Installation Art

Installation art uses sculptural materials and other media to modify the way we experience a particular space. Installation art is not necessarily confined to gallery spaces and can be any material intervention in everyday public or private spaces. It incorporates almost any media to create an experience in a particular environment. Materials used in contemporary installation art range from everyday and natural materials to new media such as video, sound, performance, computers and the internet. Some installations are site-specific in that they are designed to only exist in the space for which they were created.

This genre of contemporary art came to prominence in the 1970s. Many trace the roots of this form of art to earlier artists such as Marcel Duchamp and his use of the readymade or to Kurt Schwitters' Merz art objects, rather than more traditional craft based sculpture. The intention of the artist is paramount in much later installation art whose roots lie in the conceptual art of the 1960s. This again is a departure from traditional sculpture which places its focus on form.

Installation as nomenclature for a specific form of art came into use fairly recently; its first use as documented by the OED was in 1969. It was coined in this context in reference to a form of art that had arguably existed since prehistory but was not regarded as a discrete category until the mid-twentieth century. Allan Kaprow used the term “Environment” in 1958 (Kaprow 6) to describe his transformed indoor spaces; this later joined such terms as “project art” and “temporary art.”

Essentially, installation/environmental art takes into account the viewer’s entire sensory experience, rather than floating framed points of focus on a “neutral” wall or displaying isolated objects (literally) on a pedestal.


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