Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Serra's Temporalisation of Art

I'm delighted that Mark C. Taylor, in his dense About Religion, also talks about Japanese Zen gardens (I was first amazed by these in Simon May's book on Japan, Atomic Sushi). Unlike Western scultures, Zen gardens seek a balance between form/formless, continuity/discontinuity, balance/imbalance, etc.

Also, Taylor referred to the work of Richard Serra and how this artist sought to look past the 'opticality' of sculptures and remove the distance between observer and observed.

Minimalist / Literalist art - the kind which Serra helped pioneer - was about the 'spacing of time' and the 'timing of space'. It's about rendering art temporal and promoting 'bodily perception' as opposed to merely the visual.

In a word, simply looking at Serra's art wasn't enough. You had to walk around and through it. You had to a part of it, and if participating was a non-negotiable, this meant timeless didn't 'apply' here. The 'spacing' of art (i.e. the observer's journeying through its physical elements) entailed the 'timing' of space (i.e. the temporalisation of art).

Isn't this rich? In academic, shouldn't we be doing a lot more than just reading and listening? Shouldn't we be 'being and doing' what we learn, becoming a part of it? Shouldn't we be throwing aside that illusion of 'neutral observance' and plunging in? (Heck, we can always plunge out - or can we?)

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