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The Third Hand

Collaboration in Art from Conceptualism to Postmodernism

2001
Author:

Charles Green

The Third Hand

A major reevaluation of collaboration’s role in art since 1968.

Since the 1960s, a number of artists have challenged the dominant paradigm of art—that of the lone artist—by embarking on long-term collaborations that dramatically altered the terms of artistic identity. In The Third Hand, Charles Green offers a sustained critical examination of collaboration in international contemporary art.

Green makes a significant contribution to the field both by bringing an unexpected range of artists into the discussion, and by his treatment of the transition from modernist to postmodernist art.

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, Art Center, Pasadena

The lone artist is a worn cliché of art history but one that still defines how we think about the production of art. Since the 1960s, however, a number of artists have challenged this image by embarking on long-term collaborations that dramatically altered the terms of artistic identity. In The Third Hand, Charles Green offers a sustained critical examination of collaboration in international contemporary art, tracing its origins from the evolution of conceptual art in the 1960s into such stylistic labels as Earth Art, Systems Art, Body Art, and Performance Art. During this critical period, artists around the world began testing the limits of what art could be, how it might be produced, and who the artist is. Collaboration emerged as a prime way to reframe these questions.

Green looks at three distinct types of collaboration: the highly bureaucratic identities created by Joseph Kosuth, Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden, and other members of Art & Language in the late 1960s; the close-knit relationships based on marriage or lifetime partnership as practiced by the Boyle Family, Anne and Patrick Poirier, Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison; and couples-like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Gilbert & George, or Marina Abramovi´c and Ulay-who developed third identities, effacing the individual artists almost entirely. These collaborations, Green contends, resulted in new and, at times, extreme authorial models that continue to inform current thinking about artistic identity and to illuminate the origins of postmodern art, suggesting, in the process, a new genealogy for art in the twenty-first century.

The Third Hand

Charles Green is an artist and a lecturer in the School of Art History and Theory at the University of New South Wales. He is the Australian correspondent for Artforum and author of Peripheral Vision: Contemporary Australian Art 1970–94 (1995).

The Third Hand

Green makes an original and important contribution to the study of western art of the second half of the twentieth century. A valuable book for all readers.

Art and Australia

A modestly and thoughtfully framed, carefully researched study that offers not only a new perspective on the transition between modern and postmodern art, but also an intelligent, flexible approach to the study of collaborative work. Best of all, it neither is, nor pretends to be, the last word.

Oxford Art Journal

Green makes impressive claims for collaboration. He attempts to construct a new ‘model of authorship’ that involves a ‘third artist,’ a phantom figure allegedly generated when artists set about working jointly. Green is sensitive and acute on the intricacies of that not-me/not-you and the unexpected ways in which it can propel art works.

Art in America

Charles Green has written an extraordinarily rich and well-documented work about conceptual art in the late sixties and seventies.

fibreculture

Charles Green’s The Third Hand, a penetrating survey of collaboration in conceptual, performative, ecological, and environmental art, explores the ‘cusp of modernism and postmodernism,’ from the late 1960s to the early 1980s.

Canadian Literature

Green makes a significant contribution to the field both by bringing an unexpected range of artists into the discussion, and by his treatment of the transition from modernist to postmodernist art.

Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe, Art Center, Pasadena

The Third Hand

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Collaboration as Symptom

Part I. Collaboration as Administration

1. Art by Long Distance: Joseph Kosuth
2. Conceptual Bureaucracy: Ian Burn, Mel Ramsden, and Art & Language

Part II. Collaboration, Anonymity, and Partnership

3. Memory, Ruins, and Archives: Boyle Family
4. Memory Storage: Anne and Patrick Poirier
5. Memory and Ethics: Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison

Part III. Collaboration and the Third Hand

6. Negotiated Identity: Christo and Jeanne-Claude
7. Eliminating Personality: Gilbert & George
8. Missing in Action: Marina Abramovic and Ulay
9. Doubles, Doppelgangers, and the Third Hand

Conclusion: The Value Added Landscape

Notes

Index