Ann Hamilton "Myein" at the 1999 Venice Biennale
The importance of installation art
Ann Hamilton is well known for her installation art. In her work Myein, we see an intimate play between the bleeding walls and a Jeffersonian style building, which ties architecture to democracy...but there is a deeper statement made in this art, it cries in the red shadows about the emotional pain of slavery. The walls were covered with large Braille dots, which captured blood red pigment that trickled down, and in the process the Braille dots were stained crimson by the powder.
To a casual observer, one might say a work of art like this is silly. After all, what does red powder sifting into piles on the floor in a random way have to do with art? This particular installation, however, captures, in my opinion, the essence of installation art: It allows the observer to participate in the emotional experience in a tangible way. While painting and other 2D art limit our experience to visual interpretation, an installation can incorporate all the senses.
It can take a visual experience and add motion and change. Such is the case in the example. As the blood colored powder touches on the braille, it changes the direction of its fall. This change can promote the emotion that the artist is trying to express. This expression, allows the observer to then become a participant in a tangible way.
It can also include sound, smell, feel...all enhancing the message the artist may want to speak. The famous saying "a picture is worth a thousand words"...an installation may not need words at all. I think for the artist, installation art can be a powerful way to express and communicate.
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