Alongside my regular teaching work, i have recently responded to the invitation to conduct a series of workshops at one of the local Youth Art Schools, attended by groups of primary / secondary / high school students.
The challenge i set myself was to broach with the young participants the broad topic of installation art. Let aside the somewhat technical terminology, installation art – understood as a dialogue between artist, space and the receiver (audience) – is subtly embedded in our culture and in our ancestral forms of communication.
Before we might consider how the historical avant-garde reprocessed it, it is fundamentally about a root gesture: that of assuming (altering) the given space in order to communicate, to engage with the Other. The (art) history is abundant in examples of this kind.
The ebullient and effusive taking over the space with its occasional show-off indulgence that we are witnessing in the contemporary art today – a heritage enduring from the early prototypes of the avant-garde (e.g., as formulated in the works of Duchamp and Schwitters) is ever since an unfolding reaction (expiation) to the aseptic demarcation of spaces into what we know today as “public” and “private” (which again, was a reaction to previous outworn precepts…).
I still have a vivid memory, watching Jenny Holzer´s pulsating words way back when, in 2009, cast onto the glass of Louvre. One cannot avoid thinking of the incised dialogues, rhymes and crisp notes on the ancient walls of Pompeii – the archetypal graffiti / public space intervention – as we might dub them today. The appropriation of the inhabited space, the conceptualization of space as tool for the message, go far back in our chronicles. What about the original drawings and hand prints onto the walls of ancient caves – earliest gestures of communication that are engaging its audience millennia after?…
Being at the crossroads of various expressions (i.e. architecture, sculpture, painting, theater, sound…) several artists and theoreticians have notably addressed the topic (see: A. Artaud, Le Théâtre et son double; J. Beuys´s concept of soziale Plastik; A. Kaprow, Notes on the Creation of a Total Art; Roberta Smith´s articles in NYT, N. Bourriaud, L’esthétique relationnelle, Mark Rosenthal´s and Claire Bishop´s analysis on installation art to name briefly just a few…).
Taken in account the limited duration – 2-3 h / workshop session and the limited space of a shared 35 m2, it was a valiant and nonetheless bracing enterprise to imagine a concentrated workshop concept based on the straightforward sensory experience.
My first day workshop was with a 6 graders group. We went head-on and hands on to act out the epitome of immersive installation: Yayoi Kusama. I plunged beforehand in dots and points a number of elements of a breakfast ceremony, along with building a polka-dotted minimal quarter in my workshop´s assigned perimeter – in order to demonstrate an adequate disappearing act.
After watching a succinct 10 min. documentary on the artist and her practice, the participants proceeded to dip their disguise in the seemly dots.
Among head disguise pieces, some motley skulls hatched and i had a great time assisting them to emerge into the aspired shape.
It was then on the young students to record and document with my camera the happening. And so they did, here are some of their shots.
For the following day workshop i preserved the build-in “oxygen tent”-like enclosure. The challenge to the 17 y/o students on the installation playground was to create a gallery opening situation. I had previously acquired key components for the décor and got on, brush-in-hand for the making of.
And then, the opening moment came…
The third day workshop was about memory. The 18 y/o participants received each a camera and were asked to pursue for 1 1/2 hours, on a surface of max. 1km around the workshop, instants that they would like to preserve in the form of photograph. Recapitulating Christian Boltanski´s “The Heart Archive”, i addressed them a question. Should they leave behind a legacy of memories, to a brand new generation, millenniums from now, in form of photographs of this particular day, hic et nunc, what would they be?
After they would take the photographs we´d print them and subsequently exhibit them in the build-in “gallery situation”. Each student up to 11 photos. Then we enacted the “Grand Opening”.
The students went gratified home, with their printed memories on the dye-sublimation printer.
The Art of Memory acquired on that day a new category: Photographs.
Photos: © 2017 Luiza Mogosanu / das Graufeld