Words to Be Looked At: Language in 1960s Art

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Overview

Language has been a primary element in visual art since the 1960s--in the form of printed texts, painted signs, words on the wall, recorded speech, and more.
In Words to Be Looked At, Liz Kotz traces this practice to its beginnings, examining works of visual art, poetry, and experimental music created in and around New York
City from 1958 to 1968. In many of these works, language has been reduced to an object nearly emptied of meaning. Robert Smithson described a 1967 exhibition at the
Dwan Gallery as consisting of "Language to be Looked at and/or Things to be
Read." Kotz considers the paradox of artists living in a time of social upheaval who use words but chose not to make statements with them. Kotz traces the proliferation of text in 1960s art to the use of words in musical notation and short performance scores. She makes two works the "bookends" of her study: the
"text score" for John Cage's legendary 1952 work 4'33"--written instructions directing a performer to remain silent during three arbitrarily determined time brackets-- and Andy Warhol's notorious a: a novel--twenty-four hours of endless talk, taped and transcribed--published by Grove Press in 1968. Examining works by artists and poets including Vito Acconci, Carl Andre, George Brecht,
Douglas Huebler, Joseph Kosuth, Jackson Mac Low, and Lawrence Weiner, Kotz argues that the turn to language in 1960s art was a reaction to the development of new recording and transmission media: words took on a new materiality and urgency in the face of magnetic sound, videotape, and other emerging electronic technologies. Words to Be Looked At is generously illustrated, with images of many important and influential but little-known works.Liz Kotz is Assistant Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature at the University of
Minnesota.

The MIT Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Kotz, a professor of cultural studies and comparative literature, has a keen eye and ear for language in art. And she has also gamely tackled close readings of some of the twentieth century's most impenetrable, enigmatic artworks and poems,
drawing out a succession of fascinating details and compelling contextualizations."
Art on Paper

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262514033
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2010
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 731,495
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Liz Kotz teaches in the Art History Department at theUniversity of California,
Riverside.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Introduction 1

1 Proliferating Scores and the Autonomy of Writing 13

2 Post-Cagean Aesthetics and the Event Score 59

3 The Poetics of Chance and Collage 99

4 Poetry from Object to Action 135

5 Language between Performance and Photography 175

6 Text and Image: Rereading Conceptual Art 213

Conclusion: An Aesthetics of the Index? 255

Notes 267

Bibliography 311

Index 327

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