P i l l o w p a r a d o X(Inspired by Tracey Emin’s The Bed)
The sentiments of a contemporary art player.
We spend our time conceptualising and tire ourselves. We develop insomnia for that piece of flakey idea. We fall asleep in that short pause, trying to remind ourselves with a mental stamp.
Our pillow becomes the very source we juice our creativity from, especially for me. Wrangled and discoloured- it only shows how much time I spent brainstorming on the brain rest.
In the melting pot of art movements, there are bound to be paradox of identities and beliefs that young artist will fall into. Fluxus rejected commercialisation and bourgeois culture whereas Neo-Conceptualist embraces entrepreneurial spirit and sellable art.Abstract Expressionism wanted philosophy and rationality whereas Dada denied that logic. There should be a place where all these paradox come together.
Dada threw the pencil away, conceptualise conceptual purpose and have a service of mind.
Neo-Conceptualism puts on a strategic price tag and knows what and how is being sold.
Fluxus magnified whats before, stripped it to its essential understanding and know how to use it.
Abramovic performed the truth to her best understanding, and stood by her beliefs.
We should all connect on a humanly level, a camera, product , interaction and I.
We should all nourish with knowledge and never stop learning from others.
Contemporary art has become a confusing cauldron of culture and movements, a miscellaneous mash-up of many themes and methodology. Aspiring artists would definitely be distraught in attempts of finding their identity within the art world. Ascending from social realism by Gustave Courbet to neo-conceptual statements by Jeff Koons, artists will have to reach into their background and culture to spearhead their unique brand of introspection to the public. In the discussion of the term “contemporary”, this essay will limit its effects to “artworks that address issues that relate to the artist at the present time and space, irregardless of dead or alive”. A significant game changer in the art world would be the offshoot of new media art blazed by the birth of the Internet and new technologies, side step from the initial spark of neo-conceptualism by Duchamp in the 1920s, which will be further explained. With the ignition of the tech-race with open source application and gadgets, artists are able to parallel their own narratives with the help of the said technology. Within the huge population of artists and wide spectrum of categories around the world, there lies Mona Hatoum, a contemporary artist who speaks of contemporary issues . In this essay, we will highlight how Hatoum finds her identity within an ever-changing and connected tech-world, as well as how her art pieces project these issues, in relations to her contemporaries.
Hatoum’s spot in history
As mentioned earlier, Duchamp defied the conventions of art the day he was denied the privileges as a Cubist painter. He was left without any status on the quagmire interlinked between Cubism, Futurism and Abstract., and with that, he created Conceptualism, sparking the timeline of conceptual art-making. Flying through half a century later, Neo-Conceptualism evolved from the aforementioned predecessor, formed from various factors like shock tactic, openness to material, contemporary culture and entrepreneurial marketing. Neo-Conceptualism began as the Young British Artists (YBA) gathered to create new, innovative works. The YBA was not an arbitrary term, instead it was a successful economic label. They utilised contemporary culture to create a sensationalised “packaging” that art aficionados would buy into, creating a snowball effect of their artworks. Pushed a little further with more technical aspects of technological utilisation, we have net art and glitch art. This form of art movement challenges the boundary between art and technology, treading towards the line of technical functions. This meant the technology they use are more based on codes and algorithms instead of the utilitarian functions the neo-conceptualists use. Despite the differences in visual qualities or technical details, these art forms are all part of the bigger spectrum of interactive media. In definition, interactive media creates an immersing condition that speaks to the audience of its narrative, through hypermedia with sound and video. Within that spectrum, Hatoum falls in the season of the neo-conceptualists, subtracting the entrepreneurial aggressiveness the YBA had.
Hatoum as an individual
Hatoum was born in Lebanon in the midst of the civil war. She was forced into exile as a result of that, leaving her family behind. (Oliver, 2018) This narrative never left her as an artist as she became obsessed with the theme of ordeal and danger, with suspense permeating through her works. She became known for her performance and video art, especially on topics like war and life, feminist identity and vulnerability of humankind, all in the perspective of a Middle Eastern woman. These themes are carried through into her artworks in various ways, amplified by the traits of interactive media: interactivity, immersion and hypermedia.
In her work, “Corps etranger” 1994, she created an installation that focuses on the polarity of physical privacy to emotional voyuerism through sound and sight. When entering the 10 feet high cylindrical structure shown above, the audience would hear the amplified sound of Hatoum’s recorded heart beat and stomach rumbling, immersed into the sound and video within the surroundings. When they look down, they would see a circular video screen showing a morbid process of endoscopy and colonoscopy, the process of pushing a tiny video camera through the digestive tract for medical purposes. With this process, the audience is physically pushed through the digestive tract of Hatoum. It is an entirely private process that is physically sacred, limited to the eyes of Hatoum and her doctor. However, in this artwork, Hatoum’s body is on full display without any limitations. From the mouth to the the mucous membranes in her body, and some orifices, are all enlarged and put on display as if it was a conventional screening or a public surveillance. (Emma, 2018)
Hatoum, Interactive Media and her Contemporaries
The idea of physical privacy and emotional voyeurism comes in when the audience are inspecting Hatoum’s body on such a biological standpoint, almost micro-focused on her identity as a human/female organism. (YUB, 2018) In modern society where females are placed on the scrutiny of the male gaze, the technology used by her allows that male gaze to be amplified on such a voyeuristic-public level. (Dickson, 2010) This is only achievable with the modern technology of the endoscopic-camera. In the voyeuristic aspect, she places her own body under the scrutiny of the public, something private and usually information no one really cares about. Hatoums body is almost seen as a journey of flesh, removing the sexual connotations often associated with exhibiting your own body. The rapid plug of the endoscopic camera into her body was seen as a metaphor for rape as the view scanned through Hatoum’s anus and vagina. Abjective immersion is enhanced when the visceral motion and perspective of standing on the circular video projection tricks audience into taking the position of the endoscopic-camera. (Dickson, 2010) AbAlternatively, she compares the idea of natural biology to religious spiritualism. This is brought about by the grandeur technology used in the series, seen in the almost temple-like structure of the installation. The audience would feel a sense of vertigo when they lower their head, heightened by a degree of magnification and claustrophobic space, they question the presence of an almighty entity that overlooks this space, contrasted with the proven biology seen on screen. (Baumgartner, 2018) This can be seen in many of her contemporaries, such as Bill Viola and Cindy Sherman. Bill Viola utilises large panels of screen that juxtaposes religious icons with hypermedia effects of slow motion and amplified sound (Y-Jean, 2015), pushing audience into a almost-hyperrealistic bible. Cindy Sherman, on the other hand, utilises photography of her own body (like Hatoum) to criticise how the male gaze is forcefully and psychologically placed on the female population. In summary, Hatoum utilises the effects of immersion through hypermedia, questioning the audience of multiple themes, including psychological, biological and even spiritual logic.
In conclusion, Mona Hatoum finds the capacity to seek out her own identity as well as speaking up on her own narrative of national loyalty, feminist mission and human condition. These are only capable through the usage of new media, utilising hypermedia and immersion to draw the audience into her own space. Hence, this results in a unique point that separates her from her contemporaries who might be addressing the same issues, albeit different contexts. Hatoum has the ability to create a sensational artwork that builds on phenomena, using structural and physical quality of her installations to create awareness by her audience.The videos also generates immersion with strangely familiar sound and sight, making audience care. This is the future of interactive media as it joins in with relational art to create a more positive world view.
“Artist’s Internal Organs and Fluids on Vivid Display in Video Corps Étranger.” 4:3. Accessed October 23, 2018. https://fourthree.boilerroom.tv/film/mona-hatoum-corps-etranger-1994.
The artist that I have chosen would be Mona Hatoum, a new media artist who is also known for her performance and artistic persona.
The main factors that I would parallel from Interactive Media to my hyper-essay would be the immersive and hypermediaqualities present in most of Hatoum’s art pieces.
Hatoum’s background provides a strong foundation for narrative, which is imperative in interactive media as it provides a baseline for audience participation, emotional or physical. Hatoum was born in the civil war period of Lebanon, forced to exile to London while the rest of her family remained in the war torn country. With such strong purpose and background, her works tend to narrate an encapsulating phenomena of emotions, with the polarity of fear and fascination/ desire and revulsion that pushes audience into her own mind. The very distance that prohibits Hatoum from touching her family draws the intentions of new media art, shrinking time and space to tell her story. This draws the focus of her works to video and sound, the only medium that is able to project the cultural intersections that displays her physical and perceptual surroundings.
Also, her identity as an exiled woman from a sexist society, missing her endearing mother, helps to draw reference to the physical and emotional disparity she feels when juxtaposed into a modern city as a new-age feminist artist. This faint distinction between body and soul can only be identified on a level technology can bring about, creating the contrasting themes that conventional art cannot bring about due to its lack of structural quality.
An interactive artwork by Hatoum that focuses on immersion and hypermedia would be the “Corps etranger” 1994.
This is an installation that focuses on the polarity of physical privacy to emotional voyuerism. When entering the 10 feet high cylindrical structure, the audience would hear the amplified sound of Hatoum’s recorded heart beat and stomach rumbling, immersed into the sound and video with the surroundings. When they look down, they would see a circular video screen showing a morbid process of endoscopy and colonoscopy, the process of pushing a tiny video camera through the digestive tract for medical purposes. With this process, the audience is physically pushed through the digestive tract of Hatoum. It is an entirely private process that is physically sacred, limited to the eyes of Hatoum and her doctor. However, in this artwork, Hatoum’s body is on full display without any limitations. The mucous membranes, hair, pupils, teeth, and orifices, are all enlarged and put on display as if it was a conventional screening.
The idea of physical privacy and emotional voyeurism comes in when the audience are inspecting Hatoum’s body on such a biological perspective, almost micro-focused on her identity as a human/female organism. In modern society where females are placed on the scrutiny of the male gaze, the technology used by her allows that male gaze to be amplified on such a voyeuristic level.
Alternatively, she compares the idea of natural biology to religious spiritualism. This is brought about by the excessive technology used in the series, compared to the almost temple-like structure of the installation. The audience would feel a sense of vertigo when they lower their head, heightened by a degree of magnification and claustrophobic space, they question the presence of an almighty entity that overlooks this space, contrasted with the proven biology seen on screen.
Duchamp defied the conventions of art the day he was denied the privileges as a Cubist painter and was abandoned by his contemporaries. He was left without any status on the quagmire interlinked between Cubism, Futurism and Abstract., and with that, he created Conceptualism. Conceptualism closely paralleled Dadaism, spearheaded by Duchamp; striving onnonsense, irrationality, and anti-bourgeois. Hence, Dada is headlined by unique traits like denouncing societal set utilitarian functions of found objects and materials, as well as the visual indifference that gives high art status to concept-centric artworks. They also label aesthetics as unnecessary priorities, all in the name of enhancing the phenomenal quality experienced looking at the artwork. Flying through half a century later, Neo-Conceptualism evolved from the aforementioned predecessor, offshoot from various factors like shock tactic, openness to material, contemporary culture and entrepreneurial marketing. In this essay, I will highlight how Neo-Conceptualism redefines the boundaries of the very redefinitions of change Duchamp started, comparing Conceptualism championed by Duchamp to Neo-Conceptualism steered by the Young British Artists.
Conceptual Art and Dada were both born in the midst of humanity’s biggest travesty, World War One. It questioned the purpose of art in the times of war and disturbance, especially since Duchamp’s contemporaries were trying to break boundaries with artistic expression. Duchamp was an avid painter who seasoned with abstraction and tilted towards Cubism and Futurism. He was, however, denied acceptance by his contemporaries like Picasso. This drove him to seek out an alternate identity for high art, pursuing non-art function to be placed in a gallery space. Non-art function was a significant hallmark of Conceptualism, pioneered by Dadaism*.Duchamp was not interested in retinal art at this point, art that focused more on the aesthetics. Instead, he would cancel the utilitarian function of an object, and assign a new function that fits well in a white cube. In 1917, Duchamp epitomises the assault on convention and gallery notion of high art by displacing a urinal used in toilets into a gallery space. It is a public urinal placed on its back with a pseudonym “R.Mutt 1917” signed on the sides. Duchamp provokes communication with audience when they question the new found purpose of the amenity that is commonly used to drain urine, one that is useless when the drainage is left on the sides. In this way, the factory designated function of the urinal is estranged, instead converted into one that is purposefully mind boggling.
Another trademark would be the visual indifference that reflected the humour and wits of the Conceptual artists. It was a counter to the logic of the scientific era, where humans living through the world war becomes too complex and idealised. In the Bicycle Wheel 1913, the first readymade by Duchamp, he mounted a bicycle wheel onto a painted wooden stool. This work was a clear representation of how Duchamp’s mind worked. Duchamp cancelled the function of the bicycle wheel by placing it wheels up onto the stool, making the wheel useless as it cannot rotate to travel. The stool has a metal pipe forked into it, negating its use as a proper stool for sitting. It was a pointless motion that reoccurs overtime as Duchamp spun it, out of his curiosity for observing kinetic energy. Duchamp was interested in the visual irony made available with conceptual artworks, placing two polarities of meaning side by side. This contrasts Duchamp’s rational back to men’s obsession with logocentrism, understanding definitions and meanings that are inherently “birthed” into objects when the factories created them.
Fast forward into the 1990s, Neo-Conceptualism began as the Young British Artists(YBA) gathered to create new, innovative works. The YBA was not an arbitrary term, instead it was a successful economic label. Charles Saatchi spearheaded the economic thrust of the label, promoting artists that he favoured, like Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. The YBA were significant followers of the Conceptual movement, derivations of factors like re-appropriating functions as well as the visual indifference of various materials. YBA, however, had alternate essential traits birthed out of the difference in timeline, mainly: contemporary relevance, shock factor and entrepreneurial aggression.
The YBA grew in the 1990s, propagating media culture after the birth of the contemporary media boom. This was an important factor that the YBAs could use to relate to the audience, such as Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”. This work portrayed a dead shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, looking as new as the day it died. This artwork is a classic showcase of the idea of affect and effect, portraying the idea of mortality in motion. The work triggered a universal human response of fear, urging humans to cringe as they look at the artwork. The shark is in suspension, in the midst of a “dive”, suggesting an affect. The effect comes in when the audience realise how fatal the objectification of the shark is, as an apex predator, and how much strength it can amount to. The idea of death comes even more significant and ironic as the shark itself is present in the tank as a creature of such ravenous hunger- dead; while its reason for death unknown to the audience. The contemporary culture was a significant factor in amplifying this work’s phenomenal quality. In 1975, “Jaws” was released as a blockbuster that acclaimed $470.7 million , creating a contemporary cult following that fantasises the creation of this natural killer. Hirst is playing to this idea of conceptual indifference, comparing the identity of sharks in ancient history to the identity of sharks following the release of “Jaws”. Hirst’s work creates an air of eeriness and death with the use of the vitrine, allowing audience to look at the shark as it biologically deteriorates through time. This is one of the most significant artworks by Hirst, or any contemporaries in terms of economic worth, valued at $16.6 million. Hirst utilised the contemporary cult fantasy of sharks, paired with shock factor of mortality to drive up the value of neo-conceptual art like this.
Shock factor was another trait significant to the YBAs, an alternate step up from the Conceptualists. This shock factor was often presented through themes of life and death, as mentioned in the artwork above.It is to create a concept or aesthetic that is so jarring that it stuns audience introspection wise. In “A Thousand Years”, it is a rectangular vitrine divided into two sections: One with a white die that breeds maggots and flies, the other with a severed cow’s head and insect-o-cutor. The phenomenal quality sets in when audience stares through the glass vitrine, prickling their sense of sight, sound and smell. Glass is an ephemeral material, strong enough to hold back significant weight, yet weak enough to shatter with enough pressure. The transparency of the vitrine, geometrics and sharp edges created a clinical environment to stare at the alternatives of clean and dirty. Audience take up the position of a higher entity, staring into the microcosm of death and life, while watching the inevitable truth of mortality pass by. Another artwork that utilises the shock tactic would be Marc Quinn’s “Self” 1991. This is a self-casted sculpture using his own blood, 5 litres every 5 years. This work is refrigerated and kept in its original form, despite it degrading over time. This artwork is a representation of life and death as audience stares at mortality through a hyperrealistic scope. The audience looks through the aging of Quinn down a timeline. The idea of life comes in more significant as blood itself, is alive. The biological structure of blood is kept alive when the refrigeration keeps it from decomposing. Secondly, Quinn denounces the biological function of blood in terms of transporting essential living materials, instead, he kept the biological symbolism behind it as an amplifying meaning that circles back to logocentrism.
Neo-Conceptualism grew over time to become a catch-all miscellaneous bin of art by-products, including performance art, photography, or the amalgamation of the aforementioned movements. Neo-conceptualism is a derivation of Conceptualism with its trademark characteristics, evolving with the contemporary culture and societal needs and desire. Traditional art started as a theme for worshipping the elites, which gradually becomes desired by the middle class or poor to feast on it. The ideation of making art more accessible for consumption as true art, taken in by people of all classes, will and has become a norm that will keep art constantly evolving.
*Conceptualism and Dada will be referred together as one.
My favourite art movement would be Dadaism. There really isn’t any visual favouritism that I have to this particular art movement unlike the possibilities you could have to other art movements. Maybe the love for real/false perspectives to Cubism or the robotic senses of Futurism. My favouritism towards Dada, was unlike its art intentions- rational in its foundation. As an art student, I had always found that Dada artworks were so nonsensical that it was much easier to write about for SOVA (Study of Visual Arts) exams, hence, tilting towards them.
This work by Duchamp is called Bicycle Wheel. It is a found ready-made created by Duchamp when he merged a bicycle wheel with a stool. Essentially, this is a visual amalgam of polarities at its finest. The function of the wheel is negated as a found object when the wheel is placed facing up, hence it cannot move as a bicycle wheel. The function of the stool is negated as a found object as the area where your buttocks are supposed to be are cramped in with a bicycle wheel, hence it cannot be sat on as a stool. Duchamp creates a “new” creature of the arts, with its new intended purpose to be a fine art display. It can neither be sat on or wheeled around.
The idea of polarity comes in with various points. The dynamism of the wheel rotating at its axis, while the stool remains rigid and sturdy, supporting the moving wheel. Despite all of its movement, this “creature” cannot act on its energy because of its visual paradox of movement. Another contrasting point would be the mechanisation of the bicycle, using basic machinery functions to carry out specifications, which is supported again, by the wooden stool hand-crafted to look banal and not move. This element of movement, combined with the bestial visuals (big head and four tiny legs), creates a new identity, torn from unwanted materials. The visual difference of intricacies are obvious when you compare the wheel and the chair. The kinetic energy of the wheel are almost transferred to the chair like a lightning rod off-shooting into its four legs.
But jokes aside, Dadaism does propagate themes that the inner anarchist in me appreciates. In a time where art is pompous and diluted, Duchamp and friends find ways to source out new visual anthems, using unwanted materials with intended functions and repurposing them altogether. Artworks like “The Fountain” or “Bicycle Wheel” represents so much more than their physicality, they are as mentioned, “anthems” that represent a new found idea for society, casting aside the rich and snotty and appreciating art as intellectual curiosity.
I do not think that anybody should worry about being timeless but rather be concerned about doing the job at hand. -Page 44
The idea of being timeless is interesting as the term “canon” was loosely thrown in during one of my art history modules. “Canon” refers to an art piece that stands representative of achieving absolute effect in an entire generation of art makers, having an implicit timeless quality to it. For example, Duchamp’s Fountain or Picasso’s Guernica.
In the later pages, it is mentioned that there “has been a betrayal of Modern in the form of endless rationalisations about decoration, coupled with complaints about the coldness of Modern design” I find this quote itself tinted with probable faults/betrayal apart from the one aforementioned. In the short yet educational weeks placed under Lisa, we have learnt many traits of different art movements. And with that, terms like “decoration” and “rationalisation” and “coldness” themselves are intuitive for many opposing art movements. Art deco loved decoration and yet Constructivism hated it. Dada hated rationalisation yet the Impressionists revered it. Futurists loved the coldness of visuals yet performance artists loved the sensual and dynamism of human mediums.
Hence, we realise that there is this apparent paradox in art. Timelessness itself reveals the chance of betrayal, where we flip from one side of the coin to another. One visual trait we possess can be abandoned within the next decade. It is empowering to follow the quote, where we should finalise our works according to contemporary issues, instead of worrying if our artworks fit the bill of our contemporary cookie cutter.
Reading the interview ofMassimo Vignelli was particularly inspiring as the recent contemporary art modules I have had have been revolving around the values of contemporary artists and their relationship with their target audience.
Back tracking to the progressions of art movements introduced to us, we are able to magnify and zoom out for greater details since the chapter of art history has already been signed off. I find it interesting how this particular quote in the featured article by Vignelli lists down four essential traits to have that defines a quality work. These four qualities somehow have a representation and notion of time and space to its definition, be it intentional or not.
a short manifesto to quality work fromVignellibyBrendan
Quality begins with the sprout of passion, such as that of Dadaism. It is the spirit of anarchism towards cultural, social and political boundaries that triggers the rigid and pushes the poets. It is only with the initial passion to push an idea that creates art movements.
Curiosity follows this procedure as passion runs out and free spirited expression needs to offshoot into more intellectual/intended practices. This is evident in Picasso’s exploration into different variations of Abstraction and Cubism: Analytic and Synthetic Cubism. Curiosity drives the artist to explore into different techniques and methods, eventually finding their inner mojo.
Intensity is a hard word to define, but probably refers to the extent to which an artist attempts to defend their value and visuals. In examples like Rodchenko and Duchamp, the ludicrous quality of their artworks are adventurous for some, but can be hilarious to those who do not understand them. The intensity to which they wish to portray their works will affect the visual aesthetic and believability.
Lastly leaves professionalism, a stage where people will take whatever you give them because you’re a professional artist. 🙂
This is Singapore as a budding nation, transforming from the dull baby blue circle filled with endless potential into the vibrant triangle that propels into the endless void.
The upwards gradient of red to yellow signifies a transition of banality into energy and vibrancy. There are also multiple triangles of varying warm colours to signify the resilience we share as a country that defies the odds of many conflicts. With triangular shadows placed below to create a spatial illogicality.
There are however, two varying versions of spheres: one baby blue and one dark blue. The baby blue represents the infinite potential with decreasing opacity to reveal transparency, as a statement to the political environment in Singapore, whereas the dark blue sphere that is slightly smaller creates visual weight to imply sturdiness and foundation, holding balance in the asymmetrical perspective in the picture.
The dark blue sphere offshoots into multiple horizontal and vertical lines of different weight, paying tribute to Singapore’s skyline as well as the concept of Constructivism in a Singaporean context. The diagonal lines with weaker weight in one end helps to create the spatial awareness within the picture.
After a stroll through the Botanics Garden, I happened to notice a tiny dragonfly perching on a green stalk.
I found this scene quite interesting as there were a few elements that were visually dynamic. Firstly the dragonfly was just sitting on the tip of the leaf minding its own business, being comfortable in its own environment.Secondly there were still morning dew even though it was already 5p.m. And thirdly we were near a water body. I realised this dragonfly was living in its own version of a HDB flat and this was the Singapore culture I was looking for ,albeit rudimentary in its aesthetics.
The graphic above expresses the art nouveau quality with its usage of floral and fauna as icons. Even though I didn’t use curves, I took elements of abstraction and turned the dew into circles. I kept a minimum use of colours but using clear cut, criss cross lines to respect the dynamic and bold lines art nouveau employs.
This is Singapore culture as it is merely a visualisation of the urban lifestyle we surround ourselves with, projected onto the organic “skyscrapers” the dragonfly lives in. It stands on the point that art nouveau wants to transform architecture into something living and floral-like.