Sunday, February 15, 2009

For a Limited Time Only



This art show, to be held in the Art Center Highland Park, Illinois, will feature ephemeral site-specific installations by Annie Heckman, Wendy Kveck, Marci Rubin, Shawn Stucky, and Jess Witte. (Jess and I met during my writing residency at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts) From March 6-29, 2009, the art works will disintegrate, dissolve, and disappear. In the words of its curator, Olga Stefan:

For a Limited Time Only concentrates on the urgency of the work, and encourages the artists, as well as audiences, to consider these projects philosophically, focusing primarily on the idea of the work as temporary experience rather than artistic mark, and memory rather than document.

The premise of the show so goes against my ingrained ideas about art that I am sorely tempted to fly to Highland Park to see the installations. Why create what will not last? Why create what is not portable, like a passport, but takes its very meaning from its location? There is a degree of intransigency in site-specific installations that challenges my aesthetics of permanence, possession, and identity. These works declare they are not for sale.

I have seen film or video recordings of such works, and have felt that these recordings undermine the boldness of such aesthetic claims. Why make an object of something intended wholly to be an on-site experience? And so, even though I will not be there at Highland Park, I hope I won't be consoled by some memory of it that is not of my own making.

8 comments:

Eshuneutics said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eshuneutics said...

In some ways I am with you, but from another angle question the notion that "we" carry in regard to the eternal nature of art. Is art really eternal? One of the major UK artists, Andy Goldsworthy, has "played" with ephemeral sculpture for years...though, ironically, preserving it in wonderful photographic books. This has to be contradictory: creating a natural art that dies with nature, yet memorising it in high art photography, such that it aspires to an eternal art object. I wonder how much modern poetry includes permanence...so much of it is worthless and disposable.

Jee Leong Koh said...

It's a contradiction that speaks volumes about why we create art: to immemorialize. Art aspires for that sort of eternity as exists in human memory, or what may evolve from it. That its forms ("the artifice of eternity") may pass from mind to mind, from generation to generation. Verbal art is superior to the plastic arts in this respect: its survival does not require material like stone, bark, or melons, but only the embodied mind.

Eshuneutics said...

True...and yet how ironical that poetry has often taken the plastic arts--the quality of marble--as its triumphant metaphor.

Jee Leong Koh said...

In the case of Yeats, the form of a nightingale crafted in gold.

Eshuneutics said...

Ah, Yeats. Or Pound and the marble sculpture of line.

olgaistefan said...

Thanks for posting this and for commenting. My entire essay, that also comments on the absurdity of documenting ephemeral works, is on my blog:
http://www.olgaistefan.wordpress.com

Please visit and comment!
Olga

Jee Leong Koh said...

Thanks, Olga, for directing me to your blog.