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by John Bourne

It may seem paradoxical to accuse conceptual artists of lacking ideas since their whole activity is self-defined by trying to downplay reproducible objects in order put ideas before us. Yet in my opinion their ideas lack substance and impact.Why is this so? Isn't it precisely in the realm of ideas that they ought to be scoring full marks?
Sol Lewitt was more prescient than he knew when he wrote in 1967 :
"Conceptual art is only good when the idea is good".
and the reality is that Conceptualism is weak on ideas.
Take the example of Martin Creed's work no. 201,entitled 'Half the air in a given space'. Essentially this work comprises a room containing balloons which contain exactly half of the air that was calculated to be present in the entire room. What are we to make of this work? One could imagine it being the basis for a children's play area or perhaps for a classroom physics calculation but as an idea for a work of art it frankly doesn't amount to much.
Martin Creed has another work, comissioned for Tate Britain gallery, which comprises the large neon text which says:
'the whole world + the work = the whole world'

Commentary on this has included:
" Is Creed implying that art does not count for anything? The paradoxical desire and contradictory impulse to produce something and nothing? Is art part of our lives and it does not need to be defined as a separate component?"
Clearly the work itself has failed to communicate enough for any specific meaning to emerge
Don't get me wrong. There is indeed a debate to be had about the place and value of art in the world. I wouldn't be writing this piece if I didn't believe that to be the case. However, Martin Creed's "one- liner" work adds nothing to the stock of human understanding in that debate, other than the further confirmation that Conceptual word works are neither good philosophy nor good art.

Ideas are all Conceptualists have and yet they are notably weak on ideas. This vacuum is a very insubstantial foundation for an activity which starts and finishes with ideas and goes nowhere near what is required for the creation of art. As the Stuckists say "Stuckism starts at the stopping point!"

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