Mel Bochner's "Theories of Boundaries": From Art to Performance

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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
Stream: Meaning and Representation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof. Lori Nel Johnson

Assistant Professor, Department of Visual Studies, State University of New York at Buffalo
Buffalo, New York, USA

Prof. Johnson is currently completing her Ph.D. in art history at Princeton University. Her dissertation, entitled “Corot and the Figure in the Social Landscape,” looks at the role of bourgeois ideology in the development of modernism, by tracing the origins of Corot’s idealism back to eighteenth-century rationalism. By analyzing Corot’s depictions of rural France, Prof. Johnson has found that in his landscapes, Corot appropriates and vulgarizes both aristocratic and peasant social practices, in order to reduce reality to a series of analogies in which cultural specificity is sacrificed to perceptual unity. The result of this reduction of experience to visual perception, i.e. sensual consumption, she contends, is the annexation of the natural landscape into a system of self-referential signs that circulate within a larger framework of bourgeois mercantile capitalism. Prof. Johnson’s other research interests include the depiction of race, class and gender during the nineteenth century, eighteenth-century spectacular culture, the history of photography, and contemporary art. Originally from the Mid-West, Prof. Johnson earned her undergraduate degree from George Washington University’s Mount Vernon College, and her master’s from American University (both in Washington, DC), before moving to Princeton.

Ref: A07P0103