This is a piece I wrote some time ago that is unashamedly about the past. I seem to be writing so many thousand words on joculum.livejournal.com that I find it hard to focus on turning out Atlanta art reviews. This is about art that was (sort of):
As a devotee of the intricately argued concept and the physically intricate art object, I am intrigued when something that appears to have been a physical object turns out to have existed only conceptually.
In the age of Photoshop, we are used to seeing entire buildings and indeed entire cities that exist only conceptually, but that’s really just an extension of photocollage and indeed of painting and drawing, where what never was on land or sea nevertheless appeared to our wondering eyes.
I suppose the installation art I’m thinking of is more parallel to the intentionally deceptive photocollage or piece of Photoshoppery, such as pictures of political figures consorting with unsavory types who were never even in the same room as the figures in question.
The pieces I’m thinking of were offshoots of the wedding of art and technology, wherein the technology frequently never delivered the aforementioned art, or did so only long enough to take a photograph.
Though one local artists ambitious uses of virtual reality eventually paid off in installations that worked a good deal of the time, I used to joke that an installation by so-and-so consisted of the artist flat on his back under a table full of equipment, shouting to listeners to explain what they would be experiencing if everything were working, which it was not and never would.
Likewise, there was an interactive installation by a nationally known artist that consisted of a photograph of the component parts and an article written as though the piece had actually worked, which it never did.
And one of the site sculptures in Piedmont Park back in the day of the Arts Festival never functioned at all, except when the circulating-water component was replaced by the flow from an off-camera hose long enough to allow a photographer to document the piece in operation.
All of this was back in the day when Jean Baudrillard was enthralling the art world with talk of simulacra as copies without an original. I wonder why the idea resonated so well.
Nowadays, of course, it is taken for granted that the image probably does not correspond to anything in physical reality, but as recently as twenty years ago, the faith in the veracity of photographs still lingered. One would have thought that the notion would have gone away in the wake of the Victorians’ photos of fairies dancing in the garden, but faith in fakes (to borrow the British title of Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality) seems endemic.