Approaching Conceptual Art | Ideas and Concepts


As we’ve already seen, conceptual art is mostly concerned with ideas. Ideas can be with us at all times; they can provide inspiration or consolation, can be educational or provocative. We all have ideas every day - they come and go, and exist both beyond us and within us. We can’t experience ideas with our senses, but they can be turned into experiences or objects: into books, films, music, and art. These are ways of communicating our ideas to others.

Like all gallery-based art, conceptual art is required to present us with an experience within the gallery space; something that we can apprehend with our senses; that we can see, hear, smell or touch. So, whilst the importance of the piece may lie within the concept, the artist is required to present us with something that we can experience in order for us to gain access to this.

Most conceptual art pieces act as symbols. Symbols are important and useful devices, and most of us come across them regularly. They can often help us to grasp onto and understand complex ideas, giving us the initial foothold we may require. This is their function within conceptual art; often they aren’t intended to sum up the concept as a whole; rather, they allow us into it, leaving it us up to us to venture further if we wish. In acting as a symbol, the conceptual art piece can also exist as a mental bookmark; in thinking of the piece we can gain access to the ideas that it is linked with.

The artist, like the novelist or filmmaker, is handing us a concept that we can take over and relate to our own experience. If the concept interests us then we can think about it more, using the foothold that the gallery experience has provided us with.

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Ideas and Concepts

1 comment:

  1. Kant distinguishes concepts, which combine with sensible experience to form the basic elements of our knowledge and the general unity of our objective representations, and Ideas, which form a horizon of unity and principle for our actions, and which cannot be known, but only thought.

    While concepts define the domain of possible experience, the proper tendency of Ideas is to exceed the bounds of possible experience, hence their special role in Kant's philosophy as an idex of our freedom.

    [Melissa McMahon]
    Gilles Deleuze: Key Concepts, p.46-7

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