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One and Three Discs (after Kosuth)

Holmes, Paul



It is over 50 years since Joseph Kosuth’s conceptual work One and Three Chairs (1965) challenged its viewer to locate the “real” by choosing between an object & its visual or textual representations (Juzefovic, 2013). Replacing Kosuth’s chair with a DVD, this piece restates his question at a time when our experience of the world is actualised & often distorted through digital representation. Once a widespread tool for artists & curators, the DVD is in the rearguard of physical media, as artefacts & archives are increasingly, in Lessard’s words (2009) ‘dematerialized’.

Three plinths sit along a gallery wall. To the right is a speaker, playing audio of the artist reading academic texts, manuals & advertisements extolling the robustness & fidelity of the medium. In the middle is a DVD, its gold colour recalling trophies won by recording artists in the CD era; objects now sold as novelty gifts. On the left a screen shows a video of the same disc in situ, shot on 16mm, &, like Kosuth’s photograph, in black & white. The frame is still but imperfections - dust, grain, weave - confirm the medium as film & echo the DVD’s dying role distributing movies. The tension between analogue & digital forms suggests the longevity of the former over the latter. In mainstream & creative life, people increasingly embrace traditional forms such as vinyl records (Yochim & Biddinger, 2008) & film photography, while new technology hastens the obsolescence of once dominant digital media.

As with Kosuth, the question is where meaning is created: In the description or the object defined by it. The hubristic words coming from the speaker helped define the DVD & assisted in its success. But the viewer sees the hollowness of these words: DVDs only acquire meaning when imprinted with the digital traces of an artefact. Speeding towards disuse, it is emptied of that meaning, yet sits on a plinth as a museum-piece, destined to present its own storage & display issues for curators in the future.

Chivers Yochim, E. and Megan Biddinger. (2008) ‘It kind of gives you that vintage feel’: vinyl records and the trope of death.

Juzefovic, A. (2013) Creative Interactions Between Word and Image in Modern Visual Culture. Limes: Borderland Studies, Vol. 6(2), pp. 121-131.

Kosuth, J. (1965) One and Three Chairs. [Chair, photographic panel, text panel.]Museum of Modern Art: New York.

Lessard, B. (2009) Between Creation and Preservation: The ANARCHIVE Project. Convergence, Vol. 15(3), pp. 315-331.


Holmes, P. (2018, September). One and Three Discs (after Kosuth). Presented at Creative Legacies: Collaborative Practices for Digital Cultural Heritage

Presentation Conference Type Other
Conference Name Creative Legacies: Collaborative Practices for Digital Cultural Heritage
Start Date Sep 9, 2018
End Date Sep 12, 2018
Deposit Date Aug 28, 2018
Keywords DVD, art, installation, digital media
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