Week 12 at Claremont College

What is the Value of Art That Can’t Be Collected?

minimum monument
The Minimum Monument Project
Nele Azevedo

You may be surprised that museums may only collect as artwork if it is deemed that it will last 500 years in reasonable condition before any significant restoration needs to be done. Obviously museums play a particular and important role in preserving artefacts of human exixstance. Nonetheless, many significant events and milestones have taken place in human history that we now have no remnants or relics. Although their are cave paintings depicting the use of fire, and mosaics of carts and chariots with wheels, we do not have a comprehensive and complete set of human achievenmtns. We’re still looking for the ‘missing link’!

Although we now have all manner of ways of recording events and preserving materials, even within a hundred years there will already be gaps in our collections of life in the early 21st-century. We do things everyday that we don’t make a record of, and art is really no different in the wide range of human existence. In fact humans have carried out ceremonies and rituals of religious or social significance in secret for millennia, and in the age of secularism art and artists can take on this role.

For example, many of the performances and conceptual art of feminism in the 1960s-70s were never recorded or documented, yet to the people involved at the time it was life changing. Women were living for the moment, seeking change, and pushing the boundaries of newly found freedoms. The idea of continuing the patriarchal lineage of institutional art history was indeed anathema to feminist thinking, and many of the interventions were highly critical of the artworld status quo.

The idea of art being ephemeral,, momentary, transient, has many advantages, especially in drawing attention to the transitory nature of our own existance. The ubiquitous bronze statue adorning our public parks is testament to our human desire to be remembered and to remain immortal, but the fact is, none of us will, and in millennia to come all will be forgotten. A work such as Azevedo’s above, speaks volume to this notion.

So it is good to remember that being an artist and creating art is not necessarily about making long lasting artworks, worthy of museological collection, and that it can encompass a broad range of ideas and outcomes, as far and wide as human existence itself; and so art should be. The world would be a poorer place if art was only made for the wealthy. There is something really special about art that reaches only a few, and leaves no trace behind, yet for those it touches, brings new insights into themselves and the world around them.

Week 11 at Claremont College

Why is Writing So Important in Contemporary Art?



Artist often make the point that they need to know how to write, but authors don’t need to know how to paint! Well that may well be true, but that still won’t change the fact that you will have to write about your work if you want to maintain some form of contemporary arts practice. We live in an information driven world, and people want to know all about you!

Although there are notable exceptions, for the most there is an expectation that art will be explained in some way. People want to know what its all about. Without going into art history to deeply, it is important to recognise that what may now be considered a ‘straight forward’ realistic portrait or landscape, may well be full of meanings that are no longer recognised. They may well have been ideas and beliefs that were part of an oral tradition that has long since disappeared.

But we live in the information age where writing is still dominant, so write we do. This may well be changing, and the advent of cheap and easy video making may well be the future. So time to change skill sets once again!


Nicolas Bourriaud

Bob and Roberta Smith
Off Voice Fly Tip 2009
Courtesy the artist and Hales Gallery
Photo: Tate Photography

“The main function of the instruments of communication of capitalism is to repeat a message, which is: we live in a finite, immovable and definitive political framework, only the decor must change at high speed. Art questions this message, and reverses it. It is an idea that was actually the core of Relational Aesthetics already, the Marxist idea that there is no stable “essence” of humankind, which is nothing but the transitory result of what human beings do at a certain moment of history. I think this might be the cornerstone of all my writings, in a way.”

Nicolas Bourriaud, from Art in America, ‘Altermodern: A Conversation with Nicolas Bourriaud’, by Bartholomew Ryan, 17/03/09


Richard Goodwin

Richard Goodwin
Co-isolated slave
Winner: Wynne Prize 2011

Over 30 years of practice as an internationally exhibiting artist and architect, Goodwin has sustained a prolific and award winning practice provoking boundaries between art and architecture. In 1996 Goodwin established the Porosity Studio at the College of Fine Arts within the University of New South Wales where he currently holds the position of Professor of Fine Arts and Design. He teaches part-time via intensive, international and multi-disciplinary studios providing a unique context for the renegotiation of delineations between art, architecture and urbanism. A United Kingdom based series of Porosity studios have recently been fully sponsored by the British Council.

In 2002 Goodwin was awarded the prestigious Discovery Grant from the Australian Research Council to fund the development of his ideas on Porosity – a redefining of public space in cities leading to urban propositions of parasitic architecture. In 2008 he received his PhD for further Porosity research. This research continues today under a second Australian Research Council Linkage grant in collaboration with architecture academic Russell Lowe entitled, Real-Time Porosity: Using Computer Gaming Technology to Map and Analyse Pedestrian Movement in Public and Private Space.

Major prizes include: The National Sculpture Award 1985, The Sculpture by the Sea Prize 2003, Helen Lempriere Award 2004, the Blackett Award for Architecture in 2004, and the Wynne Prize from the Art Gallery of NSW 2011.

Goodwin’s Architectural practice concentrates on parasitic connections between private and public space. Recent works include the Cope Street parasite and the Deepdene Parasite. Goodwin has also completed several public structures including four pedestrian bridges, one of which was constructed for the Olympic Games precinct in Sydney 2000.

His artwork is held in major collections including the Art Gallery of NSW, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Nuremburg Museum.



Barbara Kruger

Kruger has appropriated a well–known passage from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes, where the creation of man is represented through the touch of God’s finger to Adam’s. Combining a black–and–white reproduction of this painting with text, she draws a parallel between the Biblical creation story and that of a lauded masterpiece of Western painting. Kruger’s background in graphic design is evident in the way she boldly overlays the clipped image with her aggressive text. By using the word “You,” Kruger implicates us in continuing patriarchal narratives of religion and art history.

Museum of Modern Art

Week 10 at Claremont College

When Is Enough Enough?


You may well have heard the saying, ‘Less is more’, and this certainly applies to the art making process! As an artist you will have a head full of ideas most of the time, and it is all too tempting when working on a painting, drawing or installation, to just keep adding more and more to it.


If you are trying to convey a particular idea, or evoke a particular emotion, then every time you add something new to the artwork you increase the possibility of further interpretation. It really is what you don’t put in your artwork that will make the difference to its power to engage the viewer. Of course, if you are trying to convey chaos, anarchy, indifference or similar states, then you may well want to have more going on in your work.

When using found objects, symbols and icons, remember that these can evoke strong emotional responses or trigger memories, and then nostalgia can takes over and cloud the viewers reaction to your work. Again, if this is your intention, then using a popular icon, symbol or object can take the viewer exactly where you want them. But be careful!

Sometimes an empty narrative can be the best approach. Whether its a painting or drawing of a room or an actual room in an installation, the absence of human presence, an empty chair, an empty bed, can invite the viewer into the scene themselves, or any number of other people, or pets, animals, aliens, that the viewer can imagine. Its a bit like reading a book. You are free to create in your own mind exactly what all the characters, buildings and scenery look like.


Brian Eno

“Stop thinking about art works as objects, and start thinking about them as triggers for experiences. (Roy Ascott’s phrase.) That solves a lot of problems: we don’t have to argue whether photographs are art, or whether performances are art, or whether Carl Andre’s bricks or Andrew Serranos’s piss or Little Richard’s ‘Long Tall Sally’ are art, because we say, ‘Art is something that happens, a process, not a quality, and all sorts of things can make it happen.’ … What makes a work of art ‘good’ for you is not something that is already ‘inside’ it, but something that happens inside you — so the value of the work lies in the degree to which it can help you have the kind of experience that you call art”.

from Brain Pickings

Week 9 at Claremont College

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

To use the old adage, there comes a point, a ‘crunch’ time, when ideas and concepts need to form into some form of reality. That thin layer of rubber suspended from a wheel rim, pressurised by air, is the only point of contact with the road, and paramount to how your mass of metal, plastic and glass will remain under control.  So many things could potentially go wrong: water, oil, sharp objects, under/over pressure etc. can all send your vehicle out of control. Likewise, the ‘vehicle’ that you choose to convey your ideas and concepts will need to be carefully chosen and skillfully prepared.

This does not mean that your finished work will be an object of outstanding engineering and durability; it may not be an object at all. It may be ephemeral, fleeting, whimsical, or dwelling in the Ether. Nonetheless, the thought, preparation and intent should be no less than the engineer’s, who designed the tyres for your vehicle. If there is another adage worth mentioning, it is ‘less is more’. That tyre that holds up your vehicle has nothing more or less than is required to do the job. This strategy is worth employing when making your art. Nicolas Bourriaurd puts it this way:

“To cut a long story short, what we traditionally call reality is in fact a simple montage. On the basis of that conclusion, the aesthetic challenge of contemporary art resides in recomposing that montage: art is an editing table that enables us to realize alternative, temporary versions of reality with the same material (basically, everyday life). Thus, artists manipulate social forms, reorganize them and incorporate them in original scenarios, deconstructing the script on which the illusory legitimacy of those scenarios was grounded. The artist de-programs in order to re-program, suggesting that there are other possible usages for techniques, tools and spaces at our disposition.

The cultural or social structures in which we live are nothing more for art than elements to be used, objects that must be examined and formally addressed. That, to my mind, is the essential content of the political program of contemporary art: maintaining the world in a precarious state or, in other words, permanently affirming the transitory, circumstantial nature of the institutions and the rules that govern individual or collective behavior. The main function of the instruments of communication of capitalism is to repeat a message, which is: we live in a finite, immovable and definitive political framework, only the decor must change at high speed. Art questions this message, and reverses it.”

So although traditional skilled-based methods like painting, drawing, printmaking and photography may not be employed by many contemporary artists, this doesn’t mean any less thought, energy or skill as such, has been invested in a given work.