24 May 2019

It seems at this stage that we will be following art critique and the critical language of contemporary art, and as my tutor reminded me in the last formative feedback, at the heart of the assignment is the visitor/viewer experience.  I will also read Stallabrass, of which I have the Kindle version and I  started watching Bill Viola on Youtube. I am holding on to a note in our study guide on page 126 where the following is written: …approaching a conceptual work from an aesthetic point of view is not only to miss the point in that particular case, it is also to foster a cultural conformity that masked any real critical content.” So I am challenged to be open and use as a basis the fact that there is not agreed definition of art and how contemporary art find itself a place as a term of art.

Here will follow a discussion for the five exercises of this last part of the course. My  research and reading comments will be on a separate blog page.  I am also setting out to present my next assignment by early August 2019.

                         “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”   

                                                                                         William Shakespeare

Choice of work of art – Bouquet of Tulips

With regards to Arthur Danto’s essay, “Works of Art and Mere Real Things’ I will conduct my own experiment in this exercise by choosing a picture or object that is, or which I can imagine to be a work of art.  I will need to give this ‘work’ three or more different titles, then reflect on the effect of the title on the work and the work on the title.

In Art as Human Practice, Bertram discusses how Danto uses the historical/cultural and contextual nature of art to define art and it makes one wonder if art has any meaning in itself.  For Danto there is an ‘aboutness’ (2019:33) and meaning has to be drawn out through interpretations. He says artworks thematise themselves through a title – they relate to themselves as they present their meaning.   It seems the task of the art critique is to find out what the work is about ( give it context) and then explain how the artists stylistic choices gave meaning (embodiment of meaning) – Bertram sees this view as an aesthetics of ‘autonomy’ where the definition of art becomes that that differentiates it from other things, ” and in doing so, it is not decisive to the structure of their argument whether we speak of art in terms of objects, experiences, practices, signs, or something else.”(2019:42)  From the essay we had to read I understand Danto’s interest in the how a work becomes art and his interest in the ‘gap’ between reality and imitation.

Preperation for Exercise 5.0:  Bouquet of Tulips by Jeff Koons, (Idea as presented 2016 by the artist)

Concept illustration the sculpture,  Bouquet of Tulips as presented to the city of Paris in 2016

Koons gifted this over 12 metres tall and 33-ton  idea for a  work to Paris as a “symbol of memory, optimism, and recovery” at a gift ceremony  in the wake of the terror attacks of 2015, when in a string of coordinated attacks by Islamic State group jihadists that shocked the world and a 130 people were killed that day.   Interesting to note that in the picture above, when Koons first presented his idea, the background to the sculpture is envisioned  on the Esplanade of the Contemporary  Art Museum,  Palais de Tokyo – which faces the Eiffel Tower. This the place he preferred the sculpture to be placed.

In the time of the gift ceremony – it was clear that benefactors would pay for the cost of producing it and the city of Paris will pay from taxes for its site erection and upkeep.  The work will feature eleven coloured tulips held aloft by a hyper-realistic hand.  It is made of polychromed bronze, stainless steel, and aluminium in Germany .  It was also indicated that the former U.S. ambassador Jane Hartley, who was in office in Paris after the 2015 and 2016 attacks, convinced Koons to give his monumental sculpture to the French capital. It seems this artist has made previous tulip sculptures – I found 5 versions during a google search. Below are some examples being shown  and/or installed.

The artist intention is:  “The tulips would be to show solidarity and an offering of remembrance to the victims of the terrible tragedies that have happened in France over the last two years”, Koons told FRANCE 24  in a videoed interview in November 2016, adding that he wanted “to give hope to the surviving family members” and help the city overcome its tragedies. “(google download a video recording from France 24 on 22/02/2018)  Fowers are assosciated with optimism, the vitality of nature and the cycle of life – it could in this cas then be a symbol that life goed on, despite what happened.  (Noirmontart.com website)

Could the title be more descriptive in its intent and capturing the essence?

Do the ‘naysayers’ object to the idea, rather than appreciate the work?

Do the ‘naysayers’ object to the work and not the idea?


Bertram, Georg W, 2019, Art as Human Practice, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, translated from German, First Published 2014.

Freeman, Hadley, February 2019, Interview with Jeff Koons, The Guardian, online accessed on 15 June 2019.

Danto Arthur, Works of Art and Mere Real Things – online pdf read

Noirmontart Production Company – website page.

Sansom, Anna, article on the Koons Gift in The Art Newspaper, Paris, 22 January 2018

Exercise 5.0

So much is about the work, but then also about the idea – my own starting point!

Title one  The Tulips

Europe is in full flowers during spring –  seeing a  sculpture in a public place,  a bright bunch of flowers can uplift the spirit of passersby.   The work is intended to stand in an open space in memory of a terrorism attack.   Spring and subsequent flowers  is hope as symbolism – winter has passed and time moves on.  The viewer can feel/sense that flowers are offered to him/her out of sympathy. The title is  related to Amsterdam and its history with these flowers – if it was gifted from the Netherlands this could be very appropriate. The viewer can also feel overwhelmed by the bright colours and size of the sculpture and its relation to pop art and consumerism.   The work, coming from an American artist, known for his reputation of Kitch/ Pop/High Art, made in an industrialised way and the title is confronting a more politicised  French outlook on the intent of the artwork. A quarrel — a love-hate relationship between France and the artist, who could symbolise the supremacy of Anglophone art taunting the dying star the French capital has become. Paris as a city, could be seen as  a living museum, stuck in the past but questioning if it is also open to new talents.  History of art in the city tells that the Ecole de Paris owes much of its reputation to foreign artists, from Brancusi to Picasso, who came to the capital looking for inspiration in the war periods.

But then,  when choosing such a sensitive memorial, did  the city pick the best artist? I felt strongly to add something: after a recent visit to Monet’s house and garden in Giverny, France,  I thought it interesting to mention here that this artist’s magnum opus, Les Nymphéas, was a gift to the French nation as a symbol of peace after World War 1. Visitors can sit in front of these pieces in the Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris or visit his house and well maintained gardens and lily ponds – almost a hundred years later.  Here the experience brings reflection and quietness.  Time will tell if Bouquet of Tulips will stand the artistic test of time. “When there are horrible shootings, the custom is to put flowers on the floor, humbly, in a gesture of sorrow and respect. In this case it is a triumphant erection with no meaning at all, in a Disneyland aesthetic,” artist Tania Mouraud wrote in an email. “I think the best place for it would be in front of Trump Tower in New York.”  (January 2018) A strong opinion, but it speaks to the effect of the work on the title and people’s concept of art.

The cost for commissioning and installing such a big and expensive work on the citizen/taxpayers is still an issue the art world has to explain for: Coming from the artist,  it is not exactly a gift. Koons only offering the concept, the initial idea. Someone else had to pay – seemingly the ‘gifted’ city of Paris, which is estimated at around 4mil Euro and could be seen as self serving and making art that is speculative. if it was gifted – why should the citizens pay?  The enjoyment should lie in the gift and solidarity.  Can it both be seen as generous (gift) and as disinterest (commercial/self interest), in the way the effect of the work on the title?

Title two Solidarity against terrorism

People of the city of Paris carry with them the loss of that tragic attack and are experiencing fear in busy public spaces – a bunch of  flowers could remind and detach them from the pain of terrorism and offer hope. Paying our respects to the dead is associated with flowers in honour of, and as support and strength.

This city has used many artists from all over the world to present art to them and need tourists to come back to the city,  not withstanding the fears of terrorism. The flowers symbolise perfect love and could be seen as a stand of solidarity with the victims against brutal and senseless acts of terrorism. Still, Koons who is widely seen as a master of ironic surface gloss, might not be a first choice to commemorate a tragic event that is still recent and deeply felt.  By the reactions of the gift it seems wider perceptions matter when it comes to memorials and that the city should be sensitive to this.

As humans we are always in a process of redefining ourselves, could this work challenge humans to redefine how they reflect upon the use of art to heal from trauma? I can describe it as a contemporary artists’ manipulation and representation of natural beauty and form.

Title three Torch of democracy

It is clear to see how the big realistic hand in the sculpture reference the Torch of Liberty in the hand of the Statue of Liberty, which the French gifted America during 1886.  This statue also came at a great price when it was gifted by France. According to the Noirmont Art Production website, Ambassador Hartley, said that this donation reminds that France and America share so much politically, economically, and culturally; most importantly, France and the United States share a deeply held belief in the universal principles of Freedom and Liberty. “Throughout history, when one of us has faced challenges, the other has been there in solidarity and support. Art is a powerful tool that brings people of all ages, colours, creeds, circumstances, and backgrounds together. It is a source of inspiration and hope for the future.” (website of Noirmontartproduction.com)  They also quote the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo as saying: “The fact that this great artist has decided to offer to the City of Paris the original idea of a monumental work that symbolises generosity and sharing shows the unalterable attachment between our capital city and the United States of America. The capital of France will be happy to welcome the iconic work Bouquet of Tulips, which is intended to become part of Paris heritage, as the Statue of Liberty is part of the New York’s heritage. It will participate in the influence of our city throughout the world and proves once again how attractive Paris is for contemporary art.”   It is intended to celebrate mutual love between two cities, two nations – the Americans and the French.

The bouquet’s installation may well herald the end of an old argument between friends. However, the context of the quarrel still remains — a love-hate relationship between France and the artist, who symbolizes the supremacy of Anglophone art taunting the dying star the French capital has become. The “love” is illustrated by the 650,000 visitors who attended the contemporary art superstar’s blockbuster exhibit at the Pompidou Center in 2015. As for the “hate,” many have major misgivings about the decision. The city, a living museum, is certainly stuck in the past but is also open to new talents. After all, the Ecole de Paris owes its reputation to foreign artists, from Brancusi to Picasso, who came to the capital looking for inspiration in the interwar period. But when choosing such a sensitive memorial, should the city have picked an artist who represents such a radically new aesthetic and resolutely speculative form of art?

Title four   number 11
Koons is repeatedly criticized for not having any real concept in his creations. The French have a penchant for paintings and sculptures that express messages, and bemoan the artist for his lack of deconstruction and his objects’ immediacy. The members of Koons’ fan club, who are legion, counter that this is exactly what makes this new art pompier such a work of genius. The simple, pure transformation of entirely ordinary and typically American things such as vacuum cleaners, gazing balls, plastic-looking poodles (although actually made with polished steel) has made his pieces icons of consumer culture in the same way as Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. A culture whose images, colors, and advertising codes blanket the psychological landscape of the West. Koons holds a mirror up to our society. His art is joyous, and each piece is perfectly executed. No wonder Americans adore him.

As the favorite artist of billionaires such as American entrepreneur Eli Broad and leading French collector François Pinault, many wonder if Koons really is a genius with a talent for subverting the criteria we traditionally use in aesthetic judgements. The all-American figure embodies a clear break. His glorification of daily objects using premium materials and XXL formats reflects our consumer society in which, as Andy Warhol said, museums have become department stores and department stores have become museums. The French still claim they can tell the difference.
Art Pompier
Another more cutting comment is that Koons embodies purely speculative, financial art. Before being dethroned by British artist David Hockney, whose painting Pool with Two Figures was auctioned last year for a dizzying 90.3 million dollars at Christie’s, Koons held the record for the most expensive work sold by a living artist when his Balloon Dog went for 58.4million dollars. Critics claimed this stratospheric sum was no reflection of the artistic value of his productions. But the sale forged Koons’ international reputation and led to a host of spinoffs. The results can be seen in museum boutiques and lines of luxury products, such as the Louis Vuitton bags inspired by Classical masters including Leonardo da Vinci, Rubens, and Van Gogh.
Can art be contemporary, fun, a social marker, and a source of profit, as it is in the United States? Or is it linked to culture and inseparable from its intrinsic value, as in France, where the French take great pride in hating money? Behind this latest squabble between the Old World and the New Guard, a leadership battle is raging. Koons is not as popular with billionaires as he once was, and his career has taken a hit. He has even made job cuts at his workshop and factory. Will he be able to resist changing fashions and the volatility of taste? Time is the best judge, and hindsight will tell if America was right to make him a champion, and if France was right to protest his title.
It has taken more than three years to find a place for the flowers “gifted” by Koons. The artist donated the concept of the sculpture, but the actual production cost an estimated 3.5 million euros and was financed by French and American benefactors!
Fredet, Jean G 2019, Jeff Koons woos Paris with a bunch of tulips, article published in the May 2019 issue of France-Amérique

Excercise 5.1

Select three points for discussion about Kant’s Critique of Judgement and summarise it in approx. 50 words each

Kant’s main concern in the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment is judgments of taste, judgments about the beautiful and above all about the beautiful in nature. The Critique of Judgement examines our cognitive powers, in order to decide what justification is possible for aesthetic judgments, above all judgments of taste, the beautiful in nature, and for teleological judgments.
He sees Beauty as subjective and asserts that the judgement of the beautiful is purely subjective. For Kant beauty is an object’s form of purposiveness, as it is perceived in the object, without the presentation of a purpose. Beautiful is what is liked universally. This universality is the aesthetic quantity of a judgment of taste and is what distinguishes it from judgments  about the agreeable. Judgements of taste is disinterested. ( It makes me wonder again about Kitsch Art – experiences of emotional gratification? )

Judgements of beauty is not cognitive or logical or rational, they are aesthetic.  So it is no longer a signal of a symbol. Judging the beautiful has nothing to do with the beautiful object, but with the way it is perceived by the subject.
Büttner’s artwork illustrates how Kant placed the entire world into definable categories. To give it even more context, this was in line with the Enlightenment’s obsession with encyclopaedic classification. “There was the sense that you could understand the world without having travelled to a particular part of it,” Meade explained(2016) Kant strove to distinguish that which pleases from that which gratifies and, more generally, to distinguish disinterestedness, which to him is the only guarantor of the aesthetic quality of contemplation.

Kant also calls them judgements of taste.  It works through our feelings, and is not interested in generating concepts and ideas. Thus accordingly our feelings our feelings about pleasure and moral goodness is different that our feelings about the beautiful, in that they are disinterested. We seek to possess pleasurable objects, and we seek to promote moral goodness, our individual wants and needs do not come into play when appreciating beauty. The sublime represent pleasurable fear. Aesthetic pleasure comes from a free play between the imagination and understanding when perceiving an object.



Mackie, Nisa, August 2016, Walker Art website article, Remarks: Keren Gorodeisky on A Buttner and Immanuel Kant’s Critique of the Power of Judgment (downloaded on 26 May 2019)

Can I capture Barr with this definition?

“Modernism cannot be defined as an aesthetic position but must be understood as
an extended historical moment in which various aesthetic issues develop in
counterpoint with the emergence of modern culture (characterized by the formation of the nation-state, of the concept of the individual, and of industrial and consumer capitalism). These aesthetic issues are explored by modern visual and literary artists as an ongoing tension between a search for legitimacy according to scientific, universal, ahistorical, or transcendent terms and a self-conscious sense of the historical specificity and cultural effect of artistic forms.                                                                            Johanna Drucker

Exercise 5.2
Show the significance of reversing the arrows in Barr’s chart.
Our study notes indicate that had Alfred Barr extended above mentioned chart in 1936, he would have arrived at Conceptual Art as a terminus. (but that would have made him a predictor of the future, or we can now go backwards at this terminus.) Do we now have the issue – mentioned earlier in our study notes (43) ” .. an analogy that hints at the real issue with the modern. Not capitalism, nor freedom, but time. ”  Barr thought  that the next step ahead was geometrical abstraction or non-geometrical abstraction, and he was correct!   If one is to reverse his chronological order about a history of the Modernism art movement  and look “backwards” it could  transform Modernist Art from a structured view into a compelling inquiry into why things are the way they are, and why they became the way they did.  Reverse chronology will follow a sort of  cause-and-effect pathway to understand historical influences on artworks, artists’ practices on each other, styles, subject matter, media, techniques and approaches. We will ask: ‘what was modernism?’  We might ask: ‘how do we see art as expression of ourselves?’ We would  be looking at art at present to past, as inclusive and relevant as possible.  It will reflect on recent  and historical art,   and then make the  cultural, political, social, and economic connections as you move backward and forward through time. This will entail multiple possibilities and pathways – developing new ideas, methods, techniques.  I think one would see in Modernism  the understanding of the philosophical truth of art, namely its nature, being under scrutiny – Danto calls it the “age of Manifestos” that brought the viewer to a place of not just enjoyment, but of ‘judgement’. (2014:31) Modernism reached its peak in the 1960s; Post-modernism describes the period that followed during the 1960s and 1970s. Post-modernism is a dismissal of the rigidity of Modernism in favour of an “anything goes” approach to subject matter, processes and material. I also think Barr was over simplified his view, which mainly focussed on ‘modern’ of his time – avant garde?

I think it is important to see this as a complex movement – as the influencing factors are not necessary the only truths – one must consider the political conditions within America at that time which was surely embedded within certain propagande.  Dante (2014:28) reminds us of philosophical truths and how the movements saw this within their own narratives.  It is  clear that the MOMA played a big role in institutionalising modernism, as well as being an unquestionable influence on the history of the movement – I looked at their exhibitions following Alfred Barr on What is Modern Painting in 1943, and later exhibitions. I see the role of museums at this time as becoming part of  the art world: exhibition/education/publications, curation, installation style and showing of things seen as non art by many viewers – almost as if asking what is meant to be modern at that time and following through with this process.  The role of curators surely became more important and is today a full fledged career with a major role within art institutions.  Danto wrote: ” But the museum itself is only part of the infrastructure of art that will sooner or later have to deal with the end of art and with art after the end of art.”( 2014: 17)

Reversal of the arrows:

Being modern in current conceptual work   —- current conceptual artists working globally -current influences and relations to these influences – back to historical influences- traditional influences I am reminded of my tutors remarks earlier in the studies of Barr’s Chart: “Of course we can find many faults with it – the most obvious one being the suggestion that various art forms arise out of another and then themselves spawn something new. It is based on an underlying idea of progression, which is a questionable concept. It of course avoids the issue that any avant-garde art (that which is inevitably written about by art historians) comprises a tiny fraction of the art production of any given period.

Today Visual arts is not only painting, drawing or sculpture.  Conceptual art described on Moma website is as follows:  “In the 1960s, artists in the United States, Europe, and Latin America began experimenting with art that emphasised ideas over a physical product. In 1967, artist Sol LeWitt gave this new art a name in his essay “Paragraphs on Conceptual Art.” He wrote, “The idea itself, even if it is not made visual, is as much of a work of art as any finished product.” Conceptual artists used their work to question the notion of what art is, and often rejected museums and galleries as defining authorities. The work of Conceptual artists helped to put photographs, musical scores, architectural drawings, and performance art on an equal footing with painting and sculpture.”

Barr used international movements as a concept to show  how major happenings influenced the history of Modern Art to become a distinct movement – he saw social/political changes which influenced art and wanted the American art public to understand this perspective – we now understand the development to post modernist in the 1960’s as a gradual move towards contemporary art – again more a reflection of change in society.


New styles develop and technology, economics and geo politics also play a role Modern photography,  architecture, interior design, sculpture and how they influence the other art around them – ideas, techniques and styles. I remember in the early 80’s a program initiated by the De Beers group to bring artists from Europe to work with Venda (African tribe in Northern region of SA) sculpturers, who mainly worked with indigenous wood carvings. Both groups benefited from the exercise in terms of new/different tools used, the medium of wood and style of work around the cultural history of the group.

Influence of appropriation on all visual art –

Different art market developed -art dealers, collectors, art benefactors, more private owned galleries, museums have diversified – we have contemporary art, curators create shows to show appropriation, development, history of art.

Influence of current living artists on young artists and the art market


Danto, Arthur C, 2014, After the End of Art,  First Princeton Classics edition, Washington USA.

Exercise 5.3   Take a work of contemporary art and imagine it was not and never had been a work of art.  What is the difference (100words)

download (1)

Above is a photo of two people who decided to sit quiet, keep eye contact in a minimalistic styled public place. Other people are watching to see how long they can hold eye contact. This is a new game being introduced to the onlookers at an innovation show in the city’s exposition centre. An actress is used to challenge players. This is an open game and could help people who has become reliant on online entertainment, lacks communication skills, to handle personal contact/intimacy better. It is becoming an issue at the workplace and in family life that people are disconnected and lonely. The woman is modelling a long red dress which compliments her dark long hair, she is best as this game and challenges people to stare into her eyes for as long as they can.

Here we see how context, not in a gallery or a theatre changes the function and meaning of the above photo.  In reality this was an ongoing performance where the artist, Marina  Abromovic performed every day for three months during gallery opening days, (daily for at least 7hours) at the MOMA during 2009. More than 850 000 viewers came to the performances. Performance art is what this artist has developed over years – here she requires viewer participation. The above work is called The Artist is Present and the performance is about presence. You have to be in the here and now, 100 percent. She also talked about the performance looking effortless, where in reality it was physically and emotionally painful. She tries to transmit the presence of the artist within the work. We can relate to this as people would do this in their private spaces, when they are upset, when they are lonely and vulnerable, and when they do not now how to start a conversation. Many people are not use to this knee to knee, or eye-to-eye communication – a confrontation with our virtual lives where physical contact is not required. Here he viewer could observe this as a kind of stage for experience within a museum space. There was also the option to enter that space and take active participation, which, according to the artist, can actually bring you much closer to the artist, and this presence, and to your own experience – like performing with the artist. Video footage I watched on Youtube showed people interacting with the performance starting to cry, even the artist – this was a very visceral and intentional performance to create experience and in the same time being able to view that experience. It is as if it removed the boundaries of art as performance to art as experience. In a theoretical way it is to remove art from the idea and questioning it as an object, or questioning its materiality.

Moma gallery online: Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present, video watched

Exercise 5.4
Discuss: Does  institutional critique presuppose an ‘insider’ audience requiring familiarity with artworld topics and issues or can it be understood by almost anyone spending an hour or two in a gallery?

For this discussion I chose to listen to Andrea Fraser’s video lecture on ‘May I help you”, recorded on Youtube (recording of Pompidou Centre, 2009) as well as more reading.   I understand that artistic practices of conceptual art in the late 1960s and 1970s came to be referred to as institutional critique. Here artist point to the relationship between artists and the art institutions, it was sometimes seen as antagonistic/resistance against the art system.  My first thoughts are with the Impressionists, Duchamp and Dada – but I need to understand how a genre of contemporary art could immerse itself to become art that would be ‘institutional critique’.  It is almost as if I can see A Barr feeling ‘misunderstood in his intentions’!  I found an online essay (Tobias: 2016) where the writer of the essay looks at the history of MoMA through the direct engagement of the artist. Here article includes  chronologically documented interventions by artists, the general public as well as MoMA staff until November 2015. It became clear that by the 1960’s political activism became part of the active debate by artists –  sosical issues such as the Vietnam War, racism, sexism and economic injustice were topics, with performance predominating by the 1970s. At this stage I would think that the public could be easily engaged in the critique debate – but keeping in mind the context of place. (as a South African I might not be able to understand if visiting MoMA during that period – due to lack of information and context – distance from and own countries political agenda and propaganda, where as today I might be able to connect well with racial issues, coming from Apartheid era.

Andrea Fraser in 2009 described her institutional critique not as an attack but a defence of the institution of art as a site of critique and of contestation and as a site of self reflection within culture and society.  She sees art as meaning to be part of circulation between the market en museums. Fraser states that from 1969 “the institution of art” starts to be perceived as not mere the museum, sites of production, distribution, and reception but as an “entire field of art as a social universe”. She also started looking at relationships, not as physical places, site specificity. One of her other statements is that if  art historians, artists, curators or critics are not able to enter outside the field of art, they can have no effect in it. As Fraser states it: “it is because the institution is inside of us, and we can’t get outside of ourselves.” The same counts for institutional critique, it cannot get outside the institution and therefore it has always been institutionalised. It can only function and be effective within the institution of art.

To look at the work of the Guerilla Girls who used external areas to bring feminist art into the critique of the institution of art could also be relevant in this discussion. I do think their work was easy to understand for most – billboards and posters worked well. Looking at a museum of art – by visiting it, it is showing “almost anyone spending an hour or two in a gallery what its considers to be art and exposing me to what it considers art –  this context is given by the curator and the viewer see the artist through this context, which covers, the form, the content and meaning and even the value.   (Koons and Gargosian seems a good example for me, or Van Gogh and Van Gogh Museum or Monet and Musee de l’Orangerie in Paris) Exposing “almost anyone’ to institutional critique does ask for more ‘context’ about what is ongoing – seeing the art practice in the way it wants to ‘critique art as an institution’ – by disposing the art system. I am also contemplating how artists more and more came to the front with their need to share and connect with current issues and in this way bring it closer to popular culture.


Tobias, Jennifer, May 2016 Messing with MoMA: Critical Interventions at the Museum of Modern Art, 1939 –  Accessed on website Nowpost.at.moma.org on 29 June 2019.

Fraser, Andrea, May I help you, You tube video accessed on Pompidou Centre website

Exercise 5.5
Discuss why R Serra made the films Hand Catching Lead and Boomerang.

The titles of the work describes the content and in both we deal with delay in time and how we perceive and work with it. I think in this way the artist brings the viewer into the artwork – one cannot be passive whilst engaging with this type of works. It is as if the challenge is to use popular culture to engage with the viewer on a physical, intellectual and emotional level.

In Hand Catching Lead a movement is repeated for the whole length of the film – this could refer to understanding Minimalism – trying to escape representation and questioning whether or not by making a sculpture it could enough for the artist to interact with materials in stead of achieving a representative and objectified form. The process/verb he is dealing with here is, ‘to grasp’ in a serial or repetitive way, and not organised, arbitrary, logical or hierarchical.  In this way one could also see the work as self-reflectiveness and about viewing moving images. It

In Boomerang the video explore  the sensation of displacement that audio/video devices produce.  The actress explains her experience as she goes through this experience. As a viewer one can relate to this disruptiveness of the sound not in sync with the lips, as well as the confused feeling it would leave in your mind, whilst trying to talk and think and act.

Serra’s film was included on a DVD (more info) produced in 2006 by the Centre Pompidou (Paris) to accompany the exhibition The Mouvement of Images, Art, Cinema: “a re-interpretation of 20th century art from the viewpoint of film-making”.

“The mechanics of cinema are based on the division of the film into frames, projected one after another at a fixed rate of 24 frames per second, giving an illusion of continuity. Richard Serra’s film, Hand Catching Lead, illustrates the mechanism. Echoing the vertical movement of the film through the projector, pieces of sheet lead fall into the image field. Serra’s hand opens and closes as it tries to catch them, and when it succeeds, immediately lets them go again, reproducing the intermittent advance of the film. But that is not all, for as the action progresses, Serra’s hand, blackened by the lead, shadow-like comes to resemble the silhouette of a dog trying to catch something thrown to it, thus referring the mechanics of cinema back to its origins in the art of shadow theatre.” (from the press release: PDF; a French version is also available)


Serra, R. (1968) Hand Catching Lead (1968), [online video], At:https://ubuvideo.memoryoftheworld.org/Serra-Richard_Hand-Catching-Lead_1968.mp4 ().
Serra, R. and Holt, N. (1974) Boomerang (1974) [online video], At: https://ubuvideo.memoryoftheworld.org/Serra-Richard_Boomerang_1974.mp4 (

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