Tuesday, March 15, 2016

And the word was made art

Still and Chew: Art and Culture 1966–1967
 Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, NewYork

In 1966 John Latham, a teacher at St. Martin's School of Art, had taken issue with American critic Clement Greenberg’s emphasis on the formal content of art. He and a group of students dismembered a library copy of Greenberg's book Art and Culture. After removing the pages, they each tore the leaves into smaller fragments, then “ate” the American’s prose and spat out the pulp. The resulting mess was collected and then, using various chemicals and yeast, left to ferment. When Latham received his overdue notice from the school's library he responded by returning a phial containing the distilled “essence” of Greenberg. For this gesture, Latham was dismissed from his teaching post at St Martin’s. But he turned his record of the action, comprising letters, the overdue notice and the phial itself, into a work of art titled Still and Chew: Art and Culture 1966–1967. Today it is viewed as a key work of conceptual art that was purchased by the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in 1969.

It's a great story but is it true? An article at Stewart Home presents information disputing Latham's firing and is worth a read.


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