Art & Language
Neil Robert Wenman
''Nothing means no-thing, the absence of thing. It differs substantially from some-thing, any-thing, and every-thing. Yet paradoxically, there is a distinct relationship between these four notions. Nothing is the parent of something, anything and everything.''Neil Robert Wenman. Artists: Art & Language, Robert Barry, Hartmut Boehm, Stefan Bruggemann, Martin Creed, Attilla Csorgo, Manfred Erjautz, Ceal Floyer, Dan Graham, Graham Gussin, Alexander Gutke, John Hilliard, Michael Kienzer, Igor & Svetlana Kopystiansky, Stephen Little, Jonathan Monk, Max Neuhaus, Tobias Putrih, Werner Reiterer, Santiago Sierra, Markus Wilfling, Erwin Wurm
Curator: Neil Robert Wenman (London)
Art & Language / Robert Barry / Hartmut Boehm / Stefan Bruggemann / Martin Creed / Attilla Csorgo / Manfred Erjautz / Ceal Floyer / Dan Graham / Graham Gussin / Alexander Gutke / John Hilliard / Michael Kienzer / Igor & Svetlana Kopystiansky / Stephen Little / Jonathan Monk / Max Neuhaus / Tobias Putrih / Werner Reiterer / Santiago Sierra / Markus Wilfling / Erwin Wurm
''Ever since the birth of 'Conceptual' art in the 1960s, with its challenges to tradition and authority, artists have continued to represent ideas of nothing, most notably through the concept of 'dematerialization', a term coined by art critic Lucy R Lippard in 1967. This cultural attitude was eloquently captured by American composer, John Cage, in 1961 with his declaration "I have nothing to say, and I'm saying it" and symbolised this search for a minimum, a stratagem for ending commercialism characterised by excessively materialised, solid or even furnished art works or products.
The role of the artist as non-active, passive or even absent was exemplified perhaps most radically by British artist, Keith Arnatt's proposition, Is it Possible for Me to Do Nothing as My Contribution to This Exhibition? 1970. Here, Arnatt forced the parameters of Conceptualism to the extreme and yet ridiculed the very premise on which it is based. The concept of literally, and by that one means physically, doing nothing represented the ultimate negation of art practice and the demise of object-centred discussion.
This interest in emptiness, in nothingness, can be found in many disciplines including an important sector of modern philosophy. We know for example that the philosophers such as Heidegger and Sartre have, at a given moment made nothingness the centre of their thought and that Heidegger even went so far as to say that "existence is the extreme nothingness which is simultaneously copiousness".
Yet what is nothingness? What are the spatial differences between terms such as nothingness, vacuum, void, emptiness and the numerology of zero?
'Nothing' means no-thing, the absence of thing. It differs substantially from some-thing, any-thing, and every-thing. Yet paradoxically, there is a distinct relationship between these four notions. Nothing is the parent of something, anything and everything. [.] ''
Neil Robert Wenman, "a building to house nothing", 2004.
Image: Neil Robert Wenman, "NOTHING", 2003, digital print.
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