Dan Flavin is one of the first artists to explore the possibilities of light as a sculptural medium. Since the 1960s his work has incorporated fluorescent bulbs of different colors and in various arrangements. Moreover, he takes advantage of the wall space the light is projected onto, literally blurring the line between traditional sculpture and the more complex medium of installation.
Installation art utilizes multiple objects, often from various mediums, and takes up entire spaces. It can be generic or site specific. Because of their relative complexity, installations can address aesthetic and narrative ideas on a larger scale than traditional sculpture. Its genesis can be traced to the Dada movement, ascendant after World War I and which predicated a new aesthetic by its unconventional nature and ridicule of established tastes and styles. Sculpture came off the pedestal and began to transform entire rooms into works or art. Kurt Schwitters' Merzbau, begun in 1923, transforms his apartment into an abstract, claustrophobic space that is at once part sculpture and architecture. With installation art the viewer is surrounded by and can become part of the work itself.
British artist Rachel Whiteread's installation Embankment from 2005 fills an entire exhibition hall with casts made from various sized boxes. At first appearance a snowy mountain landscape navigated by the viewer is actually a gigantic nod to the idea of boxes as receptacles of memory towering above and stacked around them, squeezing them towards the center of the room.
Embankment, Rachel Whiteread, 2005
Ilya Kabakov mixes together a narrative of political propaganda, humor and mundane existence in his installation The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment from 1984. What we see is the remains of a small apartment plastered with Soviet era posters, a small bed and the makeshift slingshot a man uses to escape the drudgery of his life within the system. A gaping hole in the roof and his shoes on the floor are evidence enough that he made it into space.
Performance art goes a step further, involving the artist as part of the work itself. Some performance artworks are interactive, involving the viewer too. The nature of the medium is in its ability to use live performance in the same context as static works of art: to enhance our understanding of artistic experience. Similar to installation works, performance art had its first manifestations during the Dada art movement, when live performances included poetry, visual art and music, often going on at the same time.
The German artist Joseph Beuys was instrumental in introducing performance art as a legitimate medium in the post World War II artistic milieu. I Like America and America Likes Me from 1974 finds Beuys co-existing with a coyote for a week in the Rene Block Gallery in New York City. The artist is protected from the animal by a felt blanket and a shepherd's staff. Performance art, like installation, challenges the viewer to reexamine the artistic experience from a new level.
In the 1960's Allen Kaprow's Happenings invited viewers to be the participants. These events, sometimes rehearsed and other times improvised begin to erase the line between the artist and the audience. Yoko Ono's 'Cut Piece' from 1965 specifically invites members of the audience to interact with her on stage.
This same idea – using the artist's body as subject, is evident in the performance art of Marina Abramović. In The Artist is Present she sits quietly as individual visitors sit across the table from her, exchanging silent glances and stares.
Today we see a new form of performance art happen unexpectedly around us in the form of flash mobs: groups of people who gather in public spaces to collaborate in short, seemingly spontaneous events that entertain and surprise passersby. Many flash mobs are arranged in advance through the use of social media. An example of flash mob performance is Do Re Mi in the Central Station in Antwerp, Belgium in March of 2009.
To read more about performance art and understand how it differs from other 3D creative media, review this page. Note that performance art differs from what
is commonly known as the "performing arts", such as theater, live music, and dance.
Source: Chris Gildow, Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges
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