Systems, contexts, relations: an alternative genealogy of conceptual art.

Skrebowski, Luke (2009) Systems, contexts, relations: an alternative genealogy of conceptual art. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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Recent scholarship has revisited conceptual art in light of its ongoing influence on contemporary art, arguing against earlier accounts of the practice which gave a restricted account of its scope and stressed its historical foreclosure. Yet conceptual art remains both historically and theoretically underspecified, its
multiple and often conflicting genealogies have not all been convincingly traced. This thesis argues for the importance of a systems genealogy of conceptual art—culminating in a distinctive mode of systematic conceptual art—as a primary determinant of the conceptual genealogy of contemporary art. It claims that from the perspective of post-postmodern, relational and context art, the contemporary significance of conceptual art can best be understood in light of its “systematic” mode. The distinctiveness of contemporary art, and the problems associated with its uncertain critical character, have to be understood in relation to the unresolved problems raised by conceptual art and the implications that these have held for art’s post-conceptual trajectory.
Consequently, the thesis reconsiders the nascence, emergence, consolidation and putative historical supersession of conceptual art from the perspective of
the present. The significance of the historical problem of postformalism is reemphasised and the nascence of conceptual art located in relation to it. A
neglected historical category of systems art is recovered and its significance for the emergence of conceptual art demonstrated. The consolidation of conceptual art is reconsidered by distinguishing its multiple modes. Here, a
“systematic” mode of conceptual art is argued to be of greater current critical importance than the more established “analytic” mode. Finally, the supersession of conceptual art is revisited from the perspective of the present in order to demonstrate that contemporary context and relational practices recover problems first articulated by systematic conceptual art. It is from
systematic conceptual art that relational and context art inherit their focus on the social relations and the social context of art. By recovering the systems genealogy and systematic mode of conceptual art we provide a richer
conceptual genealogy of contemporary art.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: A thesis submitted to Middlesex University in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Research Areas: A. > School of Media and Performing Arts
B. > Theses
Item ID: 6229
Depositing User: Repository team
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2010 11:44
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2021 10:36

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