This past Tuesday, in spite of torrential rain and tornado watches, ninety-four undeterred people gathered to hear from artist, writer, and professor Michael Corris. These faithful folks were rewarded with a sometimes dense, often funny, and consistently thoughtful presentation on issues concerning the use of text in contemporary art. While Art, Word and Image: 2,000 Years of Visual/Textual Interaction, the recently published book that Corris coauthored with John Dixon Hunt and David Lomas, spans centuries, for Tuesday Evenings he chose to begin with the role of text in Conceptual art and follow its use through postmodernism. Even with this truncated approach there wasn’t enough time to cover everything he had in mind. Nevertheless, at the end of the lecture I shared the slightly overwhelmed feeling of the audience member who when asked by Corris if there were any questions, responded, “too many.”
Now, however, I do have questions and I wonder if anyone else who was there does as well. One solution is to go back to the book, and while I think that will satisfy some of my inquiries, and probably create new ones, the lecture was thankfully unique, referencing the book but not regurgitating it. For example, the mention of R. B. Sheridan’s Mrs. Malaprop from the 1775 comedy The Rivals in presenting the idea of malapropism in art was so funny but also profound in its application to the remaking of Art & Language’s Index 01. The book doesn’t take this on the way Corris did in the lecture. With more time I think I would have formed a question, or statement, requiring a response concerning the relationship between the early and late Art & Language pieces, and the possible statement being made about Conceptual art in general. But even now I feel like I need to give the entire lecture more thought and maybe even revisit Corris’s points by listening to the podcast, which will be available soon.
I know this blog post is meandering and inconclusive, but its purpose is to encourage a timely conversation through which I hope to better form my thoughts on the use of text in art and more.
UPDATE: Want to learn more about the sublime in contemporary art? Tate Etc. has a great article on it here.