Julius Koller, ! 1971, 1971, ink on paper, 111 x 309 mm, Tate.
(Hey, me sticking these images here is fair use, right? Right? I've stuck a link to the Tate page anyway, so if anything, I'm doing them a favour.)
Some hardcore conceptual art to get us going then. Ah, good. Now I'm down with conceptual art, so if you've come here looking for someone to sympathise with your raging about how art isn't art anymore because technique has gone out the window, I'm really not your man. All that interests me is if the experience of being in front of an object (or in the case of this blog, distanced from it by bloody miles but looking at a photo of the thing on a computer screen) someone has said is a work of art is a worthwhile one.
I'm not that familiar with Koller, and this work no doubt fits into a wider practice which gives it a much greater resonance and meaning, but essentially, on a folded piece of paper, Koller has stamped an exclamation mark, along with his name, and rough details of when and where he did it.
So, at a certain point in time, at a certain place, Koller did a thing, and that thing was to state '!' Punctuation without a text to punctuate. A modifier without anything to modify. All that we can say about '!' is that it is emphatic. It says that something definitely is, or definitely is not the case. But what? Well, anything, and therefore, potentially, everything. Everything that is and everything that isn't. Isolated, the exclamation mark takes on the role of a question mark, and asks you, the viewer, to look at the world around you, and ask: What is? What is not?
Ok, not bad for a start. Probably lost a few people in the last paragraph. But is that because I didn't communicate clearly or because the idea was complicated? Hmm.