Wat is kunst? [What is Art?]

Léa Lublin


Installation, 198 x 292 cm.
Materials: cloth

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. S0174).

In this text Léa Lublin formulates a list of questions: 'is art a desire?, a form of sublimation?, a neurosis?' Many of these questions carry a decidedly psychoanalytic subtext – already then, Lublin’s native Buenos Aires was a major centre for psychoanalysis. By these questions Lea Lublin criticizes on the social dimensions of art as an early form of institutional critique.

She is activating contemporary questions on the historical meaning and power of art and questioning the representational power of the past. This questioning characterises more the performance of an dialogue and is subversive, non-offensive; a weak position in which she leaves an opening for depreciation of the audience strengthened by ending with a trauma; ‘Art is a symptom?’. We can compare this linguistic experiment with similar work by her male co-generationists, Lawrence Weiner, Sol Lewitt or Robert Barry: typically, they do not ask questions, they just state the facts (or what they perceive to be the facts).

What is art?, 1977 also pops up in the vicinity of Jef Geys’ Women’s Questions?; is asking questions an unmanly instinct? The questions represent a female modesty (even though it is by no means an act of humility to drape one’s questions concerning the nature of art across the statue of the prince of painters (Rubens) or across a Calvary scene).

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