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Title: A space to house nothing : examining the spatial complexities of nothingness, emptiness, zero and void to define the space of nothing, through the adoption of architectural themes and forms of representation in selected conceptual art projects since 1958
Author: Wenman, N. R.
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2012
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In reference to Yves-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss in Formless: A User's Guide, 1997, which maps out a third area between the traditional dichotomy of form and content in the visual arts as originally suggested by Georges Bataille, this thesis looks at the notion of the Space of Nothing as a third space between form and content through the case study of Yves Kleinʼs gallery-emptying Le Vide - The Specialisation of Sensibility in the Raw Material of Stabilised Pictorial Sensibility 1958. This thesis is based on the realisation that artists since the birth of the conceptual art movement in the late 1950s, with specific later reference to the dematerialisation of the art object as defined by Lucy R. Lippard in 1967, have continued to explore spatial definition by directly adopting themes and forms of representation taken from architectural practice to describe concept-based and often immaterial, artworks. This is exemplified by the title of Roberta Smithʼs review of Michael Asherʼs project for the Santa Monica Museum of Art for The New York Times, March 2008 titled How Art is Framed: Exhibition floor plans as a conceptual medium. “The gray volumes of conceptualism are filled with somber ciphers which express primarily the inexpressibility of socially critical thought in the form of art. They embody a terrible contradiction. These artists attempted to break out of the prison house of the art business, its bureaucracy and architecture, and to turn toward social life. But in that process they reassumed the very emptiness they wished to put behind them,” Jeff Wall, 1988 [i] The core interest of this thesis lies in a theoretical reading of the spatial within conceptual art, the art of the immaterial. Can the experience of an artwork that is immaterial become corporealized? The titular reference to the verb to house in A Space to House Nothing is to be understood directly as; to accommodate nothing; to store nothing; to shelter nothing. It does not reference notions of the domestic or the home, nor do gender politics or such readings of the home as a site of gender rules play any role. Can the Space of Nothing be defined as an architectural site? The adoption of architectural themes and forms of representation are evident in the career of Dan Graham, yet his work is overtly concerned with multiplicity and the multi-layering of psychosis and the interweaving of viewer and participant. Although there is a natural overlap with regard to the architectural form of his work, the motivation is oblique to the focus of this thesis, which is centred on the use of the Space of Nothing as an architectural device. Lines of enquiry are considered in reference to Yves Kleinʼs Le Vide - The Specialisation of Sensibility in the Raw Material of Stabilised Pictorial Sensibility, 1958 as the genesis on which the research is sited. Theoretical analysis is examined through four key terms - nothingness, emptiness, zero and void. These terms are surveyed through mathematics, philosophy and language to create a theoretical model; the Space of Nothing (Chapter I). The new term is further explored through a series of specific classifications that catalogue artistic approaches to the Space of Nothing: doing nothing, mapping nothing, framing nothing, occupying nothing and listening to nothing (Chapter II: Strategies Toward Nothing). Artworks of this nature are often misunderstood as an extreme form of pure abstraction based on reductivist and formalist tenets or simply considered nihilistic. However, through spatial theory and the contexts of experience, memory and occupation (Chapter III: Nothing within Spatial Theory), the thesis establishes that the Space of Nothing can be read as complex, emotive and multi-faceted. As a practicing curator of contemporary art, it became important to understand curating as a spatial practice (Chapter IV: The Practice of Nothing). The major project NOTHINGNESS, a touring European exhibition of work by 25 major international artists, examined the premise of this thesis and acted as a visual record of enquiry of selected art projects. The exhibition opened at Galerie Eugen Lendl in Graz, Austria (8 Oct - 27 Nov, 2004) and later toured to Galerija Gregor Podnar, Ljubljana, Slovenia (25 Feb - 2 Apr, 2005) and was accompanied by a hardback illustrated catalogue (English/German) and published and distributed by Revolver Books, Frankfurt. The design research is further supported by additional curated projects including DAN GRAHAM: PERFORMANCE at Lisson New Space (12 July - 28 Aug, 2004), and site-specific installations and theoretical models as contributions to academic conferences and symposia, that explore the temporal nature of materiality, interior, void, boundary and frame. Endnotes [i] Graham, 1991 p. 19.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available