The Rise of Comceptual Art in DC
Reality is not always probable, or likely. -Jorge Luis Borges
Twenty-first century society is crumbling under an ever-increasing weight of information. There is no longer such a thing as a veritable source. -Perth O’Duibhdiorma
For curators, the unique pleasure of uncovering the newest form of art is continually sought and rarely tasted. Quietly, for some time I have followed a trend garnering momentum in the District of Columbia, that of Comceptual Art. Perth O’Duibhdiorma has to be the most dynamic artist that I have experienced on the field today, with heavy emphasis on the word experience. His art is a roughly blended composite of many forms and theories- resulting in live performance which is touching, strongly affecting, and hysterical. It is the kind of work that moves you to question the nature and meaning of existence. I am so pleased to be presenting the very second showcase of this art (I curated the first in June) which will take place at Hillyer Art Space on Thursday, July 26, 7-9pm as a part of my performance art series Soapbox. “Soapbox: The Comceptual Art Review” is co-curated by Ian McDermott, the foremost scholar in Comceptual theory, and will feature Perth O’Duibdhdiorma and Andrew Bucket, with several more artists to be announced.
It is necessary to quote O’Duibhdiorma at length, “The art world and culture in general are gradually immersing themselves in the idea of viewer/user-generated content, so why not have stand-up do the same. This [Comceptual] genre of comedy takes some of the focus off of the comic and projects it onto the audience themselves. Yes, successful comedians have always interacted with their viewers, but this form of stand up is different in that the audience will often either not recognize the interaction or not realize the humor in their own reactions. Often the comic-audience interactions are so intensified or “the forth wall” is put up so that it becomes an experience rather than a dialogue.”*
What does it mean to make work that is Comceptual? Some scholars in the field tend to position the Comceptual as a uniquely post-postmodern practice, but I must insist that to pigeon-hole the work as simply such does not fully account for the scope of potentiality of this very fresh way of negotiating performance and de-individualized audience engagement. The expansiveness of the Comceptual defies boundedness to potentially limiting a/historical terminology. It leaves traditional performance art and related alternative comedy in a fine silicon dust, questioning the nature and meaning of existence. Comceptual art operates counter to the deification of disengagement which comes as a direct result of the shifting of the locus of social encounter to the inconcrete digital.
We find ourselves in a very exciting moment, really on the eve of what I predict to be an explosion of the medium all over the face of the District. I would like to rehash some recent history of Comceptual Art. Following is a small sample of O’Duibhdiorma’s performances, between these mentioned, O’Duibhdiorma performed tirelessly at countless comedy clubs and institutions, too numerous to recount here. O’Duibhdiorma performed twice at Hillyer Art Space, first in February of this year, but for fundraisers and not yet for a formal Soapbox. Video here. O’Duibhdiorma is really an artist about his community, so much of his art is conceived for the betterment of specific populations. I applaud the selfless approach to his craft and can only hope that he be an inspiration to countless aspiring Comceptual artists. In April, he performed a staggered trifecta of performances at the Lumen8Anacostia Festival Launch Party for my independent programming initiative, Aether Art Projects. More here. In June, O’Duibhdiorma performed for Day of Discovery at the Renaissance Hotel curated by Aether Art Projects and presented by Pink Line. An astonishing trio of routines completely shocked, shook, and transformed the inexperienced hotel audience, never before had such an experience been discovered. An evening for the Comceptual art history books, no doubt. More here.
The experience of recognizing the utter newness and significance of the work I curate is diametrically opposed and therefore exactly the same as the paleontologist revealing a new species of Tyrannosaur. I will introduce the evening’s performances at Soapbox on July 26, 2012 with a treatise on the Comceptual, to my knowledge the first public lecture addressing the form specifically.
Art terms get thrown around a lot. New forms pop up and then fade away. “Comceptual,” the term that is most often applied to this genre is itself a chimera, a hybridization of divergent references. Comceptual Art, also known as “comedy conceptual” and less often though affectionately referred to as “performance fart,” operates within a persistent state of quizzicality. It asks of us: how do we make and understand meaning? What is meaning? What does it mean to be meaningless? Issues of the construction of the real are at the heart of most Comceptual practices. What is real? How do I know? How can one know? Does the real have anything to do with meaning? And resonating long after the experience of a Comceptual performance lingers the central question to our being real and/or creating and understanding meaning: “What?”
**O’Duibhdiorma, Perth. A Lesson on Imagination: Critical Theory and Comceptual Art Washington, DC: E & A Editions, 2012. print.