Art and how itinteracts with its environmentContemporary artistsoften question the conventional ideas about art, experimenting with differentmediums and approaches to their work allows 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 mindset, 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 objects Installation artemerged out of ‘environments’ a movement where artists such as Allan Kaprowchallenged the traditional and conventional ideas of sculpture. In an undatedinterview published in 1965, Allan Kaprow spoke of his first environment, ‘Whenyou opened the door you found yourself in the midst of an entireenvironment…The materials were varied: sheets of plastic, crumpled upcellophane, tangles of Scotch tape, sections of slashes and daubed enamel andpieces of coloured cloth…five tape machines spread around the space playedelectronic 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.
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 andtherefore buy more products without hesitation. This form of physiologicalmanipulation has also been carried through into the works of artists.Installation art shifts the between what the art visually represents and whatit communicates, the artists tend to be less focused on producing visuallyaesthetic objects as they are dedicated to enfolding the viewer in anenvironment of their own control and creation, tweaking the subjectiveperception of the viewer to the artist’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 own work. The familiarity ofthe space is accessible to everyone from children to adults allowing them toaccess this world of hers without alienating them in a complete abstract space,accounting for their entire sensory experience, rather than a painting on aplain wall. However, to many visitors they will not understand the true depthof polka-dots, looking at the work from an objective perspective; it is a funand interactive work, full of bright bursting colour and the stickers.
Theartist has been very detached from the work, there are no explicit traces ofKusama, marks or personal touches; it is entirely impersonal whilstsimultaneously being overly personal and exposes the darkest corners of hermind. Cornelia Parker(born 1956)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. She manipulates everyday materials to forcethe viewer to –re-evaluate how they see the everyday.
The apparent fragility ofher work mirrors the fragility of human existence, exploring the amalgamationof various elements necessary to connect and crate life and art, and the brutalviolence that can deconstruct it. She isbest known for her large scale installations, such as Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View(1991) – which was first shown at the ChisenhaleGallery in Bow, East London2 . forwhich she had a garden shed blown up by the British Army and suspended thefragments as if suspending the explosion process in time. In the centre was alight which cast the shadows of the wood dramatically on the walls of the room.3 This inspired an orchestral composition of the samename by JooYeon Sir.