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Article

Aurélie Verdier

(b Antwerp, March 19, 1946).

Belgian photographer and installation artist. He studied theatre and cinema in the late 1960s, creating a fruitful ground for his future installations and later dividing his work into four categories with the aim of blurring the frontiers of art and social reality. One such category, ‘Transformation–Installation’ was rooted in a spoof governmental pamphlet written by the artist in 1979 announcing the bankruptcy of art: he argued that art was unnecessary since it was inherently non-functional. From that point on, this ironic point of view was built into his recreations of everyday environments injected with incongruous elements, as in Driving School Z (1979; see 1998 exh. cat, p. 44), an installation in an Antwerp gallery that recreated the soulless premises referred to in the title. At once bleak and dramatic in its painstaking reconstruction, it contained furniture from a real driving school as a way of blurring the distinction between art and reality. Bijl’s polished installations have an unsettling atmosphere, as they lack any sense of human presence. Tackling issues of mass culture and its vehicles, he reconstructed some institutions in tableaux that mixed the artificiality of highly stylized objects with the tangible reality of everyday artefacts. By so doing, he questioned the identity and meaning of environments once they have been relocated to an institutionalized art context. In ...

Article

Isobel Whitelegg

(b La Vega, Mantanzas, 1959).

Cuban painter, photographer, installation and performance artist, active also in the USA. Campos-Pons studied at the Higher Institute of Art, Havana (1980–85). Initially a painter, her graduation show Acoplamientos (1985; Havana, HIA) was concerned with representations of the female body as a device for prohibition and control, and her early work focused on the role of women in society and their representation within the history of art. In 1988 she went to the USA as a visiting artist at the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, and in 1991 she settled permanently in Boston. Using shaped canvases, her first works displayed an interest in the interrelationship between painting and three-dimensional media. While living in the USA she also expanded her interest in sculpture and installation to include elements of video and performance.

Living abroad also brought her relationship to Cuba into sharper relief; work produced in the early 1990s addressed her own displacement in relation to the enforced migration of her ancestors as slaves, and the way in which an imagined Africa is collectively created in contemporary Cuba by story-telling, the cultivation of traditional medicinal plants and the practice of the Afro-Caribbean Santería religion. Using performance and video as a form of self-portraiture, another aspect of her practice focuses on her attempt to build a coherent identity as an Afro-Cuban woman living in the USA. With the aim of achieving simultaneity between performance and its immediate capture in the production of an unalterable image, her self-portraits employ large-format colour Polaroid photography, as in the diptych ...

Article

Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander

(b Santa Maria, CA, Sept 19, 1967).

Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander

American social practice artist.

He was awarded a BFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1990 and an MFA from California College of the Arts in 1994. Not confined to any particular media, his work is characterized by its collaborative, socially engaged, and interdisciplinary nature; the thematic focus of his art ranges from exploring personal narratives to engaging with larger global conflicts. In addition to his formal artistic training he also received a certification in Ecological Horticulture at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he studied organic farming. His interest in agriculture is a reflection of his larger involvement with communities and food systems, and has manifested in his work as both an artist and a pedagogue through the establishment of an outdoor classroom at an organic farm with his students at Portland State University, where he established the second MFA programme in social practice in the USA. His work often challenges notions of the ‘passive viewer’ or ‘singular artist’, by creating projects that are generated primarily by viewer/artist interaction. Fletcher instead acts as a kind of facilitator; for example, for ...

Article

Russell Gullette

(b Johannesburg, May 1968).

South African installation, performance, and video artist and photographer. Geers is part of a generation of African artists who emerged during the global expansion of the art world in the 1990s. Born into a white working-class family, he studied fine arts at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg from 1985 to 1987. Geers was exiled for refusing to serve in the South African Defence Force in 1989. With the threat of imprisonment removed after the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners in 1990 he returned to Johannesburg. Then in 2000 he moved to Brussels.

Geers has described his artistic position as a TerroRealist. His work features everyday, vernacular materials such as beer bottles, razor wire, pornography, neon signs, and expletives such as ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’. He employed these materials as a means to challenge various manifestations of power, whether state terror, working-class oppression, history, or, at his most poetic, language....

Article

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...

Article

Mary Chou

(b Bethlehem, 1970).

Palestinian conceptual artist. Jacir’s works use a variety of media including film, photography, installation, performance, video, sound, sculpture and painting. Jacir was raised in Saudi Arabia and attended high school in Rome, Italy. She received her BA from the University of Dallas, Irving, TX in 1992, her MFA from the Memphis College of Art, Memphis, TN in 1994, and participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program from 1998 to 1999. She became a professor at the International Academy of Art, Palestine in Ramallah in 2007. Jacir’s conceptual works explore the physical and psychological effects of social and political displacement and exile, primarily how they affect the Palestinian community. Her work investigated the impact of Israeli action on the Palestinian people and countered representations of Palestinians in the press as primarily militant. Jacir often collaborated with members of the Palestinian community, both local and international, in the creation of her works....

Article

Jeff Fleming

(b Göttingen, 1968).

German conceptual artist. Jankowski studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Hamburg. Working in video, film, photography, installation, and performance, he reinserted ritual and its intrinsic mystery into the creative act and, subsequently, into the act of viewing a work of art. For the artist, ritual enabled the recognition of a specific world view and built a site where dialogue could take place between different people or different belief systems. Jankowski arrived at this point of recognition through his transformative use of collaboration, a circular method of creation, the utilization of magic or wonder, and humour. By making clear these devices in his art, Jankowski enabled the viewer to experience an ‘aha’ moment, or a climatic ‘Big Wow’, a phrase coined by Walt Disney to describe the high point on an amusement park ride or the big, concluding special effect in a movie. These approaches, together with Jankowski’s use of popular forms of mass culture, provided a critique of the detached nature of contemporary art production and positioned Jankowski as one of the most thought-provoking image makers of his time....

Article

David Spalding

(b Ha Tien, Nov 16, 1968).

Vietnamese conceptual artist. Lê was born near the Cambodian border, but fled with his family when his hometown was invaded by the Khmer Rouge in 1979. Lê moved to Los Angeles and studied photography at the University of California, Santa Barbara and received his MFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York in 1992. In 1989, while at the University of California, Lê enrolled in a class on the Vietnam War (1955–75) that emphasized American hardship. This sparked Lê’s earliest public art project, Accountability, a series of posters that Lê put up on his college campus (reproduced in 1992 for Creative Time, New York, Washington, DC, and Los Angeles). These posters juxtaposed American media images of the Vietnam War with explicit pictures of Vietnamese suffering, accompanied by captions detailing the damage done to Vietnam. The desire to intervene in dominant perceptions of the Vietnam War propelled Lê for much of his artistic career....

Article

Catherine M. Grant

revised by Jennifer Way

(b Tokyo, Feb 21, 1967).

Japanese photographer, video artist, performance artist, sculptor, installation artist and painter. Mori studied fashion at the Bunka Fashion Institute in Tokyo from 1986 to 1988 and worked part-time as a model before moving to London to study at the Shaw School of Art (1988–9) and the Chelsea College of Art (1989–92), where she earned a BFA. In New York she participated in the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1992–3). In 1994 Mori returned to Tokyo and began making large digital photographs and videos in which she appears as a ‘shaman, mermaid, cyber-geisha and visitor from the future’ (Johnson, p. 56). Subsequently, she assembled teams of stylists, photographers, computer imagists, sound technicians and fabricators along with musicians and scientists to create immersive multimedia installations consisting of digital photography, music, video, cinematic spatial effects, abstract biomorphic sculptural forms, paintings and scent, engaging users and responding to data and environmental stimuli. She exhibited her art in biennale exhibitions throughout the world, for example, in Singapore, Venice, Shanghai, Sydney, Kwangju, Istanbul and Lyon. From ...

Article

Christine Robinson

[Ingrid Mwangi Robert Hutter]

(b Nairobi, 1975).

Kenyan and German performance artist, installation artist, photographer, and video artist. Mwangi’s work addresses notions of cultural difference, social conventions, racial categories, and national identity, primarily through an autobiographical lens. She has often utilized her body as a subject and engaged with questions related to her own African-European heritage. In 2005 Mwangi shifted from a mostly solo practice to a collaborative partnership with her husband, German artist Robert Hutter (b 1964). From that time, the pair has worked and exhibited exclusively under the name IngridMwangiRobertHutter. Together they have explored larger human experiences and universal issues of stereotypes, fear and negotiations between different cultures, genders, nationalities, and religions through multimedia works that have produced cross-cultural dialogues.

Mwangi was raised in Nairobi by a German mother and a Kenyan father. In 1990, as a teenager, she moved with her family to Germany and studied at the Hochschule der Bildenden Künste Saar in Saarbrücken from ...

Article

Deborah A. Middleton

(b Fort Wayne, IN, Dec 6, 1941).

American conceptual artist. Recognized as one of the most influential, innovative, and provocative 20th century American artists, Nauman extended the media of sculpture, film, video, photography, and sound with performance and spatial explorations. Nauman attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1960 to 1964, with early studies in mathematics and physics, which broadened to the study of art under Italo Scanga (1932–2001). He received a master’s degree in Fine Art from the University of California, Davis in 1966 under William T. Wiley, Robert Arneson, Frank Owen (b 1939), and Stephen Kaltenbach (b 1940) and honorary degrees from the San Francisco Art Institute (1989) and California Institute of Art (2000). In 1966 he began to teach at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Nauman’s interactive artworks and performances explore the syntactical nuances of language, text, and figurative gesture to create material culture and in-between places, which often result in a heightened sense of physical and emotional awareness. Nauman’s artistic explorations of spatial perception, bodily consciousness, physical and mental activity, and linguistic manipulation were demonstrated in interactive spatial compositions that accentuated various relationships between the human body and built environments. Early works included body castings and holographic self-images with subsequent works situating the viewer within their own mental and bodily perceptions. In ...

Article

(b Groningen, July 1, 1942).

Dutch conceptual artist, film maker and television actor. He started to experiment with different coloured smoke in 1957. From the 1960s he was active as a Fluxus composer. In 1961 with Ger van Elk and the photographer Bob Wesdorp he founded the Adynamische Groep, which primarily reacted against post-war Expressionism. In 1962 he was given an exhibition at the Fodor Museum, Amsterdam, for which he covered the floor of a room with a 100 mm layer of salt and another with a few tonnes of broken glass. In pursuit of performance art, in 1963 he instigated a happening: he emptied a bottle of lemonade in the sea outside Petten, an action broadcast by Dutch television. In the same year he made a television programme about contemporary art (e.g. Fluxus, Pop art, Zero). Also in 1963 the fire brigade banned the performance of his Economic Concert (1958), which consisted of one single explosion on stage. Two years later he displayed a 5 m high purple chair in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam and organized an exhibition called ...

Article

Marita Sturken

Culture of images and visuality that creates meaning in our world today. This includes media forms such as photography, film, television, and digital media; art media such as painting, drawing, prints, and installations; architecture and design; comic books and graphic novels; fashion design, and other visual forms including the look of urban life itself. It also encompasses such social realms as art, news, popular culture, advertising and consumerism, politics, law, religion, and science and medicine. The term visual culture also refers to the interdisciplinary academic field of study that aims to study and understand the role that images and visuality play in our society; how images, gazes, and looks make meaning socially, culturally, and politically; how images are integrated with other media; and how visuality shapes power, meaning, and identity in contemporary global culture.

The emergence of the concept of visual culture as a means to think about the role of images in culture and as an academic field of study is a relatively recent phenomenon, emerging in the late 1980s and becoming established by the late 1990s. There were numerous factors that contributed to the idea that images should be understood and analysed across social arenas rather than as separate categories, including the impact of digital media on the circulation of images across social realms, the modern use of images from other social arenas (such as news and advertising) in art, and the cross-referencing of cultural forms displayed in popular culture and art. It was also influenced by the increasingly visible role played by images in political conflict and a general trend toward interdisciplinarity in academia....