The exhibition at Tate Britain traces the course of Conceptual Art in Britain from 1964 to 1979 with its unique, sometimes complex and always, experimental and anti-aesthetic characteristics. This is not an archetypal Tate Britain show but is pared down, perhaps how the artists would have intended it, rather than curated for the audience’s enjoyment or fulfilment. It is fun, political and fascinating and shows how pioneering and influential this group of artists were on future generations. The exhibition includes installations, documents, magazines, photography, journals and lots of ephemeral works in vitrines.
The most notable photography comes from Keith Arnatt and Richard Long, challenging the notion of what art and photography are and using their artform to document an act, performance or idea. Long’s work is the document of the remnants of his act of walking, undermining the traditional view of authorship and object and rejecting the artwork. Arnatt’s Self Burial similarly is not the elevated, precious self portrait but the death of the artist, a grainy photographic document, nine images, of him slowly disappearing into the earth. Arnatt playfully questioned what constitutes an artwork and famously questioned Tate’s stance on photography in the 80s as they stipulated they only collected photographs made by artists and not by photographers. His conceptual photography, was and is highly influential in his documentary of the banal, mundane and detritus, influencing later Conceptualists and fine art photographers and those that today utilise social media for their deadpan images.