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Conceptual Art and Fellow Travellers

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Damien takes a more friendly approach
by Charles Thomson

In what follows, I do not wish to restrict myself to Conceptual Art within any narrow definition of that activity. After all the founders of Conceptual Art and those who have followed after them have felt pretty free to re- define art in their name.

I therefore feel some of the same freedom to identify a broad swathe of modern artists as descendents of, camp followers and fellow travellers with the Conceptualists and Neo-Conceptualists. For example Body Art can be seen as Conceptual Art and it was something of a precursor to Performance Art. Both of these often share the Conceptualists addiction to documentation of their activities.

Starting about the same time as Conceptual Art, Earth Art came and went, re-surfacing again with periodic eruptions. Sound Art seems here to stay and video art is riding high. Videos are incorporated into Installation art works.

Installation Art, or site-specific artwork, was also born of the continued interest in Conceptual Art during the last quarter of the C20th. These works can comprise groupings of objects for which both the relationship between individual objects and their relationship with the space or environment surrounding them are deemed to be significant.

One could go on and on categorising the almost infinite subdivisions of modern art but the essential point for my purpose is that my definition of Conceptual art is one that includes all those who find their art everywhere except in painted representation upon canvas and in 3D representation by means of sculpture. From this perspective, the differences between the myriad forms of modern art which reject the painting of pictures and sculpture is not very great. For me, the essential point is that these kinds of activity are not doing what people have long supposed art to be about - the communication by an artist of his or her spiritual self with the spiritual self of the wider public on matters important to them means of a painted picture or sculpture.

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