Apr 10-12, 2014, Association of Art Historians 40th Anniversary Conference, Royal College of Art, London.

Paper delivered at the panel “Making Do – Materiality in the Conceptual Age” conveyed by Sophie Halart and Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra.


The emergence of conceptual art in the United States and post-war 
Europe marked the most radical change of paradigm since Marcel 
Duchamp’s ready-made. Advocating the ‘dematerialization’ of the art 
object and a redefinition of art as a (self-) questioning language, 
conceptualism challenged received ideas about the production and 
circulation of artworks. Over recent years, a large body of research 
has examined the development of conceptual practices in so-called 
‘peripheral’ regions, such as Eastern Europe and Latin America, and the 
ways in which they responded to the double imperative of resisting the 
cultural hegemony of the West/North and opposing authoritarian regimes. 
Yet the articulation of conceptualism as a critical category deserves 
further attention.

This panel re-examines conceptualism in the light of that which 
it has tended to negate: materiality. Pertaining to the artwork’s 
physical existence, as well as to its ability to trigger an embodied 
relation with the audience, a reconsideration of materiality in 
conceptual art raises questions about the historical conditions of 
artistic production and the roles of gender and space within this 
practice. What does materiality tell us about a conceptual piece? How 
are the material and conceptual intertwined? How do different media 
involved in conceptual art approach and treat matter? Is there such a 
thing as a ‘return’ of materiality in the post-conceptual age? How are 
these notions deployed institutionally? The panel assesses the 
importance of exploring the interrelations of conceptualism and 
materiality, and encourage comparison and dialogue between different 
regions and timeframes.

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