Joan Kee is Associate Professor of the History of Art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Kee will be in Sydney to present a lecture as part of the Sydney Asian Art Series later this month, and will also be presenting a lunchtime seminar for students and other interested attendees. The seminar will take the shape of an informal discussion around the concept of how artists engage with the law.



Beginning in the late 1960s, the contemporary art world was increasingly shaped by how its members engaged with the law. From instruction-based artworks using language similar to that found in contracts to staging confrontations with courts and police, artists interacted with various facets of the law as an integral part of their creative process. The proliferation of new artistic forms and the dramatic expansion of the art market after 1970 moreover compelled the law to question its own assumptions about images, objects, and ideas. Courts and legislatures, for example, introduced or significantly revised regulations concerning property, contract, and identity, some of which was affected by juridical considerations of artworks. Whether lawful or unlawful, the encounters staged by artists like Dennis Oppenheim, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Gordon Matta-Clark and Felix Gonzalez-Torres shared in common a will to occupy, shape, or overlap the spaces occupied by legal constructs. But artistic action entailed more than being able to perform certain actions; it also meant recognizing the circumstances under which those actions were possible. How those circumstances were shaped by arguments made in the name of the law was central, an imperative that foregrounds the heuristic utility of case law, statutes, and legal theory in thinking about what certain artists or artworks do. Even more central are how experiences certain artworks produce collide with popular and legal perceptions regarding the nature and status of property. How those moments of collision can shape what we understand of the law may be necessary in speculating upon how the law might better serve its own stated ideals of producing experiences of justice for all. Far from representing two antagonistic points at opposite ends on the intention spectrum, then, both art and law are similarly invested in considering visual material that provoke extensive reflection on the nature of lived experience.

Attendees are encouraged to look over the following two readings HERE and HERE in preparation for the seminar.



Joan Kee is Associate Professor of the History of Art at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Kee was a former attorney based in Hong Kong whose practice included cross-border transactions with Chinese and Korean clients. The author of Contemporary Korean Art: Tansaekwha and the Urgency of Method (2014), From All Sides: Tansaekhwa on Abstraction (2015) and co-editor of To Scale (2016), Kee is a contributing editor to Artforum, and has recently completed a book on contemporary art’s engagement with the law.



Tuesday 23 May
RC Mills room 209
The University of Sydney
Camperdown, NSW 2006