PRINT May 1973

Things and Theories


MUST A WORK HAVE STABLE and material and formal characteristics in order to be acceptable as ‘art’?” Charles Harrison wrote in 1971. To Harrison’s question from a catalogue essay supporting the “British Avant-Garde”1—one immediate post-Conceptual art answer is no, not necessarily. It might be added, however, if a work uses other than “material and formal constituents” it simply is a different kind of art from one that does. To assume, as the question and the essay implies, one is more meaningful than the other, that a theoretically orientated art like Conceptual art is the same or displaces a practically orientated art like object art,2 is only to confuse the nature of theories with things.

Harrison’s question highlights a minor problem of the art of the late ’60s which now promises to be the most urgent of the early ’70s—the relationship of object to Conceptual art, or as one might say

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