Georges Pompidou Centre

In 1968 Ian Wilson made his final sculpture and has since sought to present the object in terms of verbal communication by means of his ‘discussions’. Neither recorded nor published, these discussions are registered by means of a certificate signed by the artist marking the time, date and location of their happening and may be subsequently purchased by individuals or institutions.

Wilson’s last ‘discussion’ took place at 7.30pm at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris on Wednesday 26th October and formed part of a series centred around the concept of the absolute. Wilson started the discussion by voicing his intention to look at our awareness of our awareness of the absolute and address the weighty question of whether the absolute is all- pervasive. Following on from this the audience was asked in varying ways to consider whether it is possible for us to understand or experience the absolute from an anthropomorphic position. How can we understand our awareness of the absolute in a world that seems so finite? Is it possible to experience the absolute? If so, do we do so consciously or unconsciously? And does this allow man to surpass his condition?

Such questions are certainly fodder for thought and provoked a number of responses from the audience. An early volunteer however cut to the heart of the discussion’s main flaw: he asked Wilson to define the absolute. Wilson seemed unwilling however to give any clear definitions or positive feedback to this or any other question presented. Had this reluctance been consistent, Wilson could have maintained an authoritative role in the discussion. However, a random anecdote regarding contact with the absolute through meditation was not tied in with its inherent Buddhist philosophical principles, did not attempt to elaborate on Wilson’s own position or experience and thus left the audience confused and wondering if the artist himself might not be a little confused too. Safe in his position as ‘artist’, Wilson has no obligation to fulfil any academic criteria in the leading of his ‘discussions’. From a philosophical perspective however, his lack of willingness to, if not provide then explore, a suitable definition of the very thing under discussion seemed weak and the subsequent lack of discursive focus left one questioning the validity of the piece.

That said, this is conceptual art and, as a concept, this could not be more original or exciting. By providing the setting and atmosphere whereby people come together to communicate through philosophical reflection in an artistic context, Wilson has succeeded, through the abstraction of language, in freeing art from its fixed location. The action of this piece (philosophical reflection) reflects on the subject of the piece (the absolute), which in its very essence identifies (in its material freedom) with the piece itself. With this complete and self-reflective emersion in the absolute, the piece seems to mirror our own self-consciousness and desire to touch something beyond our accepted physical reality. The sheer power of this concept as a piece hence remains untainted by the artist’s irregular direction of the discussion and Wilson’s position as one of the giants of conceptual art stands firm.

Certificates of this discussion are available from Gallery Yvon Lambert, 108 rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris