In an effort to expand the dialog on art and holography the Congress Planning Committee invited four speakers from the world art community to discuss issues and ideas relevant, both directly and indirectly, to holography's use as an art form. These speakers, as is reflected in the excerpts from their presentations which follow, each provided a unique perspective on the medium and simultaneously contributed to the evolving discourse on the medium. In some instances the length of the speaker's presentation prohibits a complete transcription of their presentation. Individuals interested in a more complete record may wish to check the section entitled "For further information or documents" at the conclusion of this Report.
JOHN HANHARDT, Curator, Film and Video
"I want to thank Doug Tyler for
the invitation to participate in this International Congress
on Art in Halography and to speak to you this evening. For me
this Congress is an opportunity to meet artists active in exploring
holography as a creative medium, art form. I am not expert in
this history or the forms this medium (holography) has taken--
although I do follow exhibitions and see artists work. I think
I am here this evening because of my long time interest in the
issue of art and technology and support of media (film, video
and audio art) within the institution of a museum devoted to
twentieth century art. I have for many years now been working
to make these media art works and their histories an integral
part of the Museum and its programs--thus helping to further
the recognition, appreciation and understanding of these contemporary
and stable point of view.Instead, cascading,
fragmentary images of color and light filter through scenes from
the artist's life; the editing and camera movement, through a
new and radical appropriation of filmic space, form a constant
inquiry into liberating the film from the narrative constraints
of shot-to-shot continuity and a single vantage point. Brakhage
urges the liberation of the camera from the linear language of
narrative to an intense, personal space of evolving forms created
from light and color and mediated by "metaphors on vision",
the title of his manifesto published in 1963 by the journal Film
Culture. The camera lens refines and distorts reality, collapsing
perspective into an abstract two-dimensional plane and then opening
it up into an illusionistic space; the film frame becomes a single
space as foreground and background are joined into a continually
shifting field of action. Variations in camera speed, from eight,
to sixteen, to twenty-four frames per second, and the use of
different film stock create subtle changes and modulations in
"I have chosen to highlight those
artist and approaches in film which create their abstract imagery
directly from the properties of the medium--[whether it is by
exploring camera movement (Stan Brakhage's Anticipation of
the Night), applying materials directly on to celluloid (Brakhage's
Mothlight), hand-drawn animation (Robert Breer's 69) film
installations treating celluloid as compositional material (Ernie
Gehr's History and Paul Sharits's Episodic Generation
and Third Degree),
or the opening up of the screen surface to further abstract the image as an intangible experience (Stan VanDerBeek's Steam Screens).] These are not narratives which can be retold or images which can be easily reproduced. They are works which must be experienced, which engage the viewer in the fragility and temporality of the projected image and its instruments: camera, celluloid, projector, screen."
"Looking back over the past thirty years of avant-garde film and video art production it is clear that these artists I have discussed sought to transform their media through chance occurrences and the transaction between their eye and the world around them. This impulse originated within the film avant-garde and has been carried forward in the video art movement. I have suggested that abstractions, as it came out of either medium, film or video, became a purifying act which saw an idealism within the image wrested free of the logic of capitalism and the production of entertainment. Too often our histories of video art and film approach these media in terms of conventional narratives of mainstream entertainment or as mirror images of the other visual arts. The work of these artists stuggling with the abstract image has sought to return technology to the techne of radical simplicity and renovation. As these artists pushed the media of film and video through the dimension of the abstract image, they sought to reinvent a poetics of image making.
This is a challenge every generation
of artists faces - reaching into the medium - identifying, exploring,
and creating out of its unique properties -- placing it in dialogue
with the other arts and issues of the day. In the process making
that work a compelling presence in our culture. And so my suggestion
today is that holography - again the medium employed by artists
- be placed in dialogue with the other arts - perhaps the best
site being the multi-media installation. Those open forms employing
a variety of media and materials - a laboratory of ideas and
forms and collaborations showing holography as a means to extend
these forms and ideas into new directions with the other arts.
Dr. Peter Zec
For a theory of holography
Ladies and Gentleman ! Dear friends !
First of all I would like to congratulate the organizers of this congress, especially Doug Tyler, on succeeding in organizing this - for us all - so important an event. I am sure that we will all make it a resounding success. I personally hope that this International Congress on Art in Holography is not the last of its kind, but will be followed by many subsequent events. As president of the German Holografic Society I would be delighted to welcome you all one day to a similar event in Germany.
The organizers have asked me to speak on the part holography plays in art and on the various aesthetic challenges of this medium. Because of this I would like here to stress the importance of a theory of holography. But before I proceed I would like to recapitulate the present development of holography as a medium of art. To put it into a nutshell, holography as an art medium, or better art in holography, has so far failed to satisfy the high expectations connected with it.
I do not expect all the artists present to agree with this rather negative judgment, and I am sure they will protest vehemently. But this does not alter the fact that holography still has not managed to establish itself as an acknowledged form of artistic expression in the world of museums or even in the art market, that is in galleries or private collections, and none of the present artists will be able to dispute this fact. The exception at best only proves the rule. For the future it is pointless to expect a miracle, no matter how much we - and especially the artists, who after all have to live from their work - would wish it.
How do I come to this rather pessimistic attitude? Well, I draw from my own experiences as an organizer and curator of holographic exhibitions and as a cultural manager who has and still is repeatedly trying to establish holography in the world of art.
In order to prevent any misunderstanding I have to stress here, though, that I do not intend to repudiate holography. Were this the case I would not be here today. But I regard it as necessary to speak clearly and unequivocally amongst us in order not to repeat the same mistakes in the future and to prevent the choice of an unpromising direction. To discuss and think about this is surely one of the reasons of our meeting here.
In the past I have tried with three
different, conceptual exhibitions to sound the artistic spectrum
and the aesthetic potential of holography, not in the least in
comparison with established forms of art. No matter how important
these exhibitions were for the
The first of the exhibitions mentioned, "More light - artists' holograms and light objects," took place almost five years ago, in 1985, in one of the most recognized museums in Europe, the Kunsthalle in Hamburg. For the first time the attempt was made to view holography relating to the history of art in the context of other artistic, modern modes of expression. This happened essentially under the leitmotif of the artistic discussion and experimentation with artificial light, and the exhibition was to elucidate the difference between holographic and traditional modes of expression. As it says in the catalogue: "The artistic engagement with light is as old as pictorial art, but it took place almost exclusively in traditional pictorial media - it is exactly this, that all objects of art we are showing here dispense with, apart from the odd splash of color here and there. Throughout the exhibition one can sense the fascination the artists feel at being able to represent light with light, be it in a photogram, a hologram, a laser drawing or in working with neon tubes and light bulbs."
As I tried to show with that exhibition, light - and with it ultimately holography, too - possesses a seemingly inexhaustible potential of artistic possibilities to create completely new modes of expression and changed realities of image. This topic was at the same time the object of the second exhibition "The reality of images," which Stefan Graupner and I realized together in 1986 in the Kunsthalle Nurnberg. In the center of attention stood the question of how expanded areas of reality can be discovered and presented artistically by means of holography. In a comparative manner, that is in the context of drawings, paintings and objects, holograms were examined concerning their form of reality and manner of expression. The resulting opposition of holography and those traditional forms of art, though, was not intended as a confrontation or judgment. The intention was to show an open, comparative reception of new modes of creation of surface, color, form and space, not a partisanship for one or the other mode of expression. (I show you some slides of this exhibition.)
With the third exhibition, titled "In a different light - holography and environs," which was shown last November 1989 in the All Artforum in Munich and in March 1990 in the Karl-Ernst-Osthaus-Museum in Hagen, I have tried to focus on the specific quality of holographic space in relation with its environs. With this was linked the aim to introduce holography into the established art world under this specific approach. (Here are as well some slides of this show.)
These three exhibition projects prove that I succeeded three times in presenting holography in representative places of the art world and attracting a certain amount of attention. But neither I nor the participating artists managed to establish holography permanently as an art medium in these circles. This lead me to the following two question:
1. Is it at all possible to establish holography in the art world?
2. Is it desirable to do so?
The answer in bother cases is no!
Despite these rather negative experiences I am thoroughly convinced that the essential (aesthetic) potential of holography has so far been largely undiscovered. Nowadays only approximately 5-10% are exhausted of what could actually be achieved with this medium on an innovative and creative score. For this considerable deficit there are mainly two reasons:
1. Our own imagination in dealing creatively
with holography is determined by our traditional understanding
of culture. This creates considerable limitations in our recognition
of the new - we do not orientate ourselves at the paradigmatical
change of perception effected by holography, but at what stood
the test in the past.
A theory of holography which would do justice to this claim can on no account refer back to a general aesthetic theory. Although artists, critics and theorists continually try to anchor holography in the history of art, they overlook the fact that holography can only receive meaning and importance from a future-orientated topical present.
To stress it again in this context - media-aesthetically viewed holography is most definitely not a continuation of earlier art styles with just different technical means, no matter whether one tries to establish a connection with op-art, kinetic art, or with the artistic experiments of the Bauhaus. On the contrary, it is important to understand holography as a statement that has at its disposal an autonomous structure based on the specific mode of action of the medium. For the technical invention as well as the scientific and cultural development of holography provide an excellent example for a paradigmatical change which has its starting point in the effort to refine existing modes of production and during which a revolutionization of all, up to then practiced reproductional and creational techniques, as well as of human perception takes place.
Simultaneously with this paradigmatical change a change of the artwork into something that I would like to introduce to you as "mediawork" takes place, that today is carried out in the area of aesthetical production.
At this point a more detailed explanation is necessary, as the term mediawork is introduced into the discussion. What do we mean by that term?
Under the influence of electronic information and communication technologies as well as through the emergence of new technical modes of reproduction the artwork of the past has considerably lost influence and importance in many areas of society and everyday life. It has been substituted by a novel aesthetic product, which - because of its special nature and mode of action - can be described as a work of media or a mediawork.
In spite of the indisputable difference between the artwork and the mediawork the latter is still frequently identified with the former and treated accordingly. A reason for this may be the fact that the boundary the mediawork breaks in principle with the artwork as formed in various periods and passed on in manifold modes of expression and developments in style to the present time.
With the mediawork the traditional human act of producing artifacts has become invalid. This is also the case with the production of a mediawork where man still participates intellectually and/or mechanically - which today predominantly happens in the field of the production of holograms or computer-graphics and computer-animation. But on principle the development of this process aims at liberating man from his/her active participation in the production process and at conceding to him/her at most the status of an observer.
As photography and film already announced,
it is in the end the equipment that determines the aesthetic
production. This is meant when we talk specifically about an
aesthetic quality of approach and the self-dynamics of technical
media. At the moment the standard of individual creation fails
the production of art (as nowadays is apparently the case with
the aesthetic production involving electronic means of communication)
the up to then valid function of aesthetic production is inevitably
revolutionized. For its foundation in the enlightened, liberal
creative spirit of the artist is substituted with the foundation
in a different process, that is on the basis of a technical process
and of an artificial intelligence.
With the emergence of the mediawork the (technical) production of aesthetic products has thus been shifted to a qualitatively different stage. Thereby the principle of mechanical reproduction analyzed by Walter Benjamin has been extended to the aspect of a reality-generating projection, in which the reality of media and the environment merge into one another to the point of complete penetration. The result is a dissolution of the difference between the represented and the lived reality of the individual. In the same measure as illusion cannot be distinguished anymore from reality, the real represents itself as appearance in a world changed by the mediawork. Familiar conceptions of reality are questioned in principle and the perception of reality changes drastically. The mechanical reproduction has lost its claim to authenticity and at the same time has reached a new reality.
Viewed functionally and technically the mediawork is based on the process of data and information processing as developed in cybernetics. In this context we would like to point out that holography as well owes its existence to information technology, especially to the technical principle of the side-looking radar, which Leith and Upatnieks used as a model for their developing the two-beam and off-axis hologram. After all, holography also deals with the processing of information. The interference pattern of a hologram has to be understood in the first place as information. Until now this aspect has been considered far too rarely by artists.
Very often the mediawork is characterized by a paradox. Because of its special nature and the modes of reception resulting from it, it is actually completely unfit for a representation in a museum. But nevertheless works - such as videos, computer animations or holograms - are still produced by this new means of production whose only meaning seems to lie in them being exhibited in a museum. Thus the actual social and innovative forms of utilization and impact of new means of production and media are perverted in the name of a past form of artistic recognition.
As you may have noticed the description of the mediawork has lead us already to reflections on a theory of holography. The theory I would like to develop further here is essentially determined by four parameters, on which at the same time the inherent autonomous structure of the medium is based. The four parameters are the following:
1. The holographic paradox,
The mediawork-character of holographic productions as described above could possibly be added as a fifth parameter.
The holographic paradox
The holographic paradox essentially
consists in the fact that holography is still treated like a
traditional picture medium, although it is clearly an optical
recording and reproduction of information procedure that shows
basic differences to traditional methods. Usually the basic difference
between the hologram and the holographic reconstruction is overlooked,
too, as both are regarded as a normal image. But neither the
one nor the other correspond to our conception of an image in
the traditional sense.
As mentioned above, the holographic
paradox consists of the fact that in spite of their fundamental
difference holograms are treated as normal
With the holographic process the familiar graphic illusionism as well as the distinction between image and reality are lead aesthetically and technically to absurdity. This process is characterized by another paradox, namely that the holographically created reconstruction as a rule still appears as a normal if three-dimensional picture, although the two have next to nothing in common. This paradox is caused not so much by the process as such, but by the current forms of using and presenting the medium. Although many artists have in the mean time taken up holography, their intercourse with it is often still determined by traditional ideas about art and the image. Only a few have so far managed to experiment with holography in a genuinely unusual and new way. All the others strive as a rule to assimilate classically rated elements of form and style, which, because of the special peculiarities of the medium, succeed satisfactorily only in the most exceptional cases.
On the other hand it happens that exactly such modes of expression are valued exceptionally highly by experts from museums and the art world because they are able to recognize familiar classical categories of style in them. An example are the works of Dieter Jung, who skillfully drops in such elements into his holographic pictures. Seeing holograms from the series "Into the rainbow" (1983) or "Gegenwartsraume" (1984/85) the art connoisseur is consciously or unconsciously reminded of paintings by Mark Rothko. In addition to this the form of presentation of the holograms on slim pedestals creates a formal reference to the sculptures of Giacometti. Thus it is not surprising that in contrast to many of his colleagues Jung has found a significant resonance in the traditional art world. Thus he is one of the exceptions mentioned at the beginning that only prove the rule.
Despite this undeniable influences of the classical modernity the holograms of Dieter Jung are not able to avoid the specific aesthetics of holography. These aesthetics very often escape the grasp of the artist, though. They are essentially characterized by a substitution of the illusionistic impression of the traditional image space by an actual visual space that is completely identical and synchronous with the reality of the environment. Viewed like this the hologram cannot be viewed anymore as an image in the traditional sense which is characterized precisely by a spatial and temporal difference from reality.
The cause for this abolition of the
difference between image and reality lies in the second parameter,
the special principle of holographic optics. These optics constitute
a radical break with perspective-geometrical optics and they
dispense with the imaging-function of the optical lens. At the
same time the paradigm of objectivity is exposed as an illusionary
point of view and is annulled.
Now we come to the third parameter, the holographic space.
Just as holographic optics causes a radical break with geometric optics, holographic space is no longer explainable in the sense of classical Euclidian geometry. Unlike perspective space, which left its imprint on three-dimensional visualization and thinking, holographic space is not imaginable or understandable as a purely functional mathematical construction.
Whenever holographic space appears, this appearance does not occur as an illusion of a concrete space, because this is excluded a priori by holographic space optics. therefore the holographic space no longer has a referential relation to reality. Moreover, it is experienced as an indefinite phenomenon, whose aesthetic effect becomes real and once again corresponds to the everyday spatial experience of a postmodern culture. This phenomenon is essentially identified by its loss of sensory experienced matter and dimensional distance. At the same time, space, as it was formerly and absolutely defined in terms of above and below, as well as of front and back, ultimately becomes absurd. Although holographic space still maintains a certain depth, it is no longer measurable according to specific parameters. Rather, spatial depth becomes concrete first as an indefinite visual aesthetic effect.
Analogously to this particular experience of space represented by holography, big cities are increasingly perceived differently in numerous everyday situations. The following example of Fredric Jameson's shows such a phenomenon. He says:
"The theme of unlimited space
should not only be understood metaphorically. It can be experienced
by everyone who starts in the Chicano markets in the middle of
Los Angeles and climbs up Beacon Hill and then suddenly faces
the gigantic free-standing wall of the Crocker Bank Centre -
a surface which does not appear to be supported by any solid
mass and whose apparent form (rectangular? trapezoid?) can hardly
be determined with the naked eye. This large window surface whose
two -dimensionality seems to be resisting gravity immediately
transforms to solid ground on which one is standing into part
of a stereoptic image. Thus it seems we are only
It is surprising that Jameson refers to stereoptic images instead of the holographic ones that would suit his argument much better, for the experience he describes is characterized by features that are more typical of holographic perception than of stereoptic perception. The indefinable visual effect of the apparent absence of mass of those gigantic free-standing walls of the Crocker Bank Centre perceived by Jameson is, for example, characteristic of holography. The experience of the material reality seems to shift increasingly toward the perception of immaterial visual effects. As a result, we 'physically' experience that realities exist in new forms and have become 'incomprehensible' as aesthetic visual effects.
Holographic space, the third dimension of holography, stored as optical information in each hologram, cannot be referred back to any ordinary experience of space. Moreover, a logic of spatial perception unknown until now is brought into play, which can use neither the materiality of an image surface that no longer exists nor the illusionary imagination of the reality of a space that likewise no longer exists as a reference. Because holographic space exists in neither an external nor an internal reality, it is its own simulacrum, "the identical copy of something whose origin never existed" as Jean Baudrillard defined it. This space can no more copy reality than create illusions. Both impossibilities form a basic implication of the new 'spatial logic' of the simulacrum, which is expressed in the aesthetic effect of holographic space.
Hereby we realize that in the 'new space' of postmodernism, distance has been generously abolished. We are immediately so immersed in these filled-in, diffused spaces that the spatial coordinates of our postmodern bodies are now stolen from us: practically and also theoretically they are made incapable of creating distance. Even time cannot help us as an obvious coordinate to measure spatial distance. It becomes meaningless and unrepresentative when we realize that, measured in time, the trip to the airport in our own city takes us longer than the flight to a much more distant place. This everyday experience of the loss of the usual spatial feeling of proximity and distance finds an aesthetic equivalent in the spatial difference of a holographic image, which contains neither a definable front nor a definable back, nor any other known reference to reality.
The thesis that holographic space can be experienced in a new manner because of its lack of depth seems to contradict the superficially experienced plasticity of numerous holographic images. Upon closer examination, this means that when we actually enter the holographic space we experience it from a distance and with a diminished perspective. As a result, the space loses its concrete dimension and also its materiality. To actually experience the holographic space in this manner it is necessary to abandon common methods of perception and points of view and free the space from our usual frame of sight.
As this actual departure from traditional visualization proves, not only theoretically but practically (primarily related to plasticity), the special result of the aesthetic effect of holographic space is based on the loss of materialization rather than on the addition of a third dimension. While holographic space loses materiality and the illusion of depth, it also attains general importance by representing the actual thinking and experience of our time. We are coming now to the last parameter, the self-reference of light.
The self-reference of light
The aesthetic effect of holographic
space as well as its substantial existence receives its self-creating
energy solely from light. Holography gives absolute priority
At the same time, light loses its corresponding function between the reality represented in the image and the actual experienced reality. Not reality but light itself assumes the function of reference. Roland Barthes states this for photography. While photography in its trueness is always compared with reality, in holography the existence and reality of holographic space is dependent on light. So it is not a coincidence but a definite principle of holographic optics that light interferes with itself in holography. The hardly observable minute differences between the object beam and the reference beam produce the aesthetic message of holography, which, as is known, does not contain any materiality and is composed of light created by light.
As light is not only a generative principle but a subject and the basic substance of the holographic reconstruction as well, the self-reference of light represents an essential form for the articulation of the holographic message. Holography, independent of color pigments and the referential relation to the visual material order of things in reality, opens up a wide spectrum for aesthetic realization in its original definition (from the Greek, aisthesis, meaning 'sensation', 'perception'), an occurrence that was 'unimaginable' up to now, an occurrence that underlies the entirely natural appearance of our experienced reality as an energetic principle. If we consider this unique occurrence of holography from the point of view of the holographer as well as the viewer, we discover a new aesthetic experience of our time. In this aesthetic situation, we leave the concrete materiality of nature (as Kandinsky also remarked about painting) and penetrate its hard shell, to find its inner rhythm. At the same time, we find ourselves wanting to experience, through the medium of holography, an unknown and hardly imaginable physikalisches Weltbild (physical philosophy of life) and to sensitize our perception for something that in modern natural science, since Einstein and Heisenberg, is understood theoretically as relativity and quantum theory.
In the main we have now determined the four, or rather five parameter of a theory of holography. Now we have to ask, however, which conclusions are to be drawn from this theory for the practical application of holography for creative purposes. An essential demand aims at overcoming the image character of holographic application. Besides an orientation at media-specific solutions is far more important than to representations in museums. In this context some new ways of usage present themselves in the areas of architecture and design, where holograms ought to adopt in the first place the function of dynamic information and lighting systems. Thus one could image the holographic designing of the front of a building, where the aesthetic dimension of the medium is combined with its technical usefulness. The holograms attached to the front of the building could function as a sun and light filter that would contribute to the light and heat regulation inside the building.
Such and similar applications would do much more justice to the innovative creative claim of holography than has been the case with most artists' holograms so far.
The Critic and the Curator's View. . .
CHRIS TITTERINGTON, Curator
I think before I give my view, I owe it to you to let you know what I represent, so that you'll know what kind of a view it is. Of course, it's very difficult for me to say what I represent with any impartiality. You only have a dim awareness of your own true position and likewise it is so hard to be aware of your own assumptions, so this is likely to be a prejudiced view of what my prejudices are. I suppose as a museum curator that I must represent the art establishment.
I'm familiar with the history of modern art (defined as 1750 to the present day) and my specializations are 18th century painting and contemporary works of art. That spread of time gives me a knowledge of the pedigree of contemporary art theory - for so much of the art of the last hundred years is founded upon ideas that would have been familiar fare 200 years ago. Within that, I find that I write and lecture quite often on Modernism and Postmodernism. I know the theoretical pickles the art world gets itself into! Some of which will emerge as we progress. I go out to the galleries, to studios, I keep up with the magazines. I go to the art fairs the Biennials and the Biennale. I suppose the kind of people that I see there are the sort of artists who are reviewed in Artforum or Flash Art, or Art in America. It's a certain world in other words. . . what would have been known as the avant garde if the word was not now out of fashion. Fashion - that's a word to help describe it. I know what's fashionable - what's intellectually respectable or trendy, if you like. I don't think using the word fashion diminishes what it's about particularly - fashion and what underpins it is a complex and fascinating thing. So I represent what an 18th century gentleman would have described as "Taste" - and saying that I recoil from the suggestion !
Well this is not me blowing my own trumpet - on the contrary this is admitting to my susceptibilities to prejudice. If I am capable of any degree of skepticism then I am only too aware that it is partial and liable to be colored by all kinds of things beyond my conscious awareness. Now what I have to say today will in some ways be aimed at laying bare some of the assumptions implicit in the taste of the group I represent. Those I miss you can pick me up on later.
Part of my reasoning behind this approach
is to supply some way of approach that you might consider using
in dealing with contemporary prejudice. At any rate to be
So, let's kick off. (Slide: Leith and Upatnieks " Train"). Here's a slide that allows me to introduce one of the greatest continuing prejudices of the art world concerning holography. I believe I'm right in saying that it is the opinion of most of my colleagues that most holograms are made by technicians who are first and foremost gadget enthusiasts who have no aesthetic sophistication whatsoever. Certainly no idea of the sort of issues that ambitious contemporary art 'should' address. Now this is obviously pretty unfair from what we've seen this morning. No allowances are made for the fact that Leith and Upatnieks probably didn't consider this to be great art themselves. A technological tour de force yes, but not a great picture. So this then is holography to my colleagues. . . practiced by visual illiterates. What we are looking at here from the position of the art world is 'Kitsch'. (slide Jeff Koons 'Jim Bean Train')
This however is by the most famous, most intellectually respectable artist alive today. Its a sculpture by the artist Jeff Koons made about four years ago. Koon is at 35 the hottest young artist going. Just five years ago he was a future trader on the New York stock market. When he decided to switch careers into the art 'industry', as he calls it, and become an artist he declared that if he didn't make a certain sum - roughly equivalent to his lifestyle as a trader - within two years he would quit. Well he didn't need to resign as an artist. . . his last show is said to have made five million dollars to be split between him and his dealers. This year he as America's representative at the Venice Biennale.
"So what's going on?" is the question on all of our lips I suspect. I think they may be the same model, 'Jim Beam' is a name that comes to mind - I believe it's a bourbon decanter. Well the most obvious difference is that - one the hologram - is an image of a model and the other is a sculpture. both models, however, are essentially found objects, art works bought from someone else and made part of the new work. Neither train was skillfully crafted by the artist. Sometimes Koons simply goes out and buys an item, sometimes he has something cast, and sometimes he asks a craftsman to make him something from a rough design, here I believe it's a cast - so it's not a question of the difference being that only the hologram is a reproduction of someone else's work.
In a sense the comparison is unfair.
. . as I said Leith and Upatnieks were hardly expecting to appear
and be judged in this context. But I think that
But just set the Koons thing aside for a moment - because so few people would make a connection even though it's staring them in the face. Let's talk just for a moment about the perception on the part of most of my colleagues and most gallery people, critics and writers - the perception that all holography looks like the Leith and Upatnieks work. Remember I used the word kitsch. I think it fits this kind of perception perfectly. We all know the dictionary definition perfectly well. Art that is vulgar and popular - yet at least one of your most famous American critics would not allow that it was art at all. Clement Greenberg 1939 essay 'Art and Kitsch' separates the two - art for Greenberg is a noble enterprise - one practiced and consumed by an elite. Kitsch is consumed by the masses and is often sentimental. This birthday card of little animals that I had for my last birthday is a wonderful example. Nick Philip's hologram 'Pete's Dragon' would be the holographic equivalent in the art world imagination. This little fellow would be the Koons version. [Slide: Rabbit, 1986]
So, to return to the point. . . my
own view is that essentially there is no material difference
between the Koons and the Leith and Upatnieks and the birthday
Collings: [Your interview technique
is] like a fairground spiel isn't it - the Jeff Koons Show?
Koons has made an open play for what he calls "The leadership of Art." To this end he took out a series of ads. This one is from Flash Art Magazine. He has this to say about it: "I was declaring my ambition, you know, aspects of leadership. . . those were just trying to show how politically motivated I've been for the leadership of art. . . to have a platform, to have a stage. "
So this has aspects of parody about it too. As I have said, it's though that his work is so gross that he can't possibly mean it - that he's having a sophisticated joke with us.
Now the point that I'm making about
all this is not to suggest that a holographic artist hoping for
success should assess the current intellectual state of the art
world and fit in with it either by subverting it or continuing
its values. That in a sense would be a plea for the continuation
of the status quo. No, I don't advocate that at all. Why
Well that's one way of looking at it.
But the main point I was trying to make was that holographers
should not feel that there is any kind of prejudice against them
that they can't get around no matter what. With the knowledge
of context I have just described just about anything is possible.
Even if you consider what is usually thought of in the art world
as a worst possible case - if you consider work like the Leith
and Upatnieks, as we have seen with Koons, it need not penalize
Before moving on I should add these thoughts on the practice of model making in holography. I think it would be true to say that amongst holographers themselves there is a lot of dissatisfaction with the reliance of CW users on models. I don't know whether this is based entirely on the restrictiveness of the activity or also on the fact that it is looked down upon by the critics. Model making and their use in holograms seems to be another one of those 'worse case' situations as it were, an aspect of holography despised from within and without. But again, of course, the point of raising this question is that there is a huge inconsistency in art world opinion. There is currently a massive fashion for model making and the photography of models in the avant garde. The practice began in the late 70s and early eighties with artists like Ellen Brooks and is still going strong today in the work of David Levinthal. This Ellen Brooks is from a series called 'Queen for a Day.' The work is a parody of a popular 50's T.V. gameshow of the same name. The doll at the left is seen reacting to her moment of stardom. Obviously on one level this is about role playing and stereotypical behavior, and indeed this is precisely how the critic Paula Marincola presented the piece in a text written in 1983. She looks at it in the light of a general rethinking of the male-female relationship. The ideas had obviously been around for quite some time, but as a major subject for 'serious' art it was a new phenomenon. One that could only be traced back to about 1979-80. This is Marincola:
"The box-like enclosure with which Brooks has staged some of her scenes suggest an equivalent of the televisions miniturization of reality: the inference being of course that we are somehow toys manipulated by the myths of popular culture. . . [the women] victimized by the desire to perform for and win the favor of the unseen male host but also willing participants in the victimization."
Now I think that Marincola puts it quite well when she suggests that models are fashionable because the use of them suggest we are toys that are manipulated by behavioral roles communicated via the media. But I want to go a step further so that we can see the ideas that underpin this whole model making practice and thus put the holographic practice in some relation to it. I think the argument is really about free will. The age old dilemma was first cast in a religious framework - if God knows everything then how can our future be our own etc., and later (in the 17C.) it was set in a materialist philosophical framework where our responses to the flow of material circumstance was emphasized and traditional free will is called into question. Now Brooks' use of the little automata could have a optimistic application - a utilitarian purpose to intervene in the free transmission of 'unhealthy' behavior via the media - a helpful attempt to hold up such behavior for our attention as limiting behavior. But I think there is another side to it - a pessimistic one. This melancholic aspect stems from the climate of ideas that we call postmodern.
Postmodernism is heavily reliant, in
its theoretical structure on a literary philosophy known as poststructuarlism.
The history of this importation into the postmodern art field
is an interesting thing in itself, but this need not concern
us here, save only to say that is is a history of vulgarization,
and as usual in such cases quite ambivalent positions become
distorted and pushed to extremes.
This is the pessimistic side for this situation: since Romanticism art has stood for the liberation of the inner self that is supposedly suppressed by the higher consciousness (-our internal representative of society at large) art has stood for individuals against a social norm. Now postmodernism, along with the poststructuralist literary thought that informs it, objects to this view as fundamentaly false in its model of what we as human beings are and sees this model as also politically unfortunate in its results.
Poststructuralism sees our personalities as formed essentially by our socialization and specifically by our acquisition of language. The key point emerges from one quite simple observation on the part of these thinkers. It concerns how we think and how thought is related to language. Post-structualist writers believe that the idea we have that language is a tool of the inner self is false. It is their belief that thought is language. If this is correct then the assumption that we - the inner self - have thoughts that we choose to put into language to communicate with our fellows is an illusion, for there can be no inner-self. Post-structuralism has thus come to stand (particularly if one only reads commentaries on the major writers) as a way of thinking opposed to individualism, or indeed to humanism itself. This anti-individualist position has indeed gone so far in the minds of these commentators that post-structualism is often seen to some how deny our existence completely - to see individuals as events in a mechanistic linguistic system.
So this is the context of ideas to the contemporary interest in models. Why then have holograms based on models not been accorded any real interest? Clearly, for one thing the subject matter has to be right - sexual stereotyping in the Brooks and historical determinism in Levinthal - the old free will argument. But what is even more essential is the lack of concern for the materials employed in the photographs; ie: a lack of concern for the photography. This is bad photography by people who are not photographers. Its made that way to let us know that its the ideas that count. Now holography is all too often seen as a medium where ideas don't count for much... where what's at a premium is the technique - the jaw dropping 3rd dimension. (This is why incidentally I have made it a policy at the V&A not to collect particularly 3D holograms - Susan Cowles here for example - and also not to show holography on its own - to let the ideas sink or swim alongside other forms of work in painting and photography.)
Talk of this show of lack of concern
for materials leads me to the point that whatever the strategy
or intellectual approach, without a knowledge of and a concern
for the presentational modes that fit with current fashion, holography
will find little acceptance. Framing is clearly an aspect of
importance. One of the methods that I have seen is Andy Pepper's
frame cum backboard. I think it has a lot of potential within
the system of values I have been describing. Andy's method is
akin to the practice of hanging transmission holograms in clear
perspex frames. What is happening in both these methods is that
the edge of the hologram is exposed or declared... we have two
readings available; image - the illusion of something else, or
sheet of glass or film - the hologram.
Talking of abstraction in this way brings to mind an area of art theory that holography seems ideally place to exploit. There are those here who I believe have already done it - among them Dieter Jung, and Sally Weber. The point needs a little preamble. Abstraction an d the morality of truth to essences - the painting as a painting - did not, of course, preclude reference to other things - to ideas ( only later with some forms of minimalism did artists specifically reject reference ). The essential thing is that abstract painting in its use of pure non-representational aesthetics was clearly standing for an aesthetic world - a pure realm beyond thephenomenal world. This is obvious from the premium placed on the quality 'optically' in the 60s. Paintings were then expected to achieve effects that were primarily and strictly optical - no textures, nothing complex in the design that would require experience over an extended period of time and which could therefore imply theatrical type narrative - just optically . . . as immaterial as you could get it. Now the inference to be drawn from this non-materiality was obvious - such paintings were clearly meant to stand for the spiritual. Holography fits here in that it seems a natural medium to produce such effects. This work by Paul Newman is a prime example: it's pure light. It certainly seems more beautiful to me - and more inherently captivating - than say a Dan Flavin neon piece, which incidentally clearly finds acceptance in the avant garde precisely within the value system that links optically with spirituality.
Going further, holograms of any kind
of object - here stones by John Kaufman or whereby Wengon &
Gamble- can also claim relationship to a pretty constant philosophical
theme in art - that of the mind-body or spirit-matter duality
and its dilemmas. One thing implicit in the Greenberg type painting
of the 60s was the fusion of that duality... the emphasis on
the object and its physicality - these are Jon Groom paintings
where the thickness of the edge is pretty great, but where this
great volume and mass is married with a concern for the immaterial
qualities of color. This sense of the immateriality of the material
is a natural subject for holography. And it is not a dead 60s
concern. It is also an important subject in the arts at large
today. Perhaps the most interesting exponent that I know of is
the artist I mentioned earlier Helen Chadwick. The subject of
the materiality of the immaterial -the spirit- is an inversion
of that I just mentioned but it concerns the same dualism. The
theme is a kind of sub plot to the work - but it is an essential
one and it weaves throughout the whole of her work - despite
her stylistic changes that I mentioned. This particular work
is an installation called The Oval Court. %%%???????????new paragraph%%%
It uses Xerox technology. In one way it deals with the historical
link of woman and nature. This identification has put women in
a unique place vis a vis the notions of the self implicit in
PS philosophy...women it would seem have always been associated
with a decentered materialism- matter and mater have the same
root. And this piece is about that materialism - our physicality
and kinship with other life and matter... our makeup of atoms-
material that floats in a sea of space, like galaxies; bright
traces of stuff collected together, like our bodies, for a moment;
atoms acting in unison, acting together in a special way called
life thought. The court is circular, and in one piece of it she
completes the cycle, her head by her anus linking the circle.
The physical proximity of the head and the anus, the base and
the refined, symbolize here, if I am right the equivalence or
the inseparability of matter and spirit.
Here again Holography is well placed here to take advantage of this tradition. The obvious point that comes to mind is the theme of David Bohm and the holographic paradigm. This has been both a help and a hindrance. Cocktail party physics is the accusation leveled at some claims to relevance made by holograhers in this respect. Also the almost supernatural aspect of the Bohm theories has probably done little to allay the doubts implied within holography's sci-fi medicine show reputation. But this situation has been aggravated by the fact that most of what has been said has applied to work that does not merit the grand claims attached to it, and also work that has offended the delicate sensibilities of the critics and the elite of the avant guard in the ways that I have described earlier.
Yet put into another context and I think that the ideas should not count against holography. A case in point is the work of the artist Susan Cowles who has founded her work on a view of man and the world very much in line with much of what Bohm has to say. Susan also has a scholar's knowledge of European context to this world picture. The usual context that this all gets located is that of the east. I'm sure I don't have to mention Fritjof Capra's name. But Susan has largely ignored this.(Slide: The Emerald Table) She has concentrated upon somewhat similar notions from the history of our own culture - namely the philosophies of such Renaissance thinkers as Girordano Bruno and Guilio Camilio - men whose ideas were held in opposition to the emerging scientific empiricist view of the 16C. This is a piece from her work on the idea of the memory theater.
So far what I have said suggest that holography can find greater acceptance within the art world and its conventious as they stand. There is nothing that inherently disbars holography as a medium from greater status and interest on the part of the art establishment. But what I have to say next is perhaps more positive again. I believe that in the last ten years an aesthetic directly based on the appearance of certain holograms has been in operation right at the center of New York avant guard.
This aesthetic has been visible in the work of the most famous of all the conceptual painters - David Salle. It may even have arisen there - and become so dominant because it arose there. I'm afraid it is perhaps a rather limited view of what holograms can do and what they look like, but it is an interesting phenomenon nevertheless. (Slide: Salle ' Shower of Courage') Salle is an artist who often paints from photographs and slides (these are projected onto his canvas). He came to prominence in 1978 or thereabouts. He appears to use photography as a poignant example of a loss of vitality of experience. . . a loss very much related to the contemporary preoccupation with the media and with mediation. In this scheme of thought the photograph seems to be valued as an object in which the world is presented without ever being fully present. . . a pretty constant topic in theories of photography (slide: Susan Sontag), and one of the most commonly held opinions about holograms is that they surpass photography in this quality of loss.
Salle's work is often sexual but it
is strangely unerotic. Even the submissive soft porn nudes appear
frozen and distant. . . their erotic pull subdued or even neutralized.
They look like organs preserved in alcohol bottles in medial
schools - the color bleached out - forever held away from life
and experience. I interviewed him in 1987, and mentioned that
this appearance was quite like the look of early and quite crude
holography - this Bruce Nauman for example, where the hard, directional
lighting is wedded to a soft, distant appearance brought on by
the noise and speckle. . . almost like a memory.
Some of his thinking in the invention of the appearance of his work concerns the desire to make paintings about things in a much more straightforward way. Salle was coming towards his mature style in the late 1970s and the kind of work he had in mind that he did not want to make was the then voguish 70s abstraction that was still intellectually respectable at that time; the sort of thing that Barbara Rose had in her show 'American Ptg - the 80s' - which was a disastrous piece of prediction the way things turned out, but which is a hell of an interesting document of what was considered excellent in 70s ptg. In this 70s abstraction gestural marks were read as symbolic of the free mental state of the artist - spontaneity was interpreted as evidence of the artists superior access to his or her inner self and was seen as the ultimate guarantor of truth. Salle did not feel comfortable with this oblique approach to the contents of the mind and the going on of the mind. His 1979 statement called 'The Ptgs are Dead' reveal his cast of mind concerning this. He appears to link the idea 'spontaneity' with the lack of ability to speak clearly about the world: He says - " The work has to be dead: that is from life but not part of it, in order to show how it can have anything to do with life in the first place." But the main point is this: another aspect of the dead monochrome and the hard lighting has to do with this sense of loss of direct contact we discussed when looking at Salle's 'Shower of Courage'. I think these kinds of ideas have lead to the blurred and bleached out aesthetic of post-modernism photography. . . We say the bleached monochrome in Salle; but it is also present in 'Prince with Luanne,' 1982, and 'Beuys' too, [slide: Greta Garbo Cycle, 1984-9] .This comes from the album sleeve to Strangeways here we come by the Smiths. It's obviously a very fashionable look. Morrissey's voice is monochrome and bleached out too, and the lyrics speak of a state of ennui and deja vu; he sings about life in neutral: In this song Nowhere Fast he sings: "Lying on my bed I think about life and I think about death and neither one particularly appeals". . . and the chorus in the song is "I'm not happy and I'm not sad." It's a state of in-betweeness - the between state alluded to in the word mediare ( "to go between") - the root of the word mediation.
The same problem is alluded to in this picture 'Golden Apples' by James Casebere. It's a world without color - the world without the warmth of the color supplied by the mediating senses. It's a world without vitality - and perhaps without genius? The title reminds me of Goethe: the golden apples referring to the golden age of vitality and immediacy and genius - but here it is bleached out and distant and unattainable. Goethe says: "Shakespeare gives us 'golden apples in silver dishes.' By careful study we may acquire the silver dishes. . . while discovering. . . that we only have "potatoes to put in them."
Frank Majore seems to fit within this aesthetic. Thought here I think the reference is less to loss than the paradox of presence and absence in holography than to the gaudiness of display holography. I think the subject here is more akin to a 17C Dutch still life - a meditation on the riches of the world - a vanitas theme in other words - 'Sic transit Gloria Mundi' - so passeth the beauties of the world. So, Salle's figures that are bathed in a monochrome light fit within this skepticist pessimism. Holography's qualities as he saw them were used then as metaphorical of the state of mind. . . and I think this isn't doing holography down too much - it has to be admitted that there is some of this pallid feel in the early portraits.
Now I suppose if there are any holographic artists who share this pessimistic outlook, then here is a natural context in which to operate - I am joking here, but the point is that a language that is known and understood well enough in the art community is a useful 'in' - if that is what you want.
The post structuralist linguistic theories
of language have been used in the arts in other ways than simply
to emphasize the point that it is through the acquisition of
language that we are socialized. The further insight that post-structuralism
has supplied concerns the idea that we are imprisoned within
language - it circumscribes what we can say and what we can know.
I'm sure this is very familiar but I'll just recap. . . Skeptical philosophy held that we can have no certain knowledge of the outside world. . . only such information as presented to us by the mediation of the senses. It is exemplified in the familiar idea known as Plato's Cave and its reemergence now is no better illustrated than with Christian Boltanski's installation of 1984 called Shadows. Post-structuralism would seen then to represent for some a kind of modern skepticism in it assertion that we can never get beyond the mediation of language. The idea that seems to be fashionable in post-modernism is that we create what we perceive. Is this why the photographer Oliver Wasow concentrates on the depiction of UFOs - phenomena most certainly created in the minds of the beholders.
So the feeling behind all this is that if we are - as it were - locked in, and if our senses supply data that we then interpret into some internal phenomenon such as color or whatever, that this information - this supposed property of the world is invalid . . . not a true property because it only exists in our heads. Obviously there is a long, long history to this way of thinking. This, for instance, is how the critic Joseph Addison put it - wonderfully I think - way back in 1712.
"We are everywhere entertained with pleasing shows and apparitions, we discover imaginary glories in the heavens. . . In short, our souls are at present delightfully lost and bewildered in a pleasing delusion, and we walk about like the enchanted hero of a romance, who sees beautiful castles, woods and the meadows; and at the same time hears the warbling of birds, and the purling of streams; but upon the finishing of some secret spell, the fantastic scene breaks up, and the disconsolate Knight finds himself on a barren heath, or in a solitary desert."
The modern equivalent - the post-structuralism inspired equivalent is that because we are locked into language - then meaning can have no validity - meanings are just part of some eternal internal games that goes around and around without ever touching base - the external world.
But there is dissent in the Avant Guarde camp, and I think that holography has a natural part to play in that dissent simply by virtue of the metaphors that can be drawn from the way that we experience holograms. Salle himself is not entirely happy with his own world view - he hankers after a time when this skeptical frameof mind did not have the grip that it has nowadays. . . a time before consciousness of this state arose. I say he hankers after it - I don't know about that - perhaps it's just another cause for melancholy - knowing that its impossible nowadays to even make believe that there is a way out of the problem. At any rate I think his work often displays a kind of sad nostalgia for the make believe. I think this is what lies behind the work called 'We'll Shake the Bag.'
The reclining figure is lost in reverie, she is smoking - the modern sign of abstraction from immediate surroundings. She is the contemporary equivalent of the reclining 18C melancholic Sir Brook Boothby, by Wright of Derby. It is as if Salle sees the problem is one involving the loss of innocence and the advent of reason which at the onset of the realization of mediation incurs artistic or creative disability. However, although this might be so, he realizes that the option of the irrationalism implicit within the Neo Expresionist cure is no longer open.
Sir Brook reclines in the forest interior
- the 18C sign for inward turning thought (against the outward
looking prospect view), he holds a book by his friend J.J. Rousseau,
signifying his interest in the originator or at least the great
popularizer of the cult of the child. The child you will remember
was seen as the innocent pre-rational. Sir Brook is the type
of Joseph cast out from Palestine in flight to Egypt, who is
in turn the type of Adam cast out from paradise. . . and innocence
of reason. So perhaps Sir Brook is melancholy that he is not
still a child ?
Salle's overlays of images have been claimed to advertise or submit to a state of high image saturation in a media bound culture in which images fail to signify. We become immune to them. Others have claimed that his work, in its act of stealing or appropriating images from preexisting sources, declares that originality is impossible as we are made up only of preexisting linguistic units. but it is clear from this statements and from some of his titles that his work draws on his thinking on mediation, and the perplexity of the modern philosophy of language ( he is a kind of modern Tennyson - and so it is not unnatural that he should have picked up on it himself - the beach a metaphor for the shifting sands of epsitemolgical uncertainty.) And the title of another picture - My Subjectivity - suggests that the objects in the paintings do have meanings for him, but that we shall never know them precisely, as we are always cut off from direct unequivocal knowledge of them by the mediation of language. Just as in His Brain there is a reference to the impossibility of immediate, directly arrived at Naturalism - a problem caused by subjectivity and mediation - which is alluded to here by the ironic inclusion of Manet's plein air painting boat. But I said that Salle seems to dream of a make believe world where the problem is not apparent. . . that is his dissent - but is dissent impossible - is it make believe? I don't know about that? This is anothercase where holography might be useful - certainly if an artist were interested in this bind that the avant guard is wallowing in - that artist might use holography quite tellingly.
Now I think holography can play a part
here in showing the error of this whole way of thinking. Holography
certainly has natural qualities that can be used to allegorize
the relationship between man and nature in an entirely different
way from the old skepticist 'locked in' model. A hologram is
very clearly like a rainbow is in nature. I think this is true
for all holograms but the transmission technique is the simplest
analogy. Like a rainbow there is nothing there at all if you
look through it without the correct illumination. . . Let's say
that the film is like the curtain of raindrops. Yet see those
raindrops or see that film illuminated rightly and a very beautiful
thing appears. Some would say that the rainbow is in our heads
- after all when we stand with a friend watching a rainbow we
are not seeing the same bow - we each have a personal cone of
vision beginning from our eyes on the surface of which our own
bow appears. The idea certainly troubled Addison's age - as that
passage I read attests. To them the whole familiar world of warmth
- of colored and scented things had collapsed from the external
world - collapsed down into tiny parts of the brains of individual
observers. But the rainbow and the image of a hologram is not
actually created in the mind. . . they are both collaborations
between the brain and the external world. The mind, the eye,
the light, the raindrops or interference pattern, they testify
to the coalition of all these things - internal and external.
Holography in the Art World:
Rene Paul Barilleaux, Curator of Exhibitions
Good morning. My name is Rene Paul Barilleaux. I am currently Curator of Exhibitions with the Madison Art Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The Madison Art Center is a museum of modern and contemporary art. At the Art Center we often deal with alternative media like video, installation and performance art, but I will speak more about this in a minute. Geographically, we are located about three hours north of Chicago.
First of all, I will start with telling
you about myself. Before I came to Wisconsin, as
Since that time, I have been involved
in wider ranging projects in contemporary art.
What I am particularly interested in
is art holography, and holography's place in the
The topic of my presentation is just that: holography in the art world. It is a very broad topic, encompassing many areas. I will give a basic, informalpresentation--the kind of basic information that many of you already deal with on a daily basis or others of you are well beyond in your work and careers. I am still surprised to find artists who have been working successfully for some time and are still naive about or uninterested in this side of the "art business."
From what I have observed--in working
with artists all over the world--one must take
Video artist Mary Lucier, whom many
of you know, told me that from the beginning video artists had
to be spokespeople for the medium of video as well as their own
work. There was no formal critical structure like in the areas
of painting and sculpture, or even photography. I am convinced
the same is true for artists working in holography.
I guess the first questions is: what do we mean by the "art world?" This term means many things, but basically I am referring to the international system which includes the following: museums, both traditional and contemporary; art centers and alternative spaces; university museums and galleries; commercial galleries; dealers and art consultants; auction houses; corporate collections; corporate exhibition spaces; public works; artists' representatives and agents; private collectors; and on and on. Within this system, there are many areas of specialization as well. And within this phenomenal, overwhelming system--how does one get anywhere, or even begin to understand or approach it?
First I have to say that I work within
this system. I am comfortable with this system. I
My research has been in the form of
short interviews with individuals in each of these areas, individuals
who are out there in the "real world." It is very important
I selected to interview individuals
in reasonable situations--the kinds of situations that you might
be involved with--thinking about the size of the institution,
I heard many of the same comments in
these interviews--often in the same language--over and over again.
I do not think that many of these individuals knew each other
or spoke with one another. In many ways I am not surprised by
the results, and I am sure that you will not be either, although
we might not always hear what we want to hear. As I said, many
of the people I spoke with had in some way or another been involved
with a holography project, at one time or another. But nearly
all are not involved in holography in an ongoing way.
I began by asking basic questions: What do you already know? What have you seen? The entire group was split about fifty/fifty on their knowledge of holography: about half knew nothing or very little, the other half had a basic working knowledge. Yet, many did not know where to channel their interest, where to find out what is going on in the field or where to get more information. It seems obvious to me that the Museum of Holography is a source of information, yet very few had visited the Museum--of the eight I asked, only two had been there.
It was very interesting to find out that there are holograms in museum collections in very diverse places. The types of holograms vary from fine art to what was politely termed "examples" of holography. Several museum people did say they are interested in collecting, on a limited basis--but they are interested. When I asked how they viewed holography as a fine art medium, I received some very thoughtful answers, using terms like "light sculpture" and a "medium of light."
Most individuals connected holography to sculpture rather than photography. One artist described holography as an outgrowth of "representational" media, as different from photography as it is from painting. This same artist did not agree that holography is a new "form of representation," but rather had more in common with painting, sculpture and photography. I received many positive comments from the people I spoke with: "holography has great potential," "an ability to 'awe' the public," and "it's accessible." Most individuals were interested to do more in the medium, or were interested in holography in the broader art/technology context, or in combination with other media.
Some of the negative comments I heard included problems with the content and subject matter in the work seen--work that had trouble getting beyond the technological aspects of holography. Some considered holography still too gimmicky. One individual commented that "if artists want to be taken seriously, they need to be accessible to the public vehicle." Other problems mentioned: logistical problems of installation and display, and similar technical problems. Also mentioned is the fact that it is hard to reproduce holograms in exhibition catalogs (video is a possible solution). Still, the problems of display and technical requirements of exhibitions are perhaps beyond the means of galleries and museums, one individual proposed.
When I pursued questions about the lack of critical attention paid to holography in the form of major exhibitions, magazine reviews, and the like, two reasons were stressed by one museum director in the Midwest: 1) the ignorance of curators, who have mainly art historical training, but no formal educational process to study media like holography, and 2) most museums have a narrow, non-experimental mentality and other similar problems in their system. Still, for this person, holography tended to be more technical than artistic, with a limited body of serious work in existence and a general lack of information available.
Turning to commercial galleries--I
received many of the same responses. One dealer in a New York
City gallery said that he had never been approached by artists
who made holograms. In fact, of the three people I asked--two
in museums and one in a commercial gallery--all said that they
had never been approached by an artist making holograms. This
particular dealer did think that the sale of holograms is completely
viable, depending on their quality. Furthermore, he feels that
the art world is always looking for something new and exciting,
but holography has not approached the traditional venues of criticism
aggressively. When I asked general questions about holography,
the term "potential" came up again.
In terms of public commissions things
are a bit better. There have been at least two
Finally, a few words on criticism. Although I heard many of the same things heard that I had heard before, there are a couple of additional points I can add. Holography, like other new and unique media, is lost in the pluralism of contemporary art. Still, there is a concern with content and kitsch imagery, and with using content in a meaningful way. Also, there is an intimidation aspect of holography (as sometimes there is in photography) which is the result of a lack of formal training on how to look at holograms and understand them. Finally, curators and art historians are often entrenched in conventions and are not ready to come to terms with technology-based works of art.
Now, some concluding thoughts to all of this.
What does all of this mean? In many ways, we have not heard anything we did not already know or have not already heard.
So what can we expect? We know the problems, we know the limitations, we know the questions and I think we know some of the answers.
The main thing that I have learned
from this research is that it is important to be
Selected list of individuals interviewed
Randy Alexander, Paula Allen Gallery,
New York, New York
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