March 29, 2009
Of Durational Context
The creation of art encompasses procedural, perceptual and contextual stages. The procedural stage is the move from conception to action, through both intellectual and physical processes, to “make” art. An object may not materialize, however, and immateriality returns focus to the concept. Yet even the most conceptual of art often includes instructions, supplements and wall text that are a result of the thought process.
Whether one begins with a concept or not, thoughts occur that move one to action. One’s initial stage of procedure and process may also include improvisation as a working method. Beginning with no idea is an idea in and of itself; improvisation can also be conceptual. In improvisational methodology the artist is cognizant of his actions, as the work at hand changes rapidly through chance, accident and randomness. Improvisational work thus engages in a hybridization of perceptual aspects within its procedures.
It is arguable whether “art” occurs during its making. Some hold that art is only truly experienced in the later perceptual stage. Duchamp said that perception of the art work by the spectator was most significant, as “the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualification and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.”
Recent work in participatory art conflates the procedural and perceptual stages as the “art” occurs literally through processes involving spectators’ participation and perception. The art “site” – the locus as installation – becomes another stage whereby access to the “art” is mediated through context; the contextual stage of negotiation with both intellectual and physical properties of the site.
In the contextual stage, the “work” may become evaporative and ephemeral as the site is relieved of its importance as an “art object” and instead allows for the experience of the “art.” The site may be further modified conceptually to allow for a spatio-temporal enhancement of its immateriality. Installations or “works” that are temporary with time-based duration become truly immaterial as they come to an end. As the installation is dismantled – or consumed – or destroyed – the contextual stage is also “erased” as the physical site evolves to the immaterial. Perceptual experience of this immateriality is relevant to art’s transcendence from objects and further evidence of the dominance of concept.
Video: A Contextual Stage (2009); installation at Hamiltonian Gallery, Washington, D.C; © Copyright 2009 by Mark Cameron Boyd.