Jun 2, 2020 in Analysis

Conceptual Art

The existence of the variety of artistic movements and tendencies sets new demands and expectations to art pieces and works. Not surprisingly, the modern art deals not exclusively with aesthetics and visualization, but also an intellectual background and critical reflections. Largely, a conceptual approach defines and reveals a new attitude to the art and its interpretation. According to it, every piece of art contains the hidden sense, which can be understood only from the previous experience and background of the author and context of its creation. Very often, the conceptual art exists in the form of installations, performances and interactive exhibitions. Its meaning is not obvious from the first glance. Notably, the conceptual approach refers to all kinds, including both fine arts and music. The purpose of this essay is to describe the pieces of conceptual art on the examples of Jacek Tylicki’s sculpture Give if You Can - Take if You Have to and John Cage’s composition “4’33”. The essay will critically evaluate the chosen samples and come up with the relevant conclusions about the nature and objectives of conceptualism. 


Visual Art as the Conceptualism

Jacek Tylicki is a Polish artist and painter, working in the sphere of postmodern art and conceptualism. He is an author of several notable exhibitions and installations, which have attracted the public attention and highly enriched the modern imaginations about the role of art in the daily life. The sculpture Give if You Can - Take if You Have to visually reminds an empty round vessel with the high edges, deep bottom, and thick walls. The only element, which attracts the attention of viewers, is the name of the sculpture written on its sides. It is possible to observe random objects on the bottom of the statue, thrown by the passers-by. Among them, the money, food, coins, postcards or other papers can be observed. Apparently, the visual appearance of the sculpture does not provide any insights into its meaning and purpose. Moreover, it does not evoke any aesthetical satisfaction or emotional response. This feature makes the sculpture belong to the conceptual art, since its aim and sense is not derived from its appearance. 

However, the critical evaluation of the statue helps to reveal some new aspects and sides for a discussion. Particularly, the empty vessel may symbolize the human society, where each individual takes care of his/her wellbeing and prosperity by ignoring the interests and demands of others. The empty plate personifies the human attitude to beggars, homeless people, and less fortunate social groups. The presence of certain objects in the sculpture indicates those miserable efforts, taken by the community for the general welfare. It also shows a general controversy, injustice and unequal distribution of resources and power. Such ones can be widely noticed nowadays. Since the visual appearance of the sculpture does not evoke any emotional responses, the viewers can fully focus on the analysis of its hidden meaning and essence. In such a way, the conceptual art raises important social questions and promotes critical reflections of existed conflicts and ambiguities. 

Conceptualism in Music

John Cage’s composition “4’33” evokes the similar response by creating obvious ambiguity between the listeners’ expectations and actual performance of the artist. The composition consists of three parts, which lasts for 4 minutes and 33 seconds in total. An interesting feature of the work is that it can be played by any musical instrument, depending on the choice of a performer. At the beginning of compositions, the listeners expect to hear a certain melody, tune or combination of sounds. They will replace the silence. However, John Cage has changed the imaginations of music, giving a dominant role in his composition to silent pauses and rests. Actually, the entire work is a long interval, deprived of any musical sounds and beats. 

On one hand, such a structure may appear quite illogical and uncomprehensive. However, the analysis of the composition shows that everything around is a set of sounds. Even the absence of sounds can be also viewed as a specific tune, since the silence is also interrupted by numerous noises, disturbers, and clamor. The composition “4’33” emphasizes the importance of the surrounding sounds and silence by letting listeners focus their attention on the very essence of the tones and voices. From this perspective, this work reveals an alternative side of music. The composition claims that tunes do not consist exclusively of musical sounds and intonations. 


In my opinion, both pieces of art create very controversial impressions and feelings. On one hand, they strongly contradict the conventional imaginations about art and may look quite disappointing or confusing. However, it is the charisma and peculiarity of the conceptual art. I guess this art manages to keep the attention of the public by allowing them to make the subjective conclusions and finding new interpretations of the same artwork. As a result, I could find and experience a personal meaning and explanation of these conceptual artworks.  

To sum up, the conceptual approach to art offers an attractive alternative to the conventional one. It appeals to the intellectual, evaluative, and emotional aspects of observing the art, rather than the mere aesthetical and visual admiration. Considering the current social context of development, such approach is an optimal solution for the highly demanding and skillful audience. Moreover, it emphasizes the point about the inner beauty and sense, which is not always obvious from the first sight. 


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