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Why Artists are Making Installations

by Nadene Thériault-Copeland

(published in the monthly column We Have Art in Our Nature for the Nipissing Reader, Volume 13 (07) 2017)

In 2002 I edited a book for NAISA entitled the Sign Waves Companion in which I included articles by several artists whose works NAISA had presented in previous years.

Much of the content and discussions within these articles are still pertinent today, as I still often get asked questions that reflect a desire to understand the artist’s intent as well as why the artist is using time and space as their medium.

So why would an artist choose to create an installation exhibit?

When asked why he choses to present his works as sound sculpture installations, Toronto artist Bentley Jarvis relates that it is both a better way to engage an audience and a way to allow him to perform works that are longer in duration.  Having a slowly evolving installation allows audience to spend as much or as little time experiencing it as they like.

South River composer and installation artist Darren Copeland refers to his installations as using “sound to alter the experience of space. The installations create a mood or atmosphere for a particular space and also focus attention on important features that might not be readily known, such as important cultural events associated with its past.”

Calgary artist David Eagle refers to sound installations as not needing to have a clear beginning, middle, or end. “When we walk along a path and listen – for instance, in the mountains or a forest – we do not expect a contrived climax to arrive, rather we experience and immerse ourselves in the environment. This is the way to experience a sound installation, to listen openly and without expectation, to listen both spatially and temporally.”

Toronto Installation artist Nicholas Longstaff has created very experiential installations.  He feels that “Installation art should consider and confront pivotally human questions on a personal level. It should allow the participants to slide out of the artist’s delivery of ideas and into an internal examination or genesis of their own ideas.”

Through her use of installation and new media, Tania Etienne relates that she is better “able to explore the idea of transformation through the environment, materials and objects, as well as the … responsiveness of these aspects to each other and to the audience’s presence… They [the audience] become both ‘performers’ transforming the environment with their presence, and active ‘spectators’ finding the story. The theatre’s fourth wall is removed. The participants are not merely watching the play, they are part of it. They are not simply listening to the story, but, rather, actively finding it.”

All above quotes are from the Sign Waves Companion published by NAISA in 2002.  

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