Installation Art- Art and how itinteracts with its environmentContemporary artistsoften question the conventional ideas about art, experimenting with differentmediums and approaches to their work allow them to explore new and interactiveways to engage their viewers. During the twentieth century, many artistschallenged the traditional ideas about painting and sculpture, rather thandisplaying separate, individual artworks, they questioned the space aroundwhere the art was exhibited, and embracing the surrounding environment as a newway for both artists and viewers to interact with the work. I am particularly interested in how a spacecan alter a person’s mood and mind-set, transporting them to a completely newplace that would not be otherwise accessible. Through my personal study I am exploring the use of line and nowdifferent patterns can result in different effects, predominantly combiningthese with every day, mundane object Installation art emergedout of ‘environments’ a movement where artists such as Allan Kaprow challengedthe traditional and conventional ideas of sculpture.
In an undated interviewpublished in 1965, Allan Kaprow spokeof his first environment, ‘When you opened the door you found yourself in themidst of an entire environment…The materials were varied: sheets of plastic,crumpled up cellophane, tangles of Scotch tape, sections of slashes and daubedenamel and pieces of coloured cloth…five tape machines spread around the spaceplayed electronic sounds which I composed.’ By combining the use of colour withaesthetic and auditory factors, Kaprow was key in the progression ofinstallation art. Being one of the firstto explore adverse materials and spaces to create immersive and impressionableenvironments to provoke feelings and emotions within his audience, he pushedhis work to undiscovered places. As an artist, he stressed his work was in thesame category as the action of abstract expressionists as his pieces involvedspaces that he physically altered, with sights and sounds as deliberatelycomposed as any canvas by Pollock or Rothko. His work was based on a transient and momentary experience felt by theviewer, being as significant as a painting on canvas.Following from this, in 1961, Kaprow transformedthe sculpture garden of the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York by filling itwith hundreds of tires covering the ground with no particular order and fivetarpaper mounds that emerged from amongst the tires, visitors were encouraged to walk over the tires,move them and interact with them however they pleased.
He called it the ‘Yard.’This encourages play and physical means to explore the work as a whole, thetires reminiscent of old garages or rubber bark from playgrounds, bringing aspectsof nostalgia and the past into the present. Rather than looking at a work ofart, getting fully involved in the activity of it allows us to uncover differentlayers of interpretation as we explore and discover it. Moreover, the inclusivenessof the five senses results in a deeper and longer lasting impression. “Life is much moreinteresting than art,” he wrote. “The line between art and life should be keptas fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible.
” Kaprow’s rejection of formal aesthetics and his embrace ofnew ways of working paved the way for other influential performance artistsincluding Marina Abramovi? and Claes Oldenburg. He challenged what defines art anddeveloped a new way of working that encouraged spontaneous interaction andfocused on the process of making art rather than the creation of an object. Since 1961, the work hasbeen remade over eight times in Europe and America; on each occasion it beingslightly altered to fit the particular spaces and contexts.
Thishighlights how installation art is changed and manipulated to fit with itssurroundings, allowing it to have subtle changes to ensure the atmosphere isnot lost and highlights how it tends to be ‘site-specific.’ .When Allan Kaprow made ‘Yard’,New York was a different place,with Abstract Expressionism as the primarymovement, Kaprow expanded sculpture’s possibilities, giving a dramatically newapproach to the problem of places and spaces. And so began the work ofenvironments and happenings, followed by installations, performance, andrelational aesthetics up until the art of today.However, the conceptof designing a totally immersive environment is not entirely new as civicspaces and places of worship have designed to physically and emotionallycontrol the inhabitants for centuries. Architectural determinism isarchitecture’s ability to affect human experience and behaviour in a known way;claiming the built environment is the sole determinant of social behaviour. A.
S. Baum defines the concept accordingly, ‘this position argues that theenvironment causes certain behaviours, denying any interaction betweenenvironment and behaviour. Architectural determinism poses the idea that peoplecan adapt to any arrangement of space and that behaviour in a given environmentis caused entirely by the characteristics of the environment.
” (footnoteCorsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioural Science, article onEnvironmental Psychology, p. 510). This idea of subconsciously controllingpeople within a space is still relevant in contemporary circumstances such asin shopping centres and theme parks. At peak times, such as Christmas, shoppingcentres surround their customers with stimuli designed to overwhelm thecognitive processing, meaning people are less likely to think through decisionsin a complete way, therefore we experience a form of ego depletion and thereforebuy more products without hesitation.
This form of physiological manipulationhas also been carried through into the works of artists. Installation artshifts the between what the art visually represents and what it communicates,the artists tend to be less focused on producing visually aesthetic objects asthey are dedicated to enfolding the viewer in an environment of their owncontrol and creation, tweaking the subjective perception of the viewer to theartist’s desired outcome.Obliteration Room(2002)Artist: Yayoi KusamaYayoi Kusama is anavant-garde artist who was born in Japan, in 1929.
Growing up with a physicallyabusive mother and being sent to spy on her father’s external martial affairs,she Yayoi Kusama’s’Obliteration Room’ started as a simple, mundane room, painted entirely whiteto act as a blank canvas. The work is relatively simple in its elementalcomposition, however as the work grows as does its complexity and depth. Thewhite room was then open to visitors to the Queensland art gallery; they wereeach given a sheet of coloured stickers, consisting of only primary andsecondary colours and were invited to place the stickers anywhere they desiredin the room. Over the course of time, the collection of stickers grew and thesurfaces of the room were transformed into kaleidoscopes of colour withcollections of spots covering every surface. Whilst the room wascompletely white, the ceiling lights gave depth and dimension to the furniture,yet as the stickers were added it loses all sense of depth and dimension as allthe colours blur together some objects get lost in the space and are thereforehard to identify, giving the effect of getting lost in an environment ofoverwhelming colour. I think the artist evokes an experience of energy throughthe use of the bright, rhythmic, colourful polka-dots. The bold use of colourand simplicity of the shape creates an overwhelming sense of chaos.
When she was ten years old she beganexperiencing hallucinations, she wrote: ‘One day I was looking at the redflower patterns of the tablecloth on a table, and when I looked up I saw thesame pattern covering the ceiling… I felt as if I had begun to self-obliterate…I ran desperately up the stairs. The steps below me began to fall apart and Ifell down the stairs straining my ankle’. She soon began to cover both herselfand everything around her in polka-dots, which she referred to as’self-obliteration’, ‘polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol ofthe energy of the whole world and our living life. Round, soft, colorful,senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement… Polka dots are a way toinfinity.’ I feel Kusama uses the spacein the ‘obliteration room’ to embody her illness, to allow the people aroundher to experience the way she sees the world through her eyes.
This makes thework a combination of both realism and her reality. The artist’s used thispiece as a way of involving the audience in the creative process, allowing themto develop and co-create the work alongside the artist herself. This innovativeway of using installation art that encompasses viewer participation, allowingthem to become fully immersed in an experience, one that significantly affectedthe senses yet stayed true to the artist’s singular voice and vision. Choosingto use a domestic environment means the participants could find the familiarityof the space comfortable and therefore were able to engage with the work freelywhich is an element that inspired elements of my current installation of adining room. The familiarity of the space is accessible to everyone fromchildren to adults allowing them to access this world of hers withoutalienating them in a complete abstract space, accounting for their entiresensory experience, rather than a painting on a plain wall.
However, to manyvisitors they will not understand the true depth of polka-dots, looking at thework from an objective perspective; it is a fun and interactive work, full ofbright bursting colour and the stickers. The artist has been very detached fromthe work, there are no explicit traces of Kusama, marks or personal touches; itis entirely impersonal whilst simultaneously being overly personal and exposesthe darkest corners of her mind. Objects in aninstallation art space take a new meaning and the context of the elementsdefines the interpretation of the piece.
Installation art often reflects andreacts to the world we live in, thereby creating a fusion of art and life.Cornelia Parker, an English sculptor and installation artist, born in 1956,embraces this ideology in her work, claiming,’I’ve never made asolid structure; I am more interested in the space with and around the mass, inatmosphere’ By manipulating materials she forces theviewer to re-consider how they perceive the everyday. She portrays these commonplaceobjects in innovative ways, by exploding them, running them over and takingmoulds of objects to allow the viewer the access a new and deeper perspectiveof these otherwise overlooked items .
Theapparent fragility of her work mirrors the fragility of human existence,exploring the raw elements necessary for life and art and the brutal violencethat can deconstruct it. She is best known for her large scale installations,such as Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) which was first exhibited inthe Chisenhale Gallery. The work consisted broken fragmented remains of agarden shed that had been blown up by the British Army. Following the explosionParker gathered the objects that remained.
The distorted, charred wood was thensuspended from the ceiling to re-create the moment of the explosion. During installation, when the pieces were lyingon the gallery floor, she descried it as looking like a ‘morgue’, however, oncesuspended they regained a sense of animation and life. Whilst walkingaround the work, the viewer is able to look through the work, discovering newobjects from new perspectives.
The space between the objects is as important asthe fragments themselves, the boundaries between the viewers, the work and thesurrounding space are blurred into one. The work stretches further then thefragments of shed itself, the shadows cast on the wall play a huge role,unifying the whole space as one and creating a looming, ominous presence. Parker explained, ‘ The light on the insidethe installation created huge shadows on the wall, so the shed looked like itwas re-exploding or perhaps coming back together again.’ Alike Yayoi Kusama,Parker uses a mundane and everyday object as the centre of her piece (a gardenshed) as it is therefore an accessible and familiar object, making it easierfor the viewer to connect with the work. Sheds tend to be a place of tools orobjects stored to keep safe and are a typical feature of British life, theexplosion of this expels a violent quality is so familiar to us in modern day, seeingexplosions in Hollywood films and on the news in war zones, the distantfamiliarity provokes the question of the difference between the small-scaleevery day and the vast scale of cosmic events, alike a domestic scale of thebig-bang. The frozen narrative tells a story as it is being viewed, bydismantling the structure and remaking it, it reveals hidden aspects within thebody of the structure in the process, taking something that happened in asplit-second and giving it a durational aspect. Parker’s work wholly absorbsthe viewer in the work, the fragility of her work and the objects flying outtowards the viewer allows them to become part of the narrative rather thansimply observe it.
With the improvement of technology over the years, artists are more able to exploreoutside of the boundaries that were never able to be explored by artists in thepast.4 The media used are more experimental and bold; they are alsousually cross media and may involve sensors, which plays on the reaction to theaudiences’ movement when looking at the installations. By using virtual realityas a medium, immersivevirtual reality art is probably the most deeply interactive form of art.
5 By allowing the spectator to “visit” therepresentation, the artist creates “situations to live” vs”spectacle to watch”.6 At the turn of a new century, there is a trend ofinteractive installations using digital, video, film, sound and sculpture. Interactive installation is a sub-category of installation art. An interactiveinstallation frequently involves the audience acting on the work ofart or the piece responding to users’ activity.3 There are several kinds of interactive installationsthat artists produce, these include web-based installations (e.g.
, Telegarden), gallery-based installations, digital-based installations, electronic-based installations, mobile-based installations, etc. Interactive installations appearedmostly at end of the 1980s (Legible City by Jeffrey Shaw, La plumeby Edmond Couchot, Michel Bret…) and became a genre during the 1990s, whenartists became particularly interested in using the participation of theaudiences to activate and reveal the meaning of the installation.