Bas Jan Ader's Ludic Conceptualism

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Following Huizinga’s ideas in his Homo Ludens (1938), I propose the term LudicConceptualism to describe the art that flourished in the Netherlands from 1959to 1975. Unlike the more severe strands of conceptualism developed in NewYork and the United Kingdom, play was central to its Dutch incarnation. In thischapter I will show how Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader’s fixation on hisidentity, as staged through satirical jokes based on national stereotypes, is keyin understanding his art. While a great deal of the humor is obvious in Ader’swork, there has been no serious inquiry into his comedic practice. I will positionAder within the framework of post-war humorous conceptual art prevalentboth in the Netherlands and California, locales in which Ader had lived andstudied. Using theories of humor and identity I will demonstrate how Ader’sjokes are closely tied to social contexts on both sides of the Atlantic, environmentsrelevant to the artist’s development in the course of his short career. Aclose examination of Ader’s work will reveal that the artist’s blurred identity asseen in his use of humor is, in fact, a central feature of his art.


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