Art & Language incomplet. Col·lecció Philippe Méaille

Art, Contemporary art
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Art & Language incomplet. Col·lecció Philippe Méaille
Art & Language incomplet. Col·lecció Philippe Méaille

'Liberal society, which otherwise rests on a profound moral collapse, needs above all to be tolerant; this will openly allow for, as well as quietly encouraging and rewarding, all forms of apparent dissent.' With this statement, in 1977, the Art & Language collective outlined its critique of contemporary society. But what or who were these people? What did they want? What were they doing?

The answers can be found in an extensive exhibition at the MACBA (which draws on the Philippe Méaille Collection), in the full catalogue produced by Chief Curator Carles Guerra, and on the walls or in the display cases in the museum. But it is also possible that, beyond the basic facts on the information sheets, there are no answers.

In brief, Art & Language is a loose collective of artists that came together in the US and the UK during the late 1960s. Conceptual art pioneers, they made words, conversations and discussion their place of work. Markedly political, they opted for a quantum criticism close to the uncertainty principle. In other words, discourse as a critical and artistic vehicle, but one impervious to criticism and aesthetic phenomenology.

Thus we are faced by an exhibition about a movement that is fundamental to the history of contemporary art, whose intensity and sheer size is overwhelming, and whose visual appearance is almost irrelevant. To take one example, ‘Air Conditioning Show’ (1966-1967) was a work that began as a text and a sketch. Later it was created for an exhibition in 1972. But the question raised was the following: 'Is it necessary actually to install air conditioning as described in the text, or will the text do just as well?' In other words, isn’t any concrete realisation of the idea merely a ‘conservatively contemplative distraction’? This, however, doesn’t stop the exhibition including installations, images and even paintings. If you’ve made the rule, you can create the exceptions.

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