September 6, 2014

The Domain of the Great Bear: “Information, Image, Story: Some Conceptual Aspects of Contemporary Art”

Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm
Image: Hans Gremmen

About The Domain of the Great Bear
“Information, Image, Story” initiates the Royal Institute of Art’s series The Domain of the Great Bear. The Domain of the Great Bear is a newly initiated research platform of the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm—a series of public lectures, workshops, and events focusing on art production and the changing nature of the conditions for that production and on the challenges and aspirations for anyone claiming the category of artist. Sourcing the title of the series from the 1966 canonical layout by Mel Bochner and Robert Smithson, the platform pays homage to Bochner’s wish, at that time, to “expand the range of philosophical, psychological, political and visual ideas that one’s work could engage.” The Domain of the Great Bear serves as the Royal Institute of Art’s will as an institution to plant within the public domain a set of attitudes about art, architecture, knowledge and culture that extend from historicity forwards, and visa versa—forwards, backwards—to serve as a larger conversation piece about anything that claims itself as or beyond the art world.

About the lecture
As the titles of three canonical New York exhibitions indicate (The Machine at the End of the Mechanical Age curated by Pontus Hulten (1968) and Information curated by Kynaston McShine (1970), both at MoMA; and Software: Information Technology – Its New Meaning for Art (1970) curated by Jack Burnham at the Jewish Museum) analyses of the social significance of conceptual art have tended to rely upon technologically based narratives about the changing communicational forms of modernity. Walter Benjamin’s 1936 account of the “destruction of tradition” and the replacement of “the story” by “information” has provided a model here. On the one hand, the uses of digital imaging in contemporary art appear to confirm and extend such technological narratives of conceptual content, yet, on the other, they complicate them by virtue of the pervasiveness of the image.

The philosophical self-consciousness of early Conceptual art opposed concept to intuition—logic to aesthetic—in a formally failed but artistically productive experimental absolutization of anti-aesthetic. The post-conceptual character of contemporary art, on the other hand, is largely played out in the relations between concepts and images, in particular in the moving image. Such art is preoccupied less with issues of objecthood and its destruction (or deconstruction), and more by relations between narrative and image, between documentary and fictional narratives.

A body of work that is concerned to mark its contemporaneity, in the now-global context of the art world, by establishing living relations to this new historical actuality has placed narrativity increasingly at the heart of the constructed film work. One way to approach the post-conceptual character of contemporary art is via the changing relations between information, image and story in uses of documentary film as art. Artists’ appropriations of technology, it will be argued, are subject to dictates of form that are craft-technical in character, but not themselves technological.

About the speaker
Peter Osborne is Professor of Modern European Philosophy and Director of (CRMEP) in London, and editor of Radical Philosophy. His books include The Politics of Time: Modernity and Avant-Garde (1995; 2011), Philosophy in Cultural Theory (2000), Conceptual Art (2002), Marx (2005), and Anywhere or Not at All: Philosophy of Contemporary Art (Verso, 2013).


About the Royal Institute of Art / Kungl. Konsthögskolan 
The Royal Institute of Art is a leading art institution of higher education located in Stockholm that offers both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Fine Arts and Architecture. Further information at

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