• gerard van weyenbergh

End of the Avant-Garde from the 60's, 3/3

The tool body, the material body

Following in the footsteps of these troublemakers whose revolutionary impulses were finally very quickly returned to art, the (dispersed) actors of Body Art extend this field of possibilities to the threshold of the 1970s. This time, the artists envision their own body as a material, support, or tool. The body offers itself to all experiences, in the extension of a strategy that would blur the boundaries between art and life, between art and non-art.

In 1965, the Viennese Action Group was formed, which saw Otto Mühl, Rudolf Schwarzkogler, and Hermann Nitsch indulge in sacrificial, orgiastic, and violently expressive rituals, not hesitating to stage human bodies and animals coated in blood or excrement, in an outrageous overflow with sexual connotations, fetishists of an often unbearable violence. In 1970 the Viennese group disintegrates. Body art knows a series of followers, like Michel Journiac, Vito Acconci, Orlan, Chris Burden, or Gina Pane, now the body to the test as procedure and artistic posture.

From form to concept

The conceptual corpus is improperly presented as a gigantic groundswell, spanning the second half of the century, adding a considerable amount of leads, postures, and suggestions. Conceptual art, however, defines a precise moment in the history of art. Essentially Anglo-Saxon, the movement welcomes artists such as Joseph Kosuth, Lawrence Weiner, Sol LeWitt, or later the Art-Language group who as a whole are responsible for converting art into an objective notion that should be analyzed. This analytical approach is the basis of the conceptual gesture. If in 1965 Joseph Kosuth leans a glass plate against a wall, accompanied by the following protocol: "Any five-foot plate leaned against any wall," emitting a principle of self-definition, from the 1970s.

In this conceptual art, stricto sensu constituted as a response to the object's then-dominant culture; more generally, practices defend the idea of ​​an art embodied by meaning, much more than by form. Make way for content, thought, idea, and meaning, thereby joining the progressive operation of dematerialization assumed by the second half of the twentieth century, defending an art that would renounce relatively to the work.

The exhibition "Art by telephone", presented in 1969 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, embodies this negation of form in favor of concept, pushing the exercise to the point of doing without the artist to perform the work, the artistic value being embodied in the only idea prior to its realization. Art is embodied in language. A postulate that frees up a host of procedures, techniques, registers and natures of the project, which, in the same language gesture, summon the image, the text, the book, the objects, and the painting dissociate art from the materiality of objects. The exhibition "When attitudes become forms" conducted in Bern in 1969 by Harald Szeemann bringing together Beuys, Morris, Artschwager, Chris Burden, Yves Klein, Oldenburg, the representatives of Arte Povera then takes stock of this same requirement of an extension of the field of art to its process, its reality and its neighboring disciplines of live performance.

In situ

The principle of a program embodying the work is relatively similar to the experiments carried out by the unclassifiable cenacle of indispensable Land Art artists. The notable difference that the works produced assumes the true notion of completion. Born mainly in the United States in 1967-1968 from the desire to get out of the traditional structures and institutions of art, through a program of life, an open and free space, Land Art founded a gathering of artists with formidable intentions. distinct, which, without ever strictly joining a singular theoretical inflection, seems to itself embody many of the paths then explored by the artists.

Rejection of the dominant American cultural ideology, contestation of the normative data of plastic creation, disavowal of the durability and materiality of the work, resistance to the market and to possession, accentuation of the execution protocol implying a desacralization

of the work of art as much as of the artist, transmission to the public through documents and photographs, these are the few principles endorsed by Michael Heizer, Dennis Oppenheim, Robert Smithson, Barry Flanagan, and Richard Long, or Klaus Rinke. They add the requirement of an in situ intervention, mainly in nature.

Unifying form and gesture (and thereby moving away from the conceptual), halfway between sculpture, architecture and landscape, their ephemeral devices cannot be separated from their natural context. The precarious nature of these achievements then implies a reflection on the very conditions of exhibition and opens up a field of investigation that artists will largely explore during the 1960s and 1970s. Daniel Buren, nomad, "lives and works in situ", arranging according to the scenarios, its "visual tool", inseparable from the context which welcomes them, without intrinsic artistic value, attacks the supposed autonomy of the work of art, to replace it with the autonomy of its use. Leads whose legacies have largely endured, and whose primary effects have been to allocate to the concept of art.

© Manou Farine for " le Journal des arts"