One Plus One (1993)

Cut Suitcase

Pearl (1992)

Cut polypropylene suitcase

Although the peak of the minimalist movement had passed when I was studying in the early 1980s, I was being taught by those that had been deeply enmeshed in the movement.

While influenced mostly by ‘post-minimalism’, the ethos of minimalist work stuck. The teaching at Goldsmiths gave a sense of reduction, ‘keep it simple’ and have ‘truth to materials’ were core ideas. This has in later times meant also keeping to a ‘truth to ideas’. That ‘matters’, thoughts, can only be conveyed by what is exhibited and that what is exhibited should relate to the content one wants to purvey and be inherent in the materials one is using; the narrative to the work has to be in the work itself.

In the period from 1990 to 2001 I made work from old and new suitcases. I kept entirely to the materials of the suitcases; making alterations to them, cutting and edging them, and remoulding or laser cutting plastic cases. Simple operations were made to these vessels, bringing to the pieces wit and a concern about travel and globalization.

Significant to these works is the act of travel away from one location and seeing, to seeing from different places and vantage points. The sense of humour of these works is something I feel I gained from the American artist Joel Shapiro, certainly a post-minimalist artist, with his dynamically composed sculptures of simple rectangular shapes. Echoes of this early work haunt my current practice, working on pieces related to senses of the self through experiences in the science lab, working with neurologists or transplant surgery teams.


Vigil for the Death of Free Time (2016)

Performance installation

Minimalism was originally a reaction to the individualistic excesses and bank-friendly ambivalence of Abstract Expressionism – which Nelson Rockefeller’s once described as ‘free enterprise painting’. If it were to emerge as a new movement in 2016, then it would undoubtedly represent a similar stance towards the flexibility and obedience of today’s instrumentalised artistic labourers. For today’s culture of voluntarism and precarity is kept alive by nothing

less than the ghost of modernism. Whether they like it or not, artists are sustained by their egos and the myth that they are making a difference. In reality, they are instrumental in creating a post-welfare culture of voluntarism, sustained by the endless labour of self-making.

Bevis presents no alternatives or outsides to the labour power that artist’s frequently misrecognise as capital, except for a futile call for the withdrawal of labour. The clock is an ironic counterpoint to this act, representing the end of clock- time in an age of self-regulated / self-surveilled labour, in which there is no ‘free time’ and the tick of the clock is subsumed into the heartbeat of subjective labour.

Performing the act of ‘killing time’ highlights the futility of non-participation. However, in the context of a conference, only a fool would refuse the opportunity to network, because without social networks we are adrift in a sea of signs and possibilities, and unplugged from the cybernetic feedback systems that sustain our labour. The performance serves not only as a reminder that refusal of work is a dangerous and potentially suicidal game but also an act of labour in itself; turning away from the shadows of illusion and language, and towards the shadow within and the potentiality of Jung’s ‘dark night of the soul’.


Moikkai [Once More] (after Saburo Murakami, Bōru. Nage dama ega [Painting executed with throwing a ball], 1954) (2016)

Ink on paper, with ball

Murakami made a series of works by bouncing a ball smeared with black ink against sheets of paper. The ball’s imprint on the paper resembles an explosion of black ink. The name Haboku (splashed ink) would have been appropriate – actually the name of the painting style of Sesshū. Not that Murakami made a typical Zen painting. He worked with the same material and comparable spontaneity, yet his work was primarily ‘Zero’. He believed that it was typical for Zero to start with nothing: no subject, no paintbrush, no composition, no tonal values (just black ink on white paper) and completely original […]. Nor was any artificial meaning involved. He merely called the works ‘Bōru’ (ball).

– Helen Westgeest, Zen in the Fifties

 Saburo Murakami was a member of Zero no kai, or Zero group, and indeed he gave the name to the group. ‘Zero means “nothing”’, he observed, ‘start with nothing, completely original, no artificial meaning’. The group formed in Japan in the 1950s. It existed for less than three years and only held one group exhibition. However key members of the group went onto be influential members of the well- known Gutai group from 1955. The work of the Zero group varied in styles, yet much of the work could be termed as ‘minimal’, and there was much interest in combining aspects of both Western modern art and Japanese aesthetics. As Westgeest remarks, the Bōru series ‘can be seen as an original integration of Western and Japanese elements, since it combines the characteristics of traditional Japanese ink painting with the Western artist’s “striving for something new”’.

Moikkai recreates Murakami’s act of throwing a ball smeared in ink, but does so in the full knowledge that it is a repetition of what went before. Bōru becomes more than nothing, more than zero, and less than minimal. Black ink on white paper here becomes ‘artifact’.


Shoji III (2016)

Japanese tissue paper, PVA glue, dimensions variable

The elements of grid and shadow in Weng’s work recall an ‘original’ or primary scene, a specific memory that she holds of an experience in her childhood of an earthquake. This scene is not drawn upon in a representational sense, but rather underpins the installation. Following this Weng approaches a conceptual consideration of how bodies are mediated through both the tangible and intangible elements of space – the latter, for example, relating to matters of light, air, and fleeting temporalities. While not referring to her work as minimalist, the work is inevitably haunted by its influence in contemporary context.

At the heart of the scene is a moment in which Weng witnessed the silent shadow of her parents through the shoji panel at the threshold of her bedroom. It is a fleeting moment that has led Weng to examine painting (in the expanded sense) beyond modernist accounts, and instead to return to an earlier consideration, going back to Pliny’s The Origin of Painting (the story of The Maid of Corinth). Along the same line as Pliny, the painting/ practice is founded in myth; in other words, the memory becomes the myth of the practice. Furthermore, to analyse the essence of myth and memory, the characteristics of her painting are ungraspable and ambiguous, equally as myth and memory. The process of production is haunted by both personal memory and art history.


Pink Wafer Equivalent VIII (2003)

Floor-based installation of 10,500 pink wafer biscuits arranged to same dimensions as Carl Andre’s 1966 work Equivalent VIII (“The Tate Bricks”); 2.2 x 0.7 x 0.1m

‘Dave’s tickled pink!’ announced the headline on the cover of Carmarthenshire Journal. There was something inevitable about the way the local newspaper chose to focus on this one particular work in its coverage of a group exhibition at Oriel Myrddin Gallery in Wales entitled The Joy of Kitsch. Carl Andre’s original had, of course, triggered something of a media storm back in the 1970s when the Tate purchased it. ‘What a load of rubbish!’ exclaimed the Daily Mirror’s indignant article, beside a series of photographs of the work – which was how, reproduced on the pages of some art history textbook or other, I first encountered it.

I had recently finished art college and scholarly exegeses on minimalism were still echoing around my head: it was about one’s own phenomenological presence as a spectator in the room; it was an intentionally uncompromising experience that denied conventional aesthetic pleasure, narrative interest, and symbolic content; it had since been (mis)-appropriated as a vacuous interior design concept. But for me, it also had a kind of compelling banality. I had been using biscuits a lot in my own work at the time, drawn to their resolute lack of seriousness; as a sculptural material they seemed a bit pathetic: the polar opposite of the austere minimalist brick. If minimalism sought to exclude everything that detracted from the facticity of the object in a space, then pink wafers were wholly inappropriate, filling the room with their sickly saccharine aroma, gaudily pink, initiating semi-ironic discussions of what’s your favourite biscuit? But still, they were sort of brick-shaped, and they stacked quite nicely…


Air Show (2016)

Cardboard 3D viewer

The 3D viewer bought in a museum gift shop gives a three- dimensional rendition of the artwork of your choice. This viewer is of the same design but contains no image: it is white both inside and out and the only deviations from the all-white card construction are the two plastic lenses and the words ‘Air Show’ printed on the top, where the title of the artwork would normally be found. This makes reference to the air contained and on show inside the viewer, as well as to Terry Atkinson and Michael Baldwin’s 1966-7 Air- conditioning Show.

The rather playful reference to the work of Art & Language is confirmation that this minimal object belongs within the conceptual rather than the formal tradition. As Lucy Lippard argues, Conceptualism and ‘what came to be called Minimalism’ met from quite different places before going off in other directions. The situation between the two is not perceived here as a binary, but rather as a binomial, an exchange and a meeting.

Unlike Atkinson and Baldwin’s works, this is not a text-only documentation of a fictional entity that positions itself on the side of dematerialization (although it can be argued anyway that text is wholly material), but it is an object, a machine for viewing that emphasizes its own materiality— and the materiality of air—through the denial of normal function. Connections can be made to discussions on the material and immaterial in digital culture: it is clear that pure information is an impossible notion and that the machine for viewing (software, hardware, network organization) is fully material and worthy of consideration in its own right.


Untitled (2016)

Digital c-prints

The relationship of my work to Minimalist practice comes out of an interest in affect, or I should say ‘affectlessness’ within the experience of works of art. Flatley speaks to the work of Judd (and then Warhol) vis-a-vis ‘a cool, non- composed, affectless art to which “meaning” is difficult to attribute’. It is in this ‘affectlessness’, however, that the viewer can access a space in which to experience the affect inherent in everyday life. In Fried’s terms we might speak of a literalness that, devoid of the expressive, projects the experience of the viewer inward (albeit theatrically).

Minimalism has been framed within‘aesthetics of boredom’, or as producing a polarity between boredom and interest. In my own work I am curious about exploiting this polarity as an affective entry point for the viewer or by providing, through boredom, what Benjamin calls ‘the egg of experience’. I explore this in the first instance through photographic practice that documents the affect of (my) everyday life but that results in imagery that might otherwise be considered boring. I also experiment with the language of seriality and the production of affect from exposure to multiple instances of otherwise mundane forms.


Albers Time Tunnel (2016)

Single channel video, Stereo audio, Scale 1:10. 480 x 480 pixels

Throughout the 1950s Josef Albers created the works in his Homage to the ‘Square’ series in sizes ranging from 16 x 16 inches to 40 x 40 inches. When asked by a leading critic on a visit to his Connecticut studio ‘Professor Albers, in 1962 you suddenly began to work in the size of 48 x 48, and I wondered if this was your reaction as a European to the vaster scale of life in America or in fact to the American attempt to conquer space and reach larger dimensions?’ Albers looked at him and said: ‘Young man that was the year we got a bigger station wagon.’


Untitled (2016)

Perspex, wire and nails

A smile, a hard arc repeated that is also a chin and a forehead, an egg, a window, a bad wheel, a bad apple, a grape, a shape. An architectural mark that loops, a template that steadies the hand when drawing a seamless curve. A machine following a predetermined pattern scoring the edges with heat until the grape pops out. A transparent slidey surface that reflects the smiling arc right back as honey drips over it, scoring furrows later to be filled with the crystallised goo. A light bouncing from wall to floor to ceiling shunting it into a different dimension, it’s tough but scratchy, high maintenance; gets old quick.


Dollhouse Painting (2016)

Oil on canvas, 10 cm x 9 cm

The painting presents a playful perspective on minimalism. The painting plays on the complex structure of the dollhouse and its intertextual relationship to concepts of the miniature. Drawing on Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space, this painting inspires an uncanny presence of images and realities. ‘Dollhouse Painting’ is a literal presentation of the materialistically minimal. The miniature scale of the painting provides canvas space enough for a minimal amount of paint. The miniature scale of ‘Dollhouse Painting’ also projects fictitious experiences with the real. The painting is

associated with an extraordinary living space and the various domestic roles in that space. It portrays a family of dolls and their pets inside a dollhouse interior. Each doll, each character in the painting, is posing as if displaying their parts in this imagined scenario. The layout of the characters is further displaying the directors’ vision for the interior of the dollhouse for which this painting represents a piece of furniture in. ‘Dollhouse Painting’ unfolds relationships of the interior and the exterior. The work illustrates an elaborate temporal image preserved through time. ‘Dollhouse Painting’ is intended to re-awaken various meanings of minimalism inspired by the miniature world.


Aisles 1-16 (Keio Store) (2016)

Sound installation

The supermarket is oft deemed a ‘non-place’, yet it’s precise construction, regime of cleanliness, array of consumer goods, and diffuse distributed lighting make for a determined set of cognitive coordinates. While seemingly the opposite of the unmarked, unlit, and unstructured turnpike famously described by Tony Smith, the supermarket (experienced

from within) similarly reveals ‘art’ to be absurdly small (it is no coincidence Warhol returned to us the products found upon its shelves). Viewed from above, it’s many aisles can be deemed a set of limiting frames, yet our necessary means of navigating this space makes for a singular gliding frame; a quotidian experience that exceeds the delimitations of art.

The installation, based upon the 16 aisles of Keio Store in Komae-city, Tokyo, is a literal transposition of the acoustic space of a small, local supermarket. If we imagine ourselves a short-sighted person, without glasses, we encounter a repeating array of glistening colours from the hundreds of products upon the regularised shelving, combined with the soft reflection of fluorescent lighting upon the smooth flooring. This hypnotic image is carried by the repetitive, out of kilter supermarket musics that modulate and mix across the store. A postmodern twist, ‘Aisles 1-16’ is a live, remixing of music’s indeterminacy, returning to us – each time we enter the store – the hypnotic, gradual musical changes formerly associated with an avant-garde music.



Keynote – Dr Keith Potter (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Minimalism is Dead: Long Live Minimalism! Musicological Strategies and the Postmodernist Dilemma

My intention, in this opening keynote, is to sketch out some ruminations arising from my own work as a musicologist with a longstanding interest in minimalism; I’ll focus largely, but not exclusively, on more specifically musical issues. I also want to play some music examples that will include recent work, as well as at least one “classic” of the genre. Topics to be covered, I hope, will involve: histories of minimalism, both “established” and “minor”; the methodologies open to those seeking an understanding of minimalist music; issues of musical meaning; issues of perception and ways of listening; and those music examples themselves, which I’m thinking of building around a discussion of what I’ve recently decided to call “extreme minimalism”

Keith Potter is a Reader in Music at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he was Head of Department in 2004-07. Active as both musicologist and music journalist, he was for many years Chief Editor of Contact: a Journal of Contemporary Music, the 34 issues of which will be available online in 2017. For a decade, he was a regular music critic on The Independent daily newspaper. A founding committee member of the Society for Minimalist Music, he was its Chair during 2011-13. His book, Four Musical Minimalists: La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass (Cambridge University Press), was published in 2000, with a paperback edition in 2002; The Ashgate Research Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music, co-edited with Kyle Gann and Pwyll ap Sion (Ashgate Publishing), appeared in 2013; an article on issues of “structural listening” in minimalist music (co-authored with Suzie Wilkins and Geraint Wiggins) has just appeared in the book Music and/as Process (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, edited by Lauren Redhead and Vanessa Hawes). He is currently working on several projects arising from his research into the archive of Steve Reich’s materials at the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel, Switzerland.

Panel 1

Alistair Rider (St. Andrews), “Minimalism’s ascetic tenor” 

Time and again, art critics who invoke the concept of a minimal aesthetic frequently do so by distinguishing a fully-fledged ‘Minimalism’ from other ‘less austere’ variants, ones that appear to exhibit a softening of the severity of the initial premises. Work that adheres to Minimalism’s essence is often construed as unemotional, non-referential, formally reductive, and primarily materialist. Its descendants, meanwhile, are commonly believed to reintroduce a certain ‘humanizing’ element, either by modifying anonymous forms to reflect more subjective, compositional preferences, or by affirming that those forms refer to a specific subject matter. The tacit, underlying assumption is that art can be arrayed on a spectrum, ranging from extreme non-emotion and objectivism at one end, to impulsive expressionism at the other. According to this model, Minimalism stands as emblematic of an extreme, hard-core aesthetic position, embraced wholeheartedly by a tiny handful of artists, and much more partially by many more.

This paper argues against this way of thinking about Minimalism. This is because it is difficult to identify any artist, even canonical figures like Flavin, Andre, Morris and Judd, whose work is fittingly represented by this simplistic terminology. This impoverishing model denies Minimalism any relation to lived emotions, and thus has few resources for making sense of the flashes of vehemence that are evidently present in some of their works. Rather than presuming that Minimalism is about the annihilation of personal desire and feeling, I recommend instead that we approach it as an art that constrains free and spontaneous articulations of sensibility by embracing disciplined structures. Desires are far from absent; instead they are channelled and intensified in particular directions. This is what we might term its ascetic tenor, and in my paper I shall explore how this enables us to draw connections between Minimalism and artists as seemingly different as Agnes Martin and Roman Opałka.

Alistair Rider teaches art history at the University of St Andrews. He completed his PhD on Carl Andre in 2005, and this research has led to several publications on the artist, including the co-edited volume Carl Andre: Critical Texts since 1965 (2006), Carl Andre: Things in their Elements (2011), and an essay that features in the catalogue for the recent touring exhibition of Andre, currently at the Centre Pompidou. Although minimalism and post-minimalism remain central to his interests, he also writes about other aspects of 1960s art and politics, including land art, concrete art, counterculturalism, artist-led activism, and computer art. His current research project is an assessment of life-long art projects, and it focuses on the work of Absalon, Hanne Darboven, Peter Dreher, On Kawara, Roman Opalka and Ad Reinhardt.

Sophie Seita
 (Queen’s College, University of Cambridge), Minimalist Procedures against the Precious Poem 

This paper will examine forms of minimalism in 1960s literary magazines, with a particular focus on the work of Bernadette Mayer, Hannah Weiner, Lee Lozano, and Adrian Piper in the magazine 0 To 9, edited by Mayer and Vito Acconci between 1967 and 1969. 0 To 9’s experiments with typography, genre, and narrative are in many ways more excessive than the minimal gestures associated with canonical Minimalism and Conceptualism but share their distaste for craft, metaphor, symbolism, and beauty. What is ‘minimal’ in these language-based works, I want to suggest, is achieved in minimal formal procedures, constraints, and set vocabularies, typically conceived as exit points of affect and narrative. But different from the often-theorised grid-like disinterestedness (Rosalind Krauss) of minimalism, ‘nearly evacuated of meaning or expression’ (Liz Kotz), the magazine contributors I analyse rejected ‘preciousness’—what Bernadette Mayer called ‘the perfection of the poem with white space around it, set off from other things’. Sometimes these language-objects aren’t immediately recognisable as Poetry (they cloud their generic belonging or question the visuality of the page); at other times they create what I’d call ‘obscure feelings’ that divert expression and politics. While several works show the extreme reduction of authorial subjectivity and craft expected of minimalism, just as many do not; others, in turn, present politicised models of reduced language. Seriality, repetition, and other procedures as excessive gestures involving minimal effort (or vice versa) also invite questions around literary and physical labour—questions that gain additional urgency when female practitioners employ these procedures. I hope this paper will contribute to an appreciation of the formal and contextual multiplicity of proto-minimalism.

Sophie Seita is a Junior Research Fellow at Queens’ College, Cambridge, working on Anglophone avant-garde magazines, literary communities, and experiments with autobiography. She has received scholarships and awards from Princeton, Yale, Buffalo, Columbia, Cambridge, PEN America, DAAD, and Studienstiftung, among others. Also a poet and translator, she’s published three chapbooks and one full-length collection to date.

Al Cameron (University of Kingston), Nietzsche Rhythm Machine

As the title suggests, this paper will speculatively conflate diverse theories of rhythm – in particular the preoccupations of late-1990s theorists of sonic afro-futurism and the philological studies of Nietzsche. Outlining a music theory of reduction, centred on the infrastructural elements of rhythm and sound, it will attempt to prospectively take the measure of a particular species of minimalist practice: that of the stripped-back, drum machine/”man machine” music which emerged in American post-industrial cities in the 1980s, and which Detroit techno pioneer Derrick May described as “serious philosophy.”

Al Cameron is a curator and writer based in Bristol. He is a Ph.D candidate at Kingston University, and a core member of the artist collective Bristol Experimental and Expanded Film (BEEF). Formerly curator of music and film at Arnolfini Gallery, he has written on sound and contemporary art for publications including The Wire, Kaleidoscope and

Panel 2

Meredith North, The Politics of Seriality: Minimalism and Social Engagement in the Work of Peter Roehr

Peter Roehr’s artistic practice of serial repetition and systems has often been aligned with discussions of Minimal and Conceptual themes of the 1960s, and his use of industrially produced images, objects, and texts affected an extreme asceticism in terms of its aesthetic. Yet, when Roehr’s program is analyzed with an eye towards the socio-political conditions of his time, his use of industrial materials in such a rigid system was not simply mimicking the conditions of their production, but rather posed an ontological critique of the system itself. This paper will examine Roehr’s process and aesthetic of seriality as one that, following the arguments of Herbert Marcuse and Magnus Enzensberger, emphasized the need for radical individualism against the “one-dimensional” and “industrialized” culture of the postwar era.

Meredith North is a doctoral candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. Her dissertation work focuses on the conceptual and socio-political resonances of the Frankfurt artists Peter Roehr, Charlotte Posenenske, and Thomas Bayrle in the 1960s.

Katya Evan (Arts department, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel), Minimalism as a form of political undermining in Israeli art of the 1970’s. 

This paper aims to contextualize the Israeli Minimalist practice in its given time and place by exploring its origins and character as well as its integration in performance, environmental and video art in Israeli art of the 70’s. The discourse of American Minimalism which emerged in the early 90’s, uncovered the movement’s subjective, biographical, political, and gendered subjects, thus diverging from the earlier formalist approach which developed in the 60’s and was devoid of any context or narrative. The new approach to Minimalism provide a prolific reading underlining minimalisms’ differing aspects offering a productive framework in which to explore “peripheral minimalisms” and its implicit social and political contexts. As the last project of Modernism, Minimalism, and especially its peripheries may provide significant insights into the social and cultural conditions, which underlay the rupture of modernist framework and the development of post-modernism worldwide.

Minimalist trend in Israeli art of the 70’s lead by prominent artists such as Benni Efrat, Nahum Tevet, Michael Gitlin, Buky Schwartz and Joshua Neustein, pursued in the line with American Minimalism for self-questioning art, seemingly devoid of narrative and subjectivity and based on an “objective” and “logical” approach. This reading of the works, provided by both artists and critics raises significant questions in light of the dramatic political and cultural changes during the 1970s, especially after the social upheavals caused by the war in 1973 and the first ever change of government from the left wing to the right. This paper will reread some of the key minimalist works in Israeli art in light of these changes and suggest that the works may not be as a-political or a-historical as they have been deemed.

Katya Evan is a Ph.D candidate in the department of Arts in Ben Gurion University, Israel. My current research deals with Minimalist sculptural practices in Israeli art of the 1970’s. My forthcoming essay titled “Monument in the Expanded Field of Minimalism: The Case of Dani Karavan’s Monument to the Negev Brigade” will be published in the contribution “Monuments and Site-Specific Sculpture in Urban and Rural Spaces” by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Wouter Davidts (Department of Architecture & Urban Planning Ghent University), “I am totally uninterested in European art and I think it’s over with.”
Donald Judd’s hat trick at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (1970 / -79 / -87)

It is commonly acknowledged that many of the American key artists of the 1960s received early if not initial public exposure in European institutions, with major exhibitions in galleries, museums, or kunsthalles. Yet very few of these ‘first’ moments have been analyzed in detail, and hence not gained canonical importance within the historiography and theorization of both Minimalism and Conceptual art. To this day primarily North American examples of exhibitions and art events dominate larger historical narratives.

In my paper I will present a particular case study of an important ‘arrival’ of one of the key protagonists of Minimalism on the old continent: the 1970 solo exhibition of Donald Judd at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. It was the artist’s second major solo following the major retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American art in New York in 1968 and, most importantly, Judd’s first solo show in a European museum. Moreover, Judd performed an exceptional hat trick at the small yet influential Dutch museum: in less than two decades he received another two major presentations, in 1979 and 1987 respectively. This exceptional fact has hitherto remained unacknowledged in the existing, predominantly American, scholarship on Judd.

To understand the historical reception of Judd in in Europe, and The Netherlands in particular, the three consecutive exhibitions at the Van Abbemuseum present a wealth of material. The early critical reception of Judd in the Netherlands was admittedly of sheer local nature, but nevertheless considerable. Whereas Judd, who famously had stated in the 1964 interview with Bruce Glaser that he was “totally uninterested in European art” and thought that it was “over with,” initially met with negative anticipation and fierce criticism in the Netherlands, it eventually became the country where he received of the most extensive institutional appreciation. Other major Dutch museums such as the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the Boijmans in Rotterdam also acquired his work and granted him significant exhibition opportunities.

Acknowledging the importance of geographically specific scholarship, this paper will demonstrate, through a close reading of the vast collection of historical documents in the archives of the Van Abbemuseum, that Judd sustained a less antagonistic relationship with art made on the European continent, both historical and contemporary.

Wouter Davidts lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium. He teaches at the Department of Architecture & Urban Planning, Ghent University (UGent). His books include ‘Bouwen voor de kunst? Museumarchitectuur van Centre Pompidou tot Tate Modern’ (2006) and ‘Triple Bound. Art, Architecture and the Museum’ (2016, forthcoming). Currently he is working on a book-length project on size and scale in postwar art, entitled ‘Larger than the Body: Size and Scale in Postwar American Art’.

Panel 3

Jonathan Tadashi Naito (St. Olaf College Northfield, Minnesota), “Relaxing, Boring, Open, Flat”:
Tan Lin’s Ambient Literature, Minimalism, and the Contemporary

Over the past two decades, the Asian American poet and visual artist Tan Lin has produced a body of work that represents a compelling extension of minimalist ideas and practices. At the center of Lin’s many interests is the idea of an “ambient literature,” a literature that both acknowledges and invites more discontinuous, diffuse—and, thus, diverse—forms of encounter than the concept of reading generally implies. Freed from the expectation of cultivating readerly interest and the discipline of attention, Lin’s ambient literature restores the literary to the larger world out of which it emerges. Literature becomes more like painting, photography, and music; it becomes harder to distinguish from other forms of writing (even or especially in the case of Lin’s primary genre: poetry); and it becomes more difficult to discern the differences among its production, dissemination, and reception. Crucially, the convergence of the literary and the extra-literary that Lin imagines and enacts relies upon the ubiquity of minimalist aesthetics in twenty-first-century life. As the subtitle of my talk suggests, I will focus on the relationship between minimalism and Tan Lin’s ambient literature—with particular attention to his 2010 publication, Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking, a text that consists of images and prose poems in a series of provocative juxtapositions—while also using his work as a point of departure for a broader consideration of the relationship between minimalism and the twenty-first century in general. In addressing both of these topics, I will draw upon recent scholarship on affect—the work of figures such as Lauren Berlant, Sianne Ngai, and Kathleen Stewart—and the artists who have influenced Lin’s ideas about art, such as Donald Judd.

Jonathan Tadashi Naito is an Associate Professor of English at St. Olaf College (Northfield, Minnesota), where he is also affiliated with the Race and Ethnic Studies and Africa and the Americas programs. His research interests range broadly across literature, art, and culture since 1900. His recent publications include essays on digital photography and museums and Virginia Woolf and machines.

Dr Robin Purves (University of Central Lancashire), Non-Stops

The Minimalist art-work disavows language except in the description of the object and the process of its making, only for language to return in the manifesto and as the art-work itself (Minimalism’s legacy to Conceptualism). This paper will redefine a Minimalist musical genre – the drone – by re-establishing its connection with language as a sound system; the drone will be conceptualized as a ‘non-stop’, the instrumental equivalent for the extension of a voiced consonant, vowel or noise beyond the limit of a human breath. If the drone can be considered akin to the arresting of a basic unit of language in the moment of its articulation, a sound paused to resound before it can encroach on or include other units, the lifting of a non-stop out of “the synchronic system of differential couplings that are necessary to discern vocables in any given language” (Lacan) reveals difference to be located within the non-stop itself. Musical works featuring drones or drone-like elements, such as “So, Black Is Myself” by Keiji Haino and “Bass Pulse In Open Air” by Eleh, will be analysed in order to establish a micro-metonymic structure audible inside the non-stop which establishes a dialectical ‘switching’ between a sense of repletion and a sense of lack for the listening ear. This analysis hopes to begin the process of explaining how differentials in tone, pitch and volume, in metamorphic non-stops and drones composed of imbricated tones, can support the listener’s desire for the maintenance and/or transformation in and of the sound.

Robin Purves is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Central Lancashire.  He has published essays on the poems of J.H. Prynne, Denise Riley, Andrea Brady, Keston Sutherland, W.S. Graham and others.  He also writes about popular music and has published an essay on The Fall and improvisation, and a chapter in a book about Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (forthcoming).

Professor Stephen Foster, John Hansard Gallery

Charlotte Posenenske 1966-68;1985-Present

Charlotte Posenenske was born in 1930 in Wiesbaden in central western Germany. As an artist she began making small scale constructivist and abstract expressionist inspired paintings on paper. Then, in 1966, she turned her attention to making the radical sculptures and reliefs for which she is best known. She is remembered as a conceptual artist and minimalist, but her sculptures became increasingly political during this period. They commented on the capitalist nature of the art market, and were made to ‘sidestep’ the market completely. They were sold for the cost of production and could be easily reproduced, using sheet metal or corrugated cardboard, as endless series of ‘prototypes’.

Then in 1968 she stopped making work altogether, and announced her withdrawal from the artworld completely, by writing a manifesto in the journal, Art International. She then trained as a sociologist, and subsequently became a social worker. She died in 1985 and after her death her husband, who was the Executor of her estate, began to make authorised reconstructions according to her instructions.

Her importance since that time has grown enormously and in 2007 she was represented in Documenta 12, and a number of works were subsequently purchased by Tate. Since that time her influence continues to grow.

Stephen Foster has been the Director of John Hansard Gallery since 1987. The Gallery has specialized in conceptual and minimalist art from the mid 60s to the present day and has worked with many of the original artists of the conceptual art movement. Stephen is particularly interested in the legacy of artists for whom the object was not of primary importance, and those artists who made things other than objects, through performance, happenings, site specific installations and other ephemeral media. His interest is in what happens after the artist stops making work, and what survives after their death. Charlotte Posenenske is, of course, key to this debate. He showed an installation of her work in 2011. He was the Chair of the Visual Arts and Galleries Association several times, and was, until recently, a Board member of the International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art (IKT). He was made a Professorial Fellow of the University of Southampton in 2012.


Keynote- Dr Renate Wiehager

Germany in the Sixties, 1958-1968: ZERO—Concrete Art—Conceptualism—Minimalism

In the 1960s in Germany, a new kind of Minimalism developed that was initially largely independent from the developments in America at the time. This German Minimalism was in many cases stimulated by, but also in conflict with, Concrete Art and the European Zero avant-garde, which drew attention to itself from 1957 on, starting in Düsseldorf, with unusually staged exhibitions and spectacular projects for public space.  The presentation discusses important trends in 1960s abstract art in Germany: Constructivism, Zero, Minimal Art, Concept und Seriality. Starting from predecessors in the 1950s—such as Josef Albers, Norbert Kricke, Franz Erhard Walther—the documentation of developments in abstract art in the cities of Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Krefeld, Stuttgart, Berlin, Munich will provide a survey of tendencies which show a lasting impact also in contemporary art.

Dr. Renate Wiehager: born 1959 in Bremen, Germany; studied History of Art, Theology, Literature, Philosophy. Gained doctorate 1988 with a monograph on German surrealist painter Richard Oelze. 1988-91 on the academic staff at Kiel City Art Gallery; 1991-2000 Director of Museum Villa Merkel, Esslingen, Germany. Since January 2001 Head of Daimler Art Collection (Stuttgart/Berlin) and of the exhibition space ‘Daimler Contemporary’ gallery in Berlin. 2003/2004: Lectured in “Contemporary Art and Corporate Culture” at the Institute of Art History of the University of Stuttgart.

Key areas of research and exhibitions: Series of exhibitions “Internationale Foto-Triennale Esslingen” 1992 – 2001; “Zero International” 1992 – 1999, series of four themed exhibitions of the European Zero movement around 1960; “Neue Möbel für die Villa”, 1994 (New Furniture for the Villa); “Fort!Da! (Gone!There!). Dialogue between Contemporary Artists and the Stuttgart National Gallery Contemporary Art Collection”, 1996; “Art and Architecture”, 1999; “Electronic Images. Video Art 1965-2000”, 2000. Series “Minimalism and After” since 2001; series “Private/Corporate. Dialogue between the Daimler Art Collection and International Private Collections” since 2002; series “Photography, Video, Mixed Media” since 2002; touring exhibition with 150 works from the Daimler Art Collection in Europe, the United States, South Africa, Japan, South America since 2003; series “Classical : Modern. Classical Modern and Contemporary Art from the Daimler Art Collection”, since 2006.

Panel 4

Natalie Ferris (University of Oxford), The ‘how-much-angst-on-the-head-of-a-pin-school’: Miniaturism and The Review

In 1976, the poet and critic Blake Morrison penned an article for the Critical Quarterly in defense of the minimalist project. Since the advent of World War Two, Morrison suggested, a ‘post-1940 minimalist tradition’ had developed a less universal authority and expression. It was a symptom of the war that modernism, in its ‘hypermetropic…view of history’, ‘Bardic audacity’, ‘large rhetorical gestures’ and ‘authoritative moral pronouncements’, turned from panoramic commentaries to a literature of smaller circumference.[1] As such, the new minimalism in literature constituted barely glimpsed or realized moments of revelation, moments that were perceivable only to those willing to read beyond their surface implications. For Morrison, this did not come from the expected literary quarters:

The real sixties contribution to the post-war minimalist tradition came not from the Group, nor from Liverpool and Newcastle, nor even from the neo-Poundians. It came from a number of poets – Ian Hamilton Finlay, David Harsent, Hugo Williams, Michael Fried, Colin Falck, and to a lesser extent Douglas Dunn and Peter Dale – whose work received most of its exposure in The Review, and who brought into existence a poetic phenomenon – the mini poem – which looked curiously like several social phenomena – the mini-skirt, the mini-cab, the mini-bus – of the time.[2]

This paper will offer ‘due qualification’ of Morrison’s claims for minimalism, beginning by expanding upon his sense of the relationship between minimalism in literary work and minimalism in art, making reference to Richard Wollheim’s epochal 1965 essay ‘Minimal Art’, and situating the efforts of The Review alongside a concurrent literature that could be characterized as ‘post-concrete’. I will consider the ‘miniaturist’ aesthetic of the writers and editors involved with The Review, including the poetry and epochal art criticism of Michael Fried, but I will conclude by widening the scope of British literary minimalism by touching upon the inventive publications of British printmaker presses such as the Tarasque Press and the Tetrad Press.

Natalie Ferris is a writer based in Oxford. She is currently completing a DPhil thesis on Abstraction in Post War British Literature. She is the Art & Architecture Editor of the Cambridge Humanities Review and the English Editor of the architecture journal, SPACE.

Marc Botha (English Studies, Durham University), The Logic of Intermittency: Minimalism as a Transhistorical Phenomenon

Establishing a stable field of aesthetic study invariably involves the determination of a contingent canon of works, disputed but functionally stable in a given field. As valuable and useful as this process is, it more than often has the paradoxical effect of imposing a certain conceptual stasis on the very dynamism of the movement it tries to elucidate. Thus, even in the more chronologically inclusive studies of minimalism (Strickland, Baker, Fink and Hallett, for example) which gesture towards minimalist precursors and postminimalist successors, the tendency has been to remain strongly moored to a central canon of works in the visual arts, music and literature that takes shape roughly between 1950 and 1980.

By contrast, I propose expanding our understanding of minimalism by considering it not in terms of a set of works or attributes, but as an existential modality: a radical way of existing in the world; an orientation towards minimum understood principally in terms of the infinitesimal, or the least possible, and in terms of parsimony, or the least necessary. Grasped in this light, it becomes possible to re-examine minimalism as a transhistorical phenomenon, subject to a logic of intermittency – an always incomplete sequence of minimalist moments (Perloff and Watten) that emerge, recede and return (Foster and Danto) across the longue durée of aesthetic history.

This paper will explore the logic of intermittency by turning to the still-neglected region of minimalist intermedia poetry, which finds notable and transhistorical instantiations in the ancient amuletic inscriptions of the near east, the visual poetry and micrographia of the Renaissance and early Modern period, the sonic and visual poetry of Cubism, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism and Lettrism, the international Concrete movement, through to more recent experiments in digital and twitter poetry and fiction.

Expanding on Andrew Gibson’s conception of intermittency as it relates to prominent theories of the event (Nietzsche, Althusser, Badiou) I will argue that the intermittency of minimalism not only significantly expands the field of minimalist study, but also sheds new light on the contingencies that need to be in place for an aesthetic moment to take hold and to become what we conventionally term a movement. In this way, the transhistorical study of minimalism also moves towards a deeper understanding of the canonical minimalism that thrived in the mid-to-late twentieth century, and which continues to influence the aesthetic imaginary of the present.

Marc Botha is Lecturer in English Studies at Durham University, and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. His research interrogates the intersection of critical theory and literary studies, with particular interests in minimalism as a tranhistorical phenomenon and the aesthetics of fragility, with a growing interest in queer and intersectional ecologies. In addition to several articles and chapters on minimalist aesthetics, he is the author of a monograph, A Theory of Minimalism, to be published by Bloomsbury in early 2017. He is the co-editor of two forthcoming volumes, one with Heather Yeung on the shifting spatial concerns of contemporary world poetry, Cosmopoeticcs  (Palgrave, 2017); and a volume on concepts of change in contemporary critical theory, Critical Transitions: Genealogies and Trajectories of Change (Bloomsbury, 2017).

Panel 5

John M. Pymm (University of Wolverhampton), Chanting and chattering: Steve Reich and the Museum of Merchandise

Steve Reich’s speech-based piece Buy Art, Buy Art was commissioned in 1967 by Audrey Sabol to accompany a major commercial art exhibition in Philadelphia. The Museum of Merchandise was the sixth exhibition supported by the Arts Council of Philadelphia between 1962 and 1967, its purpose being the unashamed promotion of art as consumer objects/experiences that could be commodified and sold.

The decision to commission Reich to produce a speech-based piece using what was by then his stock-in-trade technique of phased taped loops was innovative in this context. Equally notable was the impressive array of twenty-eight artists whose voices were recorded – saying ‘buy art, buy art’ – as the source material for the piece. These included many enduring names of the period, and a variety of disciplines and styles: illustration (Irwin Fleminger); printmaking (Allan d’Archangelo)sculpture (Nancy Graves, Peter Forakis, Richard Serra), Pop Art (Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein) and Fluxus (Bici and Geoff Hendricks). All of them recorded their voices for Reich’s Buy Art, Buy Art, perhaps in the hope that the appeal of their own voices might encourage purchase of their work.

Reich viewed Buy Art, Buy Art as an unmitigated failure, however, because of the disarray caused by the phasing process not working as he had intended, which tainted his view of the whole exhibition. A reassessment is possible as Reich’s discarded recordings are now available in the Paul Sacher Stiftung and careful analysis offers a new insight into the relationship between Reich’s music of the time and a rich community of visual artists.   Although caricatured by Rita Reif at the exhibition’s 2003 revival as merely a work of ‘chanting and chattering voices’, this paper offers a close reading of the continuing significance of Buy Art, Buy Art.

John Pymm is Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Wolverhampton, UK, but is no stranger to this area having completed his PhD at the University of Southampton. He is a founder member of the Society for Minimalist Music, and was elected as the Society’s President in September 2013.  He has given papers on Steve Reich at each of the Society’s five biennial conferences, most recently at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki.  He has conducted extensive research on the source material of Reich’s speech-based music at the Paul Sacher Stiftung, Basel, which has been published in the Ashgate Companion to Minimalist and Postminimalist Music, and the forthcoming Rethinking Reich (Oxford University Press).  John’s archival research at the Sacher also forms the basis of his paper today.

Fiona Curran (University of Kingston), .Earthed

I would like to present (with perhaps a short introduction (!)) a film work, .Earthed (duration 10:34), which is a poetic self-portrait film in 4 parts, (screened previously as a 4 screen installation) which initially uses poetry to act as a signpost for a visually – and as importantly sonic – reductionist act. I use the poem (one of my own works, which is a reflection on the body as ruin) in order to earth and aid us in exploring (and empathising with) the decaying figure, and the following three parts act as

a translation from the poem to a sound representation of the spoken word,

a sound and image mash up,

a final single sonic element, and a visual reduction to a single image.

The film is part of a Cycle of works called the NB Seriesparts of which have been exhibited and screened in the UK & Europe, most recently in Germany.

Fiona Curran leads the MA in film making at Kingston University. She is a filmmaker, sound artist and poet. Her visual work explores sound mediated through film and with a particular interest in poetic portraiture, notions of sound translation and emotional essence. Her films have been show nationally and internationally. As a sonic artist, she has presented works at the RedSonic Festival, Car Boot Art Fair, and at Literary Kitchen.  As a poet she has been published widely in the UK & Ireland. Her first collection, The Hail Mary Pass, was published by Wreckingball Press. A second collection, Earthed, is due winter 2017.

Panel 6

James Davies (University of Roehampton), Minimalist Poetry and Textual Attractors

Devised by linguist Peter Stockwell, ‘textual attraction’ is a reading framework through which all works of literature can be processed. Stockwell contends that there are twelve ways in which texts display ‘good textual attraction’ – newness, agency, topicality, empathetic recognisability, definiteness, activeness, brightness, fullness, largeness, height, nosiness, aesthetic distance from the norm. As a consequence of the stylistic choices used good attractors invoke ‘resonance’ and ‘intensity’. Admittedly whilst the feelings of a reader are hard to predict I suggest that the use of the key stylistic features of minimalist poetry, such as limited word counts and simple ‘noun-centred’ writing, create strong textual attraction which is immediate, lasting and paradoxically rigid yet highly fluctuating. This presentation will be delivered against the backdrop of my own creative practice and the work of minimalist poets such as Clark Coolidge, Robert Grenier and Robert Lax.

James Davies is the author of PlantsAbsolute Elsewhere and Acronyms. In 2008 he co-founded The Other Room poetry series in Manchester and set up his poetry press if p then q. He is studying for a PhD in Creative Writing at The University of Roehampton with a particular focus on minimalist poetry and writers such as Robert Lax, Robert Grenier and Aram Saroyan.

Daniela Perrazo Domm (University of Kingston), Layering and questioning: Reconfigurations of minimalism in Jonathan Burrows’ choreography 

The thirty-year dance career of the British choreographer Jonathan Burrows has often been defined in critical literature in terms of its relationship with minimalist traditions in dance and music. The close dialogue he developed with the explorations of pedestrian movement initiated by the Judson Church choreographers in New York, his collaborations with British and continental European artists interrogating formalist practices – especially Rosemary Butcher and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker – and his partnerships with composers associated with the post-minimalist movement – Kevin Volans and, primarily, Matteo Fargion – provide the background for a reading of the scenographic reduction, compositional clarity and aesthetic simplicity of his dances.

In this paper I question the productivity of these categorisations and I emphasise the ambiguities of the formalist dance tradition’s engagement with content. Through a close inspection of examples of Burrows’ choreographic language, I problematise their self-referential approach and highlight their strong relational and dialogical qualities. I draw attention to the potentialities opened by a reading of the relationship between form and content that acknowledges plurality and ambivalence. I suggest that content is expressed in Burrows’ work through an unconventional use of form, upholding a rethinking of dance’s strategies of signification.

Daniela Perazzo Domm is a Lecturer in Dance at Kingston University. Her research explores questions of subjectivity and collectivity in current choreographic and dramaturgical processes. She received her PhD in Dance Studies from the University of Surrey, funded by a university scholarship, with a thesis on the work of the British choreographer Jonathan Burrows.

Panel 7

Andrew Chesher (Chelsea College of Arts, University of the Arts London), Iterations of Phenomenology: From Minimalism to Joëlle Tuerlinckx 

Minimalism in the U.S. during the 60s is closely associated with the Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of the body. Although it pervades both Robert Morris’s apologia for Minimalism in his ‘Notes On Sculpture’ essays as well as the counter attack of his most articulate critic, Michael Fried, by the end of the decade phenomenology becomes a tainted word for the likes of Robert Smithson and Dan Graham. What the artistic intelligentsia of the late 60s seems to balk at is the apparent emphasis in phenomenology on presence and the unity of the perceived Gestalt reflecting a unified subject. However, not only do the generative models of Minimalism contradict this emphasis, there is a strand of phenomenological thinking especially prominent in the late Merleau-Ponty which, in relating the sensible to the ideal, bridges the apparent divide between Minimalism’s primary structures and Conceptual art’s propositional formats and institutional critiques.

This paper will revisit phenomenological thinking to assess its relevance to contemporary art after Minimalism. This it will do with reference to the practice of the Belgian artist Joëlle Tuerlinckx, who it will present as heir to both the Minimalist and Conceptual frameworks. Often consisting of accumulations of objects and signs, Tuerlinckx’s exhibitions rearrange collections of elements from previous shows and other contexts. As a consequence, the items displayed oscillate between being perceived as present within the current situation and system of display on the one hand, and reading as a quotation of another instance and context on the other. In particular, the paper will use the example of Tuerlinckx’s work to explore the role of the perceptual in relation to the typically iterative structure of her practice as well as, conversely, the role of iteration in Minimalism itself.

In Limited Inc Jacques Derrida called iterability ‘an ideal concept’, but added that it is ‘the concept that marks the essential and ideal limit of all pure idealisation’. The iteration of a term or object within a series, or across media and exhibitions, in Tuerlinckx’s work exemplifies Derrida’s philosophical take on the term. On the one hand, it produces a movement towards an ideal identity – the ‘dematerialised’ idea of classic Conceptual Art. On the other hand, it simultaneously alters the meaning or perception of the element, causing it to oscillate between text and perception, or figure and ground. This returns the object from its identification with an idea to the empirical facticity of contingent perception – a return of a phenomenological dimension, itself altered by iteration.

Dr Andrew Chesher is Year 1 Leader on the BA Fine Art course at Chelsea College of Arts, London. He is a filmmaker and academic. His documentary Knots and Fields: Darmstadt and the Legacies of Modernism (2010), made with David Ryan, explores the history of the Darmstadt Ferienkürse für Neue Musik and includes interviews with Pierre Boulez, Helmut Lachenmann and David Behrman among others. Over the last year has given papers on photography and phenomenology, among other themes, in London, Milan and Warsaw.

Matthew Bowman (University of Suffolk and Colchester School of Art), The Crux of Minimalist Criticism

It has long been acknowledged that discursive structures became an especially prominent feature of artworks during the 1960s, with conceptualism being the chief exemplar of this tendency due to its textual forms. But what are we to make of Minimalism and its own fascination with the written word? As many scholars have noted, artists such as Donald Judd and Robert Morris drafted strongly programmatic essays that did not merely accompany their art practices but also sought to establish definitions for the Minimalist field as a whole as if its simplified forms required textual exposition. In that regard, Michael Fried’s decision to refer to Minimalism as ‘Literalism’ appropriately points in two directions: whilst mostly designating the literal or de-signifying utilization of materials, it also strikingly suggests a certain homology between the literal and the literary.

The aim of this paper is to explore what might be considered the crux of Minimalist criticism. By ‘crux’, my intention is partly to historicize the writing produced under the aegis of Minimalism as situated between an explanation of art and a fundamental discursivity as art—in other words, as partaking in the discursive character typical of conceptualism without being identical to it yet. In that regard, it raises the presence another of another crux: a crux interweaving artwork and criticism. This second crux complicates the traditional separation of artwork as production and criticism as evaluative commentary, thereby problematizing their categorical identities and the presumed temporal ordering that typically flows from artwork to criticism. By attending to figures such as Robert Morris, Donald Judd, Fried, and Stanley Cavell, this paper seeks to examine how the writings around Minimalism interpreted but also fundamentally and actively produced Minimalism, thus indicating how these artworks pinpoint a major third crux, this time situated within the history of art criticism.

Dr Matthew Bowman lectures in the Photography Department at Colchester School of Art and on the MA Fine Art programme at the University of Suffolk. His research focuses on art criticism, twentieth century and contemporary art, photography, the art market, and philosophy in the USA and Europe. He is the author of numerous essays including “The New Critical Historians of Art?” in James Elkins and Michael Newman (eds.), The State of Art Criticism (2008); “Rosalind Krauss” in Mark Durden (ed.), Fifty Key Writers on Photography (2013); “Shapes of Time: Melancholia, Anachronism, and De-Distancing” in Amanda Boetzkes and Aron Vinegar (eds.), Heidegger and the Work of Art History (2014). He has written reviews for Art MonthlyArt History, and The Art Book. Presently, he is editing a book titled The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing: Art Criticism and the Global Market for I. B. Tauris.

Panel 8

Jacob Warmberg (University of Arhus), Entropy reigns: Minimalism seen through Robert Smithson and the sciences of complexity 

In this paper I will look at minimalism through a lens pertaining to the sciences of complexity, including the dialectics of entropy/negentropy, and their reception in art theory. When earth artist Robert Smithson in the later 1960s chose the thermodynamic notion of entropy as a key to understanding minimalism and its echoes in postwar functionalism it was, somewhat surprisingly, minimalism’s and functionalism’s monotonous geometric order that mobilized the entropy concept with its energy drain and leveling out of significant differences – a theoretical move that is repeated in the perceptual psychologist Rudolf Arnheim’s essay Entropy and Art (1971). Yet although the surface homogeneity of entropy is usually linked to an underlying level of chaotic randomness, Smithson’s and Arnheims’s inclusion of geometric order in this level can in fact be supported, if we consult the complexity sciences since the 1980s. Countering entropy, complexity is often called negentropy, while at the same time it is conceived of as rising in an ocean of chaos as well as strict order; and so it makes sense to see entropy as covering an order/chaos dialectics. In any case, with a complexity-theoretical extension, Smithson’s entropic lens allows us to better understand his own and minimalism’s celebration of anti-anthropocentrism, surfaces drained of significance, and the breakdown of historical time. Since organic corporeality signifies the peak of negentropic complexity, exorcizing the human body through minimalism’s simple cubes means giving over to an inorganic entropy that according to the sciences of complexity is indeed both logically and historically shallow.

Jacob Wamberg is Professor of Art History at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. He works on an evolutionistic theory of the visual arts, especially in relation to nature and technology. His present focus is posthuman aspects of avant-garde art. He is the author of the two volume Landscape as World Picture: Tracing Cultural Evolution in Images (2005 2009). His edited volumes include Art and Alchemy (2006), Totalitarian Art and Modernity (2010, with Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen), The Posthuman Condition: Ethics, Aesthetics and Politics of Biotechnological Challenges (2012, with Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen and Mads Rosendahl Thomsen) and Art, Technology and Nature: Renaissance to Postmodernity (2015, with Camilla Skovbjerg Paldam).

Declan Synnott (University College Cork), Minimalist Music and Minimalist Input – From Modular Synthesis to No Input Performance

This paper analyses forms of minimalism in performance and technique from experimental music practices and technology. Examining the music of Pauline Oliveros, Morton Subotnick, Eliane Radigue, Autechre and techniques of modular synthesis and ‘no input mixer’, this paper takes into account a deterritorialization of performed music, and an understanding of minimalism through the progression of forms of electronic, electroacoustic and noise music; taking the concept of ‘the minimal’ as an aesthetic approach to music composition and performance.

I will analyse the development of music synthesis, establishing the subsequent rethinking of the practices of playing and listening. Early synthesisers were developed as a means through which to transform the process of writing music; an ‘easel’ to create sound as ‘studio art’. From this we will see the impact on musical performances also; performances could become the witnessing of sound creation outside traditional musical means, often with no defined performer or traditionally performed aspect, leading to a depth of concentration on the sound in itself. I will take examples such as Eliane Radigue, who has replaced the performer with the sound source on stage and Autechre, who perform on laptops in total darkness. These performing practices act as an affront to the sensibilities of an audience as witness to live music, with nothing to observe, again leaving them with nothing to focus on but sound.

These non-traditional views of composition and performance will be used to frame minimalism as a means through which to perceive new technologies in sound wherein the medium used is integral to the minimalist intent. Here, self is removed from composition and performance as it is traditionally perceived, the audience must engage with a new means of perceiving sound, with a disembodied author. These new means of creating and performing music have become a symbol of an increasingly mechanised society and reflection of a minimalism which eschews traditional notions on sound, music and art. This paper will use these examples to explore the concept of minimalism through minimal performances and a focus on sound as simultaneous expansion and minimisation of the concept of music and performance.

Declan Synnott is a PhD Candidate at University College Cork, working with the Philosophy and French departments. His thesis, titled ‘The Philosophical Process of Punk as Practice’, delivers an analysis of punk as a means of action; carrying out ontological inquiry through its aesthetic form and countercultural practice. Declan also makes music with the bands Siorai Geimhreadh, mvestle and Horse, and operates a small music label, Box Emissions, all of these projects working with music and sound on the periphery of noise, punk and experimental music.

Panel 9

Jelena Novak (CESEM, New University of Lisbon), Shaggy-Dog Minimalism in Operas by Tom Johnson

Back in 1978 American composer and music critic Tom Johnson created five ‘shaggy-dog operas’: DrawersDryerDoorWindow and Box. “I had always loved the Americans tradition known as ‘shaggy dog stories,’ those repetitive stories that take a very long time to tell until they finally end with some dumb punch line, usually a simple word play or an ironic remark, so my next operatic attempt, in 1978, went in that direction. The result was five chamber operas, about 15 minutes each, which I staged myself in a small loft space in Lower Manhattan.” (from The Four Note Opera, 32 Years Later by Tom Johnson). In Drawers, a solo soprano searches for her thimble; in Dryer, a fisherman catches fish and hangs them on the clothes line to dry; in Door, two women sing “yawn” a lot, and wonder whether they should answer the door; and in Window, two men strive to clean a dirty window. (Box was later abandoned and destroyed). In his article “Minimalism in Music: In Search of a Definition” Johnson among other things writes about how back in 1972 he didn’t fully realized that his Four Note Opera written that very same year “was also a form of minimal music”. I will discuss status and function of minimalism in early Johnson’s operas and through that prism I will illuminate the relationship between opera and minimalism in larger context.

Jelena Novak works in the area of musicology, opera studies, performance studies, dramaturgy and criticism. She is postdoctoral research fellow at CESEM, New University of Lisbon with project “Opera beyond Drama”. She has been a founding Committee member of the Society for Minimalist Music and founding member of editorial collective TkH [Walking Theory]. In 2013 she won the Thurnau Award for Music-Theatre Studies. Her latest book is Postopera: Reinventing the Voice-Body (Ashgate, 2015). Currently with John Richardson she prepares edited volume Einstein on the Beach: Opera beyond Drama (Routledge, due to be published in 2017).

Emily Zubernis
 (Rutgers University), Mina Loy on Constantin Brâncusi’s Golden Bird

Literary studies has yet to contend with the subtractive aesthetic of modernist literary projects as a mode of minimalism avant la lettre, even in the face of such commitments as Imagism’s to “direct treatment of the ‘thing’” and Dada’s to “signifying nothing.” It is perhaps not surprising, however, that literary critics have largely avoided drawing comparisons between austere literature and minimalist art: language is decidedly less amenable to the ideal of “pure form” than other materials. Indeed, modernist poets often looked to visual art for models of formal purity. Constantin Brâncusi’s bird sculptures—which were taxed as “raw material” by the U.S. Government—became a touchstone for both Ezra Pound and Mina Loy. “Brancusi,” Pound writes, “is meditating upon pure form free from all terrestrial gravitation.” And Loy’s poem, “Brancusi’s Golden Bird” (1922), enacts a series of negations that envision the titular sculpture as an “unwinged unplumed” form, pared-down “in gorgeous reticence” to the mere “nucleus of flight.”

This paper uses Loy’s engagement with Brâncusi’s sculpture to suggest a way forward for literary studies as the discipline contends with the centrality of minimalism to art, design, and performance in the twentieth century. I argue that Loy reveals the sometimes contradictory forces of negation behind abstraction, anticipating the heightening of form—and its breakdown into formlessness—that marks minimalist production across media. Loy at once upholds Brâncusi’s nod to idealism and stages its disintegration: the sculpture is both “the Alpha and Omega/of Form” and a catalyst of erotic sensation. I use her unique synthesis as a starting point for a theory of tactile minimalism, which I argue broadens minimalism’s scope so that it may travel across media without losing the central values of the movement as it flourished in the 1960s and after.

Emily Zubernis received her Ph.D. in Literatures in English from Rutgers University this year. My book manuscript, “Reading in Place: Minimalism and the Literary,” concerns the history of subtractive aesthetics in 20th century Anglo-American literature. “Henry James’s Minimalist Novel,” an essay drawn from this project, is forthcoming in Novel: A Forum on Fiction.

Panel 10

Matthew L. Levy (Penn State Erie, The Behrend College), Robert Mangold’s Dialectical Minimalism

Minimalism has been canonized as the movement that sounded painting’s death knell. Indeed, the renunciation of the medium has been woven into the fabric of Minimalism’s origins, as so many of its leading figures, such as Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Dan Flavin, abandoned their painting practices, decrying its ineluctable illusionism in favor of the hardboiled materialism of three-dimensional work. Consequently, Minimalist painting has come to be regarded as a fatally compromised endeavor, irreparably out of sync with the movement’s mainstream.

The early paintings of Robert Mangold represent a valuable corrective to this narrative, which obscures the substantive engagements that numerous painters maintained with Minimalism’s critical issues. In his Walls and Areas, displayed at the Fischbach Gallery in 1965, Mangold achieved a dialectical mediation of the Minimalist critiques and the tenets of modernist painting, thereby holding in suspension the period’s dominant aesthetic poles. With their architectural silhouettes and lumberyard materiality, the Walls broached the sculptural mode of relief while retaining painting’s native optical engagements. The Areas’ subtle atmospherics at once acknowledged painting’s capacity for transcendent illusionism and negated it through their conspicuous shape and banal, industrial palette. With this exhibition, Mangold staked out painting’s identity as both image and object, a formulation many of his peers viewed as an untenable paradox. And yet Mangold was by no means alone in harnessing these antitheses, as Minimalist painters such as Jo Baer, Brice Marden, and David Novros similarly cast them as a productive tension for the medium’s renewal.

Matthew L. Levy is assistant professor of art history at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. His essay “Specific Painting: David Novros, Donald Judd, and 101 Spring Street” was recently published in the anthology, In Terms of Painting (Revolver Publishing, Berlin). His writing has also appeared in The Brooklyn RailJournal of Contemporary Painting, and in exhibition catalogues for the National Gallery of Canada and Museum Wiesbaden. He is presently working on a book project that examines the status of abstract painting within the discourses of Minimalism.

Sarah Hayden (Department of English, University of Southampton)/ Paul Hegarty (University College Cork), Line and Cut: Defining Modularity in Peter Roehr

For many of the minimalist persuasion, serial and modular forms offered ways into objecthood, and ways out of narration. The multiplied and repeated cells would make a new whole, one which would encourage an interstitial, or hyper-detailed attention from the viewer. Where many ‘in’ minimalism or pop art sought to reveal subtle difference through repetition, or use repetitive process to produce logically interminable patterns, series and sequences, Peter Roehr sought to diminish differentiation. In choosing to work with iterations of the exact same found material in grid form, he was able to make difference so slight it became almost painful when it did occur. His work – montages in text, film, sound, photographs, objects – always follows this pattern of a rigorous and hermetic meta-readymade. As difference emerges (as it must in series), it is also made to disappear, and the two processes perform a cancellation of the world as a stage where everything is in its place, has some sort of identity and co-ordinate for it alone. Each montageworld is a shutting down of the world of distinction as cognition or presence. Each montage is the same as the others, and made of different stuff. Within each montage the stuff is the same, but each ‘sameness’ has a different position… across these paradoxes, we can see that Roehr’s minimalism eschews the space that specific objects may generate, in favour of a transposition of lines, frames, edges. This paper tracks an arbitrarily small set of those topological transfers in montage form, in order to bring out the properly philosophical and avant-garde strangeness of work that aims to be as little by way of ‘work’ as possible.

Sarah Hayden lectures in English at the University of Southampton. She also does poems and her next chapbook, Turnpikes, will be out this this autumn from Sad Press. Her monograph on Mina Loy and artisthood is on the way from University of New Mexico Press, and she is right now writing a book, Peter Roehr—Field Pulsations, with Paul Hegarty.

Paul Hegarty teaches visual and audio culture at University College Cork. His most recent book is Rumour and Radiation: Sound in Video Art (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015), his next is Peter Gabriel: Global Citizen (London and Chicago: Reaktion, 2017), and he is currently writing a book, Peter Roehr – Field Pulsations, with Sarah Hayden. This is due out on Daimler Contemporary in 2017.

Panel 11

Anna Moser (English Department, New York University), Paul Thek, Blakean Iconoclast: sabotaging minimalism with the Technological Reliquary

Combining art historical and literary analysis to better understand the political stakes and cultural significance of the move away from dominant minimalist art practices of the 1960s, this paper proposes Paul Thek’s Technological Reliquary series (1964-67) as an essential case study.

In 1970, Thek began to keep journals, evocative of early modern commonplace books, consisting of notes, clippings, quotations from writers like St. Augustine and William Blake, and images that later appeared in his post-sculptural paintings and environments. But in the mid-to-late 1960s, prior to beginning this practice, Thek fabricated his iconic, minimalist-indebted Technological Reliquary series. From afar, these sculptures participate in the same discourse of geometric reproducibility as the neutral, “specific objects” of Judd. Yet Thek repurposes signifiers of advanced minimalist production values, like Plexiglas vitrines, as a critique of the movement’s role in the escalating art market. Each of Thek’s structures is handmade, and contains within it a smaller, fabricated form that uncannily resembles a body fragment. We sense that Thek’s disjecta membra are perversely designed as stand-alone objects meant to approximate but also sabotage the increasingly conflated modern experiences of religious and secular ecstasy, the prosaic and the profane, and the blurred boundary between church and gallery, deliberately mocking the responsible art viewer who forces himself to “spend time” on such an experience of looking.

My argument, then, is that Thek’s Technological Reliquary sculptures are crucial to consider in his and, ultimately, the art world’s turn away from the kind of “serial art” (produced following a systematically predetermined process, e.g. the repetition of a standard unit) initially privileged by minimalism, towards a post-minimalist discourse. These works, that is, initiate a return to a materially entropic experience of spectacular procession, reasserting the idea of the flesh’s participation in (the) work. I suggest, finally, that Thek’s Technological Reliquaries may be convincingly read as prefiguring his shift towards the more intimate, “recto-verso” model of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience in the 1970s, because of how this “series” materializes a temporally-determined experience of loss and survival rather than highlighting the modular uniformity of repetition.

Anna Moser is a PhD candidate in English Literature at New York University, as well as a practicing painter. She is currently based in London on a dissertation writing fellowship, researching the relationship between Emily Dickinson’s fascicles and the poetry of Susan Howe.

Cheng-Chu Weng (Winchester School of Art), Making Minimalism Disappear…

In response to the call for participants for the Minimalism conference, I propose exhibiting an artwork and to offer critical reflections on my current art practice as it pertains to an interest in minimalism. Taking on the logic of Jacques Derrida’s term écart (as a play on the word ‘trace’), ‘Making Minimalism Disappear…’ presented through an artwork and short talk – will comment on the relationship between minimalism and my work. The tension with the past meaning of this term as it relates to my work presents a haunting of Minimalism.

I will focus on the connection with minimalist art, particularly, the idea of working with space. About which, I will consider the notion of the ‘expanded field’, a term that is commonly evoked in fine art practice. My practice contains not only the object but also the non-object, such as light, shadow and air. The ‘invisible’ material/ medium of air, for example, is a key to my consideration of ‘structures of ambiguity’. This leads me to re-examine the ‘object’ of minimalist art beyond modernist accounts.

I am currently undertaking practice-based doctoral research at Winchester School of Art (University of Southampton). Through my research (‘shaping shadows: painting in the expanded field’) I define my practice as a ‘sense’ of painting space, which is to understand painting in an expanded field – referencing Rosalind Krauss’s famous essay ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’ (1979), along with other more recent accounts specific to painting. My reading of Krauss’s article focuses on its statement on minimalist art. In my work the use of a similar geometry and reductive outcome of minimalist art can be noted. See, for example, Shoji, (2015) (above). In the contemporary context, however, I would not refer to my work as minimalist, but inevitably it must be haunted by it.

Cheng-Chu, Weng was born in Taiwan, she was a part- time practice-based lecturer in Taiwan, she studied Fine Art at University for the Creative Arts, England and Tainan University of Technology, Taiwan. She is currently, a Fine Art Practice-Based PhD researcher at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton.

Keynote performance lecture – Professor Redell Olsen 

I See/You Mean: The Minimalist Roman[ce]

Taking as its starting point the post-Minimalist nouveau roman, ‘I See/You Mean’ by Lucy Lippard this lecture will explore Minimalism in the visual arts and writing. It will consider aspects of critical discourse on Minimalism as itself encoding forms of romance and propose a counter series of poetic interventions by way of response.

Redell Olsen is a poet and text based artist whose visual work involves live performance with stills or moving image. Film Poems (Les Figues, 2014) collects the texts for her films and performances from 2007–2012. Her previous books include: ‘Punk Faun: a bar rock pastel’ (Subpress, 2012), ‘Secure Portable Space’ (Reality Street, 2004), ‘Book of the Fur’ (rem press 2000), and, in collaboration with the bookartist Susan Johanknecht, ‘Here Are My Instructions’ (Gefn, 2004). From 2006-2010 she was the editor of How2, the international online journal for Modernist and contemporary writing by women. In 2013-14 she was the Judith E. Wilson visiting fellow in poetry at the University of Cambridge. She is currently Professor of Poetry and Poetics at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Performance – MOUTH – Edia Connole and Scott Wilson, ‘Noumenal Cheese: The Intolerance Banquet’ 

‘The foreigner who has been driven to England’s shores by fate, and has fallen into dire need, will be left to die on a dunghill because he is not an Englishman, that is, not a human being’.

Immanuel Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, trans Mary J. Gregor.

‘[The noumenon] is not indeed in any way positive, and is not a determinate knowledge of anything, but signifies only the thought of something in general, in which I abstract from everything that belongs to the form of sensible intuition’.

Kant, Works III.

While Kant seems to have had a low opinion of English hospitality, anticipating some of the reasons for ‘Brexit’ no doubt, he nevertheless possessed a fatal desire and craving for English cheese. In accounts of his death, it is this craving that finally killed him, although it is not clear from his friend and biographer EAC Wasianski if it was the consumption of cheese or mourning for its forced abstinence that proved fatal. Concerned about its deleterious effects, the ‘restless nights’ disturbed by the ‘phantasmata of terrific dreams’, Wasianski claims to have eventually weaned Kant off cheese at least a month before his death, though he frequently ‘betrayed involuntarily how much he desired it’ (Delphi). Kant’s final words, famously, ‘es ist gut’ (‘It is good’) refer not to any moral judgment on life or death, but to his last meal, a simple yet Eucharistic plate of bread and wine that the presence or felt absence of cheese would have given a diabolical edge.

In this piece, MOUTH presents a minimalist banquet consisting of the most simple ingredients that while they are the basis of European culture and civilization increasingly produce types of ‘intolerance’ (lactose, glutin, lgG etc) resulting in ‘formless’ experiences of agony and distress: nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and in extreme cases of anaphylactic shock, even death. In the spirit of Mark Rothko whose Seagram paintings were intended to ‘ruin the appetite of every bastard dining’ in the restaurant (‘If anyone tells me my work is beautiful I’ll vomit’) this banquet will seek to evoke how minimalism discloses noumenal toxicities and aversions below the threshold of knowledge and sensual apprehension that demand the re-orientation of psychic and somatic systems in generative reconfigurations. These will be related to a different tradition of European culinary creation invoking the minimal and the multiple that includes Leibniz and Menocchio the Miller, both of whom believed that cheese consisted of a concourse of worms and angels.

MOUTH is an actionist art project in culinary divinomics formed by Edia Connole and Scott Wilson in 2012. Associates for ‘Noumena VIII: The Intolerance Banquet,’ sponsored by Journal of Cultural Research, include Caoimhe Doyle and Petra Jackson. Recent events include ‘“Vile Jellies”: Bataille, Shakespeare and the Exhumanities,’ KiSSit: Shakespeare and Waste (Rose Theatre, London, 2015), ‘Solar Mouth Sacrifice: Liturgy,’ DEAD END (Clonlea Studios, Dublin, 2015), and ‘Land: Scarcity Banquet,’ The Prosperity Project (Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, 2014). Current projects include The Georges Bataille Cookbook (forthcoming).

The Intolerance Banquet is sponsored by the Journal for Cultural Research (Taylor & Francis)

[1] Blake Morrison, ‘In Defense of Minimalism’ Critical Quarterly 18, 2 (1976), 43-52, p. 44.

[2] Morrison, ‘In Defense of Minimalism’ p. 48

MOUTH at Minimalism: Location Aspect Moment (October 15th, WSA)


MOUTH is an actionist art project in culinary divinomics formed by Edia Connole and Scott Wilson in 2012. Associates for ‘Noumena VIII: The Intolerance Banquet,’ sponsored by Journal of Cultural Research, include Caoimhe Doyle and Petra Jackson. Recent events include ‘“Vile Jellies”: Bataille, Shakespeare and the Exhumanities,’ KiSSit: Shakespeare and Waste (Rose Theatre, London, 2015), ‘Solar Mouth Sacrifice: Liturgy,’ DEAD END (Clonlea Studios, Dublin, 2015), and ‘Land: Scarcity Banquet,’ The Prosperity Project (Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, 2014). Current projects include The Georges Bataille Cookbook (forthcoming).

MOUTH bring us ‘Noumenal Cheese: An Intolerance Banquet’ at 6.30 on October 14th