CHArt TWENTY-FOURTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Seeing…Vision and Perception in a Digital Culture
Jennifer Steetskamp, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Configurations of the Unseen: Installation Art and Media History
Installation art often facilitates multi-layered, complex experiences, both on a temporal and a spatial level. In many cases, it is impossible to experience the work in its totality, since an infinite amount of trajectories could be taken within the exhibition space. There is literally never enough time – there is always some perspective or position left that remains unexplored. Multiple combinations can be made from the presented material, whether it concerns, for example, high-tech scenarios including moving images and interactive setups or low-tech constellations based on collections of files and objects. On some occasions, only a small part of the installation may be actually viewed and experienced. In this way, owing to the limited accessibility and the impossibility of ‘controlling’ the work within its apparent spatial confinements (given by the parameters of the exhibition space), there seems to be a sense of ‘excess’ beyond the scope of the factual experience. The unattainability of the totality paradoxically depends on what is attained, what is framed, known, seen, perceived. Vice versa, what can be experienced remains dependent on what potentially could, but practically cannot, be experienced. There are (at least) two media archaeological configurations that pre- and re-enact the spatio-temporal paradox of installation art: on one hand, early cinema and the so-called pre-history of cinema, and on the other, the database structures associated with the digital era. The paper explores the ways in which installations allow us to rethink the relation between nineteenth-century and twenty-first-century technological changes, drawing on two different characteristics that designate installation art: the idea of mobility and positioning within a spatial framework (which seems key to early pre-cinematic configurations such as the panorama, but is also relevant for today’s mobile technologies) and the, as will be shown, related idea of an information overload, which is part of the database logic of the digital era. Eventually, historicising and contextualising the spatio-temporal properties of installations in this way enables the re-conceptualisation of both high- and low-tech artistic formations in the context of media change.
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