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.
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.