During the last couple of days, this blog has found many of his readers immersed in a discussion that is concerned with the relevance and status of art installations. From a purely formal perspective, I said that text and films (to give just two examples) can achieve a certain degree of clarity through the fact that they happen in time (diachronically). What I mean by this is that the film director or the writer hold our hand during the length and duration of the act of viewing or reading. This in painting, photography and sculpture (at a slighter less extent) is impossible because the eye captures the image instantaneously. Although the viewer’s gaze might wander around, the gaze is synchronic. What I mean by this is that by painting’s own nature, the image is frozen and any narrative or meaning tends to be ambiguous. That is why, during the history of art, the viewer encountered the ‘art work’ with a baggage of previous knowledge (symbolic, textual, artistic, visual, referential) that allowed him or her to ‘unpack’ the image. In that ‘synthesis’ lied the genius of the artist and his or her artistry and, of course, the (required) skill of the viewer.
In today’s world, neither collectors nor general public seem to have the time to cultivate that ‘visual baggage’. Art has increasingly been transformed into a series of brands, names and places as in ‘Jeff Koons, Gagosian, Art Basel Miami’. This has to do with the need of simplifying, to the point of its cancellation, the aesthetic experience. A sales person at Victoria Miro approached me in an opening and told me that those Yayoi Kusama’s sculptures that seemed to be everywhere were about ‘obsession and sexuality’ and they should be revered because of ‘the historical importance of this artist’. Nick Hawkworth, from Paradise Row, stood in front of a group of art advisors beside a neon circle and he lectured them in that ‘it alluded to Giotto’s freehand circle’. Wasn’t it, in fact, Cimavue? At that point art is directed at something ‘else’ that embodies ‘authority’ and, some sort of ‘social legitimacy’ through ‘knowledge’. The problem is that knowledge does not seem to be there anymore.
In this context, the art of installations has become the canon of contemporary art and all MFA and BFA shows ‘curate’ their art objects assuming their ‘installation’ quality. At Goldsmiths I found it shocking that even painters were shy to show their paintings as objects on the wall and started to justify their ‘boldness’ by arranging them in a three dimensional way. Someone could say (as it happened in my Spanish blog) that why sticking to two dimensions, if there are three that could be used. Well, synthesis? Economy of means? Grace? Art?
Having said this, the installation advances on the realm of the clarity that the duration of text and film (and I am not thinking about Eisenstein’s montage but narrative films, in general) imposes on the viewer by arranging works synchronically. I have been told that the ‘experience’ of certain installations started at the door and finished ‘there’ as in a ‘themed park’. This destroys not only the synthetic grace of the work of art but also its ambiguity and conveys a sense of digested ‘reading’ that makes this artistic expression a synonym of kitsch. Just a thought.