Sentences on Conceptual Writing

1.    Conceptual writers are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.
2.    Rational judgements repeat rational judgements.
3.    Irrational judgements lead to new experience.
4.    Formal writing is essentially rational.
5.    Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
6.    If the writer changes his/her mind midway through the execution of the piece he/she compromises the result and repeats past results.
7.    The writer's will is secondary to the process he/she initiates from idea to completion. His/Her wilfulness may only be ego.
8.    When words such as drama and prose are used, they connote a whole tradition and imply a consequent acceptance of this tradition, thus placing limitations on the writer who would be reluctant to make writing that goes beyond the limitations.
9.    The concept and idea are different. The former implies a general direction while the latter is the component. Ideas implement the concept.
10.    Ideas can be works of writing; they are in a chain of development that may eventually find some form. All ideas need not be made physical.
11.    Ideas do not necessarily proceed in logical order. They may set one off in unexpected directions, but an idea must necessarily be completed in the mind before the next one is formed.
12.    For each work of writing that becomes physical there are many variations that do not.
13.    A work of writing may be understood as a conductor from the writer's mind to the reader's. But it may never reach the reader, or it may never leave the writer's mind.
14.    The words of one writer to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept.
15.    Since no form is intrinsically superior to another, the writer may use any form, from an expression of words (written or spoken) to physical reality, equally.
16.    If images are used, and they proceed from ideas about literature, then they are literature and (not) art; numbers are (not) mathematics.
17.    All ideas are writing if they are concerned with writing and fall within the conventions of writing.
18.    One usually understands the writing of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the writing of the past.
19.    The conventions of writing are altered by works of writing.
20.    Successful writing changes our understanding of the conventions by altering our perceptions.
21.    Perception of ideas leads to new ideas.
22.    The writer cannot imagine his/her writing, and cannot perceive it until it is complete.
23.    The writer may misperceive (understand it differently from the writer) a work of writing but still be set off in his/her own chain of thought by that misconstrual.
24.    Perception is subjective.
25.    The writer may not necessarily understand his/her own writing. His/Her perception is neither better nor worse than that of others.
26.    A writer may perceive the writing of others better than his/her own.
27.    The concept of a work of writing may involve the matter of the piece or the process in which it is made.
28.    Once the idea of the piece is established in the writer's mind and the final form is decided, the process is carried out blindly. There are many side effects that the writer cannot imagine. These may be used as ideas for new works.
29.    The process is mechanical and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.
30.    There are many elements involved in a work of writing. The most important are the most obvious.
31.    If a writer uses the same form in a group of works, and changes the material, one would assume the writer's concept involved the material.
32.    Banal ideas cannot be rescued by beautiful execution.
33.    It is difficult to bungle a good idea.
34.    When a writer learns his/her craft too well he/she makes slick writing.
35.    These sentences comment on writing, but are (not) writing.

Michalis Pichler


Sol Lewitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art,  0-9, pp. 3-5, New York 1969, and Art-Language (England), May 1969
Kenneth Goldsmith, Paragraphs on Conceptual Writing, Open Letter, Twefth Series, Number 7, pp. 98-101, Ontario 2005