The Pure Awareness of the Absolute / Discussions



In September 2011, Dia began hosting an ongoing series of Ian Wilson’s signature Discussions. Neither recorded nor transcribed, these Discussions continue Wilson’s four-decade project of creating oral artworks at venues around the world that exist solely within the duration and memory of a conversation.


Press Release


Two-year series commences at Dia:Beacon with Discussions on September 3 and October 1, 2011

New York, NY–Dia Art Foundation is pleased to present The Pure Awareness of the Absolute/Discussions, a work of art by Ian Wilson, at Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries, in New York’s Hudson Valley. Organized by Dia curator Yasmil Raymond, The Pure Awareness of the Absolute/Discussions will take place between September 2011 and June 2013, and the first Discussions will be held on Saturday, September 3, 2011, and Saturday, October 1, 2011. Participation is by invitation only. Subsequent dates will be announced on

Since 1968, Wilson has engaged in a continuing series of “Oral Communication” events, which he calls Discussions. These artworks were initiated with the intention of creating an art form that would leave no residue and would exist only during its occurrence. Discussions have taken place in galleries, institutions, and private homes, among other locations, and were first hosted within a museum context in 1977 at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, The Netherlands. At the artist’s request, these language artworks are neither recorded nor transcribed.

Trained as a painter, Wilson’s Discussions emerged from an exploration of abstraction throughout the 1960s that was guided by an abiding interest in nonobjective representation. During this decade, his artwork evolved from pared-down, monochromatic paintings into increasingly intangible pieces, such as Chalk Circle on the Floor (1968) and Circle on the Wall (1968), which have unlimited editions and are installed according to instructions.

These drawings were Wilson’s final pictorial objects, and his subsequent shift to spoken artworks that same year reflects his conclusion that material objects are not vital to the process of conveying value and meaning. As he has stated in 1994, “Language is the most formless means of expression. Its capacity to describe concepts without physical or visual references carries us into an advanced state of abstraction.”

At Dia:Beacon, Wilson will continue his long-term exploration of consciousness, language, and the formless concept of abstraction. Led by the artist in a dedicated gallery, several participants will engage in a 45-minute conversation on “The Pure Awareness of the Absolute.” The Discussions may take place while walking through the galleries of Dia’s collection, which features works by many of the artist’s peers, including Lawrence Weiner, On Kawara, and Robert Ryman, whom he befriended in New York in the late 1960s. The open-ended character of the Discussions and the verbal engagement between the participants will determine the duration of each artwork.

Ian Wilson

Born in South Africa 1940, Ian Wilson came to the United States in 1960 and lived in New York City from 1966 to 1986. He has lived in New York’s Hudson Valley for the past 15 years. Wilson has exhibited internationally since the mid-1960s, and has engaged in Discussions at venues including John Weber Gallery, New York (1972–76); Konrad Fischer Galerie, Dusseldorf (1970, 1972); the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles (1971); New York University, New York (1971, 1977); Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1970, 1975); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (1976–83, 1985, 1986, 2005, 2009); Documenta 7, Kassel, Germany (1982); Centre Pompidou, Paris (1981, 2005); Galerie Jan Mot, Brussels (2004, 2006, 2008, 2011); Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf (2005); Peter Blum Gallery, New York (2007); Swiss Institute, New York (2007); Yvon Lambert Galery, New York (2007); Museion Bolzano (2008); Galleria Massimo Minini, Brescia (2009); and Galerie Jan Mot and Galleria Massimo Minini at Art Basel 41 (2010).

A catalogue raisonné recording participant reactions to the discussions was produced by the Van Abbemuseum in collaboration with Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and Musée d'art moderne et contemporain (Mamco), Geneva, in 2008. It is available at the Dia:Beacon bookshop and

Wilson’s work is included in private and public collections, including Giuseppe Panza di Biumo, Milan; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Musée d'art moderne et contemporain, Geneva; ZKM/Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany; and most recently the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Dia Art Foundation

A nonprofit institution founded in 1974, Dia Art Foundation is renowned for initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects. Dia:Beacon, Riggio Galleries opened in May 2003 as the home for Dia’s distinguished collection of art from the 1960s to the present, and features major installations of works by artists including Joseph Beuys, Louise Bourgeois, John Chamberlain, Walter De Maria, Dan Flavin, Michael Heizer, Donald Judd, On Kawara, Imi Knoebel, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman, Max Neuhaus, Blinky Palermo, Gerhard Richter, Robert Ryman, Fred Sandback, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Lawrence Weiner. Alongside the collection, special exhibitions, commissions, and diverse public and education programs take place at Dia:Beacon throughout the year. Dia also maintains long-term, site-specific projects across New York State, in New Mexico, and in Utah, and is developing a new location for commissions, exhibitions, and programs in Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighborhood. For additional public information, visit

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