Posted on October 22nd, 2014

Happenings at Bard

The Empty Room and the End of Man

Assistant Professor Fine Arts and the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

Robert Slifkin

will give a talk
“The Empty Room and the End of Man”


During the 1960s and early 1970s many artists in the United States created works that through their monumental scale, use of refracted light, and architectonic enclosures encouraged viewers to engage in an expansively spatial manner so that the gallery itself became an aesthetically-charged site. Many of the original viewers of these works experienced these unconventional, frequently austere, and affectless objects and installations as threatening and even aggressive. Drawing upon the original reception of some of the most significant public exhibitions of minimal and postminimal art (taking the work of William Anastasi, Dan Flavin, Dennis Oppenheim, and Bruce Nauman as key examples) this paper will argue that these works and ‘environments’ (to use a word often invoked around such art) produced experiential situations that served as imaginary figurations of what the world would look and feel like without human inhabitation or if the viewer was the last person on the Earth. By creating works that imagine uninhabitable or empty physical spaces or, through their massive size or spatial expansiveness, encourage a mode of spectatorship and photographic reproduction that occludes other people, these works channeled a larger cultural anxiety concerning the threat of nuclear annihilation that fundamentally inflected, however unconsciously, significant realms of postwar American culture well into the 1970s.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014
7:00 pm
Olin 102

Free and Open tot he Public