A-Level Student interviews Bruce McLean

Friday, 18 November 2011
A-Level Student interviews Bruce McLean
Student: At one point you were heavily involved in what was called Conceptual Art: could you define Conceptual Art for me?
Well I was very surprised when this term came out because that implies the work had a concept, and I cannot imagine any work in the history of art having no concept behind it at one. As a sculpture it is interesting to note that a lot of the people who were conceptual artists, still are, well the early ones like Sol Lewitt was a systems artist, they made a sideways move into conceptual art and he wrote a series of statements about conceptual art which a lot did not agree with at the time.

Student: Do you not agree with them?

No, he made a statement. You can read it. John Boldersari, is a conceptual artist, he sang a series of statements. Anyway I was involved in conceptual art by being involved in Process Art, which I am more interested in, in the process of making the stuff. I make a lot of stuff that I throw away, put away, is blown away, very ephemeral pieces, odd things all these things that I didn’t make into something, at the time 67, 68 , 69 they were not art, they were propositions of what sculpture could be.

Student: You hint that some people get nervous of conceptual art, I was looking at some YouTube, videos, why do you think this was?

Well I think that there was felling that many people who were artists, who were considered artists, sculptors started moving away from a situation where their work could be shown in a gallery, you didn’t need to have a gallery, and you didn’t need to have a museum. Well there was a museum of conceptual art, museums of invisible art, non art and museum of all sorts of non-art. But I never thought that my work was art, people say that yes you are an artist, but that is not the case. I am a sculptor, I think that people were not nervous but unsure. It happened very quickly, it happened at the same time as the student revolution, it was a worldwide thing that happened in France and Britain. I think people got nervous that people would not be interested in consumerism and object based things, which a lot of us were. Now things have gone completely the other way. So I thinks the Gallerists, the people involved in galleries were nervous that galleries were closing down people were not making things and people could look at, but ideas and notions, that what it was. People were doing things that hadn’t happened before. I think it was a first international or universal art movement, it wasn’t a French or American one, it was a global one; a sonic resonance it resonated around the world very quickly.
Bruce McLean – Pose Work for Plinths (1971)
Student: My work has been influenced by your performance pieces. I have been exploring different confined spaces such as sitting on chairs upside down and how the body has to be modified or strained to fit these demanding spaces. Was this the kind of work you were doing?
Yeah. My father was an architect, a modernist architect and he wouldn’t let me become an architect. He wanted me to become an artist, which I did, well a sculptor. What interests me about sculpture are doors, floors, walls they have always interested me and people walk about in these spaces and they are modified by these spaces continually. Now it has become even worse with red lines, white lines, blue lines and things to tell you how to get out of a room. It is ridiculous now there is no room for any free. That is what interests me. I still like the idea of building, making spaces that people kind of behave in. Another artist you might check out, he did behaviour stations, transfer stations, they are places for performing on, they are not prescriptive on what you do on them, but they are just places where you can stand rather like the fourth plinth, which I think is a travesty. George Trakas.

Beau and Henry – Year 13

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