It is often said of the work of Art & Language that it is characterised by irony and parody. We think that this description is mistaken. While ‘irony’ and ‘parody’ may indeed come to the tip of the tongue in describing our work, we would say that it is more significantly characterised by its incompleteness. And it is in this incompleteness, or rather in its denial of its own completeness, that the work necessarily embodies its own displacement. It could be that the history of Art & Language is best conceived not simply as a collection of essays, but as the unfolding and indeed refolding of a kind of fiction. This is a virtual narrative of guises and disguises, voices, and indeed characters – the essayists themselves. We might say, for example, that the recent naturalisation of a text of ours – a work of pure fiction – as literal fact is an irony or a displacement or parody that has already been envisaged as a consequence of the work’s radical incompleteness. Similarly, ‘Portraits of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock’ are uncompleted forms: while some viewers have confused them with actual paintings by Pollock, they leave the ethos of his work incomplete and unresolved in the form of portraits of which we can’t quite be certain.
Art & Language
This exhibition is part of Art Brussels' programme.