Installation art

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Rachel Whiteread, Embankment at Tate Modern, London Whiteread tate 1.jpg
Rachel Whiteread, Embankment at Tate Modern, London
An installation art of Mad crab created with waste plastics and similar non-biodegradable wastes at Fort Kochi. Mad Crab.jpg
An installation art of Mad crab created with waste plastics and similar non-biodegradable wastes at Fort Kochi.

Installation art is an artistic genre of three-dimensional works that are often site-specific and designed to transform the perception of a space. Generally, the term is applied to interior spaces, whereas exterior interventions are often called public art, land art or art intervention; however, the boundaries between these terms overlap.



Visitors interact with a couple in bed, inside one of the many environments of La Menesunda (1965), one of the earliest large-scale installations in art history. La pareja en La Menesunda 1965.jpg
Visitors interact with a couple in bed, inside one of the many environments of La Menesunda (1965), one of the earliest large-scale installations in art history.

Installation art can be either temporary or permanent. Installation artworks have been constructed in exhibition spaces such as museums and galleries, as well as public and private spaces. The genre incorporates a broad range of everyday and natural materials, which are often chosen for their "evocative" qualities, as well as new media such as video, sound, performance, immersive virtual reality and the internet. Many installations are site-specific in that they are designed to exist only in the space for which they were created, appealing to qualities evident in a three-dimensional immersive medium. Artistic collectives such as the Exhibition Lab at New York's American Museum of Natural History created environments to showcase the natural world in as realistic a medium as possible. Likewise, Walt Disney Imagineering employed a similar philosophy when designing the multiple immersive spaces for Disneyland in 1955. Since its acceptance as a separate discipline, a number of institutions focusing on Installation art were created. These included the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, the Museum of Installation in London, and the Fairy Doors of Ann Arbor, MI, among others.

Installation art came to prominence in the 1970s but its roots can be identified in earlier artists such as Marcel Duchamp and his use of the readymade and Kurt Schwitters' Merz art objects, rather than more traditional craft based sculpture. The "intention" of the artist is paramount in much later installation art whose roots lie in the conceptual art of the 1960s. This again is a departure from traditional sculpture which places its focus on form. Early non-Western installation art includes events staged by the Gutai group in Japan starting in 1954, which influenced American installation pioneers like Allan Kaprow. Wolf Vostell shows his installation 6 TV Dé-coll/age in 1963 [3] at the Smolin Gallery in New York.


Allan McCollum.The Shapes Project, 2005/06 Petzel shapes.jpeg
Allan McCollum.The Shapes Project, 2005/06

Installation as nomenclature for a specific form of art came into use fairly recently; its first use as documented by the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1969. It was coined in this context, in reference to a form of art that had arguably existed since prehistory but was not regarded as a discrete category until the mid-twentieth century. Allan Kaprow used the term "Environment" in 1958 (Kaprow 6) to describe his transformed indoor spaces; this later joined such terms as "project art" and "temporary art."

Essentially, installation/environmental art takes into account a broader sensory experience, rather than floating framed points of focus on a "neutral" wall or displaying isolated objects (literally) on a pedestal. This may leave space and time as its only dimensional constants, implying dissolution of the line between "art" and "life"; Kaprow noted that "if we bypass 'art' and take nature itself as a model or point of departure, we may be able to devise a different kind of art... out of the sensory stuff of ordinary life".


The conscious act of artistically addressing all the senses with regard to a total experience made a resounding debut in 1849 when Richard Wagner conceived of a Gesamtkunstwerk , or an operatic work for the stage that drew inspiration from ancient Greek theater in its inclusion of all the major art forms: painting, writing, music, etc. (Britannica). In devising operatic works to commandeer the audience's senses, Wagner left nothing unobserved: architecture, ambience, and even the audience itself were considered and manipulated in order to achieve a state of total artistic immersion. In the book "Themes in Contemporary Art", it is suggested that "installations in the 1980s and 1990s were increasingly characterized by networks of operations involving the interaction among complex architectural settings, environmental sites and extensive use of everyday objects in ordinary contexts. With the advent of video in 1965, a concurrent strand of installation evolved through the use of new and ever-changing technologies, and what had been simple video installations expanded to include complex interactive, multimedia and virtual reality environments".

Art and Objecthood

Guardians of Time, Manfred Kielnhofer, Festival of Lights (Berlin) French Cathedral, Berlin, Velotaxi 2011 Franzoesischer Dom - Festival of Lights 2011.jpg
Guardians of Time, Manfred Kielnhofer, Festival of Lights (Berlin) French Cathedral, Berlin, Velotaxi 2011

In "Art and Objecthood", Michael Fried derisively labels art that acknowledges the viewer as "theatrical" (Fried 45). There is a strong parallel between installation and theater: both play to a viewer who is expected to be at once immersed in the sensory/narrative experience that surrounds him and maintain a degree of self-identity as a viewer. The traditional theater-goer does not forget that they have come in from outside to sit and take in a created experience; a trademark of installation art has been the curious and eager viewer, still aware that they are in an exhibition setting and tentatively exploring the novel universe of the installation.

The artist and critic Ilya Kabakov mentions this essential phenomenon in the introduction to his lectures "On the "Total" Installation": "[One] is simultaneously both a 'victim' and a viewer, who on the one hand surveys and evaluates the installation, and on the other, follows those associations, recollections which arise in him[;] he is overcome by the intense atmosphere of the total illusion". Here installation art bestows an unprecedented importance on the observer's inclusion in that which he observes. The expectations and social habits that the viewer brings with him into the space of the installation will remain with him as he enters, to be either applied or negated once he has taken in the new environment. What is common to nearly all installation art is a consideration of the experience in toto and the problems it may present, namely the constant conflict between disinterested criticism and sympathetic involvement. Television and video offer somewhat immersive experiences, but their unrelenting control over the rhythm of passing time and the arrangement of images precludes an intimately personal viewing experience. Ultimately, the only things a viewer can be assured of when experiencing the work are his own thoughts and preconceptions and the basic rules of space and time. All else may be molded by the artist's hands.

The central importance of the subjective point of view when experiencing installation art, points toward a disregard for traditional Platonic image theory. In effect, the entire installation adopts the character of the simulacrum or flawed statue: it neglects any ideal form in favor of optimizing its direct appearance to the observer. Installation art operates fully within the realm of sensory perception, in a sense "installing" the viewer into an artificial system with an appeal to his subjective perception as its ultimate goal.

Interactive installations

Marc Lee 10.000 Moving Cities, 2010-ongoing, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Seoul 10.000 moving cities.jpg
Marc Lee 10.000 Moving Cities, 2010-ongoing, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Seoul
An urban interactive art installation by Maurizio Bolognini (Genoa, 2005), which everybody can modify by using a cell phone. Maurizio bolognini genoa.JPG
An urban interactive art installation by Maurizio Bolognini (Genoa, 2005), which everybody can modify by using a cell phone.

An interactive installation frequently involves the audience acting on the work of art or the piece responding to users' activity. [4] There are several kinds of interactive installations that artists produce, these include web-based installations (e.g., Telegarden), gallery-based installations, digital-based installations, electronic-based installations, mobile-based installations, etc. Interactive installations appeared mostly at end of the 1980s (Legible City by Jeffrey Shaw, La plume by Edmond Couchot, Michel Bret...) and became a genre during the 1990s, when artists became particularly interested in using the participation of the audiences to activate and reveal the meaning of the installation.

Paul Kuniholm Installation Art, for Storefronts, a Shunpike program Paul Kuniholm Installation Art, for Storefronts, a Shunpike program.jpg
Paul Kuniholm Installation Art, for Storefronts, a Shunpike program

Immersive virtual reality

With the improvement of technology over the years, artists are more able to explore outside of the boundaries that were never able to be explored by artists in the past. [5] The media used are more experimental and bold; they are also usually cross media and may involve sensors, which plays on the reaction to the audiences' movement when looking at the installations. By using virtual reality as a medium, immersive virtual reality art is probably the most deeply interactive form of art. [6] By allowing the spectator to "visit" the representation, the artist creates "situations to live" vs "spectacle to watch". [7]

See also

Related Research Articles

A happening is a performance, event, or situation art, usually as performance art. The term was first used by Allan Kaprow during the 1950s to describe a range of art-related events.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Interactive art</span> Creative works that involve viewer input

Interactive art is a form of art that involves the spectator in a way that allows the art to achieve its purpose. Some interactive art installations achieve this by letting the observer walk through, over or around them; others ask the artist or the spectators to become part of the artwork in some way.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Allan Kaprow</span> American performance artist, installation artist, painter (1927–2006)

Allan Kaprow was an American performance artist, installation artist, painter, and assemblagist. He helped to develop the "Environment" and "Happening" in the late 1950s and 1960s, as well as their theory. His Happenings — some 200 of them — evolved over the years. Eventually Kaprow shifted his practice into what he called "Activities", intimately scaled pieces for one or several players, devoted to the study of normal human activity in a way congruent to ordinary life. Fluxus, performance art, and installation art were, in turn, influenced by his work.

Video installation is a contemporary art form that combines video technology with installation art, making use of all aspects of the surrounding environment to affect the audience. Tracing its origins to the birth of video art in the 1970s, it has increased in popularity as digital video production technology has become more readily accessible. Today, video installation is ubiquitous and visible in a range of environments—from galleries and museums to an expanded field that includes site-specific work in urban or industrial landscapes. Popular formats include monitor work, projection, and performance. The only requirements are electricity and darkness.

Sound art is an artistic activity in which sound is utilized as a primary medium or material. Like many genres of contemporary art, sound art may be interdisciplinary in nature, or be used in hybrid forms. According to Brandon LaBelle, sound art as a practice "harnesses, describes, analyzes, performs, and interrogates the condition of sound and the process by which it operates."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ann Hamilton (artist)</span> American visual artist

Ann Hamilton is an American visual artist who emerged in the early 1980s known for her large-scale multimedia installations. After receiving her BFA in textile design from the University of Kansas in 1979, she lived in Banff, Alberta, and Montreal, Quebec, Canada before deciding to pursue an MFA in sculpture at Yale in 1983. From 1985 to 1991, she taught on the faculty of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Since 2001, Hamilton has served on the faculty of the Department of Art at the Ohio State University. She was appointed a Distinguished University Professor in 2011.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Maurice Benayoun</span> French visual artist and theorist

Maurice Benayoun is a French new-media artist, curator, and theorist based in Paris and Hong Kong.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Virtual art</span>

Virtual art is a term for the virtualization of art, made with the technical media developed at the end of the 1980s. These include human-machine interfaces such as visualization casks, stereoscopic spectacles and screens, digital painting and sculpture, generators of three-dimensional sound, data gloves, data clothes, position sensors, tactile and power feed-back systems, etc. As virtual art covers such a wide array of mediums it is a catch-all term for specific focuses within it. Much contemporary art has become, in Frank Popper's terms, virtualized.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Immersion (virtual reality)</span> Perception of being physically present in a non-physical world

Immersion into virtual reality (VR) is a perception of being physically present in a non-physical world. The perception is created by surrounding the user of the VR system in images, sound or other stimuli that provide an engrossing total environment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Theo Watson</span> British artist and programmer

Theo Watson is a British artist and programmer. His art work includes interactive video, large-scale public projections, computer vision projects, and interactive sound recordings which have featured in museums and galleries across the world including Museum of Modern Art, New York Hall of Science, Tate Modern amongst others. Watson is a partner at Design I/O, a Cambridge-based interactive design firm known for cutting edge, immersive installations. He is also co-founder of the programming toolkit openFrameworks, co-creator of the EyeWriter and a virtual fellow at Free Art and Technology Lab.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Exhibition</span> Organized presentation and display of a selection of items or pictures

An exhibition, in the most general sense, is an organized presentation and display of a selection of items. In practice, exhibitions usually occur within a cultural or educational setting such as a museum, art gallery, park, library, exhibition hall, or World's fairs. Exhibitions can include many things such as art in both major museums and smaller galleries, interpretive exhibitions, natural history museums and history museums, and also varieties such as more commercially focused exhibitions and trade fairs. They can also foster community engagement, dialogue, and education, providing visitors with opportunities to explore diverse perspectives, historical contexts, and contemporary issues. Additionally, exhibitions frequently contribute to the promotion of artists, innovators, and industries, acting as a conduit for the exchange of ideas and the celebration of human creativity and achievement.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New media art</span> Artworks designed and produced by means of electronic media technologies

New media art includes artworks designed and produced by means of electronic media technologies. It comprises virtual art, computer graphics, computer animation, digital art, interactive art, sound art, Internet art, video games, robotics, 3D printing, immersive installation and cyborg art. The term defines itself by the thereby created artwork, which differentiates itself from that deriving from conventional visual arts such as architecture, painting or sculpture.

Jordan Wolfson is an American visual artist who lives in Los Angeles. He has worked in video and film, in sculptural installation, and in virtual reality.

The Smolin Gallery was an avant-garde art venue and gallery on 57th Street in New York City, at its peak in the 1960s. It was known for its involvement with installation art, performance art and experimental art, and was best known for the Allan Kaprow assemblage performance of September 11–12, 1962 entitled "Words", believed to be the first allowing the audience to participate in an art gallery context. Kaprow "used two continual rolls of cloth with words from poems, newspapers, comic and telephone books" during which the audience were asked to "tear off the words, staple them together, write notes, even attack and hack them". Verbal fragments were pasted on the walls from floor to ceiling. In April 1963, Lima and Tony Towle gave their first public recital at the gallery.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Allyson Mitchell</span>

Allyson Mitchell is a Toronto-based maximalist artist, working predominantly in sculpture, installation and film. Her practice melds feminism and pop culture to trouble contemporary representations of women, sexuality and the body largely through the use of reclaimed textile and abandoned craft. Throughout her career, Mitchell has critiqued socio-historical phobias of femininity, feminine bodies and colonial histories, as well as ventured into topics of consumption under capitalism, queer feelings, queer love, fat being, fatphobia, genital fears and cultural practices. Her work is rooted in a Deep Lez methodology, which merges lesbian feminism with contemporary queer politics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Julianne Swartz</span> American artist

Julianne Swartz is a New York-based artist. She is known for immersive installations, architectural interventions and sculptures that bring sound, optics and kinetics into play to create alternative, multisensory experiences. She uses utilitarian materials to warp, reshape or deepen perception, generating unexpected, ephemeral and participatory experiences out of common situations. Critics suggest that her work inhabits liminal areas, both literally and conceptually, bridging the perceptible and evanescent, public and private, visual and embodied, affective and technical. Art in America critic Peter R. Kalb wrote, "Swartz appeals to the senses and emotions with a quiet lyricism, using unassuming materials and marshaling grand forces like wind and magnetism" to offer "a thoughtful excursion into sound, sight and psyche."

CREW is a Belgian performance group, founded in Brussels in 1991 by Eric Joris. CREW operates on the border between art and science, between performance art and new technology. Artist Eric Joris develops his live-art projects in close collaboration with scientists and other artists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pia Myrvold</span> Norwegian artist (born 1960)

Pia Myrvold is a Norwegian artist and designer specialized in interactive art interfaces. In her work she mixes technology and different artistic media, such as 3D animation, painting, video, fashion and design, in order to build a new relationship between the art, the dissemination of ideas and the public. She lives and works in Paris.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Steve Heimbecker</span> Canadian sound artist

Steve Heimbecker is a Canadian sound artist, pioneer of sound art in Canada. His works are part of the collection of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. His work has been exhibited in Canada, the United States, Peru and Europe.


  1. "Journey through this maze-like installation and become a part of the art". Tate . Retrieved March 29, 2020.
  2. "Marta Minujín: Menesunda Reloaded". New Museum. June 26, 2019. Retrieved March 29, 2020.
  3. Wolf Vostell, 6 TV Dé-coll/age, 1963
  4. Younis, Lauren (March 5, 2009). "Hearts and Scissors Exhibit to Open". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014. "Installation art can facilitate a direct, immediate interaction with the viewer," [Cindy] Hinant said.
  5. Joseph Nechvatal, Immersive Ideals / Critical Distances. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing. 2009, p. 14
  6. Joseph Nechvatal, Immersive Ideals / Critical Distances. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing. 2009, pp. 367-368
  7. Maurice Benayoun, Maurice Benayoun Open Art, Nouvelles éditions Scala, 2011, French version, ISBN   978-2-35988-046-5
  8. Milton Becerra Book Analysis of a process over time - 2007 - ISBN   980-6472-21-7


Contemporary installation organizations and museums

Installation art