Number intersecting with art: three studies

Chilver, John. 2014. Number intersecting with art: three studies. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, 15(2), pp. 239-249. ISSN 1600-910X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

By means of close readings of artworks by Robert Mangold, Florian Slotawa, and Walid Raad, the paper considers some main ways in which number is figured in contemporary art. Mangold’s Frame Painting series of the 1980s, Slotawa’s Hotelarbeiten of the 1990s and Raad/The Atlas Group’s series Let’s be honest, the weather helped of the late 1990s/2000s are examined. Mangold’s frame-based works are described first as articulations of number as geometrical relation; and second, following from their preoccupation with frame and centre, in terms of their equivocal containment of a central void. Slotawa’s Hotelarbeiten are understood as inventories that become performatively and sculpturally recomposed. Raad’s work is found to rhetoricize the tropes of the documentary inventory. Number here is figured as geometrical relation or as manifestations of the inventory. Art can thus offer ways of thinking and experiencing number other than as counting or measuring. It is argued that if, in postconceptual art (as in the work of Slotawa and Raad), the artwork is typically a distributed rather than a spatially singular, gathered entity, then inventories (and their transformations) are likely to be how number appears in contemporary art.

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Art; conceptual art; minimalism; inventory; number; sets; set theory; lists.

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12 June 2014Published

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Date Deposited:

12 Feb 2016 18:07

Last Modified:

19 Mar 2021 12:17

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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