Originally from South Africa, Ian Wilson began his art career in New York as a painter, producing a series of monochrome canvases that acted as sculptural presences on the wall. Soon, Wilson began to question whether making objects was even a necessary part of art making. As art historian Anne Rorimer notes, “He realized that the mere act of thinking and speaking about a circle . . . could lead towards a greater degree of abstraction than drawing one.” In 1968, Wilson began producing and performing Discussions, an ongoing series of works that transforms communication into a form of sculpture. Wilson’s discussions are experiences in time among individuals. They are not recorded and leave no physical trace except for brief textual documentations of their occurrences. The topics of Wilson’s conversations are self-reflexive; the artist and other participants usually discuss the nature of objectless and time-based art. For example, the artist’s conversation with curator Michel Claura (organized for the landmark conceptual art exhibition, 18 Paris IV.70, 1970), centered on “the idea of oral communication as artform.” Discussion: April 8, 1973 is part of Wilson’s longstanding series of “Known and Unknown Discussions,” many of which occurred outside the context of exhibitions with little documentation of their existence. As indicated in the record for this particular work, the discussion occurred between Wilson and collector Giuseppe Panza, who “purchased” the discussion. Although the date and the parties involved in the discussion are known, the topic of their conversation is likely to remain unknown.
Label from Looking at Tomorrow: Light and Language from The Panza Collection, 1967–1990, October 24, 2015–February 7, 2016