an inadequate history of conceptual art


The following is a transcript of one of the 22 audio presentations from the project. Additional transcriptions can be found in inadequate...Like...Power, (Secession, Vienna, and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig, Cologne, 2004. English and German). (See Publications)

I can't remember what year this was. I think it was either seventy-one or seventy-three. I don't remember where I was. I was either in Pittsburgh or California, traveling, probably, back home, stopping in New York. And it's hard to remember even any of the details about this trip to New York. There was a show at the Guggenheim that ... I don't even remember what magazines I was reading or how I even found out about it. So I went to the Guggenheim for this big show, and I remember there were a couple of things that really stuck out. But one piece in particular on the ramp of the ... it must have been the third or the fourth level. And this is also probably the first time I had been to the Guggenheim since the Van Gogh show, and that was 1965. So I wasn't even very familiar with the Guggenheim structure. I just remember, like, white ... light, I think it was in the fall or the winter, and the kind of light coming in the skylight, sort of diffused white light and then all of these works. And the piece that I remember was about endless rows - it must have been half a semicircle of ramp - of black notebooks, by an artist who I hadn't ever heard of. And they were filled with either numbers or writing...I think, actually, it was writing. And I spent probably twenty or thirty minutes just kind of wandering around, looking at these notebooks and their, I remember, their plastic pages... sheets of paper, and pages, and probably a hundred sheets per notebook, just endless, endless pages to look at. And the notebooks were on a shelf, so you could go through and look at them all.

They were done in a flat, kind of a flat pen, fountain pen probably, and then photocopied. And photocopying was even a kind of new idea, or the idea that ... these were copies. Maybe they were all actual. But they, I seem to remember they were Xeroxes. But that was, in 1971. You know, I remember getting wet copies at the library in 1969. So copying machines were kind of exotic at that point. And so all of these copies, just the kind of endless, endless pages, script ... and the white light of the Guggenheim ... and then these black notebooks. And the idea that I could go back and forth and look at things and then come back up and try to figure out the system of the piece, and it was on a ramp too, which ...I just remember being very thrilled and kind of excited about the ... what would you call it, this kind of like almost oceanic feeling of hundreds and hundreds of pages of numbers and arrows and stuff . So, although I do remember a few other pieces from the show, that one was definitely the one that stands out, and I had the most ...Something I never encountered before, wasn't able to kind of understand or get, were these sort of, endless endless pages. And I think it was, you know, it was a very ... I'm trying to figure out what, how you describe that feeling. It was a real sense of discovery, in looking at it, and a whole new territory that I hadn't even bothered to think about before...So I think that's it.

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© 2023 Silvia Kolbowski