Art = Product - Angela Ferguson





ross mcleod and claudia luenig


The twentieth century has seen vast changes in the face of art practice and the relationship between the gallery, the work of art and the viewer. As early as 1946, Lucio Fontana alluded to the idea of spatialism: the integration of art with architecture and the larger environment through the transcendence of the illusory space of art. In the 1960s, experiments with the radicalisation of space as art practice were defined through the situationists, minimalism, process art, conceptual art, performance art and installation art. The postmodern rejection of the gallery as the 'white cube' for displaying art pieces paved the way for new definitions and perceptions of art.

The Art Vessel project set out to question and re-present the notions of artist, gallery, museum and audience. From critical research into the history of art and contemporary art practice, students formulated a specific theoretical and curatorial standpoint which would enlighten and inform the act of exhibition design. The central metaphor for the project was the gallery as art vessel: a container that houses, groups, encloses, protects and dispenses a specific collection of works. The exhibition/installation was to be situated within the National Gallery of Victoria. The location and nature of the vessel and its method of containment, were to be critically linked to individual theoretical positions and personal design decision making.

The project involved the creation of a design gesture which would ellicit, within the viewer, a contemplation of the meaning of art and the role of gallery in the modern world. In considering the relationship between the work and the viewer, the studio explored and discussed the nature of perception, recognition and meaning within a gallery environment. Considering such perceptual faculties as sensory awareness, scale, memory, cultural background and personal interpretation, students attempted to fashion spaces in which concepts and ideas were accessible for the viewer through physical participation and involvement with the exhibition.

Design responses alluded to the diversity of contemporary art practice. Janie Parker used the format of the white cube to glorify a collection of discarded every day objects, raising them by association to the level of the art piece. Angela Ferguson's reaction was one of disconnection between the 'official' art on exhibit and her everyday experiences. In her reconfiguration, the gallery was represented as supermarket and art as product. Sue Fenton's ovoid spatial vessel, situated within the connecting foyer space of the gallery, made specific reorderings and placings of pieces within the permanent collection. Collected items were referenced back to their previous gallery context via view-holes, directing vision to the now empty spot in the previous gallery.

Jittima Mekanapayup's video installation Virtual Threshold played with ideas of the feedback loop. On entering the space the viewer is constantly monitored by video cameras. The images collected from the cameras are projected back onto the viewer's body. These images are in turn recorded by other cameras and projected onto large video screens on the walls of the gallery. In this space the viewer becomes the viewed, and even though their image is distorted by constant digital re-interpretation, they find themselves included as an active part of the gallery experience.