performance, glass, iron, books, fire
John Latham: Art after Physics, the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, 1991.
Latham created a tower of old encyclopedias on a base of angle irons. He burned this tower of books--spelled backward, skoob--at the opening reception. "The book tower was a formal sculpture and intended in every way to be an extension of the tradition of sculpture. It was not in any degree a gesture of contempt for the books or literature. What it did intend was to put the proposition into mind that perhaps the cultural base was burnt out. Thus with the towers it seemed more logical to make a sculpture which disintegrated by fire--as the more dignified statement." John Latham quoted in an essay by Marion Keiner in
The new thing, the (T) concept and Event structure, is not like authenticated versions of art--it is exactly about the world one sees and touches but it is not figurative. So it foxes the Fox. (T) is a geometry of sources of actions, maths--intelligible and exact, but it contradicts the cornerspeak of science. When you realise that the two super-theories of physics each carry a demonstrated flaw, and that (T) may sort these flaws out, you are okay to take the (T) claim seriously. It might even start at the beginning to sort out what has just about done for this planet. For one thing, in (T) the Universe shows up as a person. Half the world knows it but can’t say how so. John Latham was a pioneer of British conceptual art, who, through painting, sculpture, performances, assemblages, films, installation and extensive writings, fuelled controversy and continues to inspire. His emphasis on process in action and language, and his theories which have focused on time and event over the object, have provided models for a generation of younger artists. A visionary in mapping systems of knowledge, whether scientific or religious, he developed his own philosophy of time, known as ‘Event Structure.’ In this doctrine he proposed that the most basic component of reality is not the particle, as implied by physics, but the ‘least event,’ or the shortest departure from the state of nothing. The entire universe is to be viewed as a system of events in time, rather than objects in space. Thus, for Latham all artworks were considered events and were activated as such through diverse processes ranging from spraying, chewing, shredding or spitting to simply declaring.