Not quite an art movement, not quite a research institute, not quite an
activist group, and not quite a rock- and- roll band, Art & Language is an
internally contested and outwardly perplexing entity that has drastically
reconfigured itself numerous times since its inception in the mid- 1960s.
Constant throughout its existence, however, is an intensely intellectual-
ized and deliberately contrarian collaboration involving its two namesakes:
art and language. The specifics of these changes and continuities have led
the collective to produce some of the most unorthodox, complex, difficult,
misunderstood, and important art of the twentieth and twenty- first cen-
turies. This art has not one but many histories that intersect and diverge in
dizzying ways. While this book examines several of them, it focuses on one
in particular depth: the history of Art & Language’s international collabo-
rations, which spanned the years 1969 to 1977 and involved dozens of art-
ists, art critics, and others living and working in the United States, England,
Australia, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. At a time when established modern-
ist and avant- garde approaches to radicalizing art became inadequate to a
globalizing world then and still rapidly transforming itself and art along
with it, those who participated in these collaborations found in their inter-
nationality opportunities to strengthen their intellectual grip on the world
and to reorganize their capacities for acting within it by rethinking together
what art is and does. The pedagogically and politically oriented work that
emerged from those collaborations shaped Art & Language’s substantive
contributions to the development of the conceptual art movement and the
wider conceptualist tendency in art, both of which remain crucial for how
contemporary art’s history continues to unfold, especially where the theory
and practice of artistic radicalism are concerned.
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