What is the difference between Temporary and Contemporary Art? For starter, there is this brilliant quote rightly pointing out that ⅔ of Contemporary is actually Temporary.
Both types of art filled the largest part of my summer viewings in Europe while I spent the other part writing about the Art of the Renaissance for my Oxford studies. Quite a cerebral stretch, I tell you, but it got me thinking about the status of the artist in particular and what threat or opportunity Artificial Intelligence can represent for Art.
Exhibitions are “temporary” by definition yet the artworks they are composed of remain tangible objects which may resurface in later curated exhibitions or go back to permanent collections. But what about temporary installations, the ones which offer immersive yet temporary art projections?
I have experienced two in Paris this summer, one at Atelier des Lumières and another by Japanese art collective teamLab at La Villette. In both, the effect remains in your memory but there is nothing tangible because it is all digital art projection.
Combined with the exceptional Artiste et Robots exhibition at Grand Palais, this gave me much food for thought on the subjects of what is a work of art, who is the artist and the influence that Artificial Intelligence can and will have in the world of Art. This is well beyond the scope of a single blog post so my intention here is to share my impressions, and hopefully hear about any thoughts that this may provoke with you.
Let’s start with Atelier des Lumières in Paris, where three shows are projected onto the walls, floor and fixtures of an old foundry.
The concept of using old industrial sites as blank space for projections of digital art was first initiated at Carrières des Lumières in Les Baux de Provence. There, the pristine white stone rock walls of an old quarry became projection screens with a mineral quality. The same company developed Atelier des Lumières, virtually uniting the production of steel and cast iron of this old Paris foundry with the Les Baux stone quarry in Provence: as steel production bore causes for closure of old stone quarries, I found quite poetic that both sites’ reinventions are sealed by this twist of fate (and art!).
But what of the art on show? I saw three projections: Klimt, Hundertwasser and Poetic_Ai.
All made for visually stunning digital viewing of well-known masterpieces, in the case of the Klimt projection. To be honest, I thought trying to fit some historical details about Klimt was besides the point and detracted from the visual spectacle but the musical programming certainly elevated this already immersive experience to a multi-sensorial one.
I was brought to attention and contemplation in more ways than during my typical museum visit: Klimt’s Tree of Life was pure bliss (it is in the video above). Still, a question lingers overall: wasn’t it a replay of the book vs. movie competition?
And the questions keep coming…
- Are such experiences not showing us how lazy our ability to look has become?
- Why do we need such a mise-en-scène?
- What is compelling in having all the gold patterns of Klimt’s Kiss to be projected on our own bodies?
- Are those projections of Klimt’s Adele Bloch Bauer still art or simply a well orchestrated and appealing blown-up image of the art of Klimt?
- What is the art in such a show? Who is the artist?
- How many people discovering Klimt at Atelier des Lumières will go see the real Klimt artworks in museum shows?
My point here is not to diminish the incredible work that such projections involve. Nam June Paik started video art and his prescience made the art world much better for it (more on this in Us and Our Screens here). Video art is genuine art and I was raised with cinematographic art never being referred as 7ème art –like most French people do – because it came first in our house.
What is on at Atelier des Lumières is truly beautiful to watch but as it is digital art (fully gone as you exit), I was interested in how much of an imprint in my memory it would make.
What’s left to share here is that I like the concept, I liked the experience but I almost preferred the shows in which I was discovering a new artist (with Hundertwasser) or where the entire visual was not borrowed stock images beautifully directed with the perfectly dramatic music in the background.
Perhaps the art of Klimt is now too timeless to be brought into the Temporary / Contemporary art debate.
It all makes for an interesting curatorial experience, an orchestrated point of view but I preferred truly creative shows where the images projected as well their orchestration on screen were not anything I had seen before (in any shape or form).
To me, this is what teamLab delivered at La Villette and soon will too in Industry City, Brooklyn, New York.
A truly novel and breathtaking visual creation and videography, not only was it immersive it was also truly interactive. I can still conjure up the colors and images of Au-delà des Limites, especially when I want to fall asleep at peace.
Although fully programmed, the projected scenes fully incorporated viewers, moved around the obstacles or our bodies and feet: nobody saw the exact same show.
The computer loop was created from start to finish as a self-learning creative process rather than an endgame presentation; it evolved alongside viewers’ decisions and attitudes.
The similarities and differences between these two shows forced me to think of who can be considered the artist in these instances.
At Atelier des Lumieres, is it Klimt? Is it directors Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto and Massimiliano Siccardi? All of above?
But what actually sells the show? Is it the aura of Klimt’s art or the innovative animation of documentary images and giant reproductions of masterpieces?
See how the same questions are much easier to answer with Au delà des Limites, where everything is fully TeamLab’s work, an art collective fully generating shows using computer programming and digital imaging.
But wait, this leads to another question: are the artists the people conceiving the program or the computer executing it, recalculating as viewers interfere and interact? Can such shows then be considered art or even fine art?
That’s what Artistes et Robots at Grand Palais explored, showing the unbelievable ways robots and computers could help artists perform and deliver mind-blowing artworks, like this Portrait on the Fly (2015) by Laurent Mignonneau and Christa Sommerer in which one fly multiplied into 10,000 to make this interactive self-portrait.
With the original idea and concept fully originating from a human artist, how crucial is the question of whose hand is at work in the development and final execution? Is it still art when an algorithm generates a beautiful abstract painting?
Here are a few examples of what I saw in Artistes et Robots (exhibition now closed).
Is it art? Is it art if you didn’t make it with your own hands? Peter Kogler’s labyrinthine wallpaper was all designed by a computer but wouldn’t you say its optical illusion is a work of art?
And what about Michael Hansmeyer’s Astana Columns? Made of 20,000 cardboard sheets laser-cut by a computer program, their sculptural appeal is undeniably architectural and ornamental.
Therefore the question still remains: do you call this art? And who is the artist?
I would love to hear from you so pick a question and tell me what you think on this. The Comment Box is all yours.
Reinventingrid thanks you for doing your thing: Read, Look, Learn, Think, Share😘
© 2018 Ingrid Westlake
All pictures by Ingrid Westlake, unless otherwise stated.
Atelier des Lumières with Klimt, Hundertwasser and Poetic_AI is on in Paris until November 11. Info here and if you are in the South of France, please check Carrières des Lumières.
teamLab at La Villette in Paris is on until Sept 9th. More info on teamLab’s website with exhibitions in Japan, Singapore and now Helsinki. And soon Brooklyn, NY.
Ingrid, you raise some very good questions! The future of art is both scary and exciting, as it should be. I wonder what virtual reality will play in all of this, later on. I don’t think it matters if the artists use a computer – it’s still their concept and they’re in charge of the whole process. That’s like dismissing the old masters because they were helped by apprentices. But I think the audience also needs to be aware of the artists’ input and vision, in order to appreciate the art. That’s where some might draw a line. They’ll say it’s too simple, that the computer did all the work etc. As always, I think what we perceive as art will be deeply subjective and it will differ from case to case, person to person.
For some reason the videos you uploaded don’t work for me, but I think I’ve already seen them on your IG page.
Hi Gabriela, you draw an excellent point about the Renaissance workshop and Master as indeed art started as a collective project, typically not actually signed by an artist. But then things changed in the Renaissance with single artists coming to the fore, signing their work (and concept) single-handedly, even though they were still help by apprentices. And fast forward to the future, are we going to see emancipated artists reverting back to the collaborative / workshop organization, much like teamLab already does? Or are artists to focus on the conceptual part only, and not even deem necessary to touch a brush or take part in the fabrication but still rightly name the art theirs? Ha! The endless dematerialization of art…
Merci de nous avoir fait découvrir cet art d’un nouveau genre que j’ai eu le plaisir de découvrir avec toi. Unique et très novateur, même nos ados s’y intéressent, super ! Nathalie
Oui Nathalie, je pense que cela touche la juste corde avec les nouvelles générations et si cela peut les mettre sur la voie de l’art sous ses formes plus traditionnelles, alors on y gagne tous.
Entièrement d’accord avec toi, très bonne analyse Ingrid ! Victor nous a même emmené au Louvre cet été, incroyable !
C’est génial! Vous pouvez être fiers! 😘
Sharing a message left on my Twitter: this is why sharing all the art I see with you is so rewarding: I get to read about Mondrian and Maths, courtesy of David Meyer from the UCSD Maths Department! Thank you for this, David!
From David Meyer @dajmeyer : @Reinventingrid asks lots of questions: “Is it art? Is it art if you didn’t make it with your own hands?” Inspires me to consider discussing Mondrian processes http://danroy.org/papers/RoyTeh-NIPS-2009.pdf … in my math modeling class @UCSDMathDept this fall.
This post is curious ! In fact, these exhibitions are a cultural entertainment since they are based on beautiful works but in addition they are very attractive, fun …
The choice of place is very interesting and removes the “official” side that is often given to exhibitions …
I see it more as an ephemeral visual manifestation that diverts the art and at the same time this style of “digital” exhibition attracts the populations of young people who do not like the classical exhibitions … It is a beautiful way of take a first step in a cultural world where sound / light technology is used to enhance the visual. The visitor is a spectator and becomes an actor. The interactivity is really incredible, what is the feeling ? are we flying, are we swimming ? Magic !!!! the effect is of short duration, what will remain of it ?
Your question :”What is the art in such a show ? Who is the artist ?”
I think it’s an art to gather in an “improbable” place the visual, the sensory, and the immersion of the visitor / spectator / actor !!
The artist is hard to define ???? on one side the painter, on the other the technician !
who sublimates the other ???? maybe the painter … the creation remains an art …
I am so glad you enjoyed the post, Marie-Annick. As you know, I try to experience many different types of art and art movements.
As a participant in such immersive experiences, you are really free to either explore different angles or features of the place offering an interesting backdrop to the projection. But it is also tempting to just stop and stare, letting the music and images adopt a very meditative quality as they unfurl all around as well as on you the viewer.
I think whoever created the images is definitely the artist but this would then diminish the role of the digital orchestrators and programmers who are also the ones to come up with the idea and concept. It’s never going to be clear cut but thankfully more viewers mean a wider range of opinions.
L’Art…Vaste programme…jolis spectacles de lumière bien orchestrés…c’est un tout aidé par les moyens techniques, ça donne une autre approche .Et c’est un peu magique comme les effets spéciaux dans les films Je reste classique et un bon vieux tableau c’est aussi agréable à regarder.
Belle expo en tous cas
La magie de la mise en scène rend certes l’accès plus facile et je suis bien d’accord qu’il y a beaucoup moins d’attention donnée aux détails de couleurs, textures etc qui pourtant rendent les têtes à têtes avec les tableaux si enrichissants.
Les expériences immersives sont beaucoup plus fugaces, bien différentes mais probablement plus appropriées pour attirer notre société où tout va vite et où le déficit d’attention fait rage? L’art pour tous, en tous cas…