Art is Always Something Else: New Perspectives on Conceptualism in Art



Symposium at Lunds konsthall, 3 February 2018.

Participants: Zdenka Badovinac, Dan Jönsson, Kicki Sjögren.

The symposium aimed at highlighting contemporary perspectives on conceptual art. A special focus was put on Easten European conceptualism, but also on the material,affective and existential dimensions of conceptual art.


Conceptual art can be understood as a specific historical movement in the arts during the 1960s and 1970s, which began on the east coast of The United States, and in England, as a reaction to modernism’s different expressions and artistic points of departure. Conceptual art has been historicized as focusing on the understandig of
art as based on the ideas and concepts behind its appearance. The art object, the material outcome of the artistic process, was of secondary significance. The term “Conceptual Art” has been understood in various ways by theorists, artists and
art historians: as a problematization of the institutionalized society (including art institutions), a criticism of capitalist society’s commodity fetishism based on the circulation of objects, goods and art works, or a more ontological discussion about the nature of art itself.


Recently, however, researchers have opened up for new ways of interpreting conceptual points of departure for artistic practices, and the heritage they have left behind. The idea of a purely “immaterial” art has been questioned. Can conceptual art not instead be seen as a reaction to the world that since the 1960’s has become increasingly abstracted, depending on economic systems and structures, and less human? Likewise, the art history that chooses as its epicentre Europe and the United States, has seen itself accompanied by one that, instead historicizing conceptual art has concerned with a global “conceptualism”, where several more or less parallel art, exhibition and theory practices exist in relation to each other. Such a conceptualism tradition was the Eastern European one, which in many cases was developed directly under the influence of the Soviet Union’s political climate.