Week 8 white cube

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  • Discussion Question
  • one of the most important and intriguing themes in art today: the relationship between artist and museum.artists of the past eighty years have often turned their attention—both creatively and critically—to a reappraisal of the ideas and systems of classification traditionally associated with curatorship and display of art (and also museum artifacts)
  • This lecture will:explore the relationship betweencontemporary artists, audience and the gallery wallexamine the gallery space, a carry over from the modernist era that is constructed along rigid laws; windows are sealed, and the outside world must not intrude. The walls are white and the ceiling becomes the only light source.  The white cube was in the modern era, and remains in these contemporary times, the conventional means of displaying art. The ‘ideal’ gallery subtracts from the artworks all cues that interfere with the fact that it is art. Objects introduced into this space become art.
  • the white cube was initially only a variance of a rich tradition of differently coloured rooms in museums around 1900. The white cube has various roots which all finally come together in the 1930s in the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Before and after the First World War, there was a desire to show pieces of art against a background with the greatest possible contrast to the dominating colours of the paintings.The valorisation of white paint was also supported by the architectural discussion of the time, in which hygiene considerations played a role: dirt shows, of course, more easily on white walls than on other colours. Then in the 1920s discussions in which white received connotations of infinite space started to emerge, mainly among Constructivist artists and architects. This coincided with temporary exhibitions becoming increasingly important in the museum, and with them the moveable partition wall and flexible groundplan.In Germany, interestingly, this takes place during the Nazi period in the 1930s. In England and France white only becomes a dominant wall colour in museums after the Second World War, so one is almost tempted to speak of the white cube as a Nazi invention. At the same time, the Nazis also mobilised the traditional connotation of white as a colour of purity, but this played no role when the flexible white exhibition container became the default mode for displaying art in the museum.
  • “ The ideal gallery subtracts from the artwork all clues that interfere with the fact that it is “art”. The work is isolated from everything that would detract from its own evaluation of itself. This gives the space a presence possessed by other spaces where conventions are preserved through the repetition of a closed system of values…”Brian O’Doherty (1976) Inside the white cube
  • According to O’Doherty’s classic study Inside the White Cube, such spaces are actually rife with meaning, highly politicised and extremely powerful.The white cube is the dominant model for the showing of art with most galleries, museums, and alternative spaces still employing it.O'Doherty was writing not only within the specific context of post-minimalism and conceptual art of the 1970s, but also from the point of view of artistic practice. Aside from being a prominent critic, O'Doherty was also an installation artistAs both theorist and practitioner, insider and outsider, he was not in a bad position to examine the ideology of something as peculiar as the modern gallery space, the much loved and maligned "white cube.”
  • The main concern of the essay ishow to deal with the white cube convention for gallery designO'Doherty's point is as simple as it is radical: the gallery space is not a neutral container, but a historical construct.Furthermore, it is an aesthetic object in and of itself. The ideal form of the white cube that modernism developed for the gallery space is inseparable from the artworks exhibited inside it. The white cube not only conditions, but also overpowers the artworks themselves in its shift from placing content within a context to making the context itself the content. However, this emergence of context is enabled primarily through its attempted disappearance.
  • The white cube is conceived as a place free of context, where time and social space are thought to be excluded from the experience of artworks. It is only through the apparent neutrality of appearing outside of daily life and politics that the works within the white cube can appear to be self-contained -- only by being freed from historical time can they attain their aura of timelessness.
  • “The Museum interior was turned into antiseptic, laboratory-like spaces – enclosed, isolated, artificially illuminated and apparently neutral environments in which viewers could study works of art displayed as so many isolated specimens”
  • Enter the white cube, with its even walls and its unobtrusive artificial lighting -- a sacred space that (despite its modern design) resembles an ancient tomb, undisturbed by time and containing infinite riches. O'Doherty uses this analogy of the tomb and the treasury to illuminate how the white cube was constructed in order to give the artworks a timeless quality (and thus, lasting value) in both an economic and a political sense. It was a space for the immortality of a certain class or caste's cultural values, as well as a staging ground for objects of sound economic investment for possible buyers. O'Doherty reminds us that galleries are shops -- spaces for producing surplus value, not use value
  • When does an artist's creation become art, and where? Does it occur in the solitary confines of an artist's studio or does it require the context of an art gallery's white cube?What is the relationship between these two culturally charged spaces? How does the site of art's presentation shape the meaning and determine even the very possibility of its existence?
  • “The White Cube carries the same depressingly familiar aura, of an unassailable or transcendental authority, and derives from earlier aristocratic regimes of taste and aesthetics, or we might say, that presents itself as ‘democratic’, as postmodern fragment, or as a-historical model forcing through an ‘absolute value’. This reduces art’s necessary plurality guaranteed by the gallery system’s claim of neutrality, isolating any ‘infection’ of the real. This is a disaster by any definition, since it mediates the production of artistic gestures into a single ingenious system of ‘ethical’ values, fragmented onto egoistic or ethnic particularities, as a vague infinite of personal freedoms, whilst quietly endorsing the aestheticisation of the political. We are therefore obliged to seek a space of suspension from these motives, in the artistic gestures of refusal.”
  • Marcel Duchamp Portable museum (boite-en-valise, 1941)The flaps on the box can be opened to reveal a compilation of his works reproduced in photographs, prints and models, thus creating a portable, re-arrangeable museumThe First International Dada Exhibition (1920)Anarchic and experimental display
  • Institutional Critique is an art term that describes the systematic inquiry into the workings of art institutions, for instance galleries and museums For almost 40 years, Michael Asher has encouraged museums and art galleries to question the logic of their organizational and architectural structures Andrea Fraser on Institutional CritiqueThe following quote sums up how I feel about art, and the blurring of art's lines, especially in my critical defense of relational practice for my thesis project."[Michael] Asher took Duchamp one step further. Art is not art because it is signed by an artist or shown in a museum or any other 'institutional' site. Art is art when it exists for discourses and practices that recognize it as art, value and evaluate it as art, and consume it as art, whether as object, gesture, representation or only idea.”
  • Moving from a substantive understanding of “institution” as specific places, organisations, and individuals to a conception of it as a social field, the question of what’s inside and what is outside becomes much more complex.
  • White Cube issuesIsolation, dehistoricizing of art objects in seemingly neutral space.Viewing and/vs. understanding: legacy of assumed immediate understanding of "timeless masterpieces" and existence of universal, transcultural meanings and values in museum works.Museum as architected, pre-encoded space, the inside where art exists or appears, vs. the outside world, where art doesn't exist or is indiscernible. Comparisons with sacred space of temples, churches, shrines. Interpretive space of museum installations, special exhibitions, galleries. contemporary and the recent histories of institutional critique, spatial production and politics. If the gallery space is saturated with ideology (as O'Doherty claims), and if it can be analyzed spatially and politically through artistic practicesThe act of critiquing an institution as artistic practice, the institution usually being a museum or an art gallery. Institutional criticism began in the late 1960s when artists began to create art in response to the institutions that bought and exhibited their work. In the 1960s the art institution was often perceived as a place of cultural confinement and thus something to attack aesthetically, politically and theoreticallyIn 1968 Daniel Buren sealed a gallery in Milano
  • Hans Haacke is a leading exponent of Institutional critique, particularly targeting funding and donations given to museums and galleries. In 1971, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne rejected his work Manet-Projekt 74 from one of their shows. The work was related to the museums recent acquisition of EdouardManet’s Bunch of Asparagus and detailed the provenance of the painting and Nazi background of the donor. During the 1990s it became a fashion for critical discussions to be held by curators and directors within art galleries and museums that centred on this very subject, thereby making the institution not only the problem but also the solution. This has changed the nature of Institutional critique,
  • In exploring galleries and institutions we become aware of the many contexts- historic, cultural, physical and philosophical- that ‘frame’ art practice and art works;Examine how such practices and modes of display emerged over the Modern eras;Explore how ‘frames’ bestow meaning upon art, and vice versa.
  • The typical setup of the museum-as-factory looks like this. Before: an industrial workplace. Now: people spending their leisure time in front of TV monitors. Before: people working in these factories. Now: people working at home in front of computer monitors. Andy Warhol’s Factory served as model for the new museum in its productive turn towards being a “social factory.” By now, descriptions of the social factory abound.It exceeds its traditional boundaries and spills over into almost everything else. It pervades bedrooms and dreams alike, as well as perception, affection, and attention. It transforms everything it touches into culture, if not art. It is an a-factory, which produces affect as effect. It integrates intimacy, eccentricity, and other formally unofficial forms of creation. Private and public spheres get entangled in a blurred zone of hyper-production.
  • The work of Michael Asher deals with issues concerning the contextual—and thus architectural and institutional—condition of art. Michael Asher’s work is based on direct and highly site-specific interactions with art institutions and their contexts. More exactly, Asher responds to the ways in which museums and exhibition spaces present themselves, or the objects they display, to their various publics.
  • American conceptual artist LouiseLawler, who moves in the field of tension of institutionalcritique and Appropriation Art, When museums became a focus of artistic interest in the early seventies, criticism was initially directed at the institution itself, as a centre of power. LouiseLawler smoothly develops this first generation of institutionalcritique and reflects social, aesthetic, and economic aspects of the institutional framework. She photographs the way works are presented in museums, galleries and private homes, and also follows them behind the scenes in depots, storerooms, and at auctions. Lawler’s practice goes beyond oppositional criticism of institutional power in order to question it systematically from the perspective of an accomplice.
  • Wilson's unique artist approach is to examine, question, and deconstruct the traditional display of art and artifacts in museums. With the use of new wall labels, sounds, lighting, and non-traditional pairings of objects, he leads viewers to recognize that changes in context create changes in meaning. Wilson's juxtaposition of evocative objects forces the viewer to question the biases and limitations of cultural institutions and how they have shaped the interpretation of historical truth, artistic value, and the language of display
  • To demonstrate how museums ignore or misrepresent the cultural contributions and history of blacks and Native Americans, New York installation artist Fred Wilson recently "mined" the Maryland Historical Society's collection (with that institute's cooperation) to create a powerful exhibit. His juxtapositions of the artefacts and objects included a Ku Klux Klan hood nestled in a turn-of-the-century baby carriage and iron slave shackles alongside a fine silver tea set. Wilson, a conceptual artist of African American and Caribean descent, rearranged and labeled marble portrait busts, reward posters for runaway slaves, cigar-store Indians with backs turned to the viewer, doll houses and other artifacts. By creating this kind of ‘mock exhibits’ he is arguing fora more open, inclusive relationship between cultural institutions and the communities they serve.
  • “The white cube as the perfect or only site for showing and viewing art has been a contested idea for many years now. As artist began to see their work in the broader cultural context of its production so the context in which the work was seen came to have a greater significance.” Sam Ainsley
  • In an age when installations, art environments, ‘scatter art’ and large-scale mixed media works are the norm, the traditional confines of the museum and art gallery spaces are continually under scrutiny. As a natural consequence, the methods of displaying art have transformed. 
  • Week 8 white cube

    1. 1. Is it simply an empty ‘canvas’ for the contemplation of art?Dundee Contemporary Arts White Cube Gallery, London
    2. 2. Encoding of Art-Space:The Role of the ‘ArtContainer’Codes for reading and receiving visual art: art containers andexhibition spaces. Where can art appear to be seen as art?
    3. 3. • explore the relationship between contemporary artists,audience and the gallery wall• examine the gallery space, a carry over from the modernistera that is constructed along rigid laws; windows are sealed,and the outside world must not intrude. The walls are whiteand the ceiling becomes the only light source.
    4. 4. The white cube has various roots which all finally come together in the 1930s in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.In Germany,interestingly, this takesplace during the Naziperiod in the 1930s
    5. 5. “ The ideal gallery subtracts from the artwork all clues that interferewith the fact that it is “art”. The work is isolated from everything thatwould detract from its own evaluation of itself. This gives the space apresence possessed by other spaces where conventions are preservedthrough the repetition of a closed system of values…” Brian O’Doherty (1976) Inside the white cube
    6. 6. Most galleries,museums, andalternative spacesstill employ thewhite cube
    7. 7. The main concern of the essayishow to deal with the white cubeconvention for gallery design.ODohertys point is as simple as itis radical: the gallery space is not aneutral container, but a historicalconstruct.
    8. 8. The white cube is conceived as a place free ofcontext, where time and social space arethought to be excluded from the experience ofartworks.It is only through the apparent neutrality ofappearing outside of daily life and politics thatthe works within the white cube can appear tobe self-contained -- only by being freed fromhistorical time can they attain their aura oftimelessness.
    9. 9. “The Museum interior was turned into antiseptic, laboratory-like spaces – enclosed, isolated, artificially illuminated andapparently neutral environments in which viewers couldstudy works of art displayed as so many isolated specimens” (Wallach 1992 [1991], p. 282)
    10. 10. ODoherty reminds us that galleries are shops -- spaces for producing surplus :value, not use value MatthieuLaurette : Opportunities: Lets Make Lots of Money 2005 - 2010
    11. 11. When does an artists creationbecome art, and where?Does it occur in the solitaryconfines of an artists studio ordoes it require the context of anart gallerys white cube?What is the relationship betweenthese two culturally chargedspaces?How does the site of artspresentation shape the meaningand determine even the verypossibility of its existence?
    12. 12. Object Subject Eye SpectatorKnowledge Experience Vs. Reason TasteRationality PassionsUniversal Particular
    13. 13. Marcel Duchamp Portable museum (boite-en-valise, 1941)The flaps on the box can be opened to reveal a compilation of his worksreproduced in photographs, prints and models, thus creating a portable,re-arrangeable museumThe First International Dada Exhibition (1920)Anarchic and experimental display
    14. 14. October 11, 2009Andrea Fraser on Institutional CritiqueThe following quote sums up how I feel about art, and the blurring of artslines, especially in my critical defense of relational practice for my thesisproject."[Michael] Asher took Duchamp one step further. Art isnot art because it is signed by an artist or shown in amuseum or any other institutional site. Art is art when itexists for discourses and practices that recognize it as art,value and evaluate it as art, and consume it as art,whether as object, gesture, representation or only idea.”Andrea Fraser, "From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique,"Artforum, September 2005.
    15. 15. Moving from a substantive understanding of “institution” as specific places, organisations, and individuals to a conception of it as a social field, the question of what’s inside and what is outside becomes much more complex. Andrea Fraser, “From the Critique of Institutions to an Institution of Critique”, ARTFORUM, Sept. 2005
    16. 16. Critiques on theinstitutions of art(principally museums andgalleries) are made in thework of MarcelBroodthaers, Daniel Burenand Hans Haacke. Daniel Buren ‘Closed show’ GalerieAppolinaire, Milano (1968) Gallery doors sealed with green-white stripes
    17. 17. 68 PEOPLE PAID TO BLOCK A MUSEUM ENTRANCE Santiago SierraMuseum of Contemporary Art. Pusan, Korea. October 2000
    18. 18. In 1971, the Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne rejected his workManet-Projekt 74 from one of their shows. The work was related tothe museums recent acquisition of EdouardManet’s Bunch ofAsparagus and detailed the provenance of the painting and Nazibackground of the donor. Hans Haacke Manet-Projekt 74 (1971)
    19. 19. "During the exhibitionthe gallery will beclosed.” Robert Barry Closed Gallery Piece (1969)
    20. 20. MoMA (1929)• A ‘White Cube’;• Never meant to have ‘kept’ its art as permanent collections like traditional museums.
    21. 21. Guggenheim, New York‘I need a fighter, a lover of space, an agitator, a tester and a wise man. . . . I want a temple of spirit, a monument!’ -Hilla Rebay to Frank Lloyd Wright, 1943
    22. 22. Mike Nelson, Tothe Memory ofH.P. Lovecraft,1999, 2008
    23. 23. The typical setup of the museum-as-factory looks like this. Before: anindustrial workplace. Now: people spending their leisure time in front of TVmonitors. Before: people working in these factories. Now: people working athome in front of computer monitors.Andy Warhol’s Factory served as model for the new museum in itsproductive turn towards being a “social factory.” By now, descriptions of thesocial factory abound.It exceeds its traditional boundaries and spills overinto almost everything else. It pervades bedrooms and dreams alike, as wellas perception, affection, and attention. It transforms everything it touchesinto culture, if not art. It is an a-factory, which produces affect as effect. Itintegrates intimacy, eccentricity, and other formally unofficial forms ofcreation. Private and public spheres get entangled in a blurred zone ofhyper-production.HitoSteyerl, “Is a Museum a Factory?”E-flux Journal #7, June 2009 - http://www.e-flux.com/journal/view/71
    24. 24. Andy Warhols Silver Factory
    25. 25. Michael Ashers installation of a bronze cast of Jean Antoine Houdons statueof George Washington (1788/1917) , Art Institute of Chicago (1979)
    26. 26. I-O, 1993, by Louise Lawler
    27. 27. Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum, 1992-1993, (Indian Room) installation funded by BaltimoreMuseum of Contemporary Art, at the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore
    28. 28. Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum, 1992-1993, (Baby Carriage and Hood ) installation funded byBaltimore Museum of Contemporary Art, at the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore
    29. 29. Postmodern SpacesMusée d’Orsay. Opened as an art gallery in 1981.(Main structure completed in 1900)
    30. 30. Postmodern Spaces Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers. Pompidou Centre, built in 1977.
    31. 31. “The white cube as the perfect or only site forshowing and viewing art has been a contestedidea for many years now. As artist began to seetheir work in the broader cultural context of itsproduction so the context in which the work wasseen came to have a greater significance.”Sam Ainsley
    32. 32. Installation view of Urs Fischer’s You 2007
    33. 33. ODoherty, Brian. Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).http://www.societyofcontrol.com/whitecube/insidewc.htm

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