Devices of the Imagination


Mario Paint, Nintendo, 1992

From The Brooklyn Rail:

Half a century ago, Lawrence Weiner noted these conditions for the work of art: The artist may construct the piece; the piece may be fabricated; the piece need not be built.

At the time, this was taken as a manifesto for conceptual art, but in retrospect its implications seem much broader. Well before 1968, there were many artworks that were never made and yet exerted a powerful fascination. Among these were some that were created, not by people who are known as artists, but by novelists, philosophers, and film makers, among others: people who needed artworks to think with or to think about and therefore had to conjure them with the means they had at hand—not unlike the artists who needed artworks that did not yet exist and conjured them by their own rather different means.

Every artwork has to be imagined before it is made, and every artwork that’s made only takes effect in someone’s imagination, where it may continue to unfold even long after it has been lost to sight.

“Fictions of Art”, Barry Schwabsky, The Brooklyn Rail