Dokumentowanie sztuki jako nowa praktyka artystyczna
Documenting Art As New Artistic Practice
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The most tangible feature of Polish conceptual art at the beginning of the seventies was the rejection of the old language of art (painting, sculpture) in order to reach out for a new medium of the visualisation of ideas. Andrzej Lachowicz saw in this process a transition from manual art to mental art. It was a departure from autographic art, in which artists produced their own individual sign, to allographic art, in which they perform operations on signs. Mechanical registration media (photography, film) made this transition easier and lead to ‘depicturalisation’, or in other words, overthrowing painting as the main medium of visual art and, at the same time, introduced a new art language — the language of semiology. Photography made it possible to talk about art through the language of signs, not through the former language of emotions, experiences and aesthetic values. That new language, that was used more or less aptly by artists of the 70s as: Zbigniew Dlubak, Jan Swidzinski, Jaroslaw Kozlowski, Andrzej Lachowicz, Jozef Robakowski and Ryszard Wasko, turned out to be a significant feature highlighting Polish conceptual art. Photography and sign mutually supported each other in the battle with the old ideas of art. A negative point of reference for the new art language became phenomenology. Phenomenologists take signs as reality, wrote Jan Swidzinski. This mistake was avoided by structuralism, which operates through a neutral and arbitral (systematic) concept of a sign. A sign has an operational character, it is used to explore reality, it also allows for the reformulation of questions posed for art. Instead of wondering about the ways in which art reflects reality, we may ask a different question: how reality is understood by art, what actions are needed to be executed for the process of understanding to take place and, finally, what limits the process? Conceptual art did not devise such a new art formula and one may doubt whether it was its aim. It changed, however, the language which we use to talk about art. It drew artists' attention to the processes of sign-posting, to how art functions in the world of signs. The artists may freely use all available signs, they may transform old signs into new ones (secondary signs), they may give them new meanings through manipulation of the context and discover more or less overt mechanisms of encoding signs that are the discourses hidden behind them. Those discoveries became a permanent contribution of conceptual art to contemporary art practice: thanks to them contemporary art appears to be different than art from before a conceptual turn. Its most important consequence, however, is replacing artworks with art documentation.
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