Experience is for Design what …….. is for Conceptual Art


It seems that the knowledge economy or post-fordism, social innovation theory or Neo-Schumpeterianism as are its other names, is under pressure of revealing the tenets of its own future, most vividly felt in the creative sector. In cultural discourse the move from commodity to experience/identity is certainly an outcome of reacting to the burgeoning global nexus of low-cost manufacturers such as China, Korea and India. But, Professor of Experience design Ronald Jones leaves a comment in Frieze Magazine of a different kind, connecting design both with conceptual art as well as Joseph Pine and James Gilmore´s writings on the experience economy. While Jones ardently connects the current design move from goods to service, it is a somewhat staggering connection to the conceptual art field. He correctly credits critic Robert Pincus-Witten with making the division of ontological and epistemological conceptualism, but the leap to experience design from there is is not just a leap of faith, but a bit more complex than proposed in the article.

Modernism’s relation to formalism was actively leading artists from both performance, design and conceptual frameworks, to purity of absolute representation of phenomena. All of which were destroyed by the early works by On Kawara, Louise Lawler and Daniel Buren in Europe and the United States, and their works that mimicked the world of design became a natural element of the subversive move that started back in the 60ies. The questions of the these ‘idea artists’ were posed against a conventional focus of the object, or rather, remember Richard Serra and his verbs describing new ways of relating to the object (to smear, to rotate, to swirl, to hang etc) and the impact they have to destroy and abandon the object. Miwon Kwon (I have an art theoretical crush on ‘er) later on added concepts like negotiate, organize and investigate to this list of art verbs.

And after the 60ies, when art became a way of  documenting, administrating and archiving the idea was centred and its reifications, objects and installations, was thrown into periphery, and are still residing there in the post-medium condition. To trace conceptual art along the same line as designing experiences  is therefore to shrink the critical line of reasoning ushered by the conceptualist to a shallow comparison.

Design is really on the loose, though. A great new issue by Texte Zur Kunst is all over the issue, check it!

P.S. I will not even go into the connection with minimalism, saving it for a really rainy day.

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