Wark-wilson breast forms-275h

'Serious Art Is Only Made in Black and White': Photography and Conceptual Art in Canada

Tuesday 15 February at 18:30

Concordia University

Jayne Wark


The premise that photography achieved the status of art when it began to be used by conceptual artists c. 1967-75 is now widely accepted. Conceptual artists valued photography as the “artless mass medium” of commerce, documentation, reportage, and information, and they deployed its indexical, referential, and amateurish aspects to ends that aimed to supersede the high-modernist aesthetic values of transcendence and autonomy. But apart from notable exceptions such as N.E. Thing Co., Michael Snow, and the so-called Vancouver School of photo-conceptualists, little attention has been paid to how photography was used in conceptual art in Canada. This lecture will begin to address that question by considering a selection of works by Canadian and other artists working in Canada in light of both broad international tendencies and of the particular conditions that inflected its manifestation in Canada.

Jayne Wark is Professor of Art History at NSCAD (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) and has published on performance, video, and conceptual art. Her book, Radical Gestures: Feminism and Performance Art in North America, was published in 2006 by McGill-Queen’s University Press. She is the curator of the Atlantic section of the exhibition Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965-1980, which opened in Toronto in September 2010 and will tour to Halifax, Edmonton, Montreal, and Vancouver until 2012. She is also currently working on a book on the history of conceptual art in Canada.

Image: Martha S. Wilson, Breast Forms Permutated, April 1972

Of Related Interest

Jayne Wark’s NSCAD faculty page

Radical Gestures: Feminism and Performance Art in North America

Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada c. 1965 to 1980 at UTAC

Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada c. 1965 to 1980 at MSVU Art Gallery

Jayne Wark’s Traffic catalogue essay, “Conceptual Art in Canada: The East Coast Story”

Martha Wilson: Staging the Self at Concordia’s Ellen Gallery