Project 3 (Place in art) – Exercise 3 (further research)

Exercise 3 Gallery or site visit (further research)

Notes on ‘But is it installation art?’

  • What is installation art?
  • “Almost any arrangement of objects in a given space can now be referred to as installation art…”
  • “…the way in which an exhibition was arranged…”
  • Origin in the 1960s
  • Minimalism worked towards giving importance to the space used to show artwork
  • Interactive, people engage with the whole space
  • ‘supra-sensorial’ (Oiticica)
  • political activism
  • Installation art in the 1980s changed and became “more visual and lavish”
  • “the art form gets closer to spectacle, going all out for the big ‘wow’ instead of meaningful content”
  • “the word/phrase [installation art] has come to signify middlebrow, low-talent earnestness of production and effect with neo-profound content…” (Liam Gillick)
  • Installation art in the 1990s changed and started deriving its meaning from people’s active participation with the work
  • Interior design
  • “…a desire to activate the viewer…”

I have never been a big fan of installation art. Mostly because I have seen very few examples that I can appreciate. Many of the artists I’ve seen in this course have really impressed me and begun to change my perception of what can be art, but most of the installation art around me and even some that I’ve seen online that are acclaimed have failed to truly convince me.

This article helped me arrive at some answers as to why I may feel skeptic towards most installation art. To begin with, she mentions that “You have to make big imaginative leaps if you haven’t actually experienced the work first hand. Like a joke that fails to be funny when repeated, you had to be there.” This might explain why I fail to see some of the most popular installation art as, precisely, art. Perhaps it is simply that I must witness them in person to really be able to engage with and understand them.

I also see how installation art has evolved from its origins all the way to today; in the 1960s it was more about giving importance to space and making it an artwork itself, in the 1980s it became more lavish and began hoarding on size and materials, and in the 1990s artists emphasised the public’s active participation with their work.

The idea of installation art in the 1960’s, which was to bring awareness or incite a particular response to space and the positioning of elements within it, really appeals to me. I’m also interested in the way that this interactivity and engagement with art was being used as a form of political activism.

What I do not like about installation art is the more lavish and extravagant form it has evolved into today; installation pieces that are big, loud, with an excess of materials, in giant spaces, made to cause a big reaction, and finally presented with an over-conceptual statement. Now, some pieces that follow more of the 1960s definition do appeal to my appreciation a lot better, meaning those that form a true relationship with the space they are in, such as Andy Goldsworthy’s land art, Richard Serra’s steel sculptures, Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds, and Olafur Eliasson’s The Mediated Motion.


Bishop, C. (2005) ‘But is it installation art?’ In: issue 3: Spring 2005 [online] At: (Accessed on 29 December 2016)



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