Hard Cover, English, Thread Stitching, 102 Pages, 2009
The Language of Equilibrium / Il Linguaggio Dell'Equilibrio
This book by Joseph Kosuth documents the conception and realization of the work installed on the Island of San Lazzaro in Venice in 2007 for the 52nd International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia.
The work, 'The Language of Equilibrium', was comprised of a yellow neon text mounted directly on the facade and includes several sections, all working together to create the large single installation. It begins with approximately 150 meters running along the perimeter of the walls encircling the island. The writing spans the entire north-western wall, climbing the facade of the main observatory building, the bell tower, and around the marina.
It is, to date, the artist's largest neon installation. The text that comprises the work was chosen after a thorough research on water, and particularly on the relationship between the various aspects of its historical usage and its linguistic development in general, reflecting its role as a vital primary element. The text is in Italian, English, and Armenian, representing the cultural diversity of the historical Armenian island, a depository of the Armenian culture, the work's location in Venice, Italy, and the language of both the artist and the international community that comes to the Biennale. In Kosuth's words, "yellow neon was chosen because of the symbolic understanding of yellow at the time of the founding of the monastery as meaning virtue, intellect, esteem and majesty". The work in its bright luminescence highlights the monumental architecture of the monastery and at the same time the history of its location within international culture.
Joseph Kosuth, whose works and writings mark the beginning of Conceptual art, has often played with the etymology of words, focusing on the relationship between objects and the words used to describe them, and the role of language and context in the production of meaning. 'The Language of Equilibrium' uses the linguistic definition of 'water' (in part taken from the Armenian dictionary compiled by Abbott Mekhitar, founder of the monastic order on S. Lazzaro,) and presents a new multilingual play on his celebrated 'definitions' - which, in fact, began with the word 'water' - that were the artist's first works in the mid Sixties.
In the San Lazzaro installation, water is seen as a primary element and refers both to the water surrounding the island and it's defining historical role in Venice, as well as the importance of water in the global discourse on the environment today, thus opening up a cornucopia of associations and references that interplay with the context.
The book, edited with an Introductory note by Fiona Biggiero and published by Electa, was designed by Joseph Kosuth himself. An extensive interview with Germano Celant locates this installation within the larger context of his works and expands to his vision of the practice of making art today and the role of the audience and market in its reception. Kosuth provides insights on the role and responsibility of the artist today. The interview is followed by an analysis by Martin Prinzhorn on the function and meaning within the work of Kosuth's, giving insight into how his work works. The curator of exhibition, Adelina von Fürstenberg provides a Preface to the edition. Finally, the book is completed by a photographic documentation by Daniele Nalesso.