Monday, April 25, 2011

The Absence of Space, Transcending in Time

Robert Irwin
rendering of museum ground floor

Why do even the best-installed shows have the appearance of a dud? Why are the plain white rooms of a modern museum as oppressive as the imperial halls of our older museums? Could it be that we spread culture not to liberate but to enchain? It seems strange to me that the “disadvantaged” should want to enter into the cultural trap: if you join our news we will give you the benefits of our discontent.

Modernity is all about objects. But an object is just an object. Those objects are inside of the “white cube”, and yet nothing seems to belong there. As is stated on the website:

Dia’s museum in Beacon has been conceived as an extension of these fundamental tenets: the work of each artist is to be shown in relative isolation, most of the installations are intended to be long-term or permanent, and the spaces are either designed in consultation with the artist or are based on previous installations by the artist.

Michael Heizer
Negative Megaliths

As Pollock took his canvas off the easel in his reinterpretation of the tradition of painting, Michael Heizer and artists like him left the studio altogether, stretching the already elastic boundaries of modern art—in physical, temporal, and conceptual dimensions—to the point where traditional categories of painting and sculpture became nearly irrelevant.

The historical relevance of Dia’s collection, and the founders’ original vision was to present artists’ work not only in depth but also in isolation, and in whatever location and circumstance were dictated by the artist and the needs of the work. That outlook corresponded with a strong impulse of the time to break free of the boundaries of the traditional gallery and museum. In Dia, all the work should remain in this space exactly as the artists placed them. (Dia:Beacon, Lynne Cooke and Michael Govan, page 20, Published by Dia Art Foundation, 2003)

By the time artists started trying to show out of those white walls, the museums were setting up a dialectic that pointed to a condition that was outside the gallery and somehow returned to the gallery. Museums like Dia: Beacon, they set up contrapuntal relationships between the institutional indoors and the great outdoors by importing natural and industrial materials previously foreign to art into the exhibition space.

San Francisco Art Institute MFA Exhibition Plan of 2011

Then, what’s left to exhibitions? Is there something else rather than show space. I look into their “closing hours”. I just had this conversation with the curator of the school’s MFA exhibition. Space splitting is a trouble of a 109 artists’ group show. Definitely, no single way can satisfy everybody. Beyond the revolutionary usage of space inner or outer of “white walls”, there is far more to go for avant-garde curators to setup a different exhibition in art history.

What’s going on with those “closing hours”? About 10 artists among those 109 required a darkroom to show their work. Why do we need a darkroom inside a show space? Is it because exhibitions always happened in the daytime? Then why don’t we divide these 109 people into two groups but showing in one space? A darkroom is used to hide light, and keep in the dark. To me, it’s just a fake dark. But when night comes, do the rooms still need to hide? Or can all the works needing to be in a darkroom show up naturally? Time switching is magic to exhibitions.

--Zizhou(Anita) Wang

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