Installation and Object, as forms of contemporary art
“I saw cats without smiles, but a smile without a cat …” – Lewis Carroll “Alice in Wonderland”.
The situation with contemporary art, starting from the 20th century, resembles the smile of the Cheshire Cat Lewis Carroll: the cat disappeared, the smile hangs in the air, and it is unclear whether it is or is strange. It is only clear that artistry in the usual sense of the word has nothing to do with it.
One famous artist packs bridges and public buildings in nylon and polypropylene. Another travels the world and celebrates museums and galleries, painting a banana on their walls. The third, stripping naked, depicts a dog in front of surprised residents of Stockholm. People buy for a lot of money the banks that say “Artist’s Crap”: what is actually in the banks is unknown. All these are new forms of art discovered in the 20th century. The most common and frequently used forms of contemporary art are: “installation” and “object”.
Installation is a form of modern art, which is a spatial composition created from various finished materials and forms and is an artistic whole. Entering into various extraordinary combinations, a thing is freed from its practical function, acquiring a symbolic function.
One of the most amazing, in recent times, installations has been the work of artist-sculptor Nele Azevedo. Brazilian sculptor Nele Azevedo placed 5,000 small ice sculptures on the steps of Chamberlain Square in Birmingham, UK. With her work, she wanted to honor the memory of civilians who died in the First World War. Melting figures posted by volunteers created a truly ghostly picture. At the top, she placed a red figure that seemed to leave a bloody mark on the steps. “I wanted to break the traditional stereotype of monuments,” says Azevedo. “My sculptures honor the memory of people who are not remembered by other monuments.”
Modern installations do not always carry such a deep social concept. So street artist and sculptor Brad Downey comes up with strange and funny installations. Extremely fancy and witty. You never know what to expect from him. They may not have a special concept, but they clearly attract attention and ruin the stereotyped perception of things and the world. Brad was born in 1980 in America, but currently resides in Berlin. During his life, he managed to travel a lot, creating his work in various parts of the world. The main field for his activity has always been public places: buildings and squares in which people can freely interact. In the words of Brad Downey, his main goal was to “return the city to its inhabitants.” Beating in his work such everyday objects as lampposts, paving slabs, road signs, walls and roads, the artist wanted the city residents to take a fresh look at their everyday surroundings.
If the picture became clear with the “installations”, then with the “objects”, everything is not so simple! The very word “object” is ambiguous. An object, for example, can be considered a found thing that the artist did not touch (or almost did not touch), but only appointed it as his work. The first, as it is believed, was done by the Frenchman Marcel Duchamp. His readymades (Eng. Ready-made, from Eng. Ready “ready” and Eng. Made “made”) – a bicycle wheel screwed to a stool (“A bicycle wheel” (1913)), a bottle dryer (“A dryer for bottles ”(1914)) and, of course, the urinal turned upside down and set on the podium, called the“ Fountain ”(1917).
The main thing here is the will of the author. Where the author is not the one who did something with his hands, say, painted a picture. And the one who said: this is art, because I, the artist, affirm it. Here intention is many times more important than execution. A dryer and a urinal are much more than just a dryer and a urinal: they manifest a new role for the artist, a new way of presenting a work, and a completely new context for the relationship of art and the audience. This changed the entire history of 20th century art and infinitely pushed its boundaries.
But in addition to the designated object, there is an object made, built. Not an artistic gesture, but a man-made thing. In objects there is a combination of elements and materials, and it can be very different in meaning. There is a use of material in a role that is unusual for him. For example, the German artist Gunter Jücker makes pictures of nails. When it’s just an abstraction, the arrangement of the nails imitates all the signs of the picture: rhythm, chiaroscuro and so on. And when the same Jukker undertakes to hammer nails not in a plane, but in a finished object, for example, in a chair, TV or piano, then we get an absurd object.
We can say that it was the absurd line that became the main one, dominating in the development of artistic objects. In particular, the object in pop art continues the same poetics. What is natural: the main target of pop art is a consumer society, and it is not surprising that it reproduces basic consumer goods in a parody or critique.