Essay: Artistic work of Dora Maurer

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  • Artistic work of Dora Maurer
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I intend to closely observe and evaluate, how the artistic work of Dora Maurer exploring both spatial and bodily languages translated through photography can be reinterpreted within a contemporary context. As a starting point for my research, I used the work called Parallel Lines, Analyses 1977 by Dora Maurer – the work is currently on show at Tate Modern. What intrigued me in this particular artwork was her analytical yet easily digestible and comprehensible approach towards translating everyday bodily movements in space.

In order to gain deeper understanding into her work and into the contemporary and conceptual art of the 1970’s, I have further researched artists, such as John Cage, Mel Bochner, Sol Lewitt, Allan Kaprow and so on whose works explore similar themes. Closely studying these artists, one can observe recurring themes and similarities amongst, such as the use of chance, systems, sequences, seriality, performance, events, happenings, movement, body, time and space as a concept throughout their art. This sort of approach was the status quo of the 60’s and 70’s where being political and highly critical was nearly unavoidable.

Artists who had actively worked in this era were using systems-art and behavioural thinking to explore the anthropological disruption of space. Play and chance were a common concept that unfold within a defined place. The interactive conversation between body and space sparked my interest to further explore how objects and movement disrupt the flow and continuity of space.

Observing space within contemporary context, we can draw connections between the utopia in the radical thinking of Superstudio and Archizoom, and the urban scenery of now – the rising era of digital nomads in an ever-shifting landscape of temporary spaces.

In the further investigation of both photographic and architectural space, my aim is to characterise frame as a scheme of interpretation in which events and activities are being realised(1986).[REF:55] If space is the container of body, an enclosed, framed dwelling, place is the space that has been made familiar. Further themes I aim to explore throughout this dissertation would be the body and its relation to space, movement and its experience, body as a tool of measuring space and its spatial abilities. By understanding how bodies navigate through spaces we could introduce objects and implement ideas such as chance and play to understand interactions and human behavioural patterns – which Dora Maurer used as a starting argument for creating her artworks. An other objective is to examine how different types of spaces alter our spatial navigation and behaviour, I am going to further investigate how the white space, the empty gallery space affects the participant, the visitor by reverting their awareness back on themselves. Looking at space as a system we can discover social relations and spatial orders which inherently give a political undertone to the works that are created in a similar manner.

1. Art in the 1970s: Dora Maurer And the Hungarian Neo Avant-Garde

1.1. Political Control Over Space: The Historical Background of Hungary (Eastern-Europe)

In 1970s post-war communist Hungary, art was somewhat invisible, a mere movement of the underground. While conceptual art in the 1960s and 70s are systematically documented in the West, in contrast, East- and Central Europe is somewhat missing from the map. As a consequence of the political differences, the definition of conceptual art in the Eastern Block is different from the well-known West. One would think the cities of Hungary were the main hub for artists to gather and connect, however the state controlled the freedom of speech, spaces, events; basically everything, especially in the centralised areas such as Budapest. Artists were pushed to the countryside, constantly struggling to find a place for representation and recognition. The neo avant-garde movement of the ‘70s took place quietly in the background.

A close group of Hungarian artists created an unofficial art scene – a political one, that directly criticised the system, and worked outside the boundaries of the highly censured authoritarian regime. There were no galleries or museums to exhibit their works so they gathered in local apartments of fellow artists and friends or even chapels to present their work to their contemporaries. These artists struggled to display their art beyond the borders of the country, and thus remained largely invisible to an international audience until recent years, when more and more exhibitions were organised around the re-exploration of their artistic work. Two of the latest international group exhibitions were at Austin Desmond Gallery in London, titled Last Year’s Snow: The Hungarian Neo-Avant-Garde In The 1970s & 80s (2015) and at the Elizabeth Dee Gallery in New York, which was called With the Eyes of Others: Hungarian Artists of the Sixties and Seventies (2017). The latter was organized by the New York-based guest curator András Szántó, and presents over hundreds of works by thirty artists who have been an active part of the Hungarian neo avant-garde. The beauty in the work of these artists were in their diversity of practice, yet they came together as one collective. They did not restrict themselves to a single genre or artistic medium, rather they embraced the diversity amongst them, utilising photography, film, performance, site-specific installations and paintings.

Hungarian artists had to adapt to a strongly censured authoritarian political control – it was a reality that was predetermined for them – so they had no choice but to adapt and work within the boundaries of the system so they created their temporary counter-reality of artistic freedom within the walls of the Chapel Gallery.

1.2. Occupying the Chapel: Artistic Movements in the 1970s Hungary

During the late ‘60s the rebellious spirit and the shifting status quo made artists question everything they had previously believed in. Due to influences from western countries, new artistic styles started to emerge. The new avant-garde extended the boundaries of what was accepted as ‘art’ before, which lead to the incorporation of music, literature, philosophy and linguistics to be merged within the visual arts. [REF:31] From minimal art through kinetic art to conceptual art, a wide variety of genres were explored by the group of artists, who then with the lead of Gyorgy Galantai acquired a chapel near Balatonboglar in 1970. This chapel served as the not so legal base for these artists to create, collaborate, self-publish and exhibit their work to the public. Dora Maurer, Laszlo Beke, Miklos Erdely, Tamas Szentjobi, Endre Toth and Galantai were the core members of this group. Three years and several exhibitions later Galantai and his peers began to get in trouble with the local authorities and the chapel got shut down – due to the pirate and guerrilla activities and unauthorised occupation of space – by the police force in 1973. During the operational years, 35 exhibitions, happenings, events, performances, poetry nights and so on were held by both Hungarian as well as international artists. [REF:38]

Shortly after, Galantai carried his idea forward, in a somewhat more legitimate way, under the name of Artpool. His newest organisation focused on collecting contemporary art from a diverse artistic perspective and preserving, archiving these works, and bring new works forward as well to provide legal space that can facilitate exhibitions. His vision was to run a venue for artists that is free of social, political and economic constraints. The Hungarian paradigm shift – in art – started with these events at the Chapel Gallery. [REF:46]

The members of the Hungarian unofficial art scene were keen to break the conventions of concrete art, fluxus, conceptual art and even pop art, as established in the West, by combining them in their unique visual language. What evolved was a radical new approach to conceptualism, underpinned by a highly political reaction to the denial of freedom in the practice of art. (Austindesmond.com, 2017)

Recent interest in Dóra Maurer, whose work was on show at the MoMA in New York, at the White Cube and Tate in London, served as one of the key points of inspiration to discover the hidden conceptual art of the 70s. Through analysing the work of these artists who had to operate within the framework of an authoritarian state, one could notice the differences between their work and works from Western Europe or from North America. The main driving force behind the recent popularity in the Hungarian neo avant-garde is the ever changing and evolving work of Dora Maurer. ‘As one of the leading artists of the avant-garde since the 1970s, as a teacher, and as a curator, Maurer has been decisive in shaping contemporary art in Hungary. And she continues to shape it today.’ (Rappolt, 2017)

1.1. Representation of the politics of space, body and movement through the work of Dora Maurer


Maurer’s work received initial recognition around the early 1970s when she had managed to smuggle art of her own and contemporaries beyond the borders of the communist Hungary. Being one of the leader artists of the 1970’s avant-garde, she now – at the age of 80 – still is a teacher, professor and curator of contemporary art.

‘The bases of Dora Maurer’s works are not solely to be found in her geometrical systems, or in the explorations of the aspects of movement, colour, the surface and space that she performs in precisely such systems, but rather in the principles of the conceptual per se.’ (REF:13,p.13)

Her conceptual work is mainly based on subtle changes and chance yet it seems precisely calculated owing to her analytical approach, which encourages the creation of sequences and systems of interpretation. The resulting outcome is incredibly geometric, mathematical and conceptual at the same time. Many of Maurer’s works are based around numbers, simple mathematics and a number of options and variations one could possibly result or do. These types of works are all featuring movement within space. She is showing simple, everyday movements, usually in a white space and analyses how these bodily interactions could vary over time. Similar to her artistic outcome, Dora Maurer uses a creative process that is linear in nature. One idea generates the other just as efficiently as she creates a new artwork from her last one to the one that follows. Maurer explores several themes as she proceeds within her work over time which generates continuity throughout her career. The works she produces, are clean cut, conceptual, mathematical, systematic, analytical.

Maurer’s series called Tracing Space, 1979 features a long strip of film mounted on cardboard. The generating force behind this work was a hand-drawn map – an architectural framing – of her studio where she had carefully planned and marked up both her own body’s and the camera’s movement, angle and position within her studio space. Her intent was to analyse the relationship between space and movement (navigation of space, spatial abilities) by applying variations, structures and improvisation to some extent. Maurer uses the body as an object, connected to the camera, thus reducing the notion of the subjective body to a mere tool of function.

‘Spatial thinking, the feeling of space, is something quite fundamental and normal for everybody. Visual art is always dealing with space. Spatiality is not just a fundamental feature of sculpture, but also of painting [and photography], which is often concerned after all with the illusion of space.’ [REF:13, p.56]

Thus, the creation of the map includes pre-set instructions for the camera-body on how to navigate the given space. The organisation of the final piece resembles a panoramic photograph with fractions and overlaps, using the rule of thirds; fractions, that are created by dodging objects and other obstacles present in her studio. The repetition in which Maurer is moving around and turning by 15-30 degrees at each photograph creates a rhythm, like counting in music or dancing to a choreography. ‘Everywhere where there is interaction between a place, a time and an expenditure of energy [movement], there is a rhythm.’ [REF:51 p.15] The rhythmic and repetitive turning and moving of Maurer’s body through space becomes a measure of time that has gone by. Repetition is like the everyday, where time non-calculative (subjective), but lived. Cartesian geometry is a reductive way of understanding space, just as the measuring of time is reductive. [REF:51] The serial organisation applied to both time and space does not just capture fragments of moments but evokes movement through the medium of photography and still image at the same time. The use of seriality and its principles suggest a radical, democratic approach. [REF:36]

A slightly different series of work by Maurer explores basic, simple movements through seriality and reversibility to create variety using mathematical processes and chance. Chance is used in works of art where the rules are already set, yet it allows some degree of spontaneity by letting the event of creation unfold spontaneously in the moment. The series called Reversible and Changeable Phases of Movement, 1972 were mounted on a board and uses 4 or 5 photographs – each allocated with a letter from the alphabet – that depicts a single phase in movement. Changes and movement are an essential part of her work which is a necessary part of life. Everything has a set program and is in constant flux and her aim was to capture this continuum through still imagery. As Dora Maurer summarised in an interview with Darren Flook, it is her endless hope that things are constantly changing, and it is not just physical. (pdf Art Changes) Phases of movements seemingly linear were dissected into frames, flipped, reversed and made interchangeable. Movement is an unbroken cycle (one way) that is represented here in a grid-like (two way) manner, rejecting the sequential reading through a strip of photographic film, annotated by an action-map. One could ask is it the catching or throwing of the ball? The illusion of choice and opportunities were created by reversibility. The grid system applied here, is a structuralist mode of spatial organisation, a sort of infrastructure for its reading. The grid can also be interpreted as the symbol of fabrication, a grid of social structures. The series of studies discussed above, is one similar to John Baldessari’s work Throwing Three Balls in the Air to Get a Straight Line, 1973. Several works focused on play, chance and seriality had been created around the 1970’s by artists such as Jan Dibbets, Sol Levitt, Charles Ray, Dan Graham, Klaus Rinke and so on, were profoundly concerned with space and its relationship to body, movement and interaction within the social and political structuring of space. Even though her work might seem inhuman, cold and stereotypically masculine, Dora Maurer’s conceptual art is based around the human, bodily motion. A single image is dismissible; but a sequence permits you to trace locomotion and human intent. It is understandable why to investigate such issues when considering the political background and reasons behind her minimalist aesthetic choices. ‘Art was a force by which the mind could impose its rational order on things, but the one thing that art definitely was not, according to Minimalism, was self-expression.’ [REF:47, p.245] As a common (yet false) stereotype, architecture is a male oriented field, therefore to use clean minimalist aesthetics will inherently convey a male produced look which is rather logical as opposed to emotional explanation of the circumstances. If ‘spatial organisation is a product of social structure’ then it makes absolute sense that Maurer was investigating ‘space’ through the photographic medium, thus critiquing the social and political order of the 1970’s Hungary. A white, sterile, internal space encloses and controls. Space is politically controlled – that is how Maurer expressed her gender biased oppression as a female artist in an anti-feminist climate, wherein art was strictly censored. ‘Her work do not just simply describe a movement but encourages the viewer to read it as movement’ (Art Review) Her most openly political creation was called What Can One Do With A Paving Stone?, 1971.

“A paving stone is a material of fights – street fighting and so on – and what can you do with a paving stone? Here I made some examples of what I can do with the paving stone. It is ambivalent. You can consider it as political.” (Art Review pdf)

One of the most well-known work by Maurer is currently on show at Tate Modern, titled Parallel Lines, Analyses, 1977, is described as a photographic interaction for two people which she performed with Zoltan Labas, a pupil from her art class. The resulting photographs are organised in a grid-like manner.

‘The grid is, in relation to this reading a re-representation of everything that separates the work of art from the world, from ambient space and from objects. The grid is an introjection of the boundaries of the world into the interior of the work; it is a mapping of the space inside the frame onto itself. It is a mode of repetition, the content of which is the conventional nature of art itself.’ (REF:44 p.18-19)

Process and investigation are key themes in this analysis. An indeterminable outcome of this experimentation is up to the participants who are guided by initial rules of racing along the balcony and taking pictures of the opposite sides at certain, marked up locations. The rule for taking the pictures was to have every photograph repeat one third of the previous image, creating repetition in the sequence. Apart from analysing the movement she interpreted and drew up a map of representation of the space in which they were racing and photographing each other. Maurer depicted the building elements and draw lines to link the mirror reflection of the two opposing sides on a map. Using a linear scaling, she marked the actual – not the previously proposed – positions where the two participants were at the precise time of pressing the shutter. Using a representative diagram, she analysed the suggestive spot they were stopping at and running from, compared to one another. Here the body is used as a tool of measurement – and the camera to visualise it -, wherein geometry provides the framework for arrangement.

Proportions 1979, a 10-minute black and white film was created by Maurer as a way of calculating the dimensions of her own body. The moving image was performed and recorded in a room, using a long scroll of paper, a ruler, a marker and herself. This work reflects the idea of ‘body as primary tool of measurement’. Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, in his published book Vision In Motion, 1947, proposed a new agenda for progressive art that focuses on the body as much as on the machine. ‘It is the artist’s duty today to penetrate yet-unseen ranges of the biological functions, to search new dimensions of industrial society and to translate the new findings into emotional orientation.’ (Moholy in 6out of 5 no page) It is also an investigation of structure and its variability within the concept of rhythm, repetition and the measurability of movement, furthermore a proposition for theories that use the human body as the universal system of scale. This work also draws upon LeCorbusier’s Modulor – which is a universal measurement system proposed for social housing back in the 1950s – as an improvised version, in which the short video depicts the bodily ideal and the failure of a system at the same time. [REF:14]

2. Conceptual art and Paradigm shift in the 1970s

2.1. Systems and utopia: a parallel within the works of Dora Maurer, Mel Bochner, John Cage, Allan Kaprow and Superstudio

The 1970s were the pinnacle of conceptualism. This decade was filled with public protests, political activism and awareness as well the utopian desire for rethinking urbanisation, and for social justice, equality on a global scale. Utopia is not an alternative model of life, but a way of thinking to put the unresolved problems in the forefront and highlight them. Artists were questioning the traditional aspects of art, whilst aiming to redefine the modern art practice. [REF:3] In conceptual art, the emphasis is on the idea itself. The idea of art, architecture, the built environment and everything else around it. Elements of language, the body (of the artist), photographs, charts, documents, maps and films are all incorporated in the process of making. Fascinatingly, the process was the main ‘product’ of conceptual art, as opposed the final outcome.

‘In conceptual art, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work… all planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art…’ [REF:47 p. 261 og. In: Artforum, Summer 1967, pp. 134-7)]

The rise of the ‘idea-art’ paved a way for the dematerialisation of the arts. In 1968, The Dematerialisation of Art was published in the February issue of the Art International magazine by Lippard and John Chandler. [REF:41] In the 70s artists and architects were both rejecting materials and objects and were opposing the materialistic values and the structure of the society.


‘By the destruction of objects, we mean the destruction of their attributes of ‘status’ and the connotations imposed by power, so that we live with objects (…) and not for objects. By the elimination of the city, we mean the eliminaton of the accumulation of formal structures of power – the elimination of the city as hierarchy and social model…’ [Superstudio book p.23]

The rejection of materiality was somewhat a political statement and a refusal of the growing capitalism and the current social structure. One of the main reasons for photography in becoming the main tool was its immaterial nature and the ability to record and document performances, events and happenings. For example, Gordon Matta-Clark used photography to capture his impermanent work and Allan Kaprow used the photograph to preserve the happening, a term invented by Kaprow – whilst studying together with John Cage around the early 60s -, summarising all the possible events that take place in space and time and can never be repeated in the same way. [REF:30]

The late 1970s triggered a paradigm shift, not just in perception of the world, in thinking and the arts but as a much wider social, cultural and urban transformation. Artists were questioning the social paradigm of their current values and ideas such as ‘the view of the universe as a mechanical system built of elementary building blocks, or viewing the human body as a machine, the belief in unlimited material sources, the view of the female who is positioned under the male within the social hierarchy. [REF:36]  Superstudio, a radical architecture group interpreted the city is an unlimited grid, which then becomes the game-board of urbanism. In their work titled The Continuous Monument, the group led by Natalini extended the view of the world to a holistic grid system, allowing the acceptance of a deeper ecological awareness. This overstanding ‘recognises the fundamental interdependence of all phenomena and the embeddedness of individuals and societies in the cyclical process of nature.’ [REF:36 p.23] This sort of ecological awareness is also a spiritual awareness, wherein understanding the universe as a whole, and an interconnected grid-based system in which the human spirit and the human consciousness are the connections to the universe as a whole. ‘In the new paradigm, the relationships between the parts and the whole is reversed. The properties of the parts can be understood only from the dynamics of whole… What we call part is merely a pattern in an inseparable web of relations.’ [REF:36 p.23] This pattern of organisation is the entire of relationships that gives definition to the system as an integrated whole. We can observe the use of grid systems as a method of visual organisation and structuring of the world – through architecture, to realise cosmic order on Earth – in the radical thinking of the Florence architects, such as Superstudio or Archizoom, as well in the conceptual work of Dora Maurer or Jan Dibbets, Sol LeWitt and so on. Structure is manifested through process which is the main component in conceptual and system art. In fact, the definition of structure is ‘the physical realisation of the pattern of organisation in space and time.’ [REF:36 p. 25] This process in thinking is reflected through Dora Maurer’s series titled Reversible and Changeable Phases of Movement, 1972. Meanwhile, the industrial world incorrectly assumes that there is a key to prediction and control, in order to achieve a sustainable, constantly growing consumerist production. Whilst they were focusing on sustaining what the system had created, artists were active in investigating other possibilities, the ones that are seemingly out of their control. ‘Life without structure is unseen. Pure life expresses itself within and through a structure. [REF:43 by John Cage p.15]

Dora Maurer and her contemporaries were watching and observing the system; they had produced countless analytical works, which were concerned with analysing movements, human behaviours and organised it into an analytical grid system. Somewhat like a feedback loop, Maurer was interested in fractional movements that are broken down to patterns and pieces, then understood and investigated in its entire. She was interested in dissecting the whole, which then she rearranged and shuffled to come up with her own alternative truth and reality. Maurer’s interest in systems behaviour and analytics made her work inevitably dynamic, which investigates the possibilities and generative outcomes.

‘Everywhere in modern art, particularly in the visual/plastic arts, but also in the more experimental reaches of music and literature, the emphasis is on behaviour, on what happens, on process and system, the dynamic interplay of random and ordered elements.’ [REF:36 (p.66)

Interactive works are behaviour oriented – stimulating and encouraging the bystander to think –  where the spectator has to get involved in actively decoding the presented artwork, as opposed to receiving something ready-made, based on pure aesthetic satisfaction.

The dematerialised nature of art in the 1970s gave way to new approaches to be contextualised. One of the main governing force behind artworks from that time was chance, which suggests the final aesthetic was not the main concern but the idea. The initiating force of the artist that was used to drive the intention. Several artists at this period used maps and diagrams to provide the instructions for their artworks, which then was either executed by the artist or a group of people. The rules were set, but how the event of creating the actual work unfolds was up to chance and uncertainty. John Cage used chance as a fundamental structure for his work, thus intentionally eliminating the choice from the artist, enabling and freeing up his artwork from all possible constrains. (https://seattleartistleague.com/2016/12/07/john-cage-chance-operations/)

In 2005, Tate organised an exhibition titled ‘Open Systems: Rethinking Art ca. 1970’ – featuring 31 international artists – where the word system implies an organisational principle which links these works together via their use of a generative or repetitive scheme in order to redefine the arts, the self and the mode of representation. [REF:36] The 1960s and 70s’ innovative thinking redefined the object of art, and related it to procreative, cyclic systems. Art, culture and politics were interrelated, wherein the geometric structure of cube was a method of creating order within, and control over space.

There was also a shift towards creating spaces that engage the viewer in an ordered manner. White space is assumed to be scale-less, it is an infinite matrix of the projection of the human mind. To contradict this preconception and make the gallery space familiar, Mel Bochner created a site-specific artwork titled Measurement: Room, 1969 – measurement is a signifier of our understanding of the world rendered to human scale -, wherein the artist through the visual representation of measurements creates a distance between the viewer and the experienced space. The applied system then turns the onlooker’s attention back on themselves. They become highly alert of their surroundings and self-conscious about the space their body is contained within. ‘Measurements is one of our means of believing that the world can be reduced to a function of human understanding.’ [REF:32 (p.19) by Mel Bochner (in Rorimer pp.184-5) Dora Maurer applied similar principles in her works such as in Tracing Space to evoke distance and translate spatial relations to our physical comprehension. In both works mentioned above, analysing real world systems and aesthetic intertwine.

3. Spare Spaces

3.1. Exploring the contemporary condition of ‘democratic’ spaces through the radical thinking of the 1970s

empty spaces, unused spaces around London and how these spaces are being used to host temporary events 
co working spaces and the use of public spaces in the era of digital nomads (not owning)
living as a service – experience over the object


3.2. The temporary nature of the gallery space – changes in the use of the gallery space since the 1970s


Following the paradigm shift of the 70s, architects and radical thinkers such as Archizoom, Superstudio and Archigram have proposed a new way of living, a new way of defining the emerging urban landscape.

Urbanisation and centralisation was one of the main concerns in the late 1970s. Superstudio’s forward thinking idea of future city living depicted an environment, a landscape that is entirely made of grids that can infinitely extend depending on need. This endless, formless space symbolises the ever-changing city landscape which then with the emergence of technologies became decentralised and reliant on infrastructure. The Continuous Monument was a project that explored the idea how advanced technology, such as the internet could eliminate the need for a centralised city. Rather they thought of the city scape as an ever-shifting platform for pop-up spaces, in which the 21st century digital nomads could move freely.

Innovation and technology sped up time. Subjective time feels much faster in the city as opposed to the countryside. Growing rate of migration caused an epidemic – according to various online forecasts – where by 2030 more than 70% of the Earth’s population will live in cities. Yet our construction techniques for building and creating housing are slow. It requires time, but capitalism allows no time.

This contradiction can be eased by looking at how many of the already existing spaces in London are vacant. Spaces – in general – are not being utilised properly. There is a growing concern for optimum exhaustion of these unused spaces. The democratising of spaces and the already favourable trend of shared living and working spaces created a set of rules, where sharing happens on a timely basis in which one location, one place can be the host of many activities. This sort of thinking and advocating for service industry within housing and co-working is the contemporary version of the vision of Superstudio, and their grid system as the game board of urbanisation.

3.2

The first real need for multi used spaces emerged in the early 1970s where the communist regime in Hungary had controlled – almost – everything, that has to do with the freedom of space. Artists needed a space to come together, create work and exhibit. Museums were failing on supporting emerging contemporary artists, due to political reasons. Traditionally museums served as a physical archive and collection for nearly all art objects that were ever created, in hope of defying the flow of time. The museum space was anonymous and neutral. ‘Thus, artworks are perceived and treated as potentially eternal—and the space of the exhibition as a contingent, accidental station where the immortal artworks take a temporary rest from their wanderings through the material world.’ (http://www.e-flux.com/journal/50/59974/entering-the-flow-museum-between-archive-and-gesamtkunstwerk/)

Before the 1960s art and the object had a great concern for materials – their aim was to produce something permanent. However this view was challenged by conceptual artists such as Galantai and Maurer operating a gallery at a remote chapel in Balatonboglar. Events, happenings, performances and exhibitions were held at the chapel, when it was not used to hold services. Artists all over the world, tried to affix time and notions of temporality to the gallery space and the works within. Conceptual art embraced finiteness both material- and time-wise. The increasing popularity of performances and events slowly shaped the gallery into a stage, a square block on the grid where spatio-temporal activities happen. This was a new form of organisation and curation of the exhibitions space which led to new artistic and conceptual genres to emerge. The gallery space became a stage for performances, processes, documents, texts and everyday objects. ‘All these elements, as well as the architecture of the space, sound, or light, lose their respective autonomy and begin to serve the creation of a whole in which visitors and spectators are also included.’ (http://www.e-flux.com/journal/50/59974/entering-the-flow-museum-between-archive-and-gesamtkunstwerk/)

In the late 90s the internet further accelerated the online archival process of museums freeing up physical space and projecting a new program for their operation. Museums and galleries turned into a liminal space wherein everything is in constant flux and change. Nothing is permanent apart from the skeleton of the building. The popularity of photography helped in accelerating this shift. Photography was used as a tool to document these events of change that happen within the walls of the gallery. Events within the walls of the museum cannot be reproduced only documented thus ‘the internet relates to the museum in the mode of documentation, not in the mode of reproduction.’ (efflux)

Museums are now recording and telling the story of their own. The democratic gallery space became a host of happenings where everyone is equally involved. On the downside, this shift in the use of the gallery spaces, and the archival purpose of the internet is slowly leading up to the disappearance of public museums, as there will be no physical need and space for the continuous archival of the abundance of the art objects. With the increasing use of virtual archives, public museums will no longer be able to economically sustain themselves and compete against private collectors according to Groys’ speculations. (efflux web link just above)

The contemporary function of the gallery space is to host the flow of events. To create a physical space where the happenings can be documented. The internet now functions as the museum back then – an online archive that penetrates and stops the flow of time, since the internet is timeless.

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