• Rematerializing the Immaterial: A Comparative Study of Vancouver's Conceptual Art and Writing

      Polyck-O'Neill, Julia; Interdisciplinary Humanities Program
      Rematerializing the Immaterial: A Comparative Study of Vancouver’s Conceptual Art and Writing examines the contemporary situation of the Vancouver art world and addresses the twin schools of conceptualism in the city, the Vancouver School of photoconceptualism and the Kootenay School of Writing (KSW). The dissertation, which explores conceptual art’s impact on Vancouver’s cultural reputation broadly, brings visual art into conversation with conceptual writing and examines how specific definitions and ideas of and relating to conceptual art have shaped the discourse of conceptualism in Vancouver. As the title suggests, many of the ideas central to conceptual art and conceptualism implicate questions of materiality – particularly as American curator and art critic Lucy Lippard’s notion of “dematerialization” is concerned – and whether conceptualism is a material or intellectual enterprise. Drawing on the research and theorization of scholars such as Lippard, Leah Modigliani, Peter Osborne, Jeff Derksen, Jason Wiens, Scott Watson, Alexander Alberro, Kenneth Goldsmith, Caroline Bergvall, and Adrian Piper, I argue that Vancouver conceptualism is both materially and critically, intellectually engaged with the social, cultural, political, and economic histories and realities of Vancouver. Examining the creative and critical work of such artists and writers as Derksen, Stan Douglas, Fred Wah, Jeff Wall, and Lisa Robertson, I observe how, as a kind of critical- and often para-linguistic assemblage, these forces form a discernable poetics of Vancouver, incorporating art histories, criticism, formal conventions, ideas of and engagement with the archive, and impactful events in the city’s historical unfolding to shape the way Vancouver conceptualism circulates locally and internationally. By means of a reconsideration of Vancouver’s art world, including key artworks, poems, archives, and events, I seek to demonstrate how conceptualist photography and writing are complex and varied practices that engage at once with theory, art history, and social and cultural histories in the city.