Talk by Tara McDowell
‘Pure Information: Conceptual Art at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design’
Tuesday 26 May, 2-4pm,
Central Saint Martins, Room D113
In 1970, the coastal Canadian city of Halifax became an unexpected hotbed of conceptual art when a small art school, the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, threw its doors open to a number of young artists who had decided that the idea mattered more than the object. Conceptual art often took the form of instructions, so it became an ideal vehicle for experimental education. Vito Acconci, Dan Graham, Lee Lozano, Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti, Sol LeWitt, James Lee Byers, Lucy Lippard, Robert Barry, and many others retreated to Halifax for a time, and some especially influential conceptual artworks were made there. This lecture considers the Petri dish of Halifax circa 1970, and maps the everyday terrain that structured one of the most radical moments in the history of art. Rather than an aesthetics of administration or a politics of publicity, rather than artmaking as purely dematerialized, mechanized, or philosophized, imagine conceptual art circa 1970 as a site of draft dodging, game theory experiments, acid dropping, relational psychodramas, divisions and alliances, power plays, boredom, loneliness, and isolation at the end of the world. And all this at an art school.
Tara McDowell’s paper begins with a close reading of John Baldessari’s ‘I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art’ (1-10 April 1971), which was an exhibition at the Mezzanine Gallery, a small space founded in response to David Askevold’s Projects Class, an extraordinary experiment in conceptual art as pedagogy. Overall, her research has been into NSCAD as an expanded social site of making and showing, in some ways anticipating current hybrid research projects and spaces, albeit in a looser, less programmatic way. The Mezzanine is of interest less for any one exhibition that took place there – although shows such as Lee Lozano’s ‘Infofiction’ (27 January-13 February 1971) and Vito Acconci’s ‘Accessibilities’ (1-15 December 1970) perhaps stand out – and more for its relation to other forms of practice occurring simultaneously, with visual art, performance, teaching, printmaking and the NSCAD press all testing and nurturing each other.
Tara McDowell is Associate Professor and Director of Curatorial Practice at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. She is Editor-at-Large of The Exhibitionist, a journal on curatorial practice and exhibition making for which she served as Founding Senior Editor, now published and distributed by The MIT Press. She holds a Ph.D. in the History of Art from the University of California, Berkeley and has held curatorial appointments at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Anyone interested in attending this event from outside CSM should email Lucy Steeds directly for further details: firstname.lastname@example.org