Joseph Kosuth - Galerie Imane Fares

Joseph Kosuth
41 rue Mazarine, 75006 Paris, France • +33 1 46 33 13 13 • [email protected] •
Joseph Kosuth
Born in 1945, in Toledo, Ohio, USA. Lives and works in London and New York.
Joseph Kosuth is one of the pioneers of conceptual and installation art, initiating language based works and appropriation
strategies in the 1960’s. His work has consistently explored the production and the role of language and meaning within art.
His nearly fifty year inquiry into the relation of language to art has taken the form of installations, museum exhibitions, public
commissions and publications throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia including most of the Documentas and Venice
Biennales in recent decades. Educated at the Cleveland Institute of Art, 1963–64, The School of Visual Arts, New York City,
1965–67 and at the New School for Social Research, New York, (anthropology and philosophy), 1971–72. In 2001
he received the Laura Honoris Causa, doctorate in Philosophy and Letters from the University of Bologna. He received
several honours and awards, among them the Chevalier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France (1993), the Decoration
of Honour in Gold for services to the Republic of Austria (2003) and the induction into the Royal Belgian Academy in 2012.
In June 1999, a 3.00 francs postage stamp was issued by the French Government in honor of his work in Figeac.
Camus Illuminated #1 -10, 2013 (Detail)
UV print on glass, neon, variable dimensions
Unique artwork
Courtesy of the artist and Imane Farès
Joseph Kosuth
Born in 1945, in Toledo, Ohio, USA. Lives and works in London and New York.
Solo exhibitions – selection –
Joseph Kosuth, Texts for Nothing (Waiting for-) Samuel Beckett, in play, Haus Konstruktiv, Zurich, Switzerland
An Interpretation of This Title, Nietzche, Darwin and the Paradox of Content, Edinburgh International Festival,
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Il Linguaggio dell’Equilibrio / The Language of Equilibrium, Biennale di Venezia 52. Esposizione Internazionale
d’Arte Eventi Collaterali, Congregazione Mekhitarista di San Lazzaro, Venice, Italy
Joseph Kosuth and Ilya & Emilia Kabakov: Hans Christian Andersen-A Life World, Reykjavik Art Museum,
Reykjavik, Iceland
Felix Gonzalez Torres and Joseph Kosuth, Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York, NY, USA ; Joseph Kosuth and Ilya &
Emilia Kabakov: Hans Christian Andersen-A Life World, Nikolaj, Copenhagen Contemporary Art Center,
Copenhagen, Denmark
Re-defining the Context of Art: 1968-2004, The Second Investigation and Public Media, Van Abbemuseum,
Eindhoven,The Netherlands
Place of Writing, Five Works by Joseph Kosuth, from One and Three Chairs to ‘Ex Libris, J.-F. Champollion (Figeac),
Musée Champollion, Figeac, France ; Artist, Curator, Collector: James McNeil Whistler, Bernard Berenson and
Isabella Stewart Gardner–Three Locations in the Creative Process, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, USA
Condizioni D’Assenza (Il nome e chi lo porta, a G.) / Conditions of Absence (The name and its bearer, for G.),
Villa Medici – Académie de France, Rome, Italy ; Eine verstummte Bibliothek / A Silenced Library, Kunstmuseum
des Kantons Thurgau, Ittingen, Switzerland ; Guests and Foreigners: The Years of Isolation. Including a Survey
of Works 1965-1999), Chiba City Museum of Art, Chiba City, Japan. Traveled to Tokushima Modern Art Museum,
Tokushima, Japan (2000)
Ein Plan für: Eine verstummte Bibliothek / A Map for: A Silenced Library, Kunstmuseum des Kantons Thurgau,
Kartause Ittingen, Switzerland
Guests and Foreigners, Rules and Meanings. A New Installation, With a Survey: 1965 – 1997, The Irish Museum of
Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland
Joseph Kosuth and American Conceptualism, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, Norway
A Play: The Herald Tribune,Kafka and a Quote, Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C., USA
The Play of the Unsayable: Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Art of the 20th Century, Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels,
Belgium ;
The Play of the Unmentionable, [An Installation By Joseph Kosuth],The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, USA
Exchange of Meaning: Translation in the Work of Joseph Kosuth, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Antwerp,
Belgium Die Sigmund Freud Gesellschaft, Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna, Austria ; Das Spiel des Unsagbaren:
Ludwig Wittgenstein und die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, Wiener Secession, Vienna, Austria
Modus Operandi: Cancellato, Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy
Joseph Kosuth: 2 Installations, Musée St. Pierre, Lyon, France ;
Joseph Kosuth: Intentio (Project), Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Chaux-de-fonds, France
Joseph Kosuth: Bedeutung von Bedeutung, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany ;
Joseph Kosuth: Cathexis, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent, Belgium
Joseph Kosuth: Ten Partial Descriptions, P.S. 1, Queens, USA
Joseph Kosuth: Texte/Contexte, Galerie Eric Fabre, Paris, France ; Joseph Kosuth, Text/Context (Köln-Munchen),
Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, Germany ; Joseph Kosuth: Text/Context (New York), Leo Castelli Gallery,
New York, NY, USA ; Joseph Kosuth: Dix Descriptions Partielles, Musée de Chartres, Chartres, France
Joseph Kosuth: Tekst/Kontekst, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands ;
Joseph Kosuth: Text/Context, Centre d’art contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland ;
Joseph Kosuth: Text/Context, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, UK
Joseph Kosuth: Practice/ Praktijk/ Pratique, Internationaal Cultureel Centrum, Antwerp, Belgium ; Joseph Kosuth:
Practice/Pratique/Praticia, Galerie Eric Fabre, Paris ; Joseph Kosuth, The Renaissance Society, Chicago, USA ;
Joseph Kosuth: Beiträge zur Konzeptuellen Kunst 1965-1976, Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany
Joseph Kosuth: Face/Surface (with Sarah Charlesworth), Liliane & Michel Durand-Desert, Paris, France ;
Joseph Kosuth: The Tenth Investigation 1974 Proposition 4, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY, USA
Joseph Kosuth: Investigations sur l’art et problématique 1965-1973, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris,
Paris, France ; Joseph Kosuth: The Tenth Investigation 1974, Proposition 3, Carmen Lamanna Gallery, Toronto,
Canada ; Joseph Kosuth: The Tenth Investigation, Proposition 7, Galleria Sperone-Fischer, Rome, Italy
Joseph Kosuth: Art Investigations and Problematics 1965-1973, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland, Travelled to
Westfalischer Kunstverein, Munster and Tubingen, Germany Kunstraum, Munich, Germany ; Joseph Kosuth:
The Tenth Investigation, Proposition, Claire Copley Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
Joseph Kosuth: Recent Work – The Ninth Investigation, Proposition 1 and Joseph Kosuth: Early Work – ProtoInvestigations = Fifteen Works 1965-1967, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY, USA
Joseph Kosuth, Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne, Germany ; Joseph Kosuth: el arte come idea come idea, Centro de
Arte y Communication, Buenos Aires, Argentina ; Joseph Kosuth: The Eighth Investigation, Proposition 3, Leo
Castelli, New York, NY, USA
Joseph Kosuth: The First Investigation (Art as Idea as Idea 1968), Jysk Kunstgalerie, Copenhagen, Denmark ;
Joseph Kosuth, The Second Investigation (Art as Idea as Idea 1968), Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark ;
Joseph Kosuth: 15 Locations 1969/70 (Art as Idea as Idea 1966-1970), Christ College, Oxford, UK, Travelled to
Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Canada, Instituto Torcuato di Tella, Buenos Aires, Argentina,
St. Martin’s School of Art, London, UK, Pinacotheca, Australia, Kunsthalle, Bern, Switzerland, Art & Project,
Amsterdam, The Netherlands ; Joseph Kosuth, Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, France
Joseph Kosuth/Robert Morris, Laura Knott Gallery, Bradford Junior College, Bradford, Joseph Kosuth: 15 Locations
(Art as Idea as Idea)’. Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, USA Travelled to Douglas Gallery, Vancouver, Canada,
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, NY, USA, Art Gallery of Ontario,
Toronto, Canada
Nothing, Gallery 669, Los Angeles, USA
Fifteen People Present Their Favorite Book (Robert Morris, Ad Reinhardt, Sol Lewitt, Robert Mangold, Dan
Graham, Robert Smithson, Carl André, Robert Ryman, and others), Lannis Gallery (Museum of Normal Art),
New York, NY, USA
Group exhibitions - selection -
‘absence-presence, twice’ Mohssin Harraki, Joseph Kosuth, Galerie Imane Farès, Paris, France
When Attitudes Become Form Bern 1968/Venice 2013, Ca’Corner della Regina, Prada Foundation Venice, Italy,
curator: G. Celant
The 9th Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai, China
Sparking Dialogue, Museum of Fine Art, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Radical Conceptual. Positions from the MMK Collection, Museum Für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt Am Main, Germany ;
In-between Minimalism & Free, Vanabbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands ;
Sol Lewitt. Play Van Abbe, Part 2: Time Machines’, Eindhoven, The Netherlands ;
Silences. Un propos de Marin Karmitz, Musée d’Art moderne et contemporain de Strasbourg, Strasbourg,
France ; In-finitum, Biennale di Venezia 53. Esposizione Internationale d’Arte Eventi Collaterali, Palazzo Fortuny,
Venice, Italy
The Panza Collection, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., USA
Uncontained, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA
The Sublime is now! Museum Franz Gertsch, Burgdorf, Switzerland
BIG BANG, Destruction and Creation in 20th Century Art, Centre Pompidou, Paris ; Translation, Palais de Tokyo,
Paris, France
Singular Forms (Sometimes Repeated): Art from 1951 to the Present, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum,
New York, NY, USA ;
Intra-Muros, Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain de la Ville de Nice, Nice, France ;
Joyce in Art: Visual Art Inspired by James Joyce, The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, Ireland ;
From Broodthaers to Horn, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands ;
ré-invention de la collection, Couvent de Morsiglia (FRAC Corse), Mairie de Morsiglia, France
La Stanze dell’Arte, Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Trento e Rovereto, Trento-Rovereto, Italy
Opere recenti di Mimmo Jodice, Joseph Kosuth, Armin Linke, Enzo Mari, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna,
Rome, Italy, Festival 2000
Joseph Kosuth / Haim Steinbach, Haifa Museum, Haifa, Israel ;
Billboard, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Boston, USA ;
Collections parallèles, Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, Bordeaux, and Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris,
France ; The Artist out of Work: Art & Language 1972-1981, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City,
USA, word, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia ;
The American Century: Art & Culture 1900-2000, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA ;
7th International Cairo Biennale, Cairo, Egypt
Le Bel Aujourd’hui. Œuvres d’une Collection Privée, Le Nouveau Musée / Institut Frac Rhône-Alpes, Villeurbanne,
France ; The whale and the polar bear … cannot wage war on each other…, Foundation for the Arts, Sigmund
Freud-Museum, Vienna, Austria
Travaux Publics, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
‘1965–1975: Reconsidering the Object of Art’, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, USA ;
Revolutionists of Contemporary Art – Art in the 1960’s, Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan
The Tradition of the New: Postwar Masterpieces from the Guggenheim Collection, Guggenheim Museum,
New York, NY, USA
Zeno At The Edge Of The Known World, Biennale di Venezia, Hungarian Pavilion, Venice, Italy ;
L’Objet dans l’Art du Vingtième Siècle, Carré d’Art-Musée d’Art Contemporain, Nîmes, France
Documenta IX, Neue Galerie, Kassel, No Rocks Allowed, Witte de With, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Contemporary Art In An Urban Context, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, Germany
L’Art Conceptuel, Une Perspective, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris ; Image World: Art and Media
Culture, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA ;
Ausstellung der Sigmund Freud Gesellschaft, Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna, Austria
Implosion: Ett Postmodern perspektiv, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
The Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA
Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium ; Chambres d’amis, Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent, Belgium
Content: A Contemporary Focus 74-84, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., USA ;
L’Architecte est absent: Works from the Collection of Annick and Anton Herbert, Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, E
indhoven, The Netherlands ; Capriccio: Musique et Art au XXe Siècle,
Photography in Contemporary Art, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and Kyoto, Japan
Documenta VII, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Kunst nu: Kunst unserer Zeit, in Groninger Museum, Groninger
Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands ;
60 – ’80: Attitudes/Concepts/Images, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Das Bild einer Geschichte 1956/1976: Die Sammlung Panza di Biumo, Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, Germany
Printed Art: A View of Two Decades, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA
Documenta VI , Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany ;
Words at Liberty and A View of The Decade, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA
Illusion and Reality’, Australian National Gallery, Canberra, Words at Liberty, Museum of Contemporary Art,
Chicago, USA ; The Record as Artwork from Futurism to Conceptual Art, Fort Worth Art Museum, Fort Worth,
Seventy-second American Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA, Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy
Rooms P.S. 1, P.S. 1, Queens, USA ;
Downtown Manhattan: SoHo, Akademie der Künste/Berliner Festwochen, Berlin, New York, NY, USA
Idea and Image in Recent Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA ; Kunst bleibt Kunst: Projekt ‘74’Kunsthalle,
Cologne, Germany ;
Festival d’Automne de Paris, Centre national d’art contemporain, Paris, France
Some Recent American Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia ;
Kunst aus Fotografie, Kunstverein, Hannover, Germany ;
Incontri Internazionale d’Arte, Parcheggio de Villa Borghese Rome, Italy
Documenta V Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany ; Konzept – Kunst, Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, Switzerland
International Exhibition, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA ; Was die Schonheit sucht, das weiss ich
nicht: Künstler, Theorie, Werk: Katalog zur Zweiten Biennale Nurnberg, Kunsthalle, Nuremberg, Germany ; Arte
de sistemas, Museo de arte moderno, Buenos Aires, Argentina ; 7e Biennale de Paris, Parc Floral, Paris, France
Conceptual Art, Arte Povera, Land Art, Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna, Turin, Italy;
Information, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA
Live in Your Head: When Attitudes Become Form: Works-Concepts-Processes-Situations-Information, Kunsthalle
Bern, Switzerland, Museum Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany, ICA, London, UK ;
Art by Telephone, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA ;
Electric Art, UCLA Art Galleries, Los Angeles, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, USA ;
Op Losse Schroeven: Situaties en Cryptostructuren, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands ; 557,087,
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, USA and 955,000 in Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
The Square in Art, The American Federation of Arts, New York, NY, USA ; New York Art, University of Rochester,
Rochester, USA, Language II, Dwan Gallery, New York, NY, USA
Non-Anthropomorphic Art by Four Young Artists, Lannis Gallery, New York, NY, USA
New Talent, Stamford Art Center, Stamford, USA
Public art and architectural projects since 2000
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, France
A Last Parting Look (for C.D.) Arts Council Commission on Leathermarket Street, London, UK
Denver Convention Center Public Art Hotel Project, Denver, CO, USA ;
The Context of Construction, Edward Zorinsky Federal Building, Omaha, Nebraska, USA ;
De iis quae ad speculum et in Speculo, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy
Located World, La Marrana, Parco d’arte ambientale La Marrana, Montemarcello, Italy
In the Lair of the Skull, Gannett Headquarters, McLean, Virginia, USA ;
Paul-Löbe-Haus (German Parliament), Berlin, Germany ;
Doppio Passaggio (Torino), Ponte Vittorio Emanuele, Torino, Italy ;
Ripensare il Vero (neon text from Benedetto Croce, 144 meters long ), Comune di Napoli, Piazza Plebiscito, Naples,
Italy ; Queste cose visibili (Napoli, per Ferruccio Incutti) (neon text from Dante Alighieri), La Metropolitana
di Napoli, Piazza Dante underground station, Naples, Italy ;
Sapporo Dome, Japan (initiated for the 2002 World Cup)
American Foundation for AIDS Research, Head Office, New York, NY, USA ;
Leibniz Located (Exterior), Zeughaus, Hannover, Leibniz Located (Interior), VGH, Hannover, Germany ;
Hiroshima Municipal Motomachi High School. In honor of Kenzaburo Oé, 1994 Nobel Laureate and author of
Hiroshima Notes, Japan
Selected public collections
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, USA
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
Tate Modern, London, UK,
Ludwig Collection, Aachen, Germany
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, USA
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Collection Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, Milan, Italy
Haus Lange, Krefeld, Germany
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia
Australian National Gallery, Canberra, Australia
Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Kunstmuseum Des Kantons Thurgau, Kartause Ittingen, Ittingen, Switzerland
Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany
Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst, Ghent, Belgium
Fer Collection, Ulm, Germany
Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., USA
Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Rome, Italy
Text, press
and publications
Joseph Kosuth ‘absence-presence, twice’ by Caroline Hancock
Journal of the exhibition ‘absence-presence, twice’,
Mohssin Harraki - Joseph Kosuth
October 24 until December 21, 2013, Galerie Imane Farès, Paris
As one of the main actors and definers of Conceptual Art since the mid 1960s, Joseph Kosuth works within the field of art
to make meaning. His matter is the cosa mentale and how to convey his investigations to the audience utilising words, texts,
images, ideas. Manifestations range from glass, photography, printing, neon installations, wallpaper, to real objects, exhibition
curating or language. Representation, appropriation, quotation, site specific architectural interventions, writing and teaching
are amongst the devices he works with. He ceaselessly questions the context, cultural history and contemporaneity through
public art, sculptures and statements that challenge any anti-intellectual status quo and seek to involve the viewer/reader’s
body and mind. From 1965, Kosuth studied art in New York, punctuated by major dialogues with the likes of Ad Reinhardt,
and, on one occasion, support from Marcel Duchamp just before he died, which led him to develop his critical stance on
modernism, formalism and the traditional gravitas given to painting and sculpture. He also researched and practiced other
disciplines such as anthropology and philosophy. His famous proposition is that of “Art as Idea as Idea” – a concept still central
in the exhibition “absence-presence, twice”. The question of visibility and artistic production is repeated carrying countless
layers of significance. Kosuth’s art is fundamentally concerned with relations between relations, proximity, gaps and selfreflexivity. One of his ongoing projects which began in Oslo in 1995 is entitled “Guests and Foreigners” based initially on
Hans-Dieter Bahr’s work on the subject. “There”, Kosuth has written, “is the experience of the artist as ‘guest’, and the artist
as ‘foreigner’, working with a language he/she does not speak nor read, yet ‘speaking’ with that language within another
system (art) which has a cultural life within an international discourse. That discourse is a context without a border, a context
to which anyone can be, at any moment or location, either a foreigner or a guest – the artist no more or less so than
the viewer/reader.” 1
Kosuth traveled to Europe and North Africa in 1964. That is when he made his first eventful trip to Morocco and dined next
to Simone de Beauvoir at a dinner with Jean-Paul Sartre in Montparnasse. His recent projects in Paris include no less than an
exhibition on the original exterior walls of the now indoor 12th castle of the Louvre (neither appearance nor illusion, 2009),
as well as a permanent neon textual intervention citing Michel Foucault on the four open book towers of the Bibliothèque
Nationale de France to be completed in 2014. This followed his project in Figeac honouring Champollion, which has been
acclaimed as the most successful public commission in France.
On the occasion of this two-person dialogue with Mohssin Harraki, Kosuth utilizes the English etymology of the word ‘light’
as a connective structure for an installation comprised of individual works, putting in play fragments from Albert Camus’ 1942
book L’Étranger (variously translated The Stranger or The Outsider in English) in French, Arabic, and English. In 2008,
Harraki had asked Kosuth to answer two questions about racism in his Video-Dialogues. Part of the response was as follows:
“Like the steering of a boat, one needs to be able to move society in a better direction.” The context of their relation,
their different, shifting and debatable positions as guests and foreigners, and Kosuth’s socio- political observations of certain
currents are at play in the construction of this new work.
With thanks to Cécile Bourne and Seamus Farrell.
1. Joseph Kosuth, “Guests and Foreigners: Corporal Histories”: an installation for the American Foundation for Aids Research, Berlin: Berlin Press / New York: American.
Foundation for AIDS Research, 2001, p. 9.
Concepts as Words, Concepts as Art By Martin Prinzhorn
In Joseph Kosuth, The Language of Equilibrium, Venice Biennale 52. International Art Exhibition, Electa,
Milano, 2009, p. 15-17.
In today’s art discourse, the term conceptual art is very often defined ex negativo, that is, only by means of its reactive
properties in relation to ‘traditional’ art practices. In many cases, it is enough that an artwork remains outside the scope of
such traditional media as easel painting or sculpture to be classified as ‘conceptual’. Thus, the notion loses any concrete
meaning and is generalized to a point where it becomes in a curious way self-contradictory, since it can no longer be
characterized as a concept. What tends to be overlooked is that even though conceptual art in its beginnings was, of course,
a reaction to a dominating canon, it has always been the notion of the concept in its non-art specific usage that played
a crucial role. At the same time, this notion in its interplay with a potential definition of art has always also been understood
in an analytical manner. This becomes particularly evident in the work of Joseph Kosuth, one of the founding fathers of
conceptual art, since his work deals in a very specific sense with the artistic implementation of the theoretical construct
‘concept’ in different modes of representation. This implementation can often be linked directly to the philosopher Gottlob
Frege’s discussion, who was the first to really theoretically evaluate the term, and his successors.
It is equally important to note that even in those cases where such references are obvious, the artwork goes beyond a mere
illustration of philosophical or psychological questioning, if only due to the fact that these questions materialize within an
At the same time, the interaction of art and science remains highly relevant, what is at stake here it is not merely a simple
transposition from an extra-artistic domain to an artistic - galleries or museums - space.
Further more what remains problematic is that the art simply becomes an ersatz, a substitute function for something extraartistic, as is often the case when dealing with social and political questions on the one hand and an art that retreats to
the mere documentation of such questions in the spaces of art, on the other. In Kosuth’s work, things are more complex from
the very beginning; the three different modes of his early works - object, photograph, and lexical definition – together with
their constructed relation, actually prevent these aspects from being simply dealt with outside of the domain of art, thus
solidifying the intrinsic value of art.
Because his art is always also about the fundamental properties of the concept (both inside and outside art), there is always
a way leading away from the artwork, which in turn induces a play of meaning that continuously asks about the meaning of art.
In order to discuss the work ‘The Language of Equilibrium’, one should look once more at the notion of concept in all its
varieties. In particular, one has to be aware of the fact that questioning the concept of ‘concept’ is very tricky and complex, but
that the notion itself is nevertheless indispensable. It is precisely these theoretical questions that allow the clearest
characterization of Joseph Kosuth’s oeuvre, which is in this sense the center of a program in which the notion of conceptual
art is still definable in a very strict and concrete sense.
A first and important distinction concerns the philosophical and psychological usage of the term, which affords the possibility
to talk either about abstractions which are (at least partly) independent of the mind, or about components of the mind that
represent the world. The first view, broad content, takes the meaning of a concept as being at least partially determined by
factors of the external world, whereas the second position, narrow content, locates the meaning in the individual’s mental
representation of the world. Frege captures this distinction by claiming that concepts can play an extensional or intentional
role. One could add that the extension is the set of objects in an ‘actual’ world which fall under the concept, while intension
is the set of objects which fall under the concept in ‘all possible worlds’. This move did of course clarify things, yet it also led
to a bifurcation that until today cannot be reversed in philosophy and has eventually led to two incompatible research
programs. Joseph Kosuth addressed this fracture in many of his later works, for instance, when he deals artistically with the
meaning of the concept in relation to Ludwig Wittgenstein or, in a further step, when he used crossed-out texts by Sigmund
Freud. What becomes particularly evident here is that conceptual art can express something that the extra-artistic analytical
thinking cannot express in such a way. This rupture together with all its contradictions is artistically materialized as a concept
and can thus get a meaning of its own, since in aesthetics the location of meaning functions as a game par excellence, thereby
yielding possibilities that do not exist outside art. By employing the formal act of crossing- out, Freud’s concept of meaning,
which is a fundamentally mentalistic one, is set into a relation, which in turn points to the different dimensions of the notion
of concept. This is precisely the point where art as a concept is conceptual art and where therefore the definition of art as an
autonomous domain emerges, without merely being non-painting or non-sculpture.
A central location for the notion of concept is lexical semantics. Here, too, from a Fregean tradition, the question emerges as
one regarding the relation of intensions and extensions of concepts. At a first glance, words as concepts seem to be
conjunctions of different attributes, where each attribute must be necessary and their combination sufficient. The difficulties
of this approach are immediately evident; if one considers that individual attributes may be prototypical for a particular
concept (such as ‘able to fly’ for birds), but do necessarily have to hold for every member of a category. Hence, for each
category there are typical members and not so typical members, and apart from defining features, there are also characteristic
features. This theoretical problem can also be directly linked to Kosuth’s artistic practice, for his artworks continuously try to
define the category ‘art’ on the basis of precisely such considerations. The first phase of his work can be described as an
attempt to contrast a hegemonic definition of art that relies solely on characteristic features with the necessity of a definition
as such in order to bring to attention the possibility and validity of both systems, both features, in the domain of art. In later
works, the tension between the typical features of a category and the potential of a category is repeatedly addressed, since
any text that the artist incorporates into the artwork not only constitutes a definition by itself in this context, but also
simultaneously defines and characterizes the artwork. It is always such analytical questions relating to the structure and
content of concept that Kosuth addresses in his art.
Another set of questions, inseparably connected with concepts, concerns their emergence and the changes they undergo.
In both cases there is occasionally a great variety of contradictory patterns of explanation, proposed and re-proposed.
In relation to the emergence of concepts, the main question becomes: To what extent does our mental apparatus (or the
external world, respectively) allow for only certain concepts and to what extent can concepts be considered the result of
socio-cultural mechanisms and developments?
Regarding the changes that concepts undergo, the main focus of the debate centers on the degree of change, at one endtargeting only small parts and pieces, or else resulting in a total re-organization of whole conceptual systems- and on the
question of whether it is justified to always speak of the restructuring of conceptual systems or to simply state that the ways
in which conceptual structures are used changes over time. If we restrict the discussion to linguistic concepts, we can see that
on different levels there are arguments for each answer. But first of all, there is a logic to the change of linguistic concepts:
No two people in the world have identical languages, which already implies that language is subject to change. This change is
generally acknowledged to be constant and gradual. Sometimes, due to external circumstances, language changes abruptly,
only to lapse back into a state of relative stability, a kind of equilibrium. On the one hand, the systems is thus always moving
and never stable, while on the other hand, however, it seems that a certain stability or tendency towards stability is one of its
fundamental properties. The tension between these two characteristics is one of the basic features of linguistic concepts.
Especially when considering lexical concepts, that is, the meaning of words, the difficulties in recognizing the relation between
a sufficient amount of flexibility and a necessary unambiguity and precision become evident. It is precisely this relation that
allows for changes over time, when weights and nuances are shifted without the concept as such getting out of balance.
It is again this property of linguistic concepts that makes them a very fine-tuned device for measuring historical and social
circumstances and changes. And it is precisely this property that constitutes the conceptual core of Joseph Kosuth’s work
‘The Language of Equilibrium’. On the island and on the monastery building of the Armenian Mekhitarian order, the artist
installed yellow neon texts, which reflect the specific cultural properties of the location, yet simultaneously investigate the
medium, language as a concept. The historical- cultural dimension is manifested both by the use of an Armenian dictionary
written by the founder of the order and the usage of three different languages- Armenian, English, and Italian. Between the
languages and throughout their history, the characteristics of lexical concepts unfold. Their dynamics and changes are
exemplified on all levels, also within art. It is probably not a coincidence that Kosuth put the word ‘water’ in the different
languages, with dictionary definitions of the word, and its etymologies in the center of his work. From a historical perspective,
this concept certainly dates back to the very beginnings of human history, and therefore goes well beyond a simple reference
and touches cultural or even mythical domains. However, it also plays an important role in the history of the analysis of the
notion of concept, since it was used by the American philosopher Hilary Putnam as an example in the discussion of concept
and meaning in his essay ‘The Meaning of Meaning’. In his classical example of the morning star and the evening star,
Frege addressed the problem of one extension and two intensions. Putnam, on the other hand, discusses two extensions with
only one intension, by imagining a twin world, identical to our world in all respects save the fact that water, in this twin world,
is not H2O, but XYZ. The mapping problem between broad and narrow content, as formulated by Frege, thus prevails
in both directions. In connection with Kosuth’s artistic program, this can be taken as a symptom for the fact that the play of
meaning is not restricted in its direction. His twin world is art and there he creates concepts that seem to be doppelgangers
of philosophical concepts, but still not identical to them. This continuous thematic trajectory which leads from his early work
up to today also points out in what a complex and rich way the program of a very restricted notion of conceptual art can be
further developed. Kosuth wants to discuss the meaning of art at its roots, at the very point where it is about the notion
of concept.
Art After Modernism, Joseph Kosuth interviewed by Germano Celant
in Joseph Kosuth, The Language of Equilibrium, Venice Biennale 52. International Art Exhibition, Electa,
Milano, 2009, p. 19-34.
G.C. The emergence of Conceptual art as a movement stems from a certain historical context greatly influenced by the philosophy
of Lacan and Foucault, the theory of Wittgenstein or of Chomsky, as well as the diffusion of de Saussure’s ideas. Was the
structuralist approach a significant starting point for your own art investigation? I’m particularly referring to the distinction
between langue and parole. By introducing and applying this distinction in an art context, art can be understood as a system,
parallel to if not similar to that of a language with a grammar, therefore distinct from an isolated mode of expression based on
utterances. Over the years, has your interest in theory, and your use of it as one of the materials that make up your work, developed
and evolved towards the use and appropriation of new and different philosophers’ and writers’ texts?
J.K. Well, I think we can agree that a focus on language –from a variety of directions—had an important influence. For me,
reading Wittgenstein in my late teens set a certain early course. And, yes, linguistic theory has been central, both internally
in my thinking and also, particularly, as material utilized in my work. But my post-Wittgenstein influence came as a critique
of Structuralism, with my studies with Bob Scolte and Stanley Daimond at The New School, which I mentioned earlier.
But, and I’ve said this before, my use of theory or philosophy is framed and grounded by my practice as an artist, and what
an academic might see as a contradictory embracing of impossibly divergent sources, I see as a philosophical comfort zone
that reflects better the complexities that I must approach. The sources are pretty much exclusively external to theorizing
about art however, as it turns out, my thinking, my use, may bring them into the art context. And the nature of my work has
necessitated input from a vast variety of sources, since every invitation, commission and so forth very often provides a new
cultural and historical context that I must research and work with. It’s quite a continuing education! All of this has led me to
think about the culture which surrounds our approach to the information itself and its relationship with science. And by
science, I mean Science. So my point of view has evolved and is certainly more complex than when I began, but yes, I still think
that, anthropologically speaking, one can argue that science replaced religion in a fundamental way, and it has provided
an impoverished religion when it comes to the big questions about meaning and life. Our university-taught philosophy either
mutated into an academically focused historical review of past accomplishments or became work on the details of
the arguments of others. That has taken a variety of forms, many of them useful and interesting, even brilliant. But, more to
the point, one simply can no longer believe in the totalizing speculative systems that Kant and Hegel once could. Wittgenstein
wasn’t completely responsible for that, but what he said made sense, and it made sense because it was relevant for his time,
and further, in a limited way, to ours. Indeed, in the Anglo-American philosophical tradition, philosophical activity is largely
defined as a ‘p.s.’ to him. Of course, it’s been an uneven process–Kierkegaard and Nietzsche also found other ways to ask
questions without building a ‘system’–but there is also a reason French Theory is called theory and not philosophy. Society is
increasingly experiencing a meaning crisis as a result of all of this; the loss of our capacity to have either a meaningful religion
or philosophy took its toll along with other conditions which are the result of the experience of modern life. More recently,
our worries about a dying planet no longer capable of sustaining human life has emerged as only one concern among many.
The contemporary work of art, particularly work which is rooted with a view to that horizon of mass culture which forms all of
our consciousness, is capable of asking questions about our world in ways which reflect back on that questioning process
itself, providing insights about how we produce meaning, yet doing so within the realm of the viewer’s experience. And that
even when the work has been self-reflexive on the language of art itself. This activity, art, can be expressive in a discourse
which manifests, that is, shows, rather than asserts in the traditional philosophical way. Post -Wittgenstein, it shows the way.
So, in this sense, the role of philosophy can be seen to be eclipsed by art as a result of art’s capability to be both culturally
self-reflexive and generative of a discourse actually anchored in the world and reflexive of it. Art manifests questions that
traditional philosophical assertions can no longer satisfy. Its role in forming our consciousness, how it does it, gives it a political
content without having a specific political agenda, which by now has become an agent of disbelief in any case. And in spite
of all of the protests and criticism that contemporary art is elitist and irrelevant to the average person, we see more and more
museums built yearly to show it and house it, we see increasingly larger crowds coming to see it, and dramatic increases in
the number of younger artists emerging each year. Can you find a better explanation than mine for this? And, by the way,
when I said much of this in the sixties, it was mostly just dismissed as part of a ‘manifesto’ for a new kind of art. But these ideas
have been used since then in significant and interesting ways, by professional philosophers like Arthur Danto obviously,
but also in the work of artists who probably have little idea now of where this conceptual practice even came from. Well, that’s
probably how it works when it works and I’m not complaining.
G.C. The process of appropriating the words as primary vehicles of artistic communication has led you to text-based works; these
have developed from book sources and have also been the material with which you have produced and designed your own books
as art works. Is the design and visual component of your books also a major contribution to the logic behind the meaning of your
art? Is this indicative, as well, of your general approach to books and to graphic design? Secondly, do you keep control of all
of your publications and do you design all of them? It would seem to me that the book is the ‘first’ or primary aspect of your
installation with the difference that it is delivered on paper. And finally, is the idea of playing with different contexts, including
the format of the book or publication context, a way of controlling your work in terms of the communication and distribution of
your ideas, or better still, is it geared towards a reflexive self-analysis on the investigative process itself?
J.K. I think there is certainly less of a disconnect between my books and catalogues and my work than there was traditionally,
say, between a painter and his or her catalogues. I was always fairly amazed by artists who let others design their books for
them or their exhibition invitations. It didn’t seem much different to me than bringing in an interior decorator to do their studio
for them. Of course, for the career, apparently, the downside of designing your own book is that if you design it then it has
your ‘voice’ to it, which disrupts the needed veneer of art historical ‘objectivity’ and critical distance that serves certain obvious
promotional needs of the art market. I’m often under pressure to actually not design my own books for this reason. I have
a couple books coming up in which I’m primarily just the subject and the publishers have their own design program, and I have
respectfully declined my services. But at least I have veto power if I don’t like them.
G.C. Today when the modernist idea seems to be overwhelmed by an avalanche of different media, is there a return to making use
of this media and prioritizing it as a ‘device’ for the production of artistic meaning and removing the primacy of the artist’s signature
or persona? Is this simply a dream of mine? Or is it perhaps a dialectical answer to what you once affirmed when you were young
and said ‘I’d rather be right than rich’?
J.K. Probably if I were to do The Second Investigation today it would take place on the internet, which was one of the venues
of my Walter Benjamin project with Kunst-Werke, Berlin in 1994. But if so, your question would need to be rephrased for that
context. This avalanche you speak of is the chaos of information flow. I suspect the contemporary world is always ‘chaotic’
if there is no imposed world-view, political or religious, suppressing the cacophony of perspectives that the world has to offer.
I would be more worried about the fact that divergent points of view, rather than being simply brutally suppressed by a
prescriptive dominating outside force, are instead now more unknowingly and silently eliminated as an aspect of an internalized
and seemingly naturalized process that is our corporate cultural diet. Nothing is shrinking our perspective of choice and
experience quicker than this, and, as a result, cultural diversity is increasingly put in an accelerated state of atrophy. Simply put,
it’s being ground down by the powers that speak through market forces, with the result that choices become fewer and
dumber. This is equally as true of EU descion-making in Brussels as it is of Wall Street. But I think your point is a valid one.
G.C. In some of your exhibitions you included different objects such as historical art objects and paintings, as you did for example
in your show at the Brooklyn Museum and in other museums such as at the Vienna Succession for the Wittgenstein Centennial.
Integrating these different elements creates a different historical landscape, reframed and revisited by a contemporary perspective.
J.K. I use the contrasting nature of the work to clarify difference and thus honor, I think, each artist for the integrity of their
specific point of view. Historically, the tendency of art historians has been to construct an art historical autobahn, and to do
that they must show how the works are similar, not different. They need cobblestones, as it were, to make that highway.
Often, it seemed, their role as the builder of the highway eclipsed the works chosen for use. This is why artists tend to be
uncomfortable with having their work in group shows; it’s often difficult to not feel used. There are basically two reasons artists
go along with it: either you have no clue about what I said above, and you are just happy to have the attention, or, as an artist,
you are convinced that your work is so clear, strong and singular that it can withstand the curator’s plans for it and make its
own case. (So now you know why I can agree to participate!). In any case, I thought it interesting to appropriate such exhibitions
as a form, along with the role of the curator, and see what meanings are generated if the same thing is done instead by an artist
taking subjective responsibility for the surplus meaning produced. I think that my installations, in particular ‘The Play of
the Unmentionable’ at the Brooklyn Museum, or my Wittgenstein Centennial exhibition at the Wiener Succession, and
the exhibition at the Palais de Beaux Arts in Brussels, ‘The Play of the Unsayable’, were very instructive about viewing itself
and the kinds of meanings we produce.
This, one of my modus operandi as an artist, utilizes what constitutes both a device and a series, one I’ve called ‘curated
installations,’ where instead of only appropriating texts, I also appropriate the works of other artists and put them in play in
relation to each other. As I said, I find it far more honest for an artist to take subjective responsibility for the production of
surplus meaning by these juxtapositions in an installation than the more common use of art works by art historians as curators
where the presumption is that the choices are those made by the invisible hand of art history, rather than being career-based
subjective choices by a professional art chooser, even if an informed one. The problem with such choices by an art historian
is that his/her authority, coming as it does from the university, has internalized as it parades the presumption of scientific
‘objectivity’ which, of course, as we know, is not always the true motivating force in its practical application.
G.C. Would you consider your body of works as a library of fragmented definitions related to different spaces and cultures?
J.K. This is, for me, very much another way of asking the same kind of fundamental question which the one about philosophy
asks. Art both questions and makes visible signification itself and does so as a signifying activity. It posits apparent and
definitive limits, which, by the nature of its activity, then vanish as they become part of the questioning process. Within the
space of those two transitory points, we find a lot to do, and some of it depicts, and some of it (momentarily) defines reality,
but even when done so in a transformative way we also know that nothing is permanent.
G.C. Your research maximizes the art investigation by positing art as the ultimate vehicle of information. If as you have said the
artist is a ‘producer of meaning’, then can we say that the philosophical analysis itself creates the work? If so, there seems therefore
no room for notions of metaphorical or allegorical meaning or even for subjective imagination. Does this imply you consider these
definitions of meaning too ambiguous, too limited to concerns of taste and removed from any universal definition of the meaning
of art?
J.K. For me, one cannot separate the ‘philosophical analysis’ from the work itself. The philosophical question is in the work;
it manifests it. But I do think it is a large leap to then presume that metaphorical or allegorical devices could not be employed
as a result of philosophical questions being implicit within one’s work. On the contrary, and on principle, nothing is off the
table in such an enquiry. It’s not what you use, but how you use it. How you use it is governed by why you use it. That’s what’s
key. If your work has no firm foundation as to why you are doing it, then what you are making doesn’t matter much, does it?
G.C. In the seventies the concern with ‘how’ to transmit the idea found a trait d’union with the context within which it was to be
located and seen. During this time you began to make use of architectural elements and materials such as rooms, furniture,
wallpaper and billboards, thereby expanding the context/territory in which and from which you work. As a result your work
became less linguistically internalized and more politically engaged. Did you intentionally use the context and the situation
in which the work was delivered as part of the complexity of your investigation?
J.K. Indeed. For some time when asked what my material was as an artist (with the interviewer obviously knowing that
it wasn’t marble or canvas!) I would often respond: ‘my material is the context.’ Sometimes I have said that my material was
‘the relations between the relations,’ but many interviewers got lost on that one, so ‘the context’ was easier. But my notion of
context wasn’t a limited one, I meant the architectural context quite obviously, and also the historical and cultural context, but
also the psychological as well. Really, all those aspects that come into play in the production of meaning were contained
in the word ‘context’, and that is particularly true of work which has appropriation as basic to it. There is a difference between
a fictive depiction of elements with social or cultural references, and elements utilized that are actually part of the social and
cultural reality. More recently, I was surprised that my introduction of tables, chairs, and books, for example, in the early 70s,
or the way I used the elements in the ‘One and Three’ series of works or in The Second Investigation (with its use of public
media like billboards and newspaper ads) in the decade before, wasn’t seen as the obvious origin of what much later began
to be called ‘institutional critique.’ Because, of course, what other motivation could be behind such work, particularly if one
followed my writing that accompanied these various works? By the mid-70s, when I started The Fox, I don’t think my motives
and interests during the preceding ten years were very much a secret. Indeed, if you compare my work with that done by my
Conceptual art/post-Minimalist colleagues at that time, they rather clearly look like arty formalists by contrast. There does
seem to be a lot of misinformation and a research lag among those who profess scholarship in this area. (See how polite I can
be when I try?)
G.C. What about the meaning of translation in your work, the translation of the written word from one language to another in
the text-based neon works and in the installation onto an architectural façade, like your installations on the palazzo of Fondazione
Questini Stampalia or on the Isola S. Lazzaro? Is the primary concern one of translating time or meaning itself?
J.K. The issues around translation have always been an aspect of my work. I read the Walter Benjamin text on translation
quite early and it was influential. I was given a translation from German in a typescript in the 1960s before it had been
published in English, along with ‘Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.’ So the issues around translation, like other
issues around language, were there since the beginning. I had a survey of my work at MUHKA in Antwerp in 1989, just based
on this aspect of my work. It was called something like ‘Translation in the Work of Joseph Kosuth.’ And, as you know, Germano,
there is a whole series of my definition works which contain the word being defined in English, and then the remainder of the
definition is its translation into another language. So these are definitions in the sense that they are defined by usage rather
than etymology. I also did a series of etymological works at this time, roughly 1966 to 1968. But by 1968 they still looked,
and functioned, too much like paintings—even if they were unsigned photographs to be made and re-made—so I stopped
the series and began The Second Investigation using public media to cut any further Modernist associations. There are also
some early neon works playing with translation. There is a work in the collection at Centre Pompidou in Paris, for example,
which is the word ‘adjective’ in various languages. But the Venice work is really the most extensive work employing translation;
the work is in English, Italian and Armenian. And prior to that, of course, my work on the façade of the Fondazione Querini
Stampalia, also in Venice, is the largest work that is permanent (or, technically speaking, ‘permanently temporary’ in
accordance with Italian law!). It’s amusing, I’ve done large neon public works all over the world, but the city which is host
to two of my most important ones is the city where neon is actually forbidden, Venice. My work has been fortunate to get
special permission there. The laws are against commercial use to protect the historic profile of the city, of course. But, as your
question points out, if the project of my work concerns meaning, it is obvious that the issue of translation, along with
the international character of my practice as an artist, would necessitate that as being an important aspect of it.
G.C. Your text based quotation works began with the appropriation of dictionary definitions and were later followed by
philosophy or psychoanalytical theory, from Benjamin to Freud, from Wittgenstein to Moore, and more recently from poetry and
literature, from Svevo to Musil, from Kafka to Joyce. Is the transition from neutral to personal and from the definition to
the indefinable a method in your practice? It seems that your work initially reflected what can be called the ‘art territory.’ It later
shifted to a ‘theoretical territory’ and more recently into a ‘cultural territory,’ for example your more recent work at the Island of
San Lazzaro in Venice. How do you envision your navigation in the relational place between space and territory?
Actually, I never use poetry. I’ve used it only once in my forty years of work, and that was flattened out a bit as a quotation,
which is the part of my work on S. Lazzaro on the Campanile. I wanted to use Byron, because of his history with S. Lazzaro,
and this quote worked so well, and since I could find nothing in his prose, I used it. But while the totality of a work of prose is
art, with literature being one of our greatest arts, the language usage (and more so when viewed in fragments) is closer to that
of the language of our daily use. Poetry is too obviously art already, and problematically so from my point of view. I also almost
never use a quotation by someone living. If they are dead the meaning is more fixed and part of a specific and somewhat
contained package of those meanings generated in that life. If they are alive, and I’ve made a kind of monument to them, they
could later become a mass murderer or the leader of a fascist political group, whatever, and those later, additional meanings
would be attached to my work. But to return to your question, I think what one does at the beginning as a kind of intervention
into the existing discourse of adults, as it were, is quite different than the works you make with a forty-year history of practice
behind you. That history frames your new work, one can’t escape it. And if your earlier work has helped form the present
discourse, it gets even more complicated! I think your list, from territories of art, to theory, to culture, has a validity, but all
three of them have always been there at the same time. It’s just that some works focus on one aspect more than another.
The territory of the work is one that shifts, from viewer to viewer, from one kind of consideration (cultural, historical)
to another. Frankly, the history of my work and the concerns of my practice as an artist present an intricate series of dynamics,
and knowing them along with knowing the richness of the context which my work puts into play leads to a complex web of
relations. And those are the relations which generate the meaning.
G.C. Do you think there is a difference or even a rupture between the communication of data through a multimedia image and
writing and more conventional forms of writing which are a source of yours? Are you interested in the visual surprise factor,
thinking of your installation at Documenta in 1992 or the unique location of Chambres d’Amis in Gent in 1988. Both works engage
us in a journey into the womb of culture ranging from the Renaissance to Freud, providing perhaps introspection on the level of
culture itself.
J.K .First, I should say that I think the idea of ‘multi-media’ was a result of presuming, in a context of Modernist presumptions,
that art was concerned with the limits of the medium. When work began to mix it up and attempted to free itself from those
limits, this term emerged, sort of apologetically. So I don’t much like it, or use it. One can also see a kind of pragmatic space
which comes along with the term ‘data’ that is quite something else when it’s instead literature and being used in an art work.
So, in such a juxtaposition, art might be the rupture that you speak of.
G.C. Do you think that since the 70s the ‘display’ element (what you had always called ‘the form of presentation’) began to
develop a visual meaning of its own and perhaps your own work introduced a new design component to this value? What are
your views on design and its relevance in the production of a new visual environment as well as the communication of a visual
context for a message? And does this imply a practice which is more engaged socially?
J.K. I’m occasionally asked this, of course. The visual organization of the work, in relation to the architecture being usually
the first and obvious point, is based on the needs of that particular work to construct the kind of meanings that I have set out
for it. There is really no separation between the visual organization, what some would call ‘design’, and rest of what the work
must have in play, those other elements–the associations, cultural and historical, of a particular text, the psychology of
a particular type font, the lighting of a room, the height of a ceiling, and so on–that all participate in the construction of
the meaning of that work. I think I’m asked this because the ‘look’ of my work has become internalized within the practice
of younger artists over the years. I might also add that analytic Cubism also looked ugly and didn’t look like art to the public
either, but now the most conservative Republican would love to have one in their dining room. Similarly, at the beginning
everyone accused me of making boring, even ugly, works because they were too dry and ‘intellectual’ looking, and anyway,
they would ask, how can a text be art? To a degree, after your work is accepted then your approach to visual organization gets
internalized and ultimately experienced as ‘good taste’. It’s part of becoming institutionalized and something every artist who
has been working awhile must deal with, one way or the other. One can try to disrupt the institutionalizing process, but do
that enough and it just becomes part of your practice and it gets institutionalized, too, along with you. I try to continually
change–one must if you want your work to even be seen and be able to initiate thought–but I try to approach the problem
of every work with consistency. This is not difficult if your work is based on some fundamental beliefs.
Joseph Kosuth, ‘ni apparence, ni illusion’, ‘neither appearance, nor illusion’, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2010
Joseph Kosuth, ‘ni apparence, ni illusion’, ‘neither appearance, nor illusion’, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2010
Joseph Kosuth, ‘ni apparence, ni illusion’, ‘neither appearance, nor illusion’, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2010
Joseph Kosuth, ‘ni apparence, ni illusion’, ‘neither appearance, nor illusion’, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2010
Joseph Kosuth, ‘ni apparence, ni illusion’, ‘neither appearance, nor illusion’, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2010
Joseph Kosuth, ‘ni apparence, ni illusion’, ‘neither appearance, nor illusion’, Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2010
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