Activated Spaces


What I like about Kate Mondloch's new book, Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art is that she dismisses the simple assumption that just because you're moving around when you're viewing installation art you're active, and therefore not a passive receiver of information. She's much more critical in her robust look at a range of key media installation artworks from the early 1960s onward, focusing specifically on the interactions between the viewing subject and the object. These "activated spaces" provide rich opportunities for reflection on the ways in which screens - tv screens, computer screens, and now even billboards - position us. Her descriptions of Bruce Nauman's amazing video corridors, for example, show how he's able to "discipline" us by getting us to bend and contort ourselves in awkward configurations, while other artworks focus on time, asking us to think about how time unspools inside a gallery space populated by moving images of some kind. Do we "window shop," moving from screen to screen? Or do we hang out and watch? What kinds of "architectures" help determine our behavior? Mondloch's chapters are thematic, and she writes about artists as varied as Paul Sharits, Eija-Liisa Ahtila, Doug Aitken and Valie Export. While media installation art is not new, it can be hard to find compelling critical analysis. Screens provides a sustained, interesting reflection on that curious in-between space dividing viewers and screens, and Mondloch, an assistant professor of art history at the University of Oregon, acts as a passionate and sophisticated guide. (Image: from Bruce Nauman's Mapping the Studio (Fat Chance John Cage))

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