Excerpt from essay for Biennale Le Mois de la Photo á Montréal, 2005

Martha Langford

Idea Art, otherwise known as Conceptual Art, is affectionately recalled in Laurel Woodcock’s location shoot (2003). In a series of scenes recorded by the fixed stare of a video camera, Woodcock redoes Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs (1965), allowing accident and ambient sound to corrupt the rigour of Kosuth’s silent semiotics. John Marriott has situated Woodcock’s piece in relation to Jörg Heiser’s theory of “Romantic Conceptualism”, citing Heiser’s insight into the movement’s clash of melancholy and irony. Woodcock’s work is seen to appease this mental strife.1 She offers surprise and laughter, among other pleasures. In Tribute (2004), Woodcock mimics the Woodstock gesture of peace (and fame). The series is intended to salute the spectator (rock-star-style). Each image is the same (the artist’s arm is depicted holding up a Bic lighter) and not quite the same (the sleeve is different). Woodcock’s minimal references to fashion remind us of Benjamin’s comment on Sander’s depiction of social and racial types: “more than a picture book. It is a training manual.” Tribute has also been interpreted as a parody of Jeff Wall’s signature light-box, as well as James Welling’s photographs of light sources.2


  1. John Marriott, “Doing the Dead Author Deadpan”, in Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, Laurel Woodcock: play/pause/repeat, 2004, exhibition catalogue by Judith Nasby, 39—42.
  2. Dave Dyment, “The Sight of One Hand Clapping” essay accompanying the exhibition Laurel Woodocck at Gallery TPW, 2004