I have been involved with installation work at different levels for the past 5 years. I am currently analysing my work: what are the processes and concepts involved? What is the surrounding context? What issues are evoked with the sort of events I organise? What will develop from this practice and collaboration?
I have been co-curator and exhibitor with a group of artists called "Luna Nera" for the last 5 years. We founded the group and organised the first event when we had access to an Old Music Hall in Dalston, Hackney, 1997.
"The first show emerged from a spontaneous explosion of energy and a necessity for an alternative space where each can evolve towards the same goal (an event), and have the freedom to experiment, explore, transform and diverge as far as they desire. Each artist was chosen for their similar attitude towards the delivery of artistic concerns, their ability to deliver quality work and their understanding of the space they were to evolve in. It became very obvious to the members of our group that there was a real shortage of opportunities for the practitioners and public alike to experience "misplaced buildings". The show was organised in two weeks, included 25 artists and performers and was attended by between 400 / 500 members of the public. Participants included: The Tiger Lillies, Marissa Carnesky, The Exploding Cinema, Moses, Bingo, Natash Mayran, amongst others and also featured work from all the Luna Nera artists." (1)
The success, the speed of organisation, the attendance, the positive energy and reaction (from participating artists / performers and audience alike) inspired us to curate further events. We have to this day organised and / or participated in 14 events/ interventions in England, Russia and Egypt.
"Our brief is to work within spaces, which have a specific former use, and to present installation and performance works that evoke a response to the environment." (2)
"Typically we choose high-profile vacant spaces of cultural or infra-structural significance in order to highlight how the social focus has shifted in current times. To date we have worked in a former theatre, riding school, bank, factories, synagogue, prison and electricity generating station.
In our work we create a means for live art to happen. The performers/ artists are invited by us not simply to perform but to participate in the creation of a total experience. The live art is the final stage in the creative process for the group; it represents a kind of consecration of the creative environment." (3)
My work is based on the environment from which it evolves.
Initially I choose a space within the building and create a environment based piece of work, which will relate to the building and/ or its surroundings.
live arts: practice that doesnt solely involve a display of techniques but also based on a concept. Whether it is performance or installation based, or a combination of the two, a common determinants emerge: the notion of time, the influences of the space, the blurring of boundaries between various media and techniques, the self-creation and implementation.
Time = short lived, temporary, ephemeral. Scale within which the building evolves.
Space =whether it is used as an inspiration or as a set; moving away from the sterility of museums towards plebeian environment the building and its perimeter. Examples of spaces: theatres, music halls, banks, factories, religious buildings, power stations
Blurring of boundaries: mixing theatre, lighting, projection, dance, words, found or made objects, sculpture, painting extracting components of techniques and media for a specific ulterior a purpose as opposed to using one exclusively, and the evolution within its parameters.
Self-creation / control: as opposed to theatre, dance, where an external party writes and direct and to fine arts where an external involvement is present in the delivery of the work (curator, technicians...).
Misplaced buildings: historical / economical / social places that had significance in a community and that lost it.
It can be abandoned or waiting for refurbishment or destruction.
underground / alternative scene: artists mainly evolving along side traditional / official settings for the arts.
Environment = the building s architecture, the buildings history, the materials found on site, the social/ economical community based around the building.
"Time" is present in my work at different levels, as my work originates from the history of a building, I breach a gap in time so to speak by resuscitating elements from the past.
Time" is also present at another level which is representative of the essence of live arts. This notion of ephemerality is a common determinant of live artists. My work doesnt have a life beyond the event it is intended for. Although I have documentation in the form of photographs and videos, its temporary nature makes it something that can be lived on a unique occasion which therefore magnifies its impact and participates to offer an exclusive experience. It is specific to this space at this moment and will not exist again under the same format.
" so the impact of this type of art event is more likely to live on and be disseminated through the significant photographic documentation " (4)
"On one hand, "installation" places an artwork in a specific site for a specific time (a specific duration and also, possibly, a specific historical time)." (5)
The time spent on site developing ideas is also of utmost importance as it is a physical way to breach the gap between past and present in the life of the building.
Using "misplaced buildings" establishes links between the past engendering notions of nostalgia, historic interests, identifying roots - the present - loss of function within a community, re-placing the site on the map, appreciating the use of the moment the future - provoking new projects, developing social awareness.
"Fundamental aspects of installation artwork are its habitation of a physical site, its connection to real conditions be they visual, historical, or social and often, its bridging of traditional art boundaries: public and private, individual and communal, high style and vernacular. The aesthetic power of installation art does not reside in the singular, commodified object but in an ability to become, rather than merely represent, the continuum of real experience by responding to specific situations." (6)
This space / time seems to implement a sentiment of "human scale"; the audience is reached at a different level than it would be when viewing traditional theatre, exhibitions as it is placed in a more direct, immediate, "on-hand" situation.
"It rejects concentration on one object in favour of a consideration of the relationships between a number of elements or the interaction between things and their context...space and time (that is, actual duration rather than the abstract notion of time) themselves constitute material for art"(7)
By choosing to use old / disused empty buildings of historic / social importance, I address a series of issues.
I question the changes in social and economical needs: beings need bases, roots, ties; Whether it is to follow them or to disown them. Whether a space loses its use because of economical crisis, change of district, shift in fashion, lack of efficient management it will be missed by some members of the community and undiscovered by others. I therefore choose to organise shows in these spaces to highlight these changes and to provide an insight into what used to be as well as a new way of experiencing it. By doing this I also temporarily re-integrate these venues into current existence.
I highlight these changes to remind a generation that knew the space in its original use (highlight its historic usage) and to show a new generation its heritage (engender a rehabilitation of the site in question).
Spending time in an empty space is also establishing new roots, new connections with the environment: like a nomad establishing camp. When I enter a new space I first begin by researching its former use and history, whether by asking the relevant people on site or in the area or by looking into archives. I then choose to concentrate on one part of my findings, and explore it through my work.
Site-specificity provides me with the opportunity to create work that evolves from a dialogue between the space and myself.
The meaning of the work rests not only within itself but also in the context from which it evolved: the space is the incipient, the source as well as the structure.
Using "misplaced buildings" also enables me to escape the habitual formality and austerity of art galleries and museums. I find that placing the public in a non-gallery environment facilitates the absorption of the work and creates a fuller experience.
"Art in exile, or in hiding from the museum , which have explored an energetic street level mix between club culture, music and live performance bringing new artists and new audiences into contact with other, creating unexpected results." (8)
Although I do not work in a club environment, DJs are often part of the equation . I also find that placing the audience in these situations, enables them to appreciate the exhibits and shows in a more relax and casual manner. It seems that removing the imposing, cold frame of an institution favours the assimilation and experience of these sorts of events, and makes it a social event. Creating events where performances and installations are integrated brings an extra dimension into the equation.
" We make art using the traditions of popular theatre such as mummers, circus, fairground, puppets, music-hall, so that as well as being entertaining and funny and apparently familiar in style to the popular audience our work also has a more profound implication. We will react to new stimulus and situations spontaneously and dramatically and continue to fake unbelievably art as a necessary way of off setting cultural and organic death"(9)
" provided the art audience with real-time and real-space behavioral experiences that evoked human capabilities, reactions, and emotions."(10)
I do not restrict my practice to a certain type of media and can decide to use any material. This choice of medium is often dictated by the space itself. Previous installations included video, photographs, found and self-manufactured objects, paint, fire, I find that mixing different techniques and media together gives me more freedom to communicate. I am faced with choosing what media or technique to use to convey a concept instead of trying to use a specific media or technique in the best way possible to transmit an idea.
"In mixing elements in this way, these artists are upholding one of the most significant tendencies of the art of this century, the breaking of boundaries within and between media." (11)
Whichever media is used, the final product is based on the space and/ or its past use.
In my installations I find that the process becomes as important as the finished product, it dictates its form. The Discovery of a space and what it encloses provides my inspiration.
"For almost a century, some artists have found asking questions about the process in which they are engaged to be a necessary part of their. Their continuing re-evaluation not only of its form and content but also of arts relationship to the wider social and political realm has become an established strand of contemporary cultural discourse." (12)
I am acting as a receptor, condenser, interpreter and broadcaster.
I also find interactivity to be an important part of my practice: interaction between the creator and the building, Interaction between the work and the audience, interaction between each work present. Although each artist usually works on his /her own piece we are all working towards a common goal within common boundaries (i.e.: our relation with the environment).
My work is usually on a human scale, to emphasise the idea of belonging of the environment, to reinforce its familiarity.
I believe artworks to be fuses to exploration of the inner self, the environment, the evolution of our world, etc allowing the spectator / receptor to react and take conscience of a particular concept / focus. In order to do so they need to be accessible to the public.
" Because decisions concerning the time, the place and the situation in which this art expression is realized are made by the artist alone, he or she is totally in control of the arts presentation" (13)
The way I work gives me a greater freedom, I am free to choose what I will concentrate on, how and when I will do it. This is in total contrast with museums and galleries where a curator decides of the theme of the exhibition and where and when things should happen. When organising events with my art group (Luna Nera) we select artists who have similar concern about space / time implications but do not restrict themselves by rules; they are free to select what, where, and when they will participate in the event.
As I mentioned before the temporality of the work provokes issues concerning reaching a wider audience and of distribution. We (Luna Nera) are looking at ways to document our events while giving an idea of the real experience. We found that shooting a dramatisation in the settings of the events enables us to construct a feeling resembling the original experience via the use of external elements. As if to use documentation as a means to create work evolved from a collection of works, which provide a third party spectator, not present at the event, with a different enjoyment of the work.
Thus in turn creating distortions of the time / space relevance. Should these events stay undocumented to be true to their essence?
I wish to make an important differentiation between using "social issues" as a reference in my work (as explained in "Time" and "Space" sections) and working as a "community artist"(in school, hospital, and other community based institutions). The second is used as facilitator, almost a therapist and is valued for his/ her knowledge and understanding as opposed to his own work and agenda. A community artists uses his /her work as a tool to facilates others communication, and not to communicate.
In the early nineties I began to use photography as an artistic medium. I first concentrated on portraits with strong atmospheric lighting, working mostly in black and white, in a controlled studio environment. In these works I questioned the camera/ subject relation, the subject / photographer dialogue, the subject / viewer connection, the photographer / audience "relationship", challenging conventional modes of making and interpretation.
Over the years my approach to the medium evolved, I began to feel restricted by the two dimensionality of photography. In the mid-nineties, I started to create three-dimensional pieces. In these artworks my photographs interact with other media: the pictures and the 3D structure encapsulating them complement each other.
With these works I sought to develop the genre both as an emotional expressive form and as a sophisticated visual language in which the very methods through which the pieces were constructed formed part of their meaning (I Use metal, wood, glass, mirror .). My themes embrace subjects such as: Sexual abjection (rape / abortion), Emotional queries (sadness/ loneliness/ fears/ paranoia), Psychosexual issues (exhibitionism / voyeurism), Self-analysis.
At the end of the nineties I began to experiment more with installations,
which enabled me to be more responsive to immediate reactions from the audience and which provided a more "tactile" approach. Making the audience part of the piece and giving it a role in the installation, creates an active rather than passive enjoyment / understanding / analysis.
" The German word museal [museumlike] has unpleasant overtones. It describes objects to which the observer no longer has a vital relationship and which are in the process of dying. They owe their preservation more to historical respect than to the needs of the present. Museum and mausoleum are connected by more than phonetic association. Museum are the family sepulchres of works of art". (14)
As far as the future is concerned I can envisage different avenues I could follow. On one side I could carry on organising events in "misplaced buildings" with Luna Nera as I currently do, we could instead or in parallel open a permanent space to curate events (which would modify our concept but might trigger different attitude to deal with the issues I have and am researching). One direction which I definitely want to follow more actively is the exchange between groups organising the sort of events.