Conceptual Art Panel Discussion – Program Review

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    • #2578
      Leena Riethmuller

      I would usually attend public programs in art spaces based on interest in the topic, but on this occasion I used the program review as an opportunity to assess an art institution as an information organisation. As an artist and enthusiastic information science student, I can see that art is an important source of information, and it gets my goat on occasion when people say that art is exclusive, or reject the important cultural contributions art makes. I am aware that not all art is for everybody, and it doesn’t have to be, but for the purposes of the review I was interested in looking at how accessible the information within the talk would be and whether an art degree would be required to actively engage with the discussion.

      The talk, Waypoint: Contemporary artists, conceptual influences, was held in response to Queensland University of Technology Art Museum’s (QUTAM) current exhibition 1969: THE BLACK BOX OF CONCEPTUAL ART. The event began with a welcome from one of the gallery staff and an Acknowledgement of Country. The staff member introduced the context of the talk, the discussion topic, the guests and the running order. Each of the four speakers were given 10 minutes to talk and time was allocated for a group discussion at the end. The speakers were artists at various stages in their career and all QUT graduates currently living in Brisbane. The artists all work across various mediums including drawing, sculpture, video and text. Rather than talking about any particular process, the artists told stories or gave opinions on topics related to their work. They opted to talk about conceptual art as a tool or process to use when making art. I was given the impression that thinking conceptually allowed the artists to engage with life beyond working with a specific medium. The discussion afterward raised some good points, but the talk felt quite limited to a particular way of engaging with conceptual art, which may have been the result of all speakers originating from the same institution.

      The panel also discussed the importance of audiences to be able to access and read ideas within art that is conceptual. The artists provided a variety of opinions about their relationship to audiences and had an awareness that they cannot control the way an audience reads their work. This demonstrated that there is no one solution to engaging people with art, and different artworks will attract different people.

      Conceptual art might seem daunting to those who haven’t spent much time with it, but QUTAM’s public event showed conceptual art as a welcoming, diverse area of research that can be accessible to anyone willing to openly engage with ideas. The artists spoke about real world concepts and the talk was not heavily bogged down in art jargon. Attending the talk revealed there are many types of artist and audience relationships, and these are different from the relationship between an audience and an art institution. This means that there are multiple points of access that need to be considered if artists and institutions want to reach a wider audience. It sometimes feels like all art-related things get grouped into one big Art, but because art traverses academic, commercial and public spaces, access to art’s information will vary based on its situation. Audience reception of art is also dependent on the artist, institution, audience and context. The talk on conceptual art showed that artists and art institutions are willing and open to give and receive information within a gallery space, and happy to step outside of it as well.

    • #2889
      Ruth McConchie

      I really enjoyed this post Leena. I think that it’s really important for the program facilitators to expand on the” limited to a particular way of engaging with conceptual art”. As the exhibition was all from QUT Alumni it is interesting that the facilitators didn’t draw out different ways of thinkgin about conceptual art. I think artist’s have some responsibility here, but I think a more productive discussion happens when they are drawn into a different conceptual space and have to work through ideas in dialogue with each other and the audience. Otherwise it’s just a series of artist talks…

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