Jan 08

What is Conceptual Art?

I went to music school for seven years. I was exposed to all sorts of innovative ideas, and even embraced Avant Garde music for awhile. Studying the likes of John Cage, Arnold Shoenberg, and Anton Webern gave me a sense of exapanding traditional music ideas. I have always been open to artistic innovations.

There is an artist named Christo who was planning to surround some of the islands in Biscayne Bay (on the coast of Miami) with pink plastic. It was in the news because it pitted environmentalists who claimed harm to the environment, and artists who wanted to see another expression of conceptual art. The plastic wasn’t going to be permanent, I think it was planned for a month-long exhibit.

I has having lunch with a friend. I was trying to understand Christo’s project and wanted to know what conceptual art was. I asked this person about the project. She told me that it was an example of conceptual art. I then asked what conceptual art was. And then she got angry, thinking that I was yet another person who could not possibly appreciate an expression of art that was not the Mona Lisa. I just wanted to understand, while she just wanted to be defensive–I guess she had heard enough criticism from others.

From that point on in other conversations, I was always careful to preface similar questions with “Not to be argumentative, I just want to understand…”. This actually worked beautifully in the Washington Mall several years ago when I wanted to understand the Hare Krishna’s. Once they knew I just wanted to understand, they were very willing to explain things to me.