31 January 2013

framing the site

As an library cataloger, I try to put things in pigeon-holes or categories to enable the library user to find our resources. Today's Bergren Forum was presented by Chase Angier who teaches dance at Alfred University. Her talk centered around "Shifting Landscapes: Framing Site Specific Performance." She spoke about guided performance, walking site performance, and immersive frame performance, and would have talked about other things she's working on if they'd given her another hour to talk.

The first work Chase talked about -- "Under the Benign Sky" (Texas Woman's University) -- was done in the atrium of a building. Chase said the empty rectangular space with balconies said Spanish soap operas and romance to her. I thought it looked like a prison. Hmm.

So, pigeon-holing: cataloging and vocabulary control help you find things in a catalog or on the web (more with the former) because we try to avoid unnecessary synonyms and try to use the same form for names of persons and organizations. I wrote the Library of Congress some years ago when they started using "Site-specific installations (Art)" in addition to "Installations (Art)." It seemed to me that the former was not significantly enough different from the latter to make it valuable. That is, all installations are inherently site-specific though some have been reinstalled and look very different. My example at that moment was "Deep Purple" by Tom Burr which was shown in the below-street-level well in front of the Whitney in 2002-2003 but had earlier been shown on the lawn of a German museum. It looked very different against concrete than it did on a lawn. But it was still the same work and it was still installed.

LC's response to my query was to add scope notes:
Installations (Art): Here are entered works on a type of art form in which an entire exhibition space is transformed into a three-dimensional work of art by the arrangement of objects and materials within the space.
Site-specific installations (Art): Here are entered works on art installations created for a specific site that use elements of the site as an integral part of the work of art and are intended to be displayed and viewed only at that site.
LCSH also includes Film ..., Multimedia ..., Sound ..., and Video installations (Art).

Of course, installation is also what happens all the time in museums, that is, a painting or sculpture is placed in a certain way in a gallery. Even an old-master painting will look different, depending on its neighboring works, lighting, gallery style, etc. LCSH has "Museum techniques" and "Museum exhibits" to cover that kind of thing.

At the end of Chase's talk, she talked about how framing was critical. It's true and I'm still thinking about the role of framing in visual art installations. The line between visual and performance art is, of course, blurry. Chase also talked about the ways you can control or cede control of the audience. As she talked about the sound and speed, I was thinking about some of the Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller pieces I've seen that have a timed soundtrack. I don't think there was a chance to pause them but I may be misremembering. Very much controlled experiences in space and time ... though the "Pandemonium" exhibition at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia was not temporally controlled except by the open hours of the museum.

The picture is from Chase's website (linked under her name) and is from the work "Framing Edgewood Farm."

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