SWISS ARTIST ANGELA LYNN TAKES THE DEBATE ON INSTALLATIONS TO THE NEXT LOGICAL LEVEL… THE ANIMIST POWER OF (ART?) OBJECTS:
‘Interesting post. Close to my studio is a small museum housing the Sergio Brignioni collection of ethnic art with incredible pieces from the Far east, India, Southeast Asia, Indonesia and above all Oceania. Most of these objects were made in specific context with various rituals of their time. Today the same objects are housed behind glass window displays or standing in small groups, in a large house from the early 1900’s on the Lake of Lugano, baring no conceivable claim in today’s context. For the most part they are rudimentary wooden structures combined with other materials such as hair, bones, teeth, string, stones and other bits of organic material. Despite being ‘detached’, the objects maintain a remarkable sense of stored energy: I often asked myself is this my imagination?
I think questioning whether installations are valid or not is rather like asking whether or not drawing is valid. I think it depends on the what, where and how, that comprises the installation. Recalling the Onnasch Collecion I recently saw at Hauser and Wirth in London, I did not have the same powerful sense of presence that I found in the objects housed in the Brignioni museum. Why? Perhaps the problem is vanity: vanity in the art, in the collection and in the presentation. This sort of vanity seems to be sustained by the art market.
In contrast, the odd presence of the objects nestled in small groups, out of time and out of space at the Brignioni Museum, still evokes an uncontrived response from its audience. These objects were mainly ‘door keepers’ to other worlds. For the works to succeed, the other worlds had to genuinely exist and the artist had a job to do, to be fully given to communicating their function and presence.
Perhaps all art that succeeds to maintain energy and impact has this capacity to unlock passages to other worlds. Perhaps the problem with today’s installations is not the installation as such, but too much claim alongside a lack of clarity and meaning. They become paradoxically superfluous and decorative: something that has come far away from what Fluxus envisioned!
What I liked about reading this post was that it reminded me of how installation connects to the intrinsic human desire to cluster and arrange objects in accordance with a given meaning. If you watch a child play, this is an essential part of their expression: to create a story and arrange things in accordance with that story, this then, becoming a part of their extended reality. To negate installation as an art form would be amiss, but a differentiated review of its origin and potential, a necessary and worth while consideration.
Somewhere we need to think about what we want to do and not only about what we don’t want to do.’