The mid-1960s was a period of significant activity, debate, and ultimately crisis in the art world, as critics tried to come to terms with recent developments in the visual arts. This expanding site of practice marked a time of intense controversy about the nature of modernism. The aim of the modernist work was to explore its medium, whilst artists seemed to defy conventional formal categorizations. Parallel to this, post-war European and American sculptors became interested both in theatre as a durational encounter and in the extended experience of time, which seemed part of the conventions of the stage, theatricality was the term that was used to describe this phenomenon. Theatricality turned into a polemical term in the criticism of modern sculpture, as in the essay ‘Art and Objecthood’, by the formalist art theorist Michael Fried. His polemic was directed not against the theatre per se, but against certain types of painting and sculpture, ‘the new art of minimalism’ which he labeled ‘theatrical’, as regards the terms of its appeal to the viewer. This paper examines, historically, the intersection of critical discourses in the visual arts and the theatre, in an attempt to formulate a basic framework for thinking about the emergent practices in art institutions of higher education. In this respect, the orienting concern is the expanding site of contemporary practice in the arts, which involves theory and practice.
Student, Royal Holloway, Royal Holloway University of London, London, UK
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