an inadequate history of conceptual art


In 1998, I sent letters to sixty artists, asking them to participate in a project about the resurgent interest in Conceptual Art. Forty artists agreed to respond to the following statement: "Briefly describe a conceptual art work, not your own, of the period between 1965 and 1975, which you personally witnessed/experienced at the time. For the sake of this project, the definition of conceptual art would be broad enough to encompass such phenomena of that period as actions documented through drawings, photographs, film, and video; concepts executed in the form of drawings or photographs; objects where the end product is primarily a record of the precipitant concept, and performative activities which sought to question the conventions of dance and theater."

Twenty-two artists were recorded. They were told not to mention their own names, the names of the artists whose work they described, or the titles of the works. They could mention dates and locations, but were asked not to refresh their memories through research. While their accounts were being recorded, their hands were videotaped in close-up. In the audio-video installation, the silent video of their large projected hands play in a room adjacent to the audio room consisting of the artists anonymous voices.

The following artists contributed their accounts (listed here in alphabetical order): Vito Acconci, Dennis Adams, Mac Adams, Connie Beckley, Dara Birnbaum, Mel Bochner, Hans Haacke, Eileen Hickey-Hulme, Mary Kelly, Joyce Kozloff, Louise Lawler, Les Levine, Jonas Mekas, Alan McCollum, Howardena Pindell, Lucio Pozzi, Yvonne Rainer, Dorothea Rockburne, Al Ruppersberg, Carolee Schneemann, Lawrence Weiner, James Welling.

(Video loop, 55:00, Sound loop, 1:59:59)

Edition of 3. an inadequate history of conceptual art is in the following collections:

The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1/3)

The Pacific Film Archives, Berkeley (2/3)    
Frac Lorraine, Metz (3/3)

At left is an excerpt of the video and audio elements of the project, combined. See this link for installation views:

Find images of the installations here.

Click here for Transcript Excerpt

Downloadable texts:

Models of Intervention:
A Discussion between Michèle Thériault and Silvia Kolbowski

Nothing and Everything, Bina Ellen Gallery, Montreal, 2009
Download PDF

American Fine Arts, Co.
Alexander Alberro
Artforum, 2009
Download PDF 

List of exhibitions:

2018    Hessel Art Museum, New York

2016    Galerie Colbert, INHA, Paris

            Miguel Abreu Gallery, New York

2010    Villa Arson, Nice

            Taipei Biennial, Taipei

2009    Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery, Montreal

2007    Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw

2004    Secession, Vienna

2000    Western Front, Vancouver

            Oliver Art Center, Oakland

            Whitney Museum, New York

1999    American Fine Arts, New York


Selected Bibliography

"Inadequacy," by Rosalyn Deutsche, inadequate...Like...Power, (Secession, Vienna, and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig, Cologne 2004) English and German.

"Oral Histories: Silvia Kolbowski and the Dynanics of Transference," by Mignon Nixon, inadequate...Like...Power, (Secession, Vienna, and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig, Cologne 2004) English and German.

"Navigating the New Territory: Art, Avatars, and the Contemporary Mediascape, by David Joselit, Artforum (Summer 2005)

"Five Paragraphs on Sol Lewitt," by Juli Carson, artUS, issue 8 (June 2004)

"Recoding the public sphere," Roland Schony, SKVG Journal fur Musik, #61

"Silvia Kolbowski: inadequate...Like...Power," Ursula Maria Probst, Kunstforum International #173, 2004

"theorie in Progress," Rainer Metzger, artmagazine, (September 20)

"Wenn das Es einkaufen geht,"by Johanna Hofleitner, Die Presse, September 21 (web link)

"The She-Fox: Transference and the 'Woman Artist,'" by Mignon Nixon, in Women Artists at the Millenium, Edited by Carol Armstrong and Catherine de Zegher (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2006)

"Hal Foster interviews Silvia Kolbowski," inadequate...Like...Power, (Secession, Vienna, and Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther Konig, Cologne, 2004) English and German.

"Contemporary Returns to Conceptual Art: Renee Green, Silvia Kolbowski, and Stephen Prina," Simon Leung, Art Journal (Summer 2001)

Excerpted transcriptions can be found in October 91 (Spring 2000) and inadequate...Like...Power (See Publications)

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© 2023 Silvia Kolbowski