Maserclass ‘Visual Identity’ by Evelien Bracke - part 1
Aspects of PresentationSometimes doing something leads to nothingSometimes doing nothing leads to something (F. Alÿs)Pierre Huyghe, Timekeeper, Viennese Secession, 1999
“ There is no such thing as a neutral installation. A work of art is so much like aperson - the same work of art reacts differently at different phases of history.Installation is a very complicated exciting subject.”René d’Harnoncourt, 1960“The unconscious of exhibitions: that which is present and powerful, but oftenunseen, overlooked and unacknowledged”- Creating a critical view on presentation / exhibiting- Discovering the invisible ‘scripts’/’discourses’ within an exhibition/presentation- Offering a possible (theoretical) framework
• Week 1: A brief outline of the history of presentation / exhibitionsPerspective: art history + visual culture studies• Week 2: Context, meaning, critical exhibitionsPerspective: linguistics + material culture studiesAspects of presentationArt history Visual Culture StudiesLinguistics (‘context’)Material culture studies
Art historical perspective + visual culture studies- Historical shifts in presentation > shifts in visual culture> shifts in art history> shifts in the concept of art- Using some exhibition case-studies(subjective + historical determined; relative choice!)- Creating a historical framework, for contemporary assimilation
1. The museum’s transition from the private to the public sphere• The transition reflects an overarching shift in visual culture around 1800 (cf.shopping)
2. 19th century, salon style• Salon style:- masterpieces as ‘wallpaper’ (cf.visual culture of the 19th cent.:showing everything)- symmetrical installations + mostimportant work central- decorative hanging- chronological + by schools(the 19th century mind was taxonomic)- evolution of the arts: the tradition ofWestern easel painting + creating awindow on the world (=illusionism) (cf.Framing)
3. German displayshifts (beginning 20th century)• Paradigm shift:- Isolation of the work- Historical / original context(cf. J. Burckhard) = atmosphererooms (‘Stijlkamers’). The wallreflects a historical context• Vb. Alexander Dorner;Landesmuseum, Hannover, ca.1920• Vb. Wilhelm von Bode;Kaiser-Friedrich -Museum, Berlin,ca. 1910
4. The international Avant-Gardes: display experiments• Interest of the Avant-Gardes inspace and viewer-interactiveinstallations.‘The International Avant-Garde of thefirst half of the century were mademanifest in their exhibitions’• Frederick Kiesler, InternationalExhibition of new theatertechnique, Vienna, 1924• Kiesler invented a new method ofinstallation design
• A new language of form composed offreestanding, demountable displayunits (L and T elements)• The emphasis in art history shifts fromthe historical context to the empathy ofthe observer• --> Viewer interaction; Kiesler broughtthe works into the space and time ofthe viewer• Flatness and objecthood: before apicture is subject matter it is first of alla surface covered with lines andcolours• Actual context / space• The wall, the context of the art, hadbecome rich in content
• Frederick Kiesler, Art of ThisCentury, Peggy GuggenheimGallery, N.Y., 1942
• El Lissitzky, Abstract Cabinet,Landesmuseum, Hanover, 1927• Similar concerns as Kiesler• Viewer interaction (visual play)
• Marcel Duchamp, 1200 Bags ofcoal, installation view at theInternational Exhibition ofSurrealism, 1938, NY• Exposing the effect of context onart (context as content)• Reflections on the gallery/museumspace; to investigate andproblematize the medium of theexhibition itself
• Marcel Duchamp, First Papers ofSurrealism, New York, 1942
• Herbert Bayer, DeutscherWerkbund installation: furnitureand architecture, 1930• ‘Exhibition design’ as part of theeducational program at theBauhaus• Diagram of Field of Vision• Relationship between viewer andobject / viewer interaction• The exhibition is not conceived asa timeless, idealized space, butexperienced by an observer at aspecific time and place.
• Mies van der Rohe & Lilly Reich,The Velvet and Silk Café,Women’s Fashion Exhibition,Berlijn, 1927• The content of the exhibitioncreated the installation (silk,velvet)• Colourful!
4. Alfred Barr and the Museum of Modern Art / MOMA (New York)• Inspired by the experiments of theIntern. Avant-Gardes & Germandisplayshifts (MOMA,1929, Alfred Barr,founding director)• Introduction of a type of installationthat has come to dominate museumpractices + evolution to ‘White Cube’• New installation method:-works stand on their own /relation with viewer-neutral background (beige)-not symmetrically-didactic labels• Seemingy autonomous installations inneutral interiors (timeless) for whatwas conceived as an ideal,standardized viewer
• ‘This conventional manner ofdisplaying modern culture and artis itself far from neutral; itproduces a powerful andcontinually repeated socialexperience that enhances theviewer’s sense of autonomy andindependence’• Visualising ‘The American Dream’.
• Visual culture in the first half of the20th Century• The installation methods both in thedepartment store and the museumpromoted interaction between theobjects and the viewers.
• Herbert Bayer, Bauhaus, 1919-1938,MOMA, 1938• MOMA: presenting the practical,commercial and popular arts as well asthe so-called fine arts (cf. Barr)• Staging a dialogue with the viewer (cf.Field of Vision)• The American museum audiencescould not ‘read’ this show; chaotic,didactic, confused,...
• The Useful Objects Shows, 1938-1950, MOMA• Modern design was an integrated partof Barr’s plan for the MOMA• Visual culture: script of the shop andthe museum come together• Objects had a price and manufacturinglabel; handled and tested by theviewer
5. The post-war exhibition spacej ’60-’70: ‘The White Cube’• The ‘invisible’ / transparent / neutralscript gives the works a ‘timeless’appearance• No explanatory labels• The White Cube under attack:Vb: Brian O’Doherty ‘Inside the WhiteCube, 1976’- Exclusive and misleading character(not neutral)- ‘Everything you see here is importantart’- Elimination of time and space
• Many artists have made the critique ofthe post-war museum the subject oftheir art.• Critically questioning the authoritativevoice of the modernist museum(‘master narrative’)• Vb. ART/Artifact, Susan Vogel, Centerfor African Art, NY, 1988 (criticalexhibition making)
• Yves Klein, The Void, Galerie IrisClert, Paris, 1958• The gallery as site and gesture: criticalview• By exhibiting an exhibition, Klein calledattention to the often intangiblestructuring medium of the exhibitionand its ideological effects.
• Arman, Le Plein, Gallery Iris Clert,Paris, 1960• For the first time, the viewer is outsidethe gallery• The gallery as a metaphorical engine
• Andy Warhol, Silver Pillows, NYCastelli Gallery, 1966• The exhibition space also became asubject for discussion amongconceptual artists• Iconographical relationship withDuchamp’s ceiling installation• Focus on the experience of the galleryspace + joyful elements
• Museummodules, Van Abbemuseum,Eindhoven, 2010• Presenting an inspiring view on thehistory of presentation and questioningfuture presentation possibilities• Vb. The Berlin Museum of AmericanArt brings an installation on the MOMA
6. The ‘experience economy’ in the museum• Vb. Peter Greenaway, ThePhysical Self, Museum BoijmansVan Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1990• The experience of the exhibitionas an ‘event’ (cf. Visual culture)