The potential drama of empty space

Theatrical but not theater, Architectonic but not architecture, Sculptural but not sculpture

Edvine Larssen, Research Fellow at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim Academy of Fine Art

My aim is to develop a series of large scale installations, where the relevant architectural space (gallery or other) is both starting point and framework, in a way allowing space and art work to become one, making it impossible to distinguish one from the other. I aim to refect on how various architectural spaces enables disparate art works, and experiences for the viewer. These installations will be developed in scaled architectural models, taking every detail into account, and the fnal work will be built/made on site.

I question whether installation art as a term is about to empty itself of meaning. Installation is often used in various settings where there is no relationship between the space and the art work what so ever. Drawing on Claire Bishops statement; “there is a fne line between an installation of art and installation art” (C.B. 2005 Installation Art, Tate Publishing, pg. 6), I see it as vital for my project to get a better overview of the practical feld of installation art, as well as theories surrounding it, in order to better understand how this term is used within the contemporary art scene.

My work draws inspiration from the felds of architecture, sculpture and theatre, and makes clear references to these. I´m concerned that what I build or place in a space, plays against what remains as empty or negative space. This creates a coherent and carefully planned composition where the movement of the viewer plays an essential part, as the work can not be viewed from only one point.

To broaden my research I will examine a Japanese spatial expression; Ma. We have no singular word to translate Ma in English. Ma describes the space between two or more structural parts, also suggesting a time interval. It is best read as a consciousness of place, not in the sense of an enclosed three-dimensional entity, but rather the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensifcation of vision.

It looks as if Ma touches upon what goes on in the gaps, in between the positive and negative space, in the empty or unflled. It seems to me as if a single Kanji is able to express something vital in relation to what I search in my own work, and this something, I want to learn more about.

It is vital that I approach this term as an artist, looking to understand how it can open up our ways of seeing, related to the felds of art, not as an academic linguist aiming to simply translate it correctly. As my knowledge of the Japanese language is basic, I also have a limited understanding of Ma. However, this allows for a unique approach to Ma, and through my research I can look for a broader understanding of space, both in a poetic sense, but also in a more concrete and physical way. I believe this to be of great interest to the feld of installation, and it might even open up new understandings in relation to architecture.

I aim to do this research mainly trough interviews in Japan, focusing partly on architects, musicians, artists and so on who might have an awareness of Ma in their work. But, I also want to understand how Ma is used in everyday life in Japan, so it is necessary to nuance this trough interviewing various people in different age groups and lines of work. It might even be relevant to do some interviews of westerns with a relationship to Japanese culture and language.I plan to collaborate with other felds (sociology, geography) within the University, to develop these interviews trough certain methods. Parallel to my research on Ma I will look at tangent western
spatial theory to have a better understanding of the similarities and differences.
My intention is to publish my research on Ma as a book.