Art By Telephone

Art by Telephone (1969), 44:00

Art by Telephone: An Unsound Transcription [PDF, 192k]
Charity Coleman (2008)

A recorded document of an exhibition of conceptual art at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art in 1969. The exhibition was comprised of works that were constructed at the MCA using instructions from the artists which were transmitted by telephone. The LP documents these phone calls.

Shortly after its opening, the Museum of Contemporary Art planned an exhibition to record the trend, incipient then and pervasive today, toward conceptualization of art. This exhibition, scheduled for the spring of 1968 and abandoned because of technical difficulties, consisted of works in different media, conceived by artists in this country and Europe and executed in Chicago on their behalf. The telephone was designated the most fitting means of communication in relaying instructions to those entrusted with fabrication of the artists' projects or enactment of their ideas. To heighten the challenge of a wholly verbal exchange, drawings, blueprints or written descriptions were avoided. -Jan van der Marck (covertext)

On the LP the Museum's director, Jan van der Marck, interviews, by long-distance telephone, artists Siah Armajani, Richard Artschwager, John Baldessari, Iain Baxter, Mel Bochner, George Brecht, Jack Burnham, James Lee Byars, Robert H. Cumming, Francoise Dallegret, Jan Dibbets, John Giorno, Robert Grosvenor, Hans Haacke, Richard Hamilton, Dick Higgins, Davi Det Hompson, Robert Huot, Alani Jacquet, Ed Kienholz, Joseph Kosuth, Les Levine, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenburg, Dennis Oppenheim, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Guenther Uecker, Stan Van Der Beek, Bernar Venet, Frank Lincoln Viner, Wolf Vostell, William Wegman, and William T. Wiley, each discussing with van der Marck how to execute an artwork for inclusion in the show to be fabricated by in Chicago strictly by the artist's verbal instructions.

While the 1969 curatorial effort was conceived as an economic means to produce a large-scale exhibition, many of the artists included within the show produced succinct conceptual works that were the among the first such works to be presented in an American museum.

Conceptual art as documented, recorded, manufactured or preformed in "Art by Telephone" is a further step toward the syncretism of the literary, plastic and performing arts which characterizes the 1960s. The term generally applies to those new forms art which seem to favor intellectual premises over visual result. Those artists who have responded to the challenge to this exhibition share certain basic premises despite divergence in expression. They want to get away form the interpretation of art as specific, handcrafted, precious object. They value process over product and experience over possession... - Jan van der Marck from the exhibition catalogue / LP jacket