PROPOSAL FOR INSTALLATION AT
THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART
Dust in a Corner / 2in x 2in / unframed / oil on canvas
© L A R A N I C K E L
The proposed installation will focus on a single 2” x 2” oil painting. This painting, depicting dust on the surface of a canvas, is titled Dust in a Corner. It is unframed and would be displayed flat on the floor of the museum, fitted into a corner.
Dust in a Corner has been documented since 2008 in a wide range of museums, historical sites, and cities which include Versailles, the streets of Rome, guerilla-style at the Metropolitan, and an authorized photography shoot at the Hirshhorn. However, Dust in a Corner would be perfect for a long-term installation project which will encourage visitors of the Metropolitan to become more engaged not only with the art objects in the museum, but the museum space as a whole. Using the Metropolitan's collection as an established art-historical backdrop, Dust in a Corner will be moved every few days for a period of several months, in order to juxtapose itself with a variety of paintings and works of art.
A website and other social media accounts would play an active role in documenting this proposed installation at your museum in the form of photographs and written articles. Followers and visitors of the museum will be regularly updated on Dust in a Corner's location changes, although some location updates will be more ambiguous, thereby giving a “treasure hunt” quality to the exhibition. Dust in a Corner will explore traditional works of art and traditional ways of viewing art while offering visitors a new and interactive experience not currently available at the Metropolitan.
Outline of desired expectations:
1. That visitors wouldn't notice Dust in a Corner.
– Is looking at a painting necessary?
a. Dust in a Corner will prompt visitors to question whether the meaning or understanding of a visual piece of art is dependent on seeing the actual piece. Is to see the same as to know, or are the ideas behind the artwork required in order for visitors to take an interest? This painting will prove that sometimes it is effective simply to hear about a visual piece of art – viewers will be excited just knowing Dust in a Corner is hiding somewhere in the museum even if it cannot be found.
2. That the factual qualities of Dust in a Corner (size, location, subject matter) would question our existing expectations of “artistic grandeur”.
–What makes a painting worthy of our attention?
a. Size: a 2 in. x 2 in. canvas – compared to the work of Eugène Delacroix or Giovanni Battista Tiepolo – is bigger better or more important? This installation will compare other artist's ideas of scale and greatness. As Mark Rothko said, “To paint a small picture is to place yourself outside your experience...however, you paint the larger picture, you are in it. It isn't something you command.” I would like to explore how the size of a space (that of a room, or of the museum) compares to the size of a piece of art; is it possible for such a small painting to fill a space, own a space, change and command a space?
b. Location: the floor – with its dirt and whatever people bring in from wherever they've been; mud and gum and that smashed thing that's been walked on several times that no one knows what in the hell it is! What happens when a piece of art is on the floor? Perhaps the artwork is cheapened somehow, or the floor becomes an exciting location, or the floor is suddenly too dirty and should be cleaned because there is art around. Sculpture has been directly placed on the floor for a long time, it can even be walked on, such as with Carl Andre, but does painting belong only up on the wall (or somehow in connection with the wall); can it be displayed in a non-art area such as a gift shop, elevator, or storage closet? Dust in a Corner will encourage visitors to think more deeply about where and what is a painting's appropriate environment.
c. Subject matter: dust on the surface of a canvas – compared to, for example, Emanuel Leutze's George Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851). Would more respect or attention be paid to what is considered culturally and historically valuable (George Washington) or culturally and historically banal (dust)? This installation will explore how the subject matter of one artwork can influence and change the meaning of the artwork next to it, for example: dust vs. a religious scene, dust vs. a muddy Dutch landscape, dust vs. the frivolity of a Rococo painting. A title often clues visitors in to an artwork's intended meaning, therefore I would like to change the title of Dust in a Corner at least once (for example: Rhapsody, Untitled, Sahara Still-life, Death) to see how the meaning of Dust in a Corner would change as well as its relationship to the artwork around it. Dust in a Corner would also be compared to non-western pieces of art from numerous time periods, for example, an Egyptian tunnel or a Chinese hanging scroll in order to create dialogue about what an art piece communicates and how it is interpreted based on its cultural context.
3. That by changing the way a painting is viewed from vertically (on the wall) to horizontally (on the floor) would give Dust in a Corner more “object-like” qualities rather than painterly qualities.
– Does a painting displayed horizontally provide a contrast to the recognizably “window-like” and narrative qualities of classical and modern paintings?
a. Representational vs. abstract vs. non-representational: are these styles all “window- like”? Can it even be imagined how these types of paintings would be affected if presented horizontally? Dust in a Corner is an unusual painting in that it seems to be representational but not “window-like” – perhaps this is because it is a more literal and direct representation of a subject, including the way it is displayed (not a painting showing a corner with dust, but a canvas with dust painted on top which is then physically placed flat in a corner). However, I would also like to explore the possibility of Dust in a Corner being looked at in an abstract or non-representational way, like a Franz Kline or starkly geometric Kazimir Malevich, or become transcendent, moody, and emotional while drenched in the neon light of a Dan Flavin.
b. Does taking something art-like and decorative (which one expects to see on the wall) and placing it horizontally on the floor make it more “object-like”? At MOMA, Robert Rauschenberg's Bed (1955), something distinctly “object-like” is displayed vertically on the wall, transforming a functional object into one with more decorative and art-like qualities. With Dust in a Corner, is the reverse of this possible? Through its horizontal presentation, Dust in a Corner becomes “object-like” not only literally but conceptually as well. Should it therefore not be looked at as a painting, but rather as something which shares more in common with objects, specifically objects which do not have a practical function (such as an antique chair which can no longer be sat in, Duchamp's readymades, Greek statues, or a minimalist sculpture)?
4. That, if Dust in a Corner is noticed (by word of mouth or museum promotion), viewers would be engaged enough to locate, bend, squat, or kneel in order to properly view the piece.
– Does physical closeness, not just in relation to our bodies, but in relation to the position of our bodies, change our experience of a painting?
a. Is the typical way we view art too easy? Are viewers willing to work for their experience with a piece of art? And can an artist expect this from viewers? Dust in a Corner will require visitors to alter their viewing behaviors, even if in a subtle way, thereby altering the way we normally view and experience art in a museum setting.
Dust in a Corner is a highly adaptable painting, therefore its meaning may prove difficult to find as it changes with each new location. The advantage of this installation is that Dust in a Corner will keep visitors in the awkwardness of the present, allowing them to re-examine the Metropolitan's familiar art objects in an unexpected way. “Good art is not exhausted by one theme”, wrote art critic Cynthia Freeland. Dust in a Corner will provide endless interpretations with your collection, which contains everything from artifact to abstract to installation, from object to theory to decoration.