes place on the stage set up, both intentionally and unintentionally, by the curator. Ultimately, the aim of these ten theses is to continue Helmut Draxler’s questioning of the activity of curating as exposed inThe Content of Form.

Additional documentation of events held at the Generali Foundation since the 1990s—lectures, symposia, conversations with the artists, guided tours, and performances—is accessible via two terminals at the Study Center.

Samstag, 18. Mai 2013

The Content of Form. A Reading by Ian Wallace

Ian Wallace, Lecture at Generali Foundation, 2013 © Generali Foundation. Photos: Dario Punales

May 17, 2013, 7 p.m. (English)

In the architecture of the installation, which I will take to be the formal framework of the exhibition as a meaningful statement, I will consider the ambient bodily movements of a spectator in the exhibition space. I will draw attention to the indeterminate (yet guided) flow of the intellectual attention of the spectator (of the image-reader in space) as the completion of intentions of the artist (the initiator) and the collector (or curator) who re-presents these works for contemplation. This spatial movement involves proximity and distance, coming close to the object and drawing away to contemplate the installation as an architectural whole. This “entanglement” of producer, presenter, and spectator comprises the “knot” of signification.

Additional documentations of events held at the Generali Foundation since the 1990s—lectures, symposia, conversations with the artists, guided tours, and performances—is accessible via two terminals at the Study Center.

Kuratorenführung mit Helmut Draxler

Helmut Draxler, Kuratorenführung Generali Foundation, 2013 © Generali Foundation. Fotos: Dario Punales

17. Mai 2013, 18 Uhr (Deutsch)

Weitere Dokumentationen von Veranstaltungen, die seit den 1990er Jahren in der Generali Foundation stattgefunden haben – Vorträge, Symposien, Künstler_innengespräche, Führungen und Performances –, sind auf zwei Terminals im Studienraum zugänglich.

Donnerstag, 16. Mai 2013

Kuratorisches Statement: The Content of Form

Helmut Draxler. Foto: Natascha Unkart
Sammlungen lassen sich im Rahmen einer Ausstellung meist nur in Form einer Auswahl zeigen. Da sich Sammlungen selbst bereits stets einer Auswahl an Gegenständen verdanken, geraten innerhalb der Ausstellung einer Sammlung zwei Formen der Auswahl mit jeweils unterschiedlichen Akzentuierungen aneinander. Dieser Unterschied wird meist im Sinne einer aufeinander bezogenen, zunehmenden Erhöhung des Werts der ausgewählten Gegenstände verstanden, indem immer genauere Kriterien zum Tragen kommen und damit die Qualität und der künstlerische und kulturelle Anspruch der einzelnen Gegenstände als „Werke“ sichergestellt werden können. Doch zweifellos sind solche Annahmen trügerisch. Sie unterschätzen die Widersprüche zwischen den einzelnen Schritten des Auswählens und den Eigensinn jeder Auswahl. Dementsprechend erschien mir das Angebot, die Sammlung der Generali Foundation in einer Ausstellung darzustellen, sie durch eine Auswahl zu spezifizieren und zu reflektieren, als eine gute Gelegenheit, die Kategorien Sammlung, Ausstellung und Werk zu überdenken und ein Projekt ins Auge zu fassen, dass diese Kategorien in ihrem historischen und begrifflichen Zusammenhang zu rekonstruieren versucht. Es ging also nicht darum, tatsächlich die Sammlung zu bewerten und in ihren besten Stücken darzustellen, sondern sie als exemplarische kulturelle Formation hinsichtlich der Strukturbedingungen der Moderne ernst zu nehmen. Das  Befragen der strukturellen Bedingungen von Sammlung, Ausstellung und Werk mag letztlich die Frage zu beantworten helfen, wie und ob eigentlich kritische Kunst gesammelt werden kann und worauf die Annahmen kritischer Kunstpraktiken überhaupt gegründet sind.

Montag, 25. März 2013

Symposium: Beyond the Canon. The Paradoxes of Conceptual Art

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

March 22, 2013, 4–8.30 p.m. (English)

Guillaume Désanges, Curator
Camiel van Winkel, Art critic
Luke Skrebowski, Art historian
Sabeth Buchmann, Art critic
Moderation: Christian Höller, Art critic

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.

Additional documentation of events held at the Generali Foundation since the 1990s—lectures, symposia, conversations with the artists, guided tours, and performances—is accessible via two terminals at the Study Center.

Freitag, 22. Februar 2013

Gottfried Bechtold, Künstler, im Gespräch mit Claus Philipp, Filmkritiker

Gespräch: Gottfried Bechtold mit Claus Philipp, 2013 © Generali Foundation. Foto: Dario Punales

21. Februar 2013, 19 Uhr (Deutsch)

Gottfried Bechtold wird über seine Filme sprechen, die sich größtenteils in der Sammlung der Generali Foundation befinden, sowie über den konzeptuellen Ansatz in seiner künstlerischen Arbeit. Von der Bildhauerei ausgehend, begann Bechtold, beeinflusst durch Post-Minimal-, Land- und Concept-Art, in den späten 1960er Jahren mit unterschiedlichsten Medien wie Fotografie, Film und Video zu arbeiten, wobei deren Qualitäten als Kommunikationssysteme im Mittelpunkt seiner Analysen standen. Waren seine Filme u. a. noch von der Übersetzung des Zeichensystems Sprache in jenes des Films bestimmt, so beschäftigte er sich in seinen Videos zwischen 1970 und 1973 mit der Überprüfung einer bestimmten, durch das neue Medium Video vermittelten Realität. Den forschenden und experimentellen Charakter seiner Arbeiten, die oft Versuchsanordnungen glichen, behielt er auch bei seiner Video-Installation (1972) und der auf der Documenta 5 in Kassel, 1972, realisierten Arbeit 100 Tage Anwesenheit in Kassel bei. Neben diesen stark konzeptuell geprägten Ansätzen beschäftigte sich Gottfried Bechtold immer wieder mit der Erweiterung des klassischen Skulpturbegriffs. In Installationen für den öffentlichen Raum, die er nach intensiver Beschäftigung mit ortsspezifischen Gegebenheiten entwickelte, kamen die Faktoren Zeit und Raum oder das immaterielle Medium Licht dazu. Die Interkontinentale Skulptur (1986) für das Vienna International Center etwa besteht aus Monolithen aus fünf Kontinenten, die durch einen sich im Tagesablauf verändernden Laserstrahl verbunden sind.

Weitere Dokumentationen von Veranstaltungen, die seit den 1990er Jahren in der Generali Foundation stattgefunden haben – Vorträge, Symposien, Künstler_innengespräche, Führungen und Performances –, sind auf zwei Terminals im Studienraum zugänglich.

Freitag, 1. Februar 2013

Vortrag: Ernst Caramelle, Künstler

Ernst Caramelle, Vortrag, 2013 © Generali Foundation. Foto: Dario Punales

31. Januar 2013, 19 Uhr

Der Künstler spricht über sein konzeptuelles Werk seit den 1970er Jahren, das von medienkritischen Untersuchungen über Fragen der Repräsentation bis zu großformatiger Wandmalerei reicht. Caramelles konzeptueller Ansatz hat besonders in vervielfältigbaren, ephemeren Medien wie Künstlerbüchern, Einladungen, Plakaten und Editionen seinen Niederschlag gefunden. Diese stellen in Caramelles Œuvre einen großen Werkkomplex dar. 1974 begann er mit dem Medium Video zu arbeiten und untersuchte die Fusion von realem und repräsentiertem Raum anhand seiner Serie von Video-Performances, die als Video-Landschaften dokumentiert sind. In den Fotografien, die in der Ausstellung zu sehen sind, wird der Fernsehmonitor regelrecht zum Rahmen für Untersuchungen, die seine physischen Grenzen, seine scheinbare Objektivität und seinen illusionistischen Charakter aufzeigen. „Da durch den Monitor Realität verdeckt wird, versuche ich dieses unterbrochene Seherlebnis wieder sichtbar zu machen, bzw. zu ergänzen. Hier wird die Videotechnik nicht zur Wiedergabe einer Handlung (Aktion) benutzt, sondern um reine Standbilder zu erzeugen. Ergänzungen oder Verfremdungen unterbrochener Realität…“ (Ernst Caramelle)

Weitere Dokumentationen von Veranstaltungen, die seit den 1990er Jahren in der Generali Foundation stattgefunden haben – Vorträge, Symposien, Künstler_innengespräche, Führungen und Performances –, sind auf zwei Terminals im Studienraum zugänglich.

Samstag, 19. Januar 2013

Signs and Wonders. Theory of Modern Art/Theory of Damned Art

Guillaume Désanges, Signs and Wonders. Theory of Modern Art/Theory of Damned Art. Lecture-performance.

January 18, 2013, 7 p.m.
A lecture performance by Guillaume Désanges, assisted by Alexandra Delage

Signs and Wonders is a new work following two recent experimental lectures developed by Guillaume Désanges: A History of Performance in 20 Minutes and Vox Artisti. This new project proposes a subjective study of some major figures of modern art, as well as Minimal and Conceptual art, in the form of a mystical investigation. The work will question the links between forms and signs, art and kaballah, nature and culture, and coincidences and symbols. The lecture promises to shed light on how certain elementary geometric patterns related to rational and mathematical models have fed into twentieth-century avant-gardes and modernity in general. Désanges suggests that nowadays these patterns remain objects of representation and of knowledge but also of cult and worship. Considering artists from Marcel Duchamp and Kazimir Malevich to Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd, Bruce Nauman, and Dan Graham, the lecture investigates, in a spirit of adventure, how repetitive signs and their archaic symbolism might open up a secret history of modernity, a hidden language, a code, or a mystical tradition, with initiates, filiations, occult rituals, and heresies.
Speculation based on a game of coincidences, the lecture is entirely illustrated through a shadow play, realized onstage without virtuosity, yet with a desire to demonstrate and work with shapes, light, and darkness. An opportunity to measure the illusionistic and magical potential of practices that we sometimes too easily pigeonhole in the category of rationalism. What you see is not always what you see.
Signs and Wonders is coproduced by Halles de Schaerbeek (Bruxelles), Centre Pompidou (Paris), and FRAC Lorraine (Metz). It was presented at Tate Modern (London) in February 2009

Mittwoch, 16. Januar 2013


The Generali Foundation, an institution that produces exhibitions on conceptual art and issues of political and social relevance as well as debates, publications, and research, is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2013. This was the occasion for us to question the work of the institution in a specific cultural context over the past twenty-five years: its policy of collecting as well as the history of exhibitions, publications, etc. And it was also the reason why we asked three guest curators—Guillaume Désanges, Helmut Draxler and Gertrud Sandqvist—to present their views of the collection and the institutional work of the Generali Foundation in the form of three exhibitions, accompanied by a series of roundtable debates, symposia, lectures, performances, etc. The main questions the exhibitions raise revolve around issues of defining, curating, and collecting conceptual art and conceptualism and, by extension, around discussions over canonization, reterritorialization, representation, the paradoxes of conceptual art, alternative genealogies, etc.

Sabine Folie, director of the Generali Foundation and curator, talks to the French curator and critic Guillaume Désanges, who is in charge of curating the first of these exhibitions at the Generali Foundation, entitled Amazing! Clever! Linguistic: An Adventure in Conceptual Art, which will be on display from January 18 through April 21, 2013.

Exhibition view: Amazing! Clever! Lingustic! An Adventure in Conceptual Art, 2013 © Generali Foundation. Photo: Margherita Spiluttini
Exhibition view: Amazing! Clever! Lingustic! An Adventure in Conceptual Art, 2013 © Generali Foundation. Photo: Margherita Spiluttini

Sabine Folie: You’ve described your approach to the show on selected works from the collection of the Generali Foundation as “deskilled curating.” The expression derives from “deskilling,” a term coined by modernists and reanimated by early conceptualists. In early conceptualism, deskilling was a response to the age of the so called post-medium-condition: the artist choosing the medium appropriate for each actual “idea” and not the one medium in which he or she was skilled, that was seen as demystifying authorship and craftsmanship. Photography was one such medium, a quasi-neutral documentary method, with a machine taking the photographs and not the artist’s hand. The idea was to avoid virtuosity and to register the real with a possibly neutral underlying protocol. Why did you use this term, and what exactly do you mean by “deskilled curating”? And what are your “deskilled” tools?

Guillaume Désanges: I heard about the notion of deskilled photography last year through Claire Bishop, and I immediately thought it could apply to what I was doing or I would like to do as a curator. That means I did not choose to be inspired by it; rather, this word described well a certain spirit I was already working in. The more I work in the arts, the more I am suspicious of skills and virtuosity, including my own. For me, each exhibition must be a new situation, posing a new problem, and in order to find the good solution, I must avoid reflexes. So, deskilled curating means inventing your own tools for each exhibition, working with a certain discomfort, and taking the risk of ignoring precisely the coordinates of your object in a system of forms while working on it. In that perspective, although my show at the Generali is not at all formally close to how conceptual art was shown, it might paradoxically be a good echo to the spirit of the pioneers of conceptual art. Here, my first tools were a collection of images I took over the past few years of non-artistic exhibition forms: pedagogical and propaganda exhibitions, scientific and archaeological museums, amateur displays, etc. It is important to accept, though, that “deskilled” does not mean “unskilled.” That was one of my questions during the preparation of the show. First, it could be artificial to materially or formally mimic an amateurish implementation just for the pleasure of forms, to ask the installers to do it badly. The deskilled aspect of the project is, I hope, deeper than the formal surface.

Sabine Folie: Deskilling in early conceptual art did not really work out, as it became clear that this non-intentional approach, avoiding artistic decisions, ultimately failed. Just let me quote Camiel van Winkel from his book During the exhibition the gallery will be closed: “… deskilling and dilettantism were not goals in themselves, but a means to demystify artistic practice. It seems clear by now that this operation failed: since the mid-1970s the art world has successfully neutralized the eroding of its qualitative criteria by conceptual art. Exactly the opposite has occurred: the instrument of the dilettantes—photography—has been incorporated within visual art. The paradox is that the potential demystification of artisthood through the conceptual use of photography has made the medium acceptable within the domain of visual art. The suggestion that photography could undermine the bourgeois concept of art was sufficient to give the medium a definitive place in art. But the promised revolt has never materialized.”

Guillaume Désanges: Does the fact that deskilled and demystified practices have entered the legitimate art world imply failure? Camiel van Winkel also considers that after conceptual art, almost all art is conceptual, because it changed our way of looking and we cannot be unconscious anymore—it’s as if we’re all unconsciously conscious. What a revolution, indeed! I am interested in how conceptual art seems to have remained distant to the mass audience, and at the same time has almost become a nickname for contemporary art in general. That’s what I referred to when I wrote that conceptual art had won the semantic war. I like the idea that the artist wants to leap beyond the limits of its practice, in an attempt to escape it, but in so doing, he brings the entire art field with him. As he runs, he moves the frontiers and makes the territory broader. Because you cannot leap over your own shadow.* In any case, I’ve always considered the art I love as active and not reactive. I mean, its position within a professional and cultural context is, to my mind, secondary. The amazing revolution of Conceptual art, I think, is more a matter of perception and affects.

* I love this expression coined by the philosopher Marlène Zarader about the philosophy of radical transcendence.

Sabine Folie: To respond to the first part of your answer: I think that what van Winkel meant was that deskilled photography turned out to be quite skilled, and so authorship came in again and people, like the Bechers, who were not artists but documentarists entered the framework of minimal and conceptual art by chance, as they unwillingly fulfilled an agenda of qualities like seriality, neutral black-and-white photography, documentary style, no composition. Non-composition was a generic mode, but at the same time once again constituted a genre.

But to move on: Do you think you can demystify curatorship with what you call deskilled curating? Doesn’t this kind of curating on the contrary emphasize the curator as an artist?

Guillaume Désanges: I don’t want to demystify curatorship. Nor I am addressing specifically or challenging the professional art world. I knew art through institutions and curators without being aware of them. And I love them. I just want to use all the possible means to serve a purpose, to share my love of art with the viewer without choosing between intelligence and sensuality. But of course I know those gestures have consequences that can be commented on and criticized, and I am ready for that. But they are precisely not meant to create one type of professional debate, which to my mind would be a wrong goal. However strong and experimental, I wish that every one of my curatorial gestures be invisible, subliminal. That it touch without coming under consideration as itself. Sometimes, paradoxically, the more radical the forms or the protocols are, the more they are invisible. All curatorial decisions remain a trick to get the viewer into a purpose without him or her being conscious of this layout. If that is not the case here, then that’s my failure.

Sabine Folie: It’s difficult to see maps, reference boards, diagrams, slogans all over as subliminal … You are using handwriting on the walls as an alternative to the white cube aesthetics and the sober writing of a typewriter. The body comes in, the text is not autonomous as the emotion of the hand doing the writing affects the slogans, sentences, etc. by poets, philosophers, critics, you …

The sobriety of the works, even if they are witty or ironic, is being counteracted by the personal, sometimes awkward handwriting of different people. It has something of an exercise in school—is that your intention? And is the handwriting a hint at the corporeality that comes in through the back door, so to speak, while trying to rationalize, scrutinize, and filling in lists? What’s your view of the ambivalence between rationality and the irrational in early conceptualism?

Guillaume Désanges
: The writings on the walls are a way to recontextualize the works of art in a network of slogans, quotations, in a mix of didacticism and propaganda. The same goes for the boards of references. The handwriting with chalk was chosen for pragmatic reasons, because it is easy to write and correct, and creates an impression not of dogmatic and engraved discourse, but of something more spontaneous, intuitive, and precarious, like oral language. It is like multiplying arguments in a discussion, in all directions, in order to convince your interlocutor. As you know, we had technical problems with the chalk during the installation, because it turned out impossible to erase. Then I had to make decisions in an emergency, and the resulting handcrafted look is now part of the aesthetics of the show. I totally accepted it, because what’s most important are the sentences, their content, the instant meaning they create with the artworks. About rationality and irrationality in minimal and Conceptual art—this is something I tackled more extensively in the lecture “Signs and Wonders,” though more in a regime of reception than intentions.

Sabine Folie: Our collection comprises works of early conceptualism of the 1960s and 1970s, but half of the works represent later conceptual tendencies of the 1980s, 1990s, and beyond. It is obvious that you chose almost exclusively works of the early period. Did this just “happen” as a matter of “taste” or predilection, or was it a deliberate choice to focus solely on this early period?

Guillaume Désanges: It is directly linked to the theme of the exhibition. To shed light on the conceptual as a historical revolution, I had to focus on the historical artists, those who were the closest to those seminal works of the mid-1960s. There are many artists that I really love in your collection, but I had to accept that I would not be able to include them here, because the show is an autonomous object that imposes its own logic. Also, my project is a re-encoding of the mainstream and official history. As you know, I discovered conceptual art a little by chance, through books, not through shows, and mainly heard about the mainstream story, the important names, the basic notions, which was a revolution for me. This project is not to propose an alternative story of conceptual art, but to go back to this idea of conceptual art itself as an alternative story. Then it is more about willingly celebrating this story, and precisely seeing critically how its main scenario can still stand today.

Sabine Folie: And do you think it can—besides being a historical phenomenon? Do you feel that the forms and ideas are fresh despite the historical patina, and that they have an impact on a younger generation of artists?

Guillaume Désanges: Of course, Conceptual art has an impact on younger generations, but often as an iconographic and nostalgic reference. In the show Amazing! Clever! Linguistic! An Adventure in Conceptual Art, I try to go back to the fundamental stakes of the movement, trying to avoid nostalgia, and share how this was indeed a revolution which is still active today. This is where I think Jalal Toufic’s idea of resurrection of the document is very interesting. Some material that seems to be present, preserved around us, that’s there but not active anymore. Like a ghost. It needs to be reanimated through a kind of active consciousness.