The nature of Translation and Transmission within the Conceptual art-world.

To follow a set of instructions as an individual to endeavour to create a work of art or action is to begin to understand the process in which we follow in the creation and or execution of the coding processes we input into our computer and their results. Linkage of succinct understanding when instruction is phrased and how it is interpreted by the computer compared to that of a human being however is very different, as a computer follows a strict set of rules when following instruction and if not understood terminate creation or follow this false order to the exact, whilst the human individual will take that instruction and warp it to their mindset of understanding. Historically, the ability to send and receive a message was a fundamental foundation to the process of transmission and translation and the execution of set instructions or code to create said message. Conceptual art through the ages has gone through many revolutions as technology evolved, but always comes back to the tenants of process over design and the journey it takes to get there rather than the aesthetic produced. The conceptual art movement hit its stride in the mid 1960’s and has followed along with the developing technology (e.g. the computer) of the time.


Sol Lewitt, an important head figure of the conceptual movement often stressed that it was not about the finished product presented to audiences but rather the IDEA and the execution of the artwork and the process it took to achieve it, “A blind man can make art if what is in his mind can be passed to another mind in some tangible form.”1. Lewitts work in the conceptual artwork field is a fascinating study in the relationship between understanding and execution of processes to create an artwork through another human’s mindset without the physical collaborating of two artists and even the small variations that occur during this transmission of information.

The translation, execution and original concept is an interesting bridge of differentiating results. During a MEDA102 class we were each given one of Sol Lewitts artworks to see without instruction. From there we needed to create our OWN set of instructions on how to execute this image and then hand it to a new person to see how they would interpret this and then execute it. Surprisingly, the results ranged vastly, as sets of instructions varied from the ultra-specific, the vague and the easily succinct. It was found that shorter lines of ‘code’ turned out to be easier to follow than the more in-depth instructions that made up paragraphs instead of short sentences.

This exercise of translation through instructional transmission was preceded by another exercise (one of almost frustrating levels of creation) as my group and I set out to create one of his lengthier instruction sets. Lewitts works are not just centered on the simple aesthetic of the created picture, as sometimes the instructions he sets are purposefully put their in order to gain a perception of the PROCESS in which the art took to be made. In our case, our artwork (shown below) was littered with construction lines, rubbed out sections and even some mathematical equations as we tried to puzzle out how long a line was or where on earth it could possibly be located on our canvas. This illustration of construction as opposed to aesthetic was actually the exact process that Lewitt wanted to illustrate to the artists who undertook his work.


Another aspect to the subject nature of translation and transmission (or in this case the other way around) is the ability to communicate through new forms of technology. Another MEDA exercise was the ability to transmit messages from great distances by creating a coded message system and, essentially, acting as a human fax machine. This differs from the previous examples of executing code through instruction as the collaboration of two human beings with a more in depth understanding of how the system of understanding and receiving/sending that message was much more highly understood and correctly translated. As both sides understood HOW to receive a message, as the sender followed an established set of rules for what each symbol being sent meant and when the message began and ended, the only mistakes encountered in the message being conveyed was keyed up to human error to comprehend a specific symbol in the code, but even then logic could be applied to fill this gap.


Conceptual artworks, Sol Lewitts work especially, as a result to this linkage between human understanding and ability to convey begin to touch upon the pillars of coding and the processes and commands needed to execute an order through another object.



1.American, 1928-2007, Hartford, Connecticut, based in Chester, Connectcut, viewed 16/08/ 16-, ‘The art story, Modern Art insight’, movements, conceptual art (synopsis-key ideas) viewed 18/08/16 –, ‘Artists’, ‘Sol Lewitt’, viewed 16/08/16-

Detail of A Square Divided Horizontally and Vertically into Four Equal Parts, Each with a Different Direction of Alternating Parallel Bands of Lines, 1982-

Title: The location of six geometric figures, Medium: Set of six, date: 1974, image size: 40.6cmx40.3cm) TOP: Rives BFK, Publisher: Parasol Press Ltd., New York, Printer: Kathan Brown at Crown Point Press, Oakland, California, Other publications: Sol LeWitt prints 1970-1986. London: Tate Gallery Publications 1986, viewed 18/08/18

Instructions Faxed by LeWitt to Franklin Furnace for drafters of ‘Wall Drawing 811’-