Friday, May 6, 2011

#7 Kristin Orav: 0 - art > 0

4.05.2011 Ülikooli 18-022, Tartu

Kristin Orav has a BA degree in Sculpture in the Estonian Academy of Arts and is currently doing her Master's degree on immaterial art in the University of Tartu. She is a semiotician, but also a performance artist, a dancer, a painter and a conceptual artist.

Kristin started the seminar session with a little warm up - she asked all the audience to stand up, stretch, reach their toes, stretch again and breathe. Just for the body to wake up, so it would be easier for the mind to follow her journey on the path of immaterial art.

What is a sign? As Charles Sanders Peirce put it - something that stands for something to somebody. Peirce divides a sign into three parts:

1) the sign (the physical form, the word puppy),
2) the interpretant (an abstract idea of a puppy),
3) the object (the puppy in the room).

What matters, is the relation between a sign and its object. An artistic sign refers to something it's not, it functions in two systems - in the system of a reality, being what it is, and in the system of art, being what it means. For example, a puppy sculpture (sign) does not stand for a real puppy, it stands for whatever the artist wanted to say with that sculpture.

Now, immaterial art tries to demolish conventional definition of art. In material art, there is no object to perceive, there is no physical evidence of art in presence. But not only that, immaterial art reduces almost every attribute of traditional art.

If you would create an axis of dematerialisation, draw a line from traditional art to immaterial art, you could write down all the qualities of art known so far that get reduced:
  • material
  • response
  • medium
  • intrinsic properties
  • time
  • control/instructions
  • position of audience
  • author
No physical material (canvas, paint, stone, fabric) is used, no object is created. The art piece is metaphysical. Public response is questionable - is there anything to respond to? The medium gets reduced - immaterial art does not mediate through any art form, its not a painting, not a play, not a performance. Intrinsic properties - there are no general characteristics that all immaterial art pieces share. No time limit, no location. The artist nor the audience has no control over what is happening, nor do they have any instructions of how to behave, as they do in a gallery at an art show. To make the situation of the audience even more complicated - they cannot choose a position from where to safely form an opinion. If you go to a theater to see a play, you already have some background information about the play, its author, the director etc, but in immaterial art, the background is blank. As the piece is created in relation to the audience or just a single person, they become the author. The artist is just someone who gives the first impulse for the artistic reaction to happen, creates a potential for art.

By Jean Baudrillard's simulation theory, a sign has three stages:
1. truthful copy (in art, a realistic painting)
2. untruthful copy (unrealistic painting)
3. copy with no original, masking the absence of reality (a realistic painting of something non-existent)
4. pure simulation with no reference to the external world (signs referring to other signs)

Immaterial art would fit into the fourth stage, rejecting everything art used to have - form, concept, message.

What is left? What is the core of art? The perceiver. The person perceiving the situation of art is the only quality that matters, that is left to acknowledge that this indeed, is art. One could paraphrase, art is in the perceiver's mind.

One of the best examples is a Flash mob. A situation where a group of people have suddenly assembled in a public place to perform an act - a dance, a collective speech, a simultaneous sequence of moves etc. Flash mobs are usually organized through virtual networks, making it impossible to locate the initiator. There is no object created, the people involved in the situation (including those not aware the causes of what's happening) become the author, there is no conventional etiquette for behaviour. The only pinpoint is the artistic situation itself.

One perceiver is enough. If he recognizes the given conditions as an artistic situation, it's artwork. If not, it's not artwork.

Kristin Orav's blog, a log of her journey towards immaterialisation:

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