Installation where artists such as Allan Kaprow challenged the

Installation Art-

Art and how it
interacts with its environment

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Contemporary artists
often question the conventional ideas about art, experimenting with different
mediums and approaches to their work allow them to explore new and interactive
ways to engage their viewers. During the twentieth century, many artists
challenged the traditional ideas about painting and sculpture, rather than
displaying separate, individual artworks, they questioned the space around
where the art was exhibited, and embracing the surrounding environment as a new
way for both artists and viewers to interact with the work.

 I am particularly interested in how a space
can alter a person’s mood and mind-set, transporting them to a completely new
place that would not be otherwise accessible. 
Through my personal study I am exploring the use of line and now
different patterns can result in different effects, predominantly combining
these with every day, mundane object

Installation art emerged
out of ‘environments’ a movement where artists such as Allan Kaprow challenged
the traditional and conventional ideas of sculpture. In an undated interview
published in 1965,

Allan Kaprow spoke
of his first environment, ‘When you opened the door you found yourself in the
midst of an entire environment…The materials were varied: sheets of plastic,
crumpled up cellophane, tangles of Scotch tape, sections of slashes and daubed
enamel and pieces of coloured cloth…five tape machines spread around the space
played electronic sounds which I composed.’ By combining the use of colour with
aesthetic and auditory factors, Kaprow was key in the progression of
installation art.  Being one of the first
to explore adverse materials and spaces to create immersive and impressionable
environments to provoke feelings and emotions within his audience, he pushed
his work to undiscovered places. As an artist, he stressed his work was in the
same category as the action of abstract expressionists as his pieces involved
spaces that he physically altered, with sights and sounds as deliberately
composed as any canvas by Pollock or Rothko. 
His work was based on a transient and momentary experience felt by the
viewer, being as significant as a painting on canvas.

Following from this, in 1961, Kaprow transformed
the sculpture garden of the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York by filling it
with hundreds of tires covering the ground with no particular order and five
tarpaper 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, the tires reminiscent of old garages or rubber bark from
playgrounds, bringing aspects of nostalgia and the past into the present.
Rather than looking at a work of art, getting fully involved in the activity of
it allows us to uncover different layers of interpretation as we explore and
discover it. Moreover, the inclusiveness of the five senses results in a deeper
and longer lasting impression.  “Life is much more interesting than art,”
he wrote. “The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps
indistinct, as possible.” Kaprow’s rejection of formal aesthetics and
his embrace of new ways of working paved the way for other influential
performance artists including Marina Abramovi? and Claes Oldenburg. He challenged
what defines art and developed a new way of working that encouraged spontaneous
interaction and focused on the process of making art rather than the creation
of an object. Since 1961, the work has been remade over eight times in
Europe and America; on each occasion it being slightly altered to fit the
particular spaces and contexts. This highlights how installation art is
changed and manipulated to fit with its surroundings, allowing it to have
subtle changes to ensure the atmosphere is not 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 primary movement, Kaprow expanded
sculpture’s possibilities, giving a dramatically new approach to the problem of
places and spaces. And so began the work of environments and happenings,
followed by installations, performance, and relational aesthetics up until the
art of today.

However, the concept
of designing a totally immersive environment is not entirely new as civic
spaces and places of worship have designed to physically and emotionally
control the inhabitants for centuries. Architectural determinism is
architecture’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 the
environment causes certain behaviours, denying any interaction between
environment and behaviour. Architectural determinism poses the idea that people
can adapt to any arrangement of space and that behaviour in a given environment
is caused entirely by the characteristics of the environment.” (footnote
Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioural Science, article on
Environmental Psychology, p. 510). This idea of subconsciously controlling
people within a space is still relevant in contemporary circumstances such as
in shopping centres and theme parks. At peak times, such as Christmas, shopping
centres surround their customers with stimuli designed to overwhelm the
cognitive processing, meaning people are less likely to think through decisions
in a complete way, therefore we experience a form of ego depletion and therefore
buy more products without hesitation. This form of physiological manipulation
has also been carried through into the works of artists. Installation art
shifts the between what the art visually represents and what it communicates,
the artists tend to be less focused on producing visually aesthetic objects as
they are dedicated to enfolding the viewer in an environment of their own
control and creation, tweaking the subjective perception of the viewer to the
artist’s desired outcome.

Yayoi Kusama is an
avant-garde artist who was born in Japan, in 1929. Growing up with a physically
abusive mother and being sent to spy on her father’s external martial affairs,
she developed a lifelong contempt for sexuality. When she was ten years old,
she began to experience hallucinations which included “flashes
of light, auras, or dense fields of dots”( Frank, Priscilla (2017-02-09). “Japanese Artist Yayoi Kusama Is About To Make 2017 Infinitely
Better”. Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-03-11.). The patterns in the fabrics that lay in front of
her came to life, multiplying and filled the rooms, a process which she has
carried into her work, calling it “self-obliteration”. Having grown up in
the traditional Japanese culture of the 1930s-1940s and the start of World War
Two  she broke away from the stereotypical
role of women and began to value the notions of personal and creative freedom.

In 2002 Kusama began
to create the ‘Obliteration Room’. It started as a simple, mundane room,
painted entirely white to act as a blank canvas. The work is relatively simple
in its elemental composition, however as the work grows as does its complexity
and depth. The white room was then open to visitors to the Queensland art
gallery; they were each given a sheet of coloured stickers, consisting of only
primary and secondary colours and were invited to place the stickers anywhere
they desired in the room. Over the course of time, the collection of stickers
grew and the surfaces of the room were transformed into kaleidoscopes of colour
with collections of spots covering every surface.  Whilst the room was
completely 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 all
the colours blur together some objects get lost in the space and are therefore
hard to identify, giving the effect of getting lost in an environment of
overwhelming colour. I think the artist evokes an experience of energy through
the use of the bright, rhythmic, colourful polka-dots. The bold use of colour
and simplicity of the shape creates an overwhelming sense of chaos.  When she was ten years old she began
experiencing hallucinations, she wrote: ‘One day I was looking at the red
flower patterns of the tablecloth on a table, and when I looked up I saw the
same 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 I
fell down the stairs straining my ankle’. She soon began to cover both herself
and 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 of
the energy of the whole world and our living life. Round, soft, colorful,
senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement… Polka dots are a way to
infinity.’  I feel Kusama uses the space
in the ‘obliteration room’ to embody her illness, to allow the people around
her to experience the way she sees the world through her eyes. This makes the
work a combination of both realism and her reality. The artist’s used this
piece as a way of involving the audience in the creative process, allowing them
to develop and co-create the work alongside the artist herself. This innovative
way of using installation art that encompasses viewer participation, allowing
them to become fully immersed in an experience, one that significantly affected
the senses yet stayed true to the artist’s singular voice and vision. Choosing
to use a domestic environment means the participants could find the familiarity
of the space comfortable and therefore were able to engage with the work freely
which is an element that inspired elements of my current installation of a
dining room. The familiarity of the space is accessible to everyone from
children to adults allowing them to access this world of hers without
alienating them in a complete abstract space, accounting for their entire
sensory experience, rather than a painting on a plain wall. However, to many
visitors they will not understand the true depth of polka-dots, looking at the
work from an objective perspective; it is a fun and interactive work, full of
bright bursting colour and the stickers. The artist has been very detached from
the work, there are no explicit traces of Kusama, marks or personal touches; it
is entirely impersonal whilst simultaneously being overly personal and exposes
the darkest corners of her mind.

Objects in an
installation art space take a new meaning and the context of the elements
defines the interpretation of the piece. Installation art often reflects and
reacts 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 a
solid structure; I am more interested in the space with and around the mass, in
atmosphere’

 By manipulating materials she forces the
viewer to re-consider how they perceive the everyday. She portrays these commonplace
objects in innovative ways, by exploding them, running them over and taking
moulds of objects to allow the viewer the access a new and deeper perspective
of these otherwise overlooked items .  The
apparent fragility of her work mirrors the fragility of human existence,
exploring the raw elements necessary for life and art and the brutal violence
that 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 in
the Chisenhale Gallery. The work consisted broken fragmented remains of a
garden shed that had been blown up by the British Army. Following the explosion
Parker gathered the objects that remained. The distorted, charred wood was then
suspended from the ceiling to re-create the moment of the explosion.  During installation, when the pieces were lying
on the gallery floor, she descried it as looking like a ‘morgue’, however, once
suspended they regained a sense of animation and life.

Whilst walking
around the work, the viewer is able to look through the work, discovering new
objects from new perspectives. The space between the objects is as important as
the fragments themselves, the boundaries between the viewers, the work and the
surrounding space are blurred into one. The work stretches further then the
fragments 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 inside
the installation created huge shadows on the wall, so the shed looked like it
was 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 garden
shed) as it is therefore an accessible and familiar object, making it easier
for the viewer to connect with the work. Sheds tend to be a place of tools or
objects stored to keep safe and are a typical feature of British life, the
explosion of this expels a violent quality is so familiar to us in modern day, seeing
explosions in Hollywood films and on the news in war zones, the distant
familiarity provokes the question of the difference between the small-scale
every day and the vast scale of cosmic events, alike a domestic scale of the
big-bang. The frozen narrative tells a story as it is being viewed, by
dismantling the structure and remaking it, it reveals hidden aspects within the
body of the structure in the process, taking something that happened in a
split-second and giving it a durational aspect. Parker’s work wholly absorbs
the viewer in the work, the fragility of her work and the objects flying out
towards the viewer allows them to become part of the narrative rather than
simply observe it.

Within recent years,
thanks to the advancement of technology, artists are able to explore new and
undiscovered territories. The media that is available allows for more
experimental and bold graphics, involving sensors and cameras which plays upon the
reaction to the audiences movements. By using VR (virtual reality), it creates
one of the most interactive forms of art, allowing the viewer to be immersed
into a world that the artist creates. At the turn of the century, a new trend
of interactive installations using digital, video, film, sound and sculpture has arisen. On a
recent trip to The Lisson Gallery I had the opportunity to see Japanese artist,
composer and data manipulator Ryoji Ikeda’s immersive audio-visual artwork called
‘Test Pattern’. Ikeda’s test pattern project began in 2006, in which the artist
converts data (from music, sound, photo and video) into monochrome binary
patterns that are generated in real-time and envelop the viewer in a
disorientating, highly-charged kinetic environment. The combination of the intensity
of the sounds and flashing lights transport the viewer out of the room and into
a space within their own mind. Whilst sitting in the room I became fully
immersed in the work, forgetting all purpose of time, place or space. By
overloading of the senses, Ikeda induces an almost hypotonic trance upon the
viewer, the surrounding black walls fall away into a void-like abyss. Ikeda’s
work bridges the worlds of art and music and challenges fundamental
preconceptions of both through the intensity of his installations. The chaos of
the linear, monochromatic lines captured my interest, vastly influencing the
lines and shapes my current project. From Kaprow’s tire yards, to the
architecture of churches and Ryoji Ikeda’s manipulation of data into
simulations, throughout the twentieth century to current day artists have been
experimenting with different mediums and approaches to their work allow them to
explore new and interactive ways to engage their viewers, questioning not just
the art itself but also the space it inhibited allowed a new path for both
artists and viewers to interact through the work.