Neither here nor then: landscape as a spatial and temporal figure of genre

2017-02-14T02:35:54Z (GMT) by Wlazlo, David
Why would conceptual artists turn to landscape painting? This thesis explores the landscape works of Art & Language (A&L) and Ian Burn through the frame of Jacques Derrida's understanding of genre. In The Law of Genre (1980) Derrida observes that genre has been interpreted as either based on a categorical purity that persists over time, or on the social or historical contingencies out of which the work emerges. For Derrida, these genre positions are not opposites, rather each includes the other as an element that both enables and contaminates. Derrida states that through this relationship, these two models of genre are hoth asserted at the same time. This reciprocal relationship between genre positions forms an interpretive framework for A&L's Hostages series (1989-90), and Ian Burn's series 'Value Added' Landscapes (1992-93). I claim that these artists use the landscape genre as both representative of geographically specific space and as representative of genre itself. The landscape genre is deployed as variously representative of values derived from ideas of the amateur, locally specific sites, and naively descriptive representations of nature; values that this thesis claims represent a spatial marker within these works. The artists situate these values as existing outside the historical avant-garde trajectory that their conceptual art background ties them to, hence the landscape genre appears as a marker of spatial release from the historical closure of conceptual art. As such, the thesis argues that the deployment of the landscape genre in these works allows these artists to challenge their own historical position as conceptual artists. Both the artists self-understanding in relation to this history, and their use of landscape genre, can be read as occupying both genre positions put forth by Derrida.