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Author of the Month: Nizan Shaked

Published: May 8, 2017

The Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art

Nizan Shaked, assistant professor, Contemporary Art History, Museum and Curatorial Studies, School of Art

Now out, The Synthetic Proposition: Conceptualism and the Political Referent in Contemporary Art appears as part of the Manchester University Press’ series “Rethinking Art’s Histories.” The book was a 2015 recipient of the Wyeth Foundation College Art Association Publication Award, and a 2012 German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) visiting faculty grant. The book examines the impact of civil rights, Black power, the student, feminist and the sexual-liberty movements on conceptualism and its legacies in the United States since the late 1960s. It focuses on the turn to political reference in practices originally concerned with philosophically abstract ideas and traces key strategies in contemporary art today to the reciprocal influences of conceptualism and identity politics, movements that have so far been historicized as mutually exclusive. Between the river of conceptualism and that of identity politics, a vast delta lies. This book traces some of the major streams that have flowed in between. It demonstrates that, while identity-based strategies were particular, their impact spread far beyond the individuals or communities that originated them. Central to her thesis is the early work of Adrian Piper, a participant in the founding generation of conceptual art and the circuit of concrete poetry in New York, whose work transitioned from experimenting with notational systems for rendering time and space to using the body for inquiries about the function of race, class and gender in the social order. She also offers a study of interlocutors that expanded conceptualism, including David Hammons, Hans Haacke, Mary Kelly, Martha Rosler, Charles Gaines, Andrea Fraser, Renée Green, Silvia Kolbowski, Daniel Joseph Martinez and Lorna Simpson. By turning to social issues, these artists analyzed the cultural

Author of the Month: Nizan Shaked

conventions embedded in modes of reference and representation such as language, writing, photography, the moving image, or installation and exhibition display. The title of the book refers to the qualitative distinction made by Joseph Kosuth (using the work of A.J. Ayer on Emmanuel Kant) between art that investigated the “analytic proposition,” i.e. art concerned with its own definition, versus the “synthetic proposition,” that is, art preoccupied with worldly subject matter. Shaked earned her M.A. in Critical and Curatorial Studies from UCLA and her MFA from Otis College of Art and Design. She earned her undergraduate degree from Beit Berl College at the Midrasha School of Art. She received her Ph.D. in Cultural Studies with an emphasis on Museum Studies from Claremont Graduate University.