FRAMING ART—Essay—The Engagement Between Daniel Buren and Jean-François Lyotard

I’ve been thinking a lot about my essays recently, coming as we are to the hand-in date. I’d just sent Jean-Paul Martinon, my tutor for the Framing Art course, a summary of my progress and thought I’d post it here. It was a bit of an epic email in itself, so it seemed a shame not to repurpose it for this arena.

I start by reminding him of the essay question I had started with and then summarise Jean-Paul’s comments from a tutorial we’d had a few weeks ago. After that I outline two suggestions for possible essay topics for him to comment on.

Framing Art course essay

To recapitulate, my initial starting point was the supplied question regarding Daniel Buren:

“It seems to me that it is more a matter of showing what a work will imply immediately in a given place, and perhaps, thanks finally to the work, what the place will imply. The crisis between the function of the museum (architecture) and that of art (visual object) will appear dialectically from the tension thus created”1 Starting from Buren’s observation, produce a critical analysis on the topic of the ‘framing of art’, especially in relation to the role of the museum/gallery (context) and the works of art (content).

From this I looked at Buren’s writings, with particular attention to those from the early ’70’s, from which the above statement comes.

I mentioned during the tutorial that I had found a text by Jean-François Lyotard in which I was particularly interested, dealing with Buren’s work and writings. I have since found another text by Lyotard from the same period which concentrates more on the function of Buren’s writings. These two texts are:-

  • Preliminary Notes on the Pragmatic of Works: Daniel Buren2
  • The Works and Writings of Daniel Buren: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Contemporary Art3

Jean-Paul recommended that (and I hope am paraphrasing accurately here), rather than get distracted by the extensive background information that I sketched out in my (inordinately detailed) essay outline, most of which was not directly pertinent to the question, I should focus instead on the particular sections dealing with the ‘tensions’ and their resolution, with reference to a Post-Structuralist reading of Buren’s work through Foucault and Lyotard. Foucault would allow me to sketch out the challenges to enlightenment and post-enlightenment projects that Buren could be seen to exemplify, and Lyotard the specifically Post-Modern position which Buren inhabits.

Jean-Paul also mentioned that Lyotard himself created/curated the exhibition Les Immatériaux at the Centre George Pompidou, and that I could investigate how this helps us to understand his philosophical engagement with Buren and from there Buren’s own work.

So, following some further research and thought, here are a couple of possible routes that I could take.

1. Buren v. Lyotard

Plotting a trajectory from Buren’s writings in the early ’70’s, through Lyotard’s readings of his works to Buren’s later piece Why Write?4. I may be reading too much into this later piece, but it may be possible here to see Buren rejecting Lyotard’s (among other critic’s) engagement with his work.

(By the way, I’ve been trying to get hold of an English translation of the text Why Texts? (« Pourquoi des textes, ou le lieu d’où j’interviens », 1973) published in Buren’s book Five Texts (1974) – if anyone’s seen a version could you leave a comment? Thanks)

2. Buren v. a new generation

If the above (the supposed proposition by Lyotard and reaction by Buren) is not a tenable position, then I’d like to look at how the critical reception of Buren’s practice has changed since the ’70’s.

It’s perhaps unfair to take a single work out of it’s context within the panorama of Buren’s oeuvre (I would obviously have to explain the arguments for why this is the case), but starting from his recent show in Oxford, I would discuss this particular piece’s functions and how it (and they) relates to his other work.

But I would also look at how his work has fared with respect to the work of younger artists and their engagement with institutions (I’m thinking in particular of Olafur Eliasson as he has discussed the state of Institutional Critique with Buren). It might be interesting to investigate the notion of the museum and work of art as a social/public space, using Frazer Ward’s The Haunted Museum: Institutional Critique and Publicity5 as a point of departure.

I await Jean-Paul’s response.

  1. BUREN, Daniel (1975). Function of Architecture: Notes on work in connection with the places where it is installed. Taken between 1967 and 1975. Some of which are specially summarized here for the September/October 1975 edition of Studio International. Studio International, no. (Sep–Oct). pp. 124–125.
  2. LYOTARD, Jean-François (1979). Preliminary Notes on the Pragmatic of Works: Daniel Buren. October vol. 10 (Autumn). pp. 59–67.
  3. LYOTARD, Jean-François (1981). The Works and Writings of Daniel Buren: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Contemporary Art. Artforum International no. 19 (February). pp. 56–64.
  4. BUREN, Daniel (1982). Why Write? Art Journal, vol. 42, no. 2 (Summer). pp.108–109.
  5. WARD, Frazer (1995). The Haunted Museum: Institutional Critique and Publicity. October vol. 73 (Summer). pp. 71–89.

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