UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Fuite hors de l’objet Joseph Kosuth et Robert Smithson ̀la fin des années soixante Bérard, Serge


The conceptual art of Joseph Kosuth and the earthworks of Robert Smithson mark, at the end of the sixties, a radical break from the modernist and formalist tradition in that they reject the art object. While minimalism signals the end point of a strategy of negation (Adorno) at it has been carried inside the "system of the object", Kosuth and Smithson will try to escape this system in two opposite directions. The inverse symmetry of their reactions will be emphasize as it reflects two major changes that affect American society at that time: a structural change in the modes of production defined by the decline of the manufacturing sector and the emergence of the technologies of information; an ideological change defined by the replacement of the emphasis on consumerism and the faith in scientific and technological progress by the doomsday scenario of the ecologists with their attack on the dogma of unlimited growth. It will be shown that, while they both reject the manufactured object, Kosuth continues the negation of the minimalists onto the tertiary sector of linguistic technologies while, inversely, Smithson goes back to the primary sector of the extraction of matter and its infrastructure. Kosuth's use of Wittgenstein's philosophy makes explicit his capitulation in front of the latest, linguistic, move of instrumental reason, and to capitulate is still an hostile gesture. Smithson's use of the scenario of the ecologists, and his rejection of the accelerated time of technology and its environmental legacy, will end in entropic, morbid despair.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.