Art and Theory in Dialogue

For over one year, the Anthology of Art has provided an internet-based platform for dialogue between artists and theorists from all over the world. This process focused on current visions of art and the relationship of art to theoretical discourse. The Anthology of Art website now houses the complete archive of 156 images and 156 texts.

Jochen Gerz
The Anthology of Art: Art and Theory in Dialogue

Contemporary art reflects the conditions of its production and promotion. The appropriation of art by art history and theory tends to show that art and the discourse about art are more interconnected then ever before, and that an equal emphasis is placed on theoretical reflection as on the work of art itself.

The Anthology of Art investigated the connection between art production and art theory instead of presuming it. The project also shows how much traditional relationships within the international art world are changing through the medium of the Internet. The yearlong process was an online experiment that provided insight about the contemporary artistic process itself, with artists, theorists, and institutions more and more interacting via the Web.

To launch the project, six artists and six theorists were invited by Jochen Gerz. Each of them made a contributions to the Anthology of Art : Artists chose one of their own images and theorists wrote a short text (one to three pages) in their native language or in English, all answering the question:

"In the context of contemporary art, what is your vision of a yet unknown art?"

Each of the original twelve participants was asked to invite an artist or theorist of their choice to follow suit. Since September 2001, twelve different artists and theorists have made new contributions every other week. The website has been updated each time so that no more than twelve contributions appeared at any given time. Now this process is completed and a total of 312 independent verbal and visual contributions—156 images and 156 texts— have been collected. The Anthology of Art  is a plural artwork whose content and contributors were unpredictable. Do the self-curated process and the diversity of the contributions provide clues about the direction of an emerging form?

Beyond compiling a representative collection of contemporary theory, the intention was to investigate a collaborative process, largely without interference or influence by a traditional author. It may be assumed that today art itself is no longer being questioned. On the contrary, every word about art tends to transform itself into art as well. The Anthology of Art  tested the limits of this tendency: Can a large number of independent authors produce a work of art? Does this form of production reflect a global society better than traditional curated models of art exhibitions?

The objective of this work in progress was to encourage a new dialogue between art and theory, word and image. Members of an international art community are the authors and curators of the Anthology of Art. Existing contacts were nurtured and unexpected relationships initiated.

The claim of an international and interdisciplinary contemporary art has often been taken for granted. It has been questioned by the simultaneous, ephemeral and aleatoric confrontations between authors in different regions of the world connected through the Internet - no longer from privileged centres or isolated peripheries and no longer from naive or informed perspectives.

The Anthology of Art website now houses the complete archive of 156 images and 156 texts. For the first time this ensemble is accessible.

All contributions will be published in a catalogue for the Anthology of Art exhibition at the Gropius-Bau in Berlin from April to August 2004. In conjunction with the exhibition, the Akademie der Künste and the Neuhardenberg Foundation will organize the "Manifest/Symposium".

In 2002/2003 a research-project about the Anthology of Art, supported by the Culture 2000 Programme of the European Union, was realised by the School of Fine Arts at Braunschweig/ Germany, the University of Rennes2/ France, and the University of Craft and Design at Budapest/ Hungary. The research results have been published under the title "Through the 'Net. Studies in Jochen Gerz' »Anthology of Art«" (ISBN 3-89770-197-9). The publication is available through Salon-Verlag Cologne (