Back in February, when my head was full of several nebulous beginnings of projects, I made a series of notebooks in which to gather people’s stories.
Most of the books were to help catalyse my thinking around what was to become the project ‘Orrery for Landscape, Sinew and Serendipity‘, but there was one there that had this research in mind:
Tell me about a time when an artwork (or a contrivance that could have been an artwork) had an impact on you.
I wanted to hear from other people about the things that had had an impact on them. Part of this is learning about how others define impact, as well as hearing about the types of things that have caused that impact.
I opened the notebook – as I did for each in the series – with an example from my own experience. Here I told of a day-trip to London when I was studying for my A-levels, and my encounter with an installation in a squat in Mile End.
The last paragraph:
I think this was my first encounter with installation art, so probably what set me off on the track that led to what I do now.
Here are some really distilled versions of what the other contributors shared:
Psychosis 4:48 – Sarah Kane
Being completely absorbed >> opening up of an idea >> affecting the artwork they make now
This Variation – Tino Sehgal
Surprise >> tears >> feeling a part of something >> feeling welcome and needed
A painting by Picasso
Got a bit hooked on Cubism >> totally inspired me >> seeing the real thing and it was tiny >> learning idea usually better than reality
Pulse Room – Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
Stumbled across it >> felt really moved >> realising our hearbeats were all up there together
Rebecca’s Riots – Pentabus
Theatre in a small village hall >> close-up and personal >> powerful >> smell, touch and taste the drama
a painting at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
With friends >> seeing ourselves in the painting >> appreciating the moment very deeply >> three different people connected and came closer
installation by Donald Judd
Couldn’t understand the point >> annoyed at people forcing them to move >> moment of realisation that can be applied to life >> I need to move to change my perspective to see different angles of the same thing
It’s heartwarming to see examples of how artworks had meaningful effects on people. And effects that were then applied out to wider contexts – they weren’t just contained in Art World, but entered everyday life too.
I think there’s a certain amount of filtering going on because of the notebook format – only impacts that had a lasting effect after the encounter are remembered to be written down – so I’m curious about short-term impacts as well.
Do you think it’s possible to design for impacts like these, or are they so unique and unpredictable that that would be an impossible task?
Should the strategy instead be to expose people to as many artworks (or contrivances that could be artworks) as possible on the basis that at some point one will trigger something meaningful?