Saturday, December 20, 2014

Week Two: Process, Performance, Installation, and lead in to Video (October 28-30)

I wanted to write about the question of where the art is? Whenever there is a new and radical art, one of the main criticisms of it tend to be that critics can't seem to identify where the art is in the piece. This had a precedence as far back as Duchamp and possibly even as early as Goya, but especially now that we are talking about Concept and Land Art, it seems like particularly relevant point to think about.
Traditionally, the art object is where the art resides. A work of art, made skilfully and adhering to accepted traditions, was easy to define as art. It was an object that you could seperate from the world as distinctly Art. It wasn't until the Avant-Garde (and especially Duchamp) began to question the idea of what made an object Art; everyday objects were used to blur the line between Art and the world.
I think Conceptual Art and Land Art have taken and expanded on this idea. In fact, it propels the work. Partly due to the commodification of art objects and the rise of the art market, these artists wanted to make art that defied those institutions. They were reacting to the seemingly decorative and elitist Formalist art that Greenberg had championed and which seemed to be a dead-end for art.
Conceptual art makes the idea more important than the form it takes. The form then is secondary to the idea making the object almost redundant. This practice made art that was ephemeral like LeWitt's wall drawings that would be painted over once the exhibition was over. This idea breaks down the art as owned object in a radical way because if the object isn't important, then the idea is the art: is it possible to own an idea?
Process art pushed this idea further. An artist would create an art-making strategy by using the language of their given media and to accept the results, no matter what the form took shape as. The making of the thing became more important than the thing. A work like Long's Walking in a Line is shaped by the process of his walking in a field to create a line on the landscape (leading to Land Art, below), but the form it takes is secondary to act of its making. It is also ephemeral and goes beyond being an object that someone can own.
Land Art develops this idea another step farther and takes the art beyond the confines of the gallery and into the landscape. The art is defiantly beyond object so there cannot be ownership of it. Smithson created a large spiral in a salt lake, drawing/sculpting into the earth itself; making the world a canvas or frame of reference in which the art exists. To make the matter more difficult, the viewer must seek the art out, which is often in an isolated site.
This begs the question again, where does the art reside? I'd say that the art resides in the idea of opening up art to the larger canvas of the world (and cosmos like in the work of Holt or Turrell) and there is something poetic about that. We live in the canvas on which art is made. There are no limits to the canvas. The world is ever-changing and alive, therefore so is art. The Avant-Garde tried to bring the world into art, but Land artists have made art out of the world.
James Turrell, Crater's Eye from Roden Crater Project

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