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John R. Neeson

Installation art is a hybrid of visual art practices including photography, film, video, digital imagery, sound, light, performance, happenings, sculpture, architecture, and painted and drawn surfaces. An installation is essentially site specific, three-dimensional, and completed by the interaction of the observer/participant in real time and space. The point of contention with any definition concerns the site specificity, ephemerality, and consequently ‘collectability’ of the work itself. One view has it that the category installation is presupposed on the transitory and impermanent, the second that an installation can be collected and re-exhibited as a conventional work of art.

In either case installation had its genesis in the environments and happenings devised by artists in the 1950s in New York and Europe (Nouveau Réalisme in France, Arte Povera in Italy). These in turn had antecedents in the architectural/sculptural inventions such as the various Proun rooms of El Lissitzky and the Merzbau of Kurt Schwitters...


Term used in an art-historical context to describe art forms that include a variety of media, often unconventional. It is used mainly where a complete description of media would be too lengthy. Multimedia may also comprise live or Performance art, Happenings, Environmental art, Video art and Installation. The origins of multimedia may be traced to Dada, especially the activity in 1916 in Zurich of the Cabaret Voltaire. The concept was developed further by artists associated with Surrealism, for example at the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme (1938) at the Galerie des Beaux-Arts, Paris: works were exhibited in a series of ‘environments’, such as the display of Salvador Dalí’s Rainy Taxi, which was positioned under a localized rainstorm and contained a female dummy and live, crawling snails; in another room Marcel Duchamp hung 1200 coal-sacks from the ceiling, covered the floor with dead leaves and moss and installed a lily pond surrounded by firs and reeds. Duchamp in particular opened the way for artists to explore new art forms and combinations of multimedia. In the second half of the 20th century groups or movements that advanced the concept of multimedia included the ...