Mel Bochner's "Theories of Boundaries": From Art to Performance
The emergence of Conceptual art during the late 1960s coincided with a shift in the social order from that of index to that of sign. Within the old order of the index, signifiers were limited, because they still had a relationship to their referents in the natural world. Under the new order, which Jean Baudrillard has related to the spread of advanced capitalism, that is, with the mass production of things in series, “objects are transformed indefinitely into simulacra of one another.” With seriation the relationship between the referent to its sign is no longer that of object to image but that of “equivalence,” in which both can be ceaselessly exchanged. It was out of this socio-economic order that Conceptual art developed. Confronted with this arbitrariness of the sign, many artists responded by trying to ground the sign in material techniques through which it could resist its dissolution into the world of simulacra by tying it to a particular object or site. Others worked to exploit this dissolution of the sign by demonstrating its disintegration through an aesthetic of language. This last direction was the path taken by Mel Bochner, who in his work from this period moved art away from object.
Keywords: Conceptual Art, Mel Bochner, Language, Simulacra, Semiotics, Object, Arbitrariness of the sign, Dissolution of the sign
Prof. Lori Nel Johnson
Assistant Professor, Department of Visual Studies, State University of New York at Buffalo