Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965--2007

Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965--2007

by Mel Bochner

Reviews, art criticism, theoretical texts, interviews, catalog statements, notecards, magazine interventions, and other writings on art and art in the form of writing by a leading conceptual artist; many pages reproduced in facsimile.Artist Mel Bochner became a writer, he says, almost by accident.

In 1965, as a young artist in New York, he was out of a job; Arts Magazine paid him $2.50 for every review he turned in, whether they published it or not; a month of review-writing paid his rent--$28.00 a month.

Solar System & Rest Rooms collects both Bochner's writings on art and his writings as art, offering more than fifty pieces--reviews, art criticism, theoretical texts, interviews, catalog statements, notecards, and his groundbreaking "magazine interventions"--many reproduced in facsimile.

Solar System & Rest Rooms chronologically documents the work and ideas of this important artist over a span of forty years, as well as providing a unique perspective on the conceptual and post-minimal art scene in New York.

Mel Bochner has lived and worked in New York City since 1964.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Uncategorized
  • Rating: 4.25
  • Pages: 217
  • Publish Date: May 1st 2008 by Mit Press
  • Isbn10: 0262026317
  • Isbn13: 9780262026314

Read the Book "Solar System & Rest Rooms: Writings and Interviews, 1965--2007" Online

I think part of what impressed me & pleased me about the work collected under the umbrella term of "Conceptual Art" in the 1972 bk of that name edited by Ursula Meyer was the variety of radical rethinkings of how art might manifest itself & where it might start from & what its purposes might be. Conceptual Artists weren't just taking it for granted that art had to be a painting or a sculpture & then just deciding to take a different approach to color or POV (Point-of-View), etc, they were starting much more from scratch. Mel Bochner was represented in Conceptual Art by "Excerpts from Speculation" 1967-1970 reprinted from Artforum (1970) wch starts off w/ "For a variety of reasons I do not like the term "conceptual art." Connotations of an easy dichotomy with perception are obvious and inappropriate." In Solar System & Rest Rooms - Writings and Interviews 1965-2007, this essay appears, as does his review of the Lucy Lippard edited Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 in wch Bochner even more strenuously objects to the use of "dematerialization" as a way of describing the work referenced. My ongoing questions are: Has there ever been a better umbrella term for collectively categorizing the work now generally known as Conceptual Art? Such questions aren't confined to Conceptual Art, they apply to umbrella terms in general. A letter from the Art-Language group, published in this book, is an accurate analysis of the word and its misuse: "All the examples of art-works (ideas) that you refer to in your article are, with few exceptions, art-objects. Bochner continues in his "Excerpts from Speculation" by writing re the term conceptual art that "The unfortunate implication is of a somewhat magical/mystical leap from one mode of existence to another." (p 72 of Solar System & Rest Rooms) Despite this criticism, Bochner loves Sol LeWitt's work even tho LeWitt writes in his "SENTENCES ON CONCEPTUAL ART": "1. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach." (p 11 of "Art-Language", volume 1, number 1, May 1969) In Bochner's "ICA Lecture", also presented in this bk, he states: "The approach that I am interested in could be characterized as "reflexive abstraction." It does not derive from things, but from our ways of acting on things. In the sense that my work is intransitive (it has no object), I prefer to say that I am "doing" art." - p 92 These statements are all well & good & I think they're among the most important, for me, of what Bochner has to say. In fact, it seems to me that there may very well not be a movement called "Conceptual Art" - there may, instead, be some like-minded people who use differing terminologies, like Bochner's "reflexive abstraction". Anyway, the point is that my writing did not represent what those artists thought about their work." - p 169 In short, it seems to me that one of Bochner's strengths is in avoiding being trapped by the simplicity of any particular theory as the theory: "I decided that my contribution would be a selection of quotations which taken together might (or might not) suggest the impossibility of a "theory" of photography." - p 180 Alas, as I'm always saying (does anybody listen?!), it's the "Art" part here that strikes me as the weakest idea of all - & this is part of what contributes to the ultimate borderline mediocrity of Bochner & others. He published his article saying it was 'the most boring art interview' he'd ever conducted (or some such)! Since, as usual, I didn't want to participate in an art interview & didn't want Neoism to be perceived as an 'art movement', I replied to each of his questions w/ a repetitious description of a sexual obsession. I'm reminded of composer Cornelius Cardew's response to Concept Artist (self-description) Henry Flynt's call to "DEMOLISH SERIOUS CULTURE": "Dear Mr. Flynt..Since I may be depending on organized culture for my loot & livelihood I can wish you only a limited success in your movement...." - p 73, Flynt's Blueprint for a Higher Civilization &, alas, maybe it's Bochner's lack of vision, lack of ability to take that true great critical leap that ultimately makes this work such a colossal bore for me. Here are just three: (1) its parodic structure (including a parody of Donald Judd's Hemingway-esque style of writing, and, as far as layout is concerned, a self-parody of the minimalist grids, which both Smithson and Bochner had been previously using in their sculpture); (2) the montage structure of the brilliant choice of illustrations (for example, the juxtaposed shots of the old-fashioned and "morbidly lit" entrance hall and of the slick installation of the "Astronomia" gallery sponsored by IBM); (3) its utter deadpan-ness, perfectly attuned to the anti-expressive stance deployed by Bochner at the time in his small serial sculptures, his number drawings, and his Portraits pieces (made out of lists of synonyms gathered in a thesaurus). The Domain of the Great Bear, precisely because the gap between magazine article and "work of art" seemed inititally so unbridgeable, is one of Bochner's first "verifications of a hypothesis."" - pp vi-vii, Yves-Alain Bois's "Foreword" No amt of hyperbolic hot air will ever make The Domain of the Great Bear interesting to me. We thought that by using the art magazine as the vehicle, it would transform what is expected as a secondary source into a primary medium. I reckon they were 'commercial artists' - an inferior thing to the 'real art' that Bochner & Smithson apparently thought of themselves as representing. In other words, the arts magazines that Bochner was familiar w/ & thought in terms of fit this model: gallery has show of artist's work, magazine does story of show presenting photographs of artist's work. An article about a Planetarium appears in an arts magazine. Bochner & his interviewers act like having an article about a museum in an arts magazine is like finding someone smoking a cigarette underwater w/o any diving gear on. Here's the entry before mine: "I laugh a lot." I maintain that these 2 examples are far more subversive uses of language than anything Bochner has ever done & that the appearance of such language in a highschool yrbk is far more unexpected than his planetarium article was in an arts magazine. "One idea was to circumvent production by going directly to reproduction, to make a work where there was no original": I've got news for you: there IS an original. It was the first signal of a new attitude about art.": the article appeared in the fall of 1966. Either way, this is a minimum of 3 yrs before Bochner & Smithson's article appeared. 3. Theory (therefore it seems that...)" Applying this type of mindset to art seems more likely to produce interesting results than the more common 'I want to make something that looks such-&-such a way.'