Articles, Blog

Joseph Kosuth — TIME SPACE EXISTENCE

February 12, 2020


Artists really work with meaning, not with forms and colors. Those are put in play to construct meaning. The emphasis was always about how. And I felt the emphasis had to be about why. Why are we making works of art? It was leaving the morphological, formalist basis for art, and focusing on this aspect of signification. It was the importance of the object that we managed to dispense with. It’s the intellectuals, the writers, the artists, who do intellectual work, who are committed to long-term views of society. We are the stable force in society, not the other ones who want to present us so often as irrational. I think we have a certain built-in mission to being an artist now, which is very much to resist corporate culture. But we have to struggle against a market that wants to provide the meaning where it’s been always our job to fight for the meaning for our work. All your sensual experience has been organized by language. In the beginning, there is the word, somebody once said. Either you deal with language critically, through the front door, or it comes in uncritically through the back door. And I felt it was better to make work about language to overcome language. When I first did the neons, for example, there was the history of neon in advertising. I had to subvert the commercial dimension of it as a cultural object, but also I was constructing tautologies. I wanted to make works which talked about themselves. Neon had a lot of qualities I could unpack. Once we got rid of the frame of the painting, the next frame was the room it hung in. And so architecture then became part of the dimensions of the work. I worked with the architecture in a way which enhances it, and doesn’t turn it into nature for me to make culture out of, which is one of the problems of a lot of the art that is brought to a building. It should connect with the building. It’s an incredibly valuable experience, to go through old buildings and see how people lived, feel how they lived, in fact. You really commune with the space of the life of another time in our culture. Architecture is particularly interesting because it’s the most political of all art forms, because it’s made for a purpose and it reflects the culture.

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