Kenyon’s Installation Art (ARTS 360) course is unique in its ability to address all the viewer’s senses.
The current inception of Installation Art was designed by Professor of Art Claudia Esslinger about a decade ago. This semester’s class is being taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Noah Fischer. Fischer, whose expertise ranges from drawing and sculpture to performance art and political activism, describes installation art as a “wide open art form.” The course description explains that its purpose is to “explore art that is based on a merger of space and time and on a relationship between the artist and the visitor.”
The students’ first project was assigned with the goal of inspiring a sense of excitement for the kind of work they would be doing throughout the semester. The students gathered materials from the forests of Kenyon’s campus to help create intricate, elaborate structures back in the installation space in Horvitz Hall. Some of the students only used sticks of wood and tree bark in their structures, while others manipulated pine needles to craft lush walls of green within their pieces.
One student hung pinecones from the ceiling with blue string, a color that stood out amongst the greens and browns of many of the other projects. Another student designed her installation with twigs that were arranged in an oval structure, so that a viewer could stand in the middle of the design. Many of the installations explored the interaction between the viewer and the piece. Fischer explained that “the prompt was designed so that your body would have to shift or choreograph itself entering into the space.”
Though students worked on the project over the course of only one week, they were able to sculpt extremely complex art pieces from the short list of materials.
Currently, the students are hard at work on their second project of the semester, which will take five weeks to complete. Each student is tasked with portraying the inner thoughts and psychological state of a particular character. The students may use wood, hardware, sewing and lighting for this project as well as dialogue and text.
These projects focus on how everyday items can be reflective of our psychology. Fischer explains that the purpose of an installation is to answer the question, “How do you get somebody into your world and into your head?”
The art installation classroom has eight sectioned-off spaces — one for each student — which students occupy and renovate throughout the semester. “One of the hard things about the class is that you make a big artwork, and you have to destroy it,” Fischer said. It is as though the students are renting tiny homes for the semester, and must leave them at the end of the semester exactly as they found them.
The students are completely in charge of taking their installations down and restoring the space — a process that can potentially take as much effort and time as they spent creating it. Just as the viewer is immersed when observing a piece of installation art, the artists themselves are immersed in the process of transforming the space they are given.
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