Installation Art

There’s a thoughtful conversation going on at about environmental art. It’s worth a read, complete with some very good comments. I left one myself, and the text that follows here is partially an (edited) excerpt plus a digression. I’ve just used it as a jumping off spot to expand the idea and to reminisce a bit:

The conversation centered around Andy Goldsworthy’s Conceptual Art that uses natural elements. Some call it Environmental Art. Some reject it as art. It made me think of being in that period of time when the shift from Expressionism to Conceptual Art occurred in the art educational world.

I had most of my art schooling in the late ‘Sixties when Expressionism was in vogue. It was still considered acceptable to make rectangular works of art on canvas or paper. This is considered horribly passé in the Fine Art Educational Institutes of today.

For some long time, art schools have had a much greater emphasis on Installation Art. It’s usually a three dimensional work where objects are placed in a setting which could be either indoors or out, and common objects are arranged in a way that creates a large sculptural grouping that makes the objects into something different. Sometimes it’s all about the relationship of objects to the space it occupies. Sometimes there is a greater message included in the work. Try looking up Wikipedia’s definition of Installation Art at

By the time I’d taught high school art for some years, I felt the kids could draw better than I could. Some of them came with an innate ability to draw in a draftsman-like manner and I was very envious.
When I had the opportunity, I went back to school.
I had wanted to go to Art School when I started my post secondary education, but my parents wouldn’t allow that and I was young and acquiesced. They were afraid that the bohemian lifestyle would spoil me. They weren’t prepared for the Hippie lifestyle which I embraced and which I discovered at University. I attended the Education Faculty to get some hands on, practical art courses.

Looking back, hindsight being 20/20, it was a toss up. If you go looking for experiences, you find them.

So it was at the age of 30 that I headed off to an Art School in Rheims, France.
In my third year there, the Direction of the school changed radically. The old Director retired and a young-blood Art Educator took his place; he decided to turn the school into one that promoted Conceptual art and soon, the students were being asked to take the stools they normally used for sitting upon, to design installations within the school boundaries and to record their natural movement afterwards around th school as people picked them up and used them elsewhere. Then they were to write about this and draw some artistic conclusions. Drawing and painting were relegated to the back seat.

Previously, art had some generally accepted parameters. There were paintings and scultures. Photagraphs were barely acceptable and photographers were fighting to gain a place in the “Art, capital A” definition. It’s true that limitations in these areas were being broken down. It was no longer necessary to depict something representational.

More and more, the adventurous and experimental ideas in art had to be accompanied by written explanations; the more obscure and esoteric the artspeak, the better the likelihood of publication in a major art magazine or a museum picking up the work for exhibition.

Since this movement to Conceptual Art training invaded the art schools across the Western world, Art has not been the same. There are seemingly no borders as to what is Art and what it is not. The students from the ‘Eighties and ‘Nineties have become the curators of our Art Institutions and they are determined to ensure the last 40 years of leading edge art is exposed to the masses.
It’s the equivalent revolution of the Classicists in the Nineteenth Century to the Impressionist. It’s misunderstood and even hated by the general public, and hailed as the new guiding star by the initiated.

It’s the way of the world. Remember how, in the ‘Fifties, Rock and Roll was considered raucus and definitely not music, by the elderly. When you listen to it now, it sounds sweet and gentle compared to Heavy Metal, Hip Hop and Rap. I wonder if these latter “schools” of music will ever be considered tame, fifty years hence.
Those “ugly” paintings of van Gogh now sell for mega millions. He couldn’t sell them while he was living. Troubled Vincent may still be the number one star of the auction houses.

I had quite a bit of difficulty with Installation Art when if first came into prominence in the ‘Seventies. It was rather rare that this kind of art would be shown in galleries, but there were a few intrepid leaders of the way and we got treated to some very funky exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The work was shocking if a person was used to rectangular painted surfaces as the standard for “Art, capital A”. Few of the many observers knew what it meant. However, the Hippie generation was out to shock, to make statements in novel ways, to think up improbable ideas and then to make them materialize in some way, shape or form. Now this same kind of installation art has become mainstream. Major galleries have embraced the genre and often are willing to mount shows of this type of art.

I think it takes time to understand. Whether I like something or not, I try to leave the door open so that I can learn, if learning is there to be had. I admire craft as part of a work of art and can accept some works on their level of craft even if I don’t like th concept or the final image.

I view experimentation in art as similar to a scientist doing research. There is a goal that is set forth at the beginning of the exploration for discovery. What is found along the way may pertain or not. Quite often while searching for one thing, something completely different is discovered. Quite often, what is discovered and published (or exhibited) is difficult to explain. Especially, the path to get there is quite often impossible to define. The power and impact of the experimental work is often not accepted until some long period of time afterwards.

In art, sometimes it’s the critics who coin a name for the global idea, not the scientist (or the artist). Those of us with lesser understanding of the basics take longer to “get it”, to understand what is happening and thence to appreciate the work that has led to discovery.

In scientific discovery, often the purpose is to cure something – to close a gap of understanding; to find a new cure that will stop a disease. The commercial benefit that was waited upon may not happen. However, offshoots that arise from the unexpected discoveries eventually find unexpected commercial application.

It’s a funny thing. We never have the final answer. There’s always a new thing to discover; as in Art, there is always a new way of working or a new way of expressing oneself to discover.

A century from now, the whole jig may have changed. The unknown artist may be discovered and brought to the fore. The expensive above-couch paintings may be  assigned to thrift stores. Who knows what will be considered eternally, essentially worthy and lasting? Or fashionable? Its a moving target and only time will tell.


2 Responses to “Installation Art”

  1. Suzzie Langley Says:

    J’ai visité ce site sur beaucoup une occasion maintenant, mais c’est le premier que j’aie jamais commentées.

    Haut sur un tel travail de première classe et de la critique. J’ai trouvé en lui un très grande partie de la valeur et – je souhaite seulement qu’il y avait plus de sites dans le monde blogue comme celui-ci.

    Je n’ai jamais s’écarter de ce blog les mains vides, et aujourd’hui encore, je peut se sentir un peu déçu que je ne peux pas le même point de vue à un poste ou cornue qui ont été réalisés. Mais hey! Qui est vivant, et si tout le monde ou réglés sur la même chose ou ce qu’est un problème ennuyeux planète nous vivons

    S’il vous plaît garder votre top travaux.

    Ceci étant dit, et si je suis aimablement autorisés à poursuivre mes participations Je vais revoir à afficher sur votre site Web bientôt


  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Merci pour la commentaire et les compliments.
    J’avais l’impression que vous n’etiez pas d’accord avec ce que j’ai dit en cette poste, mais pourquoi, ce n’est pas dit. Pour avoir un bon conversation et pour donner de valeur a la discussion, j’aurais voulu lire votre opinion la-dessus.

    Effectivement, J’ai remarque quelquechose curieux. J’ai regarde votre web site Craftytrix et c’est tout en Anglais. Pourquoi avez-vous choisi commenter en francais?

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