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The Third Hand: Collaboration in Art from Conceptualism to Postmodernism

Charles Green
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 268
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  • Book Info
    The Third Hand
    Book Description:

    Since the 1960s, a number of artists have challenged the dominant paradigm of art—that of the lone artist—by embarking on long-term collaborations that dramatically altered the terms of artistic identity. In The Third Hand, Charles Green offers a sustained critical examination of collaboration in international contemporary art.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9233-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Introduction: Collaboration as Symptom
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    Artists appear in their art, voluntarily placing themselves center stage in self-portraits but also at the margins of all their other works, constructing themselves through brush marks, in signature style, by individual preferences, and through repeated motifs—in short, from the intersection of subjectivity with medium. As a basic tenet of connoisseurship, this seems obvious, but there are degrees of self-conscious intention that complicate this process, especially during the latter half of the twentieth century, for many artists have thought carefully about the way they code themselves into their art, manipulating the way they appear. This is not to suggest...

  5. Part I. Collaboration as Administration

    • 1. Art by Long Distance: Joseph Kosuth
      (pp. 3-23)

      This chapter contextualizes Joseph Kosuth’s early work, and in particular that made around 1970, in relation to one type of artistic collaboration—the delegation of manufacture— because this delegation was crucial to the often-debated integrity of his early work and necessary to his defeat of painting.¹ It intersected with his decision from the late 1960s to produce art almost exclusively using writing and text or using other artists' works. Kosuth’s productions were linked by his ambition to evolve a different and distanced type of artistic identity, one removed from the modernist imperative that the personal “handwriting” of an artist was...

    • 2. Conceptual Bureaucracy: Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden, and Art & Language
      (pp. 25-56)

      During the late 1960s and early 1970s, a key group of conceptual artists worked within artistic collaborations that were the result of much more than a generational rejection of the conventional: The corporate nature of these collaborations was a definite response to specific artistic problems that had preoccupied the artists—Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden, Joseph Kosuth, and others—in their individual careers. Artistic collaboration seemed to be a solution to urgent problems connected with the intersection of artistic language and artistic identity. The artists’ collaborative works must be discussed alongside their individual productions—and bureaucracy must not be seen as...

  6. Part II. Collaboration, Anonymity, and Partnership

    • 3. Memory, Ruins, and Archives: Boyle Family
      (pp. 59-73)

      The first two chapters of this book traced a double narrative in conceptual art: The first was a narrative of a crisis—a loss of confidence that art, especially art that did not employ words or propositions, could be a means of understanding, transforming, and interpreting the world. The corollary was successive attempts to privilege the word in visual art through identifications of art with provisionally presented, systematically organized information. The second narrative was of the unexpected but direct relationship that evolved between this crisis and a parallel development: the decisions of some artists to work collaboratively.

      This chapter and...

    • 4. Memory Storage: Anne and Patrick Poirier
      (pp. 75-95)

      From 1966 onward, Anne and Patrick Poirier assembled an invented version of antiquity from a combination of fictitious and accurately reconstructed archaeological documents, models, and sculptural fragments. Just as the couple occasionally masqueraded as twins, in severe black clothes, they presented a blend of alternate futures, invented pasts, and a thinly disguised trompe l’oeil present, combining found objects, synthesized fragments, and fictive documentary commentaries. The Poiriers’ miniaturism was gradually refined and modified through acquaintance with ancient and medieval memory retrieval systems into the invention of an overarching world, organized by architectural rules and expanding according to resemblances to the human...

    • 5. Memory and Ethics: Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison
      (pp. 97-122)

      Memory can be contained within images, and chapters I-4 have revolved around descriptions of how artists emerging from the context of a highly antivisual conceptualism grappled with images, not words, in order to construct memory systems while at the same time admitting the ruinous relationship of intention to unconstrained textuality. Intention, signification, and memory had clearly become problematic concepts. To be sure, memory’s significations in art were often vague and even willfully obscure, as critics noted even in the early 1970s. My discussion, however, is not a critique of theories of memory as such. It is a description of the...

  7. Part III. Collaboration and the Third Hand

    • 6. Negotiated Identity: Christo and Jeanne-Claude
      (pp. 125-137)

      Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s wrappings after 1969, Gilbert & George’s living sculptures commencing at the same time, and Marina Abramović and Ulay’s actions after 1976 represent progressively more extreme modes of collaboration that blur and double the “normal” figure of the artist as an individual identity. The journey from conventional artistic identities to this extreme involved, first, a disappearing act and, second, the literal processes of travel and constant movement. Empathy with the actors or subjects was conceived—and the figure of the artists was coded—in an emphatically elusive, deliberately evasive manner. The terms of absorption and theatricality are the unlikely...

    • 7. Eliminating Personality: Gilbert & George
      (pp. 139-155)

      In their early works, as living sculptures, Gilbert & George appear as a collaboration of a particular type: as three-dimensional sculptural objects that are also apparitions of a higher reality. They chose a radical strategy of self-effacement, emphasizing a discontinuity that was both physical and mental between themselves and their beholders. Their personal, individual selves were missing in action, gone almost without trace. This chapter analyzes that discontinuity, arguing that their noncommunication went hand in hand with the fact of their collaboration as a couple, that couples are not necessarily families, and that procreation is not necessarily central or even peripheral...

    • 8. Missing in Action: Marina Abramović and Ulay
      (pp. 157-177)

      From their actions of 1976 onward—in theRelation Works(1976—80) and then theNightsea Crossingseries (1981—86)—Marina Abramović and Ulay (F. Uwe Layseipen) strained against the limits of representation. Like Gilbert & George, this artist team re-created itself as a third identity, but Abramović and Ulay extended the themes of ascetic, ritualized homelessness and displacement in a far more extreme manner than Gilbert & George; their collaborative teamwork was part of a radical redefinition of the edges of the self. This self would be available to the artists only through a process, once again, of disappearance and seductive...

    • 9. Doubles, Dopplegängers, and the Third Hand
      (pp. 179-188)

      Another entity emerges in artistic collaboration by couples: a third artistic identity superimposed over and exceeding the individual artists. This identity, I observed before, is not necessarily that of the family, nor simply that of the merged identity of romantic lovers. Abramović and Ulay named this a third force, “Rest Energy,” and insisted that a hermaphroditic identity, independent of them, was created by collaboration.¹ Other collaborations were equally aware of the creation of an authorial character exceeding the identity of two collaborating artists. According to Komar and Melamid, who had collaboratively evolved a hybrid type of history painting from a...

  8. Conclusion: The Value Added Landscape
    (pp. 189-200)

    I have described three broad types of collaborative authorship, within which shared authorship was a strategy to convince the audience of new understandings of art and identity. I traced the transition from a conception of artistic identity and work in which artists were the creators of autonomous art objects to a conception of the “artist” as a figure emerging from different production methods, not as the creator of art objects unified by signature style. This figure was a tool, and neither a truth nor a presence encoded at the core of the artists’ works.

    This final chapter recapitulates the principal...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 201-234)
  10. Index
    (pp. 235-246)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)