The artist must overcome temporal and cultural boundaries to connect different generations together.
Lawrence Weiner has a unique ability to go beyond general expectations by letting his artworks speak for themselves. With great intensity, the American artist involves the viewers in a conceptual interaction that allows the art to achieve its purpose only via the audience’s final interpretation. Lawrence Weiner is regarded as one of the most influential artists working today and founding figure of Conceptual Art. We had the privilege of interviewing him before the opening of his latest exhibition in collaboration with Blenheim Art Foundation, titled WITHIN A REALM OF DISTANCE.
Lawrence, how did you develop the collaboration with the Blenheim Art Foundation?
I was invited to create an exhibition at the Blenheim Palace to present my latest works, as well as significant, site-specific works that I created especially for the Palace. With its history and impressive collection of paintings and rare objects, the building is a true national treasure. My works are showcased throughout the fully furnished rooms, often integrated with the architecture.
With its monumental 18th century façade and glorious interiors, the Blenheim Palace is an extremely special setting. What kind of interaction did you aim to create between the artworks and this UNESCO World Heritage site?
Rather than imposing myself over the Palace, I tried to create a simultaneous reality. Simultaneous but not parallel, as the latter immediately implies some sort of hierarchy. I accepted the Palace and its identity while trying to establish a dialogue between the permanent collection and my works. I imagined that the viewers should have experienced two coexisting stories, one expressed through my artworks and one told by the location itself. Basically they walk through two different yet connected exhibitions on display at the same time.
Were you somehow inspired by the Blenheim Palace’s monumental architecture and its history?
Yes. There were two things that particularly inspired me in conceiving the exhibition. I am a Republican, so I do not believe in monarchy and the Blenheim Palace is the only non-royal non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. In addition the Palace features an inscription that states that the estate would go to the firstborn of either gender. Considering that the Blenheim Palace has been built in the 18th century, this was an extremely bold statement as it strongly rejected the primogeniture right.
Ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill, mausoleum and national monument, the Blenheim Palace can be compared to Chateau de Versailles for the opulence of its interiors and its vast collection of art, although it always embodied a different political meaning. As many contemporary artists did before, would you ever show in Sun King Louis XIV’s palatial seventeenth-century landmark?
At the moment I don’t think so. I am very happy to showcase my works at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris or at Palais de Tokyo in Paris.
Nowadays the consumption of images happens so fast that the image itself seems to loose its own value. Considering the current state of the contemporary art scene how would you describe the role of language in emphasizing ideas over other visual forms?
Nothing really changed so much. Today’s artists deal with the digital reality, while the ones from the past generation dealt with cinema, radio, television and other “innovative“ media. Language it’s always present. Images are translated in language when processed by our minds. It’s necessary to differentiate between the visual and sensory perception. Purely visual elements just kick our mind without leaving any meaningful trace, while the sensory perception involves both our conceptual and physical system. Art is a sensory experience that requires an intellectual engagement. Artworks stimulate thinking and emotions in a continuous interaction between the total organism and the object. Art establishes a relationship between human beings and objects; this is not going change because of the digital revolution. The role of artist is to overcome spatial and temporal boundaries to connect different generations together. Each of them freely finds its own meaning in the art piece.
“Crossing spatial and temporal boundaries“, is this what you did at the Blenheim Palace?
Well, this is what I tried to do. The audience has to determinate if I succeeded or not.