I’m shifting my focus to installations and getting my head round what this involves. At its simplest an installation is a work of art that the viewer walks into and sees as a whole rather than in its component parts. But that’s true of masses of art produced since the 1960s. So which direction should I take? I planned to start by identifying and analysing installations that appeal to me – but realised that it’s difficult to analyse installations I haven’t experienced. Fortunately Claire Bishop came to my rescue – her critical history of installation art provides a really helpful way in.
I’ve also been thinking about learning from installations I’ve seen and enjoyed, but quickly realised that this is complicated too, because installations are so site specific. So, for example, the Turner Contemporary in Margate has commissioned some very interesting installations over the last few years – but they’re all made for a large lofty foyer in front of a massive window overlooking the sea. And whatever space I negotiate for the interim show(s), it won’t be like that!
So whilst I wait to find out where my installation(s) might be, I’m thinking about the sort of experience I want to create. As installation art presents, rather than represents, it’s a sensory experience with physical participation and heightened awareness. For example, in the 1970s the “Light and Space” artists (e.g. James Turrell (see below), Bruce Nauman and Robert Irwin) filled empty interiors with sensory phenomena such as sunlight, sound and temperature, so viewers could meditate on their experience without the usual distractions.
The hazy, yellow sun that Olafur Eliasson created in Tate Modern in 2003 and viewers “sunbathed” under (see in featured image above), made a paradoxical point about our experience of nature today being mediated rather than first hand. And Yayoi Kusama shares her psychological traumas by immersing the viewer in her obsessive vision of endless dots or infinitely mirrored space (see below).
I’ve a long way to go – but I’m clearer about some things. I won’t create theatrical installations or use “activated spectatorship” as a political aesthetic practice. I think Babek said that Relational Aesthetics never work – and from experience I know it’s not for me. I’m currently focusing on what the “viewer’s presence” and “perception” mean. Maurice Merleau-Ponty frequently comes up in these contexts, and whilst I know his views have gone in and out of fashion, they seem like a useful philosophical starting point.
Watch this space to see where this leads – but it’s safe to say it will include colour. And if you challenge me about the meaning of my work, I may well say “Installation is different”.