Three True & False Announcements in the Irregular Self–Published Tanpa Tajuk 1998: Experiments on the Approaches of Conceptual Art
In mid 1990s, I was very much into Conceptual Art. I supposed the interest developed mainly from my dissatisfactions with my so-called ‘modern sculptures’. I found no more excitements in ‘sculpting’ or ‘constructing’ forms; the forms were already expected – for I wanted them to be the way they were, I designed or composed them. I asked myself – what would happen if I disregard the usual way or approach to what I was doing? Would what I will be doing will be called ‘art’? What is ART?
I started to look into what Marcel Duchamp was doing with his ‘Fountain’ or ‘Bicycle Wheel’, studied Conceptual Art – the Fluxus, Art & Language, Joseph Beuys etcetera, and more interestingly I have an artist-friend who shared the same interest, Mohd Nasir Baharuddin (http://www.visualcrackers.com/) – we would discuss things related to all those abovementioned topics and works over and over. Image of Duchamp’s Fountain is from http://everydaytrash.com/ and Bicycle Wheel from http://nga.gov.au/International/Catalogue/.
Lets begin with one of the many definitions of Conceptual Art.
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
Sol LeWitt (September 9, 1928 – April 8, 2007) was an American artist, who rose to fame in kate 1960s for his wall drawing and ‘structures’. He was linked to various movements, including Conceptual Art and Minimalism. He worked with a wide range of media including drawing, printmaking, and painting. His statement on the definition of Conceptual Art as above-quoted was published as Paragraphs on Conceptual Art in the June 1967 edition of Artforum. Image of Sol LeWitt is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sol_LeWitt.
Next, I would like to quote what Joseph Beuys, a German conceptual artist, said: I know a lot before I start an action. I know a lot about the necessity of the general idea of sculpture, but I don’t know anything about the process in which the action will run. When the action runs, my preparation works, because I’m prepared to do a thing without knowing where it goes. You see, it would be a very uninteresting thing – it would have nothing to do with art – if it were not a new experiment for which I have no clear concept. If I have a clear concept of solving the problem, I would then speak about the concept and it wouldn’t be necessary to make an action. Every action, every art work for me, every physical sense, drawing on the blackboard, performance, brings a new element in the whole, an unknown area, an unknown world.
So, I never have a clear concept for a performance; I only make a decision about tools, for instance, but I don’t determine the run of the action, or the character of the action at all. I never make actions to make actions, as a kind of innovation in the art world, as a new style; but I must say that the nature of the actions as a possibility to arrive at an understanding of art, for the most part was translated into an official modern art style, and again became restricted to the enclosure of an ivory tower, reduced to a traditional view of art as a history of formal innovations without being seen as a possibility to innovate the whole social body. You see that is the dilemma in the art world – but I try to overcome that situation as much as I can; nevertheless, the problem always reappears, and I am always confronted with the temptation of the system to destroy such impulse.
Joseph Beuys (1921 – 1986) was a well-known German artist. Image of Joseph Beuys is from http://www.metapedia.com/. The Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Beuys stated Joseph Beuys as a German performance artist, sculptor, installation artist, graphic artist, art theorist and pedagogue of art. His extensive work is grounded in concepts of humanism, social philosophy and anthroposophy; it culminates in his “extended definition of art” and the idea of social sculpture as a gesamtkunstwerk, for which he claimed a creative, participatory role in shaping society and politics. His career was characterized by passionate, even acrimonious public debate, but he is now regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
Image on the right is a photograph from Beuys’s performance/action. The performance was titled as, I Like America and America Likes Me, performed at Rene Block Galleri, New York in 1974. In the performance, Beuys stayed in a space at the gallery for about three days with a coyote. Image is from http://3.bp.blogspot.com/. A note on the work from Wikipedia (as above mentioned page); “I Like America and America Likes Me” (performance, 1974). Art historian Uwe Schneede considers this performance pivotal for the reception of German avantgarde art in the U.S.A., it paved the way for the recognition of Beuys’ own work, but also that of contemporaries such as Lüpertz, Baselitz, Kiefer and many others in the 1980s. In May 1974 Beuys flew to New York and was taken by ambulance to the site of the performance, a room in the René Block Gallery on East Broadway. Beuys lay on the ambulance stretcher swathed in felt. He shared this room with a wild coyote, for eight hours over three days. At times he stood, wrapped in a thick, grey blanket of felt, leaning on a large shepherd’s staff. At times he lay on the straw, at times he watched the coyote as the coyote watched him and cautiously circled the man, or shredded the blanket to pieces, and at times he engaged in symbolic gestures, such as striking a large triangle or tossing his leather gloves to the animal; the performance continuously shifted between elements that were required by the realities of the situation, and elements that had purely symbolic character. At the end of the three days, Beuys hugged the coyote that had grown quite tolerant of him, and was taken to the airport. Again he rode in a veiled ambulance, leaving America without having set foot on its ground. As Beuys later explained: ‘I wanted to isolate myself, insulate myself, see nothing of America other than the coyote.’
What he said, as quoted, was an answer to an interview question, by Kate Horsfield (http://www.wmm.com/filmcatalog/makers/fm199.shtml), How do you approach deciding to do a piece of art, or in certain cases, an action, what comes up to you before you start to do it? What do you know about it, and how do you proceed?
The interview is quoted from following publication;
FERGUSON, OLANDER, TUCJER & FISS (Eds.) (1990). Discourses: Conversations in Postmodern Art and Culture. New York, Cambridge & London: the New Museum of Contemporary Art and the MIT Press.
I started with Sol LeWitt and Joseph Beuys to note that they were artists whose works and statements became a favorite discussion topic between Nasir Baharuddin (Nasir) and myself in the mid 1990s.
I experimented with the approach – I know a lot before I start an action. I know a lot about the necessity of the general idea of sculpture, but I don’t know anything about the process in which the action will run. When the action runs, my preparation works, because I’m prepared to do a thing without knowing where it goes_
I published what I called True & False Announcements in the irregular Tanpa Tajuk which I published (see this blog’s post: Walking Down the Roads Where I Have Been & The Birth of ‘Tanpa Tajuk’: A Mind Installation) in mid 1990s. The announcements were published as back-covers on some of the irregular Tanpa Tajuk. I looked upon the self-published Tanpa Tajuk as ‘mind installations‘, some kind of an ‘action‘ or ‘performance‘ that supposedly happened in the minds of my readers and myself then.
The experiments were supplemented with an idea of ‘make-believe announcements‘ or ‘imaginary announcements‘, where I announced what I wanted to be true but they were actually false unless I make efforts to make them true. In a sense – I know a lot what I wanted but I know nothing what would happened to audiences who chose to believe what I announced, or perhaps chose not to believe; but then another phase, after-announcement, happened – where I started to think of ‘excuses’ or ‘explanations’ on why the announcements were published. Many who read the announcements later dismissed them as mere rubbish, like Nasir’s expression – Mengarut!
I published here three True & False Announcements that were originally published as back-covers of the 1998 irregular Tanpa Tajuk. Its best for me to first define or rather introduce the names mentioned in the announcements.
- Kumpulan Artis Jambatan Baru or the New Bridge Artists: An imaginary artists group that I created to gather my artist-friends. I’ve tried to band them together – to stage exhibitions, participate in events etc, but the efforts were usually fruitless, except for two later projects which the name was used; 1. An installation work, A / The System, at Sculpture Square, Singapore in 2000, and 2. Natural Camp Site, in Akal diUlu, Hulu Langat, Selangor in 2002. Both projects (installations) were participated by Hanafiah Waiman, Ivan Lam and Yap Sau Bin.
- Galeri Matahari Yang Bersinar or The Sparkling Solar Gallery: An imaginary art gallery that never existed unless somebody who opens an art gallery wanted to use the name.
- The Dead Cyber Poets Society 0r Persatuan Penyair-penyair Siber yang Sudah Meninggal: An imaginary poets’ group that never existed unless some poets wanted to use it as their group’s name. inspired by the film, The Dead Poets Society, directed by Peter Wier in 1989.
- Full Lunar Agency or Agensi Bulan Penuh: An imaginary production house that never existed unless somebody uses it for a company’s name.
HEBAHAN BENAR & PALSU / TRUE & FALSE ANNOUNCEMENTS
1. 32 JAM LAGI / ANOTHER 32 HOURS
Sebuah tayangan video 32 mint / A 32 minutes video screening
Karya / By
Kumpulan Artis Jambatan Baru / New Bridge Artists
Di Galeri Matahari Yang Bersinar / At The Sparkling Solar Gallery
Sabtu / Saturday
12hb. Julai 1999 / 12th July 1999
3 ptg. 4 ptg. 5 ptg. 8 mlm. 9 mlm. 10 mlm. / 3 pm. 4 pm. 8 pm. 9 pm. 10 pm.
Terhad untuk 32 orang penonton sahaja setiap tayangan /
Each screening is limited to 32 persons
Tiket RM32.00 / Tickets RM32.00
2. DIFFICULT SOULS & CHAOTIC NERVES / JIWA-JIWA PAYAH & SARAF-SARAF BERSERABUT
Performances, happenings and readings / Perfomen, jadi-jadian dan bacaan
By / Oleh The New Bridge Artists / Kumpulan Artis Jambatan Baru
And / Dan The Dead Cyber Poets Society / Persatuan Penyair-penyair Siber yang Sudah Meninggal Dunia
Unknown date / Tarikh Tidak Diketahui Unknown venue / Tempat Tidak Diketahui
Admission RM150.00 / Masuk RM150.00 (Inclusive of brochures and refreshments) / (Termasuk brosur dan jamuan ringan)
Produced by / Diterbitkan oleh Full Lunar Agency / Agensi Bulan Penuh
3. THE PHYSICS OF ART / FIZIK SENI
Lectures, exhibitions, walks and demonstrations / Syarahan, pameran, jalan-jalan dan demonstrasi
By / Oleh The New Bridge Artists / Kumpulan Artis Jambatan Baru
Date – as you wish / Tarikh – ikut suka tuan dan puan
Wednesdays through Saturdays / Setiap Rabu hingga Sabtu
Admission / Masuk RM200.00 (Inclusive of notes, catalogues, whatever tickets, refreshments and postcards) / (Termasuk nota, katalog, tiket untuk apa saja, jamuan ringan dan poskad)
Jointly produced by / Diterbitkan bersama oleh
Sparkling Solar Gallery / Galeri Matahari Yang Bersinar And / Dan
Full Lunar Agency / Agensi Bulan Penuh