Utopian Territories: Space and Place within Contemporary Installation

  • Abstract:

    My current research focuses on contemporary installation and how particular participatory practices explore space in the creation of utopian worlds. How is utopia modelled and visually manifested within the gallery space? In Walton Kendell’s Art and Mimesis (1993), the role of the artwork as prop, is identified as a method of imaginative socialisation, play and a coordinative tool for group imaginings. In contemporary installation; landscapes of the imagination, risky constructions and bold spatial negotiations can be seen to function as a site of difference from our everyday experience of the world. Described by Nicholas Bourriaud in Relational Aesthetics (1998) as “micro utopias” (Bourriaud, 1998, p.31), artists can explore installation as exotic worlds which function as if governed by alternate principles. With a focus on Olafur Eliasson, Carsten Höller my research focuses firstly on localised versions of space and community, and then, with reference to the writings of Jean Rousseau’s Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1754) the implications of politics and territory are argued to be a key determiner of social and egalitarian interactions. How has the globalised world affected utopian ideas which are increasingly further away from a singular utopian nation? This paper aims to examine the inner workings of installation as a group territory and how we may explore and locate a contemporary version of utopia within the spatial boundaries of the gallery. In what ways do artists utilise space and object to encourage the experiencer to act as a key participant and test out new and imaginative possibilities? Finally, what futures are suggested in contemporary practices for the globalised utopian and the potentially humane world of installation?
    Bourriaud, N. (1998) Relational Aesthetics. Paris: Les Presses du Reel.
    Rousseau, J.-J. (2004) Discourse on the Origin of Inequality. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications Inc.
    Walton, K. L. (1993) Mimesis and Make Belive: On the Foundations of the Representational Arts. United States: Harvard University Press.