The installation below is titled: To the Memory of H.P. Lovecraft, 1999, 2008, by Michael Nelson. Nelson is a contemporary British installation artist who was born in Loughborough in 1967, lives and works in London and was nominated twice for the Turner Prize. There is a reason why this installation is being highlighted. You will find out why soon enough.
I appreciate art, but sometimes I just don’t ‘get’ a piece of artwork or an art installation.
On a recent visit to the Miami Art Musuem for the first time, I enjoyed an interesting hour plunged into contemporary art works, when I came across one installation which was quite puzzling. It was Carlos Bunga: Metamorphosis which featured two large-scale, site-specific structures created from perishable materials (cardboard), and explores the continuous mutation of architecture and urban space.
To me and my fellow viewers (two friends) beside me it was simply painted cardboard. My friend walked into the room and said out loud “Oh there’s nothing here” and proceeded to walk out when I called out after her ”No, this is one of the exhibits”. She thought they were working on the room, as if it were under construction. Obviously she did not ‘get’ this piece of art work either.
As hard as I tried to appreciate the work, it evoked nothing from me. I was staring at purple, green, and orange painted cardboard. The thing I did appreciate was the fact that an artist would even think of putting together pieces of cardboard as Carlos Bunga had. The plate on the wall explaining the installation went into such grand detail about structure and space and urban shifts and so on and forth. However it made no difference…I understood none of that vision.
Here is a shot of the ‘cardboard’ exhibit which I speak of:
The installation by Mike Nelson ‘Memory of H.P. Lovecraft’, like Carlos Bunga’s ‘Metamorphosis’, is a grand example of art I do not understand. All I see is destroyed walls in Mike Nelson’s work and all that confronts me with Bunga’s piece is a large scale piece of painted cardboard. I could say my artistic intelligence isn’t as grand as those who would understand it, but I get Dadaism. I can understand and interpret Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountaine’.
To some it’s merely a porcelain artifact from a bathroom. On the other hand, from my perspective, he took a mundane utility and elevated it to mean something else entirely. An object you’d originally wouldn’t dare have your face near, was transformed into an object that requires such a thing. Just think of that twisted scenario. Duchamp was a genius.
With absolutely no disrespect to Bunga, I sadly do not see this type of genius in his installation. Coincidentally enough, Duchamp’s ‘Fountaine’ is a brilliant example of metamorphosis. I am but one person and obviously this is solely based on my own opinion.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and how we perceive things is largely shaped by our conditioning. If we found everything easy to understand, and all art beautiful, life would be boring. Carlos Bunga’s installation is not easy to understand but it caused thought, introspection and conversation and for that it’s a great piece of art.
What artworks have you come across that have left you scratching your head?