The title of a work might act as a portal. Going to a museum or gallery, visitors tend to look at the name tag (often accompanied with listening to the audio guide at their ears). What always irritates me, first a surprise, then annoying, is how artists name works ‘untitled’ just to add another title in brackets:
‘Untitled (this is my title)’, 2019
What does this tell me? According to Danto (2006) , the title differentiates art from ‘mere things’. Mere things as a chair is just an object, a chair. Naming it like ‘Chair’, 2019 can place it into the realm of art. Naming a work is an artist’s gesture, reminding me of baptism, an un-named work not existing?
To name it ‘Untitled‘ can make the difference. Finally, I can write something on the name tag on the wall. It is one of my own experiences with recent local exhibitions, to provide a title and a price tag. As if these two are acknowledging as the final proof that it is really a piece of art.
The feature image above, a sketch I made during UVC1, has no title (!?- is this already a title ??). The title is the work, or it is within the work, a statement, an intention? If I consider giving a title to name it, perhaps it is just that- empty blackness filled with text.
It resonates how On Kawara (1932 – 2014) integrated the title as work. His painting series Today, 1966 – a repetitive series of painting the words of the day of making the painting for nearly five decades. What normally would appear on the back of a painting, year or date of making, became the work as such. On Kawara applied a rigid working sequence in making these paintings. Interestingly, he also made for each painting, varying in size, a cardboard box, often lined with newspaper clippings. He considered the context of making by being informed by the country he stayed at that time. Overall, a massive archive created, a calendar materialised through painting. I could imagine that these minimalistic paintings turned into icons, as backdrop as decoration. The temporality of a day imprinted for ever in a painting.
It reminds me, although completely different and not made over that period of time, of Bruce Naumann soundscape installation Days, 2009. Multiple loudspeakers installed as a corridor, the viewer passes through, and can listen to the overlapping speeches from each loudspeaker, with someone saying the one day of the week. Those works are archives, lists, announcement of time in space. The title – the work – speech. I am intrigued by considering language not as written but as spoken words.
An Oak Tree – Michael Craig-Martin, 1973
What is the title and what is the work? It is a three part piece of work: the title, the photographic image of ‘assorted objects’ and the text in the form of an interview.
A sculpture, an installation? With a longer text joining it, perhaps the text is the work and the sculpture is an illustration of the text? One tends to see text always as name text, guiding information as in leaflets written by a curator. The title is the gesture of the artist (always?). Artist writing tend to be either essays or something else. Joining visual and text. Since DADA a habit, expressed through self-made publication, quite similar to what we are doing as a group of students with edge-zine.
Can text be art? Writers, authors do it all the time. Are visual artist’s less prone to consider text as art?
Craig-Martin made this work 1973, at the height of conceptual art. It resonates with conceptions of ‘Art as Idea’ as explored by Joseph Kosuth who quoted Donald Judd’s expression “if someone calls it art, it’s art” (2003). The idea is the gesture that turns anything into a piece of art.
How serious does one takes it? In context of conceptual art Oak Tree might be just an institutional critique against commodification of art. Does art need to be easily understandable? This work might also reflect a viewpoint that one can’t argue with artist’s intentions. It is not science, it is not objective. One large portion of art is to ask questions (my view), what Oak Tree certainly does.
To write the text in the form of an interview (Q and A) – apparently both sides written by the artist (!) – could mean to engage more and to be less obvious, didactic.
Overall, what can one argue with? It reminds my of schizophrenia, a parallel reality that is true from a subjective point of view.
- featured image. Schaffeld, S.J. (2017) collage of screenshot found online
- Craig-Martin, M. (2019) ‘Michael Craig-Martin’ At: www.michaelcraigmartin.co.uk/work-index#/early-work/ (Accessed 29 July 2019).Danto, A. C. (2006) ‘Works of Art and More Real Things’, in: The Transfiguration of the Commonplace: A Philosophy of Art, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,,pp. 1 – 32.
- Guggenheim (2019) ‘Paintings: Today Series/Date Paintings’ At: https://www.guggenheim.org/arts-curriculum/topic/paintings-today-seriesdate-paintings (Accessed 25 July 2019).
- Kosuth, J. (2003) ‘Art After Philosophy (1969)’, in: Harrison, C. and Wood, P. (eds.) Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, Malden, MA; Oxford, UK; Victoria, AUS: Blackwell Publishing,pp. 852-861. VIIA – 11.
- Manchester , E. (2002) Michael Craig-Martin – An Oak Tree, 1973, At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/craig-martin-an-oak-tree-l02262 , London: Tate.(Accessed 25 July 2019).
- MoMA (2019) ‘Bruce Nauman: Days – MoMAJune 2–August 23, 2010’ At: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/1057 (Accessed 25 July 2019).