Unreal Nature

July 6, 2009

Inside/Outside

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 8:20 am

Constantly extending works of art to include frames, surroundings and entire situations leads to increasing confusion as to what the work of art is, and what is part of it; thus one can see clearly how a work of art is only recognized as such by virtue of the separation of inside and outside, of significant work and adjoining surroundings.

These quotes are taken from the book, Louise Lawler: An Arrangement of Pictures (2000). First, here is some of the book description from the front flap:

For the past twenty years, Louise Lawler has photographed “art” as presented in private homes, in museums, galleries, auction houses, public buildings and in museum and gallery storage areas.

… Lawler is fascinated by what “happens” to the art object after it leaves the artist’s studio — where it goes, how it’s displayed, how it’s valued, what it means. In a Lawler photograph taken in a private home, the furnishings and objects surrounding the art are given as much attention as the art; in a museum, the view out of a window next to the artwork; in an auction house, the label identifying the artwork. Lawler shows us how the environment that surrounds it affects our perception of art and how it in turn affects all aspects of that environment.

Next, from the introductory essay, The Sites of Art: Photographing the In-Between, by Johannes Meinhardt:

The idea that works of art have a stable, aesthetic meaning, independent of their location and surroundings, was blindly accepted for hundreds of hears in the modern era. Next to a work of art’s autonomous aesthetic meaning, its location was a matter of chance alone and without significance: it remained the same work wherever it was.

[But then, after the 1960s it was noticed that … ]

… The literal and institutional space that surrounds a work of art determines its perception and evaluation to a high degree. The very fact that an object can be recognized as a work of art presumes either from its appearance or its location that the object is a piece of art. The hints conveyed by surroundings of this kind rely on a broad cultural awareness that individuals learn subconsciously. This cultural awareness encompasses the ability to distinguish between different types of objects, interpret ‘attitudes.’ choose ways of looking, and decide how one is supposed to behave, all of which allow the individual — prior to any aesthetic or artistic assessment — to decide whether to treat an object as a work of art or as something else — a functional or decorative object, perhaps.

… Louise Lawler’s photographs show locations where art is found. She shows what is perfectly visible but rarely seen: the way that works of art are presented in different situations are neither random nor arbitrary: it denotes the “value” of works of art in that the institutions install them as signs of their own value. In this context, works of art become simple, easily recognizable signs denoting a particular value. This form of identification is made possible by a whole series of rules: firstly, the work of art is subordinated to its authorship, which is proved by the signature (name, date and title); secondly, the work of art is marked out both spatially and optically by its frame, its visible isolation in a particular situation, and thirdly, its mode of presentation or exhibition is distinctly institutional.

… The most important aspect of Louise Lawler’s method is the way she uses photography to dislodge and relocate the framework. By photographing not the individual work of art but rather the found situation, surroundings and spatial context, she destroys the boundaries of the work of art in favor of the photographed situation; the edges of the photograph “frame” the spatial situation as a whole, as an entity. Thus the individual works of art are no longer at the (literal and metaphorical) center of the photographs; instead, the relationships between the works of art and their locations, or the empty space between artworks, occupy the center.

… When she photographs these scenes, the resulting pictures show a sequence of situations, surroundings or contexts enclosed within them, which logically are layered one on top of the other but which spatially are layered next to each other — as ever-new framings or surroundings. Constantly extending works of art to include frames, surroundings and entire situations leads to increasing confusion as to what the work of art is, and what is part of it; thus one can see clearly how a work of art is only recognized as such by virtue of the separation of inside and outside, of significant work and adjoining surroundings.

… These photographs pave the way for flashes of situative recognition in the midst of the seemingly obvious and meaningless, which in turn lead to insights into the commercial, libidinous and discursive factors of evaluating art.

Felix Grant often includes people and surroundings in his photographs of other people’s art. For example, see this recent post and consider how the context affects the art shown within the photograph.

-Julie

http://www.unrealnature.com/

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: