misc notes from Take Place

Minimalist objects, however, do not communicate in [an immediate] way; in fact they do not communicate at all. instead of presenting themselves as meaningful works of art they merely project and thereby assert their own “objecthood,” their status as mute, physical things. They fake the presence of another person’s body and thereby strongly and impertinently appeal to the viewers desire to interact or enter into a dialogue with them. The minimalist object confronts the viewer, yet at the same time it denies him or her the satisfactory experience of an immediate understanding. The viewer gets an intensified experience of his or her own bodily presence before the work of art, yet he or she is unable to attach meaning to this encounter. He or she is hold in suspense, entrapped into an everlasting “here-and-now” that is seductive, opaque and impossible to transgress.

Here, we can escape the boundaries of our discrete bodies. We become formless matter, fluid, pumped through the building’s hear, its arteries, its corporal passages; passages formed in masturbatory memories (what else are we suppose little Frank [Gehry] was doing in the bathtub with that fish); fantasies of sensual curves, sinuous forms, and powerful scales; fantasies of overcoming the weakness and smallness of little individualities with the magic of towering cybernetic members. Contemporary art is ‘big.’ In fact, some of it is enormous.

Most interesting about this notion of the atmosphere of an artwork is that we are dealing here with a phenomenon that cannot be treated purely objectively. As the German philosopher Gernot Böhme has pointed out, atmospheres constitute an “in-between,” between environmental qualities and human sensibilities. On the subjective side, atmospheres might be described as moods. Think for example of the tensed mood one senses as soon as one enters a meeting room. We feel such moods a something “in the air” and experience them in terms of our own state-of-being, both physically and mentally. Perceiving of an atmosphere is a matter of sensing how it feels to be right here in this environment, at this particular place an moment. This atmospheric experience provides an emotionally colored frame for the viewer’s interaction with or performance of the installation.

The true “site” of installation art is the experience that results from [the phenomenological account of place], an experience that could be described as a journey in the course of which the viewer hovers between various inner and outer places.

All quotes pulled from The Site of Installation Art: Hovering between Inner and Outer Places by Anja Novak essay included in Take Place: Photography and Place from Multiple Perspectives edited by Helen Westgeest