The typical art museum or gallery experience involves walking the perimeter of a room, looking at 2D objects on the walls. Occasionally, there may be a 3D piece, placed so you can walk around it. But what if you were totally surrounded by and immersed in the art and had to wend a path through it?
In the past few months I’ve found a few such art works online. Some have videos that show how the installations were created. They gave a hint at what it must be like to experience the installations.
“Talking Continents” by Jaume Plensa started me on this path. His upcoming exhibition at the Telfair Museum in Savannah, Georgia, includes 19 stainless-steel orbs, each composed of die-cut letters and symbols from nine languages, which suspend from the ceiling to form bulging clouds topped with figures. The letters and symbols are arranged in no particular order for symbolic reasons.
Then I found Antony Gormley’s “Domain Field.” This multi-piece work consists of 287 sculptures in its total form. Volunteers aged from two to eighty-five years were molded in plaster by teams of specially trained staff. These molds were then used to construct the individual sculptures by welding the steel elements together inside each mold. Each piece was constructed from stainless steel bars in eight different lengths. Google Arts and Culture has a slide show of the work’s development.
In contrast to metal sculpture, red thread is the medium used by Japanese artist Chihara Shiota. Her 2018 London, England, exhibit, “Me Somewhere Else” filled a large room with crisscrossed strands of red yarn suspended from the ceiling, forming sacs and hanging strings that rise from a pair of feet. You can get a feel for the size of the installation in this video.
The video that accompanies Shiota’s work, “Uncertain Journey” shows a bit of the construction process, that takes many people and lots of warehouse type lifts. After the exhibit ends, the string is cut, and the artist says it now exists in the memories of people who saw it.
I have mixed feelings about such art, having been raised with the idea that “art belongs on a wall to be gazed at from a distance.” The only immersive installation I’ve been in was Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors, and even there you’re viewing the work from a fixed viewpoint. Perhaps outdoor sculpture gardens give such an immersive effect. The Garden of Cosmic Speculation near Dumfries, Scotland, comes close to a controlled integration of garden and sculpture. Too bad it’s open only one day a year.