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HOW TO THINK CONTEMPORARY ART IN PUBLIC SPACE?

A text by arch. Ljubo Georgiev and Vladiya Mihaylova


At the beginning of the 20th century, modern doctrine in architecture and art definitively defined the concept of TIME-SPACE, which considered space as a field of relationships, movement, events and meanings, rather than as a closed, static and negative spatial form. Alongside this concept is the notion that it is the architect who should define the overall shape of people's lives by setting new horizons for society. The environment is homogenized, a complete synthesis of the arts is sought, and historical continuity is replaced by radically new visions of the future.



Anton Tzanev, Letters, 2016


Postmodernism revises this doctrine by highlighting the values of the heterogeneous environment and the complex relationships inherent in the historic city, which becomes a stage for the simultaneous development of diverse scenarios and the overlay of the individual vectors of multiple actors. Currently, the spaces between buildings and the city are those shared spaces that become a laboratory for urban experimentation. Artists from all fields perform in the public space, and the boundaries between the arts are blurred, and practically the same material object or action can emerge as a result of artistic manifestation or socio-spatial experiment. Architectural activism uses small interventions in the urban environment as a kind of acupuncture to transform spaces that have lost their significance into places that matter to people. Marco Casagrande sees the city as a complex energetic organism, a living environment, and architecture as an "acupuncture needle".


In this case, the role of the architect is that of a mediator who manages the energy flows and thus catalyzes certain processes for the regeneration of the urban fabric. In this way, the formation and development of the urban environment is transformed from an individual to a collective act that expresses the shared responsibility between all the inhabitants of the city. The creator has the mission to educate society, and the common denominator is the built environment, which according to Juhani Pallasmaa is a means of spiritual and artistic communication and a link between man and the world at large, a bridge between the corporeal and the spiritual, between the material and the sublime.


People perceive architecture intuitively, through their senses, through the touch of a surface, the scent of a place, the changing colours under the influence of light and shadow. On the one hand, they form ideas about the world through experiences and sensations in the home and on the street. On the other hand, architecture is a reflection of the state of society and its processes. Pallasmaa argues that the true experience of architecture, the context and the object, the remote and the proximate, the exterior and the interior, the material and the immaterial, is experienced as a constantly influencing system of relationships. Absolute architectural space projects the characteristics of life and is spiritualized.

A similar rethinking of the notion of sculpture and its inter-relationship with its surroundings, be they architectural, urban and/or natural, can be observed in contemporary art history. Gradually, since the 1960s/1970s, different, hybrid forms of works that cannot fit into modern notions of sculpture or painting have been introduced. Artists began to create compositions of different elements in natural or urban environments, unfolding them so that they embodied concepts much more than forms in space. In her seminal text of the time, Sculpture in an Expanded Field, the American art historian Rosalind Krauss explores these new forms of sculpture. She relates them to concrete space, landscape, and architecture, all of which participate together in the formation of a notion of sculpture and/or a particular spatial structure that is inseparable from place. Artists such as Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Robert Morris, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, among others, radically rethink notions of sculpture and the artwork in general.


Through their works they create spaces in which form actively participates in the construction of the landscape and of architecture itself. Today, contemporary art has long developed the territory of creating installations or placing objects that are part of or interact with a particular environment. Sometimes these take the form of temporary installations, at other times they are actions or interventions in the urban environment. Differences in their artistic character, occasion and manner of their presence in public space also determine their different functions in it. They can be related to the (visual) identity of contemporary cities, they can be part of a temporary event and be tied to one or another conceptual framework, they can be related to the surrounding space in such a way that they emphasize, comment or criticize one or another of its characteristics, they can take the form of actions, etc. In all of these cases, the artwork engages the viewer in a different way from that of gallery interaction. It places him in an active space that emits one or other meanings and messages. For Rosalind Kraus, the peculiar "turning" of sculpture back to place is related to earlier notions that we can observe before the modern era, when monuments, as well as various other elements (hanging gardens, fountains, etc.) had a symbolic role for society and were active elements in the construction of the environment.


In summary, we can say that in modernity art and architecture are thought of as pure forms. They imply scale and a primary artistic act that possesses purity and definiteness. The gallery space has the form of a white cube, which provides the necessary medium for displaying the works and separates them from the chatter of any particular place. Post-modernity changes all this and gives a new beginning to the understanding of the relationship between architecture, the artwork and the public, shared, heterogeneous environment.

Arch. Ljubo Georgiev and Vladiya Mihaylova

 

 

 

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