After Modernism- Week 6 Conceptualism

In today’s lesson we discussed the ism which is Conceptualism.

We firstly discussed Joseph Kosuth’s text Art After Philosophy , 1945. It was interesting to see how his argument against formalist art. His views are-

The function of art is to investigate the ‘concept’ of art. Therefore art has nothing to do with aesthetics or looking beautiful.Formalist art accepts the concept of ‘art’ without the question (for instance formalist artists accept that painting is an art). Therefore Formalist artists do not investigate the concept of ‘art’. Therefore formalists art is barely art at all.Instead formalist art is dominated by aesthetics, Therefore formalist art is a decoration not really art. Aesthetics are irrelevant to art because any object can become art as a ready made.


Duchamp and the readymade.

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain 1917, remade 1965.

All art after Duchamp is conceptual in nature because art only exists conceptually- Joseph Kosuth Art after philosophy 1969

The case against the fountain 1971 remade in 1965-

  1. Duchamp didn’t make this object therefore it can’t be a work of art however Rodin (August Rodin – The kiss 1889-1904) didn’t carve or cast this marble/bronze
  2. This wasn’t intended as a work of art when it was made therefore it can’t be a work of art. However museums are full of objects that were not intended as art when they were made. (exhibit? presented under an exhibition why can’t the urinal)
  3. Anyone could do this/therefore it can’t be a work of art. what does ‘do’ mean in this context: Perform or conceive it is only difficult to perform that are worth looking at.
  4. If this is art then everything is art if everything is art then nothing is art.

Since the ready made, everything is potentially an art work. In this new situation ‘art’ does not describe a type of object/ instead it describes a way of engaging with the world.

Features of conceptual art

  1. Conceptual art contains concepts
  2. Conceptual art is often linguistic, there is a particular interest in paradox, ambiguity and tautology.
  3. Conceptual art is often against the idea that the work of art is a unique object.
  4. Conceptual art is often non-visual.

concepts,language, tautology, paradox, ambiguity, anti uniqueness and anti visual (de-materialisation)


  1. Is there a conceptual aesthetic Kosuth, art language, weiner and le witt
  2. The trouble with documentation do you think these photos say what they are? if not what does it do?
  3. Are all ready mades the same?

I then took a look at the lecture by David Joselt beyond repetition:Marcel /Duchamp ready mades.

  • Repeats/repetition (could though have different meanings)
  • Performs/outlines of what could be of a urinal (work of art can’t go)
  • Perceptual situation- remade- mass produced-ready made an encounter between the viewer and the object.
  • an ordinary object could be elevated by the dignity of work of art by the mere choice of artist-Scribed by R.Mutt which was a play of words also was a popular mutt and Jeff comic, a play on the maker. Could add multiple meanings to the urinal.

In today’s lesson I found it difficult to understand the meaning of conceptualism was and ‘aesthetics’ and these words were spoken a lot. I really liked the ready-mades and was helpful when I looked at the youtube link which spoke about these. It helped me with the understanding of the movements.


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