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  • Writer's pictureRitchard Allaway

11/01/2024 - Installation Art

11th January 2024:

Reading: Re-visiting installation art through three texts

Claire Bishop – Installation Art

CB ‘I.A’ gives a short insight into what installation could be from different perspectives. Built from the foundations of modern art (1930’ish’) CB brings together a collection of art works that harness different versions or roles within installation art. CB also addresses fields/modes within installation art such as, sculpture, audio, and film. Alongside these CB addresses space and the viewer as well as philosophical theories from Merleau-Ponty and Barthes. Art critiques like Roslind Krauss are used to critique work that were questioned at their time of making (Heizer, Double Negative). The book questions what installation art could be from a variety of perspectives. CB tries to draw a conclusion on it but seems to be challenged by the centred and decentred viewer. The viewer takes the central role and control of installation art as it is the key ingredient to its completion and role but because of the way we perceive installation art we take a centred and non-centred approach, which in turn gives us mastery over it… and our own world (if we wish to negotiate that path).

From Margin To Centre – Julie H Riess

-       Working between four positions within installation art, Julie Riess addresses elements within and through the process of installation art. Riess begins with an introduction, formalising a basic sense of what I.A is and the importance of the spectator. She moves between environments, situations, spaces and installation and it is the latter where I focus my reading upon however, before I move to chapter four, I will address the introduction.


-       Riess introduces I.A as a term widely used within artistic practice and that it can refer to a wide range of areas including video, performance, site specific, critique, process and many more. Throughout each practice ‘there is always a reciprocal relationship of some kind between the viewer and the work, the work and the space, and the space and the viewer’ (p13). Although she states that audience participation can vary depending on the artists intention ‘the essence of installation art is spectator participation’ p(13). Riess later writes about the analysis of I.A and the problems that occur, because if spectator participation is so integral to performance of the work, then how can it be discussed and analysed from second-hand viewership? The photograph is mentioned as a form of documentation but ‘it cannot function as a substitute for the original’ (p16). It is stated though that the photograph still plays a role and it is a useful tool as an viewer can still view the I.A and gain some context about the work. Another issue that can arise is the integral viewer as Ilya Kabakov discussed about the documentation of his work Mother and Son. No spectator was photographed amongst the work and so the integral audience was a miss. Could an installation be remade is questioned as a possible answer to resolving the issue found within one use or reproduction. Although this would sound like an exciting opportunity for audiences in other locations to gain experience of varying installations, it is understood that ‘the physical characteristics of the space have an enormous effect on the final product’ (p19).


-        With installation art being a process that was outside of the traditional gallery setting, it was free from institutional constraints and that made it have a liberal front to it. 112 Green Street, Clock Tower, Artists Space were pop-up galleries that were demonstrating the movement of contemporary installation art. Matta Clark (Splitting Four Corners), George Trakas and Michael Asher all were at the forefront of this process of art. One piece of interest was that of Ashers’ 1976 Clocktower installation ‘The Piece that Went Through the Window’. His concept was to address the viewer head on and when his audience were inside the ‘empty’ gallery space, all the exterior sounds would shift in through the windows and into the space the audience occupied. The intended interior focus would shift to the exterior highlighting the importance of removing oneself from the gallery. This was an issue for most artists, the gallery was an institute which held authority over art, one thing installation was not intended for. Within the 1980’s installation art was losing interest but MOMA in 1990 held the Dislocation exhibition, an installation first for MOMA. Although this show still demonstrated the authority over the art, it also highlighted the need for the artist to be recognised when institutionalised.


-       I end this review highlighting several points, the viewer plays an important role within I.A, whether it be in an intended form or not, spectatorship is crucial to the works completion. This then joins in well with Claire Bishop’s later text I.A stating the contemporary role of centring and decentring the viewer. I.A though can be placed within an specific space but will find capitalist ideas (even when the art is so liberal) due to the location within the institute of the gallery space.



Inside the White Cube – Brian O’Doherty (Patrick Ireland)

-       ItWC provides discussion on the purpose and transformation of the gallery space. O’Doherty provides artistic purpose and example to demonstrate the development of how artists have occupied and transformed the exhibition space from the 20’s to the late 70’s. Conversation is around the use and development of the gallery and not so much the purpose of the work (as a form of installation. Installation art in some sense is missing as the focus of the book remains on the gallery space. I do, however, enjoy the quotes below and this idea of the importance of the gallery space as a place of showcase, a place to gain a perceiving/willing audience and position them within the remit of your work. From here, and through compositional design (installation), centralisation/decentralisation can occur.


-       The white cube was a transitional device that attempted to bleach out the past and at the same time control the future by appealing to supposedly transcendental principles is that by definition they speak of another world, not this one. It is this other world, or access to it, that the white cube represents. - P11


-       …the gallery is the locus of power struggles conducted through face, comedy, irony, transcendence, and, of course, commerce. It is a space that rides on ambiguities, on unexplored assumptions, on a rhetoric that, like that of its parent, the museum, barters the discomfort of full consciousness for the benefits of performance and order. Museums and galleries are in the paradoxical position of editing the products that extend consciousness, and so contribute, in a liberal way, to the necessary anaesthesia of the masses – which goes under the guise of entertainment, in turn the laissex-faire product of leisure.’ – p90


-       If it is perceived within an existing category, the category tries to digest it. – p106

Bishop, C. (2005). Installation Art. 3rd ed. London: Tate Publishing.

Reiss, J.H. (2001). From Margin to Center. London: The MIT Press.

O'Doherty, B. (1999). Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space. 4th ed. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

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