In Seeing is Forgetting, Weschler shared with us the phenomenon master pieces of Robert Irwin and the evolution and philosophy behind Irwin’s works.
According to Irwin’s own account, beginning from the early 60s, his artistic inquiry had shifted from making the “art-object” to scrutinizing the ontology behind the final performance. He propose at the beginning of his conversation with the author that his making of art is hardly following a scripted, logical or “clearly intellectual”, and thus should not be studied by fellow artists as one.
The reason behind such statement soon became evident when we see that Irwin’s works had been questioning the very validity of the presumed art forms (that painting should be on a canvas, for example): the dot painting questions the human perception by conjuring a virtual image of a perfectly square canvas, which had a stronger physical appeal to the viewers than a mathematically perfect square canvas; the disc painting questions what constitutes a painting, if not the pictorial composition of the gallery walls, celling, floor and lights, rendered altogether by the human eye.
Amongst all his elaborations on his thought process, I particularly like how his described his work as having “energy” that pulls the viewer towards an alternative narrative of physical reality, and that the reconstructed/manipulated performance space can have the power to override the viewer’s mental interpretation of the painting. I also find Weschler’s quote from Leider that “the art is what happened to the viewer” quiet analogues to the Barthesian idea of the readerly and writerly text, whereby the meaning of the text is constantly reinterpreted each time a reader perform the action of reading. In other words, the significance of an art piece lies in the multifaceted ways through which the viewers are impressed.