Conceptual art can be stimulating, provocative and even fun, so it’s no surprise that DP visual arts students occasionally upload files for their final assessment  that have an emphasis on idea and concept rather than, say, technical skill.

They are often in the form of a found object – a feather, a glove, a light-bulb, a chess piece, rubbish, a clock, a computer circuit board, dead flowers – not forgetting, of course, Barbie (etc.)

They all represent something and – given the right context – are occasionally clever and eloquent.

But I sometimes have doubts about the wisdom of simply uploading a found object and saying it means or represents some idea or concept. OK, Duchamp did it with his Fountain in 1917, and since then the found objects has featured in the output of many artists
(“Found object” originates from the French objet trouvé, describing art created from undisguised, but sometimes modified, objects or products that are not normally considered art, often because they already have a non-art function).

  • But if you are studying DP visual arts you will know that there are assessment criteria.
  • Examiners study the criteria and only award marks if they can see that the thing(s) you have upload relate to an assessment descriptor.
  • In the Exhibition component, criterion C CONCEPTUAL QUALITIES

    asks “to what extent does the submitted work demonstrate effective resolution of imagery, signs and symbols to realize the function, meaning and purpose of the art works, as appropriate to stated intentions?

  •  This is getting a little complex  but its about resolving (imagery, signs and symbols) to realize (function, meaning and purpose) as appropriate (to stated intentions).
  • This is only one of the four exhibition criteria, of course, but I’d suggest that if you are interested in conceptual art you don’t just have your conceptual piece as an add-on. It should be part of an idea that other artworks in your exhibition also refer to.
  • Also do not just use your found object to simply re- state the obvious (Barbie and feminism, rubbish and ecology etc)

I’ve been b64 experimentrowsing through a small and very readable book called “101 Things to Learn in Art School”. It’s by Kit White, published through MIT Press, and it consists of 101 very brief chapters. (A chapter is sometimes just 3 or 4 sentences).

It’s a great book and I recommend it, but I’m referring to it now because three chapters seemed to capture some of my concerns about the kind of conceptual art that I have seen students upload. I’ve copied and pasted photos of these pages here.


…is about trial and error and experimentation.

Maybe Barbie is the first thing that comes in to your head when you want to say something about body image and the pressure to conform to unrealistic ideals. Fine, but now think of 10 more things – experiment with more ideas rather than just going with the first one.

76 avoid clichesChapter 78 AVOID CLICHES AND ONE LINERS

…is about avoiding clichés.

Making bad conceptual art is easy. I’ve seen a lot of it over the years. Coming up with interesting, successful, creative and stimulating conceptual art is hard. OK, if it’s obvious you can be sure that your audience will immediately get the point that you are trying to make  – but maybe it’s better to be a little obscure, make them puzzle, make them think? Think about your audience and don’t underestimate them.



…suggests that there is more involved than the just the intellect when we engage with art. Maybe you can do better than conceptual art?

Maybe you go through a period of experimenting with conceptual ideas as part of the process (documented of course in your visual arts journal and Process Portfolio) before seeing that there is an even more creative way to say what you want to say (?).


Quotes (and images) from 101 Things to Learn in Art School by Kit White (Author)

  • Publisher: MIT Press (23 Sept. 2011)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262016216