Inside Installations | S.M.A.K. collection


S.M.A.K.’s collection contains more than 1800 works and covers a wide range of developments in international art history from 1945 to the present day. 

Inside Installations unfolds in several stages and in varying displays brings several installations from the collection face to face with one another and with the space in which they are located. The exhibition immerses you in the multifaceted world of installation art and at the same time explains the questions and difficulties involved in archiving these sometimes quite complex artworks and making them accessible.

A look behind the scenes

Inside Installations focuses on the ‘invisible processes’ that take place in the museum. How does a museum deal with installations that were designed for a highly specific space? Can one depart from this and display the work elsewhere? How are installations documented? Are plans and photographs sufficient to be able to reconstruct the exact arrangement of an installation at a later date? S.M.A.K. has examined these questions and developed documentation which also includes the spatial perception of an installation. This allows the installation to be rearranged following its dismantling without losing any of its essential elements. For each installation, a dossier is drawn up containing every possible item of information. Ideally, various arrangements are tested and adapted according to the specific space in question. Joëlle Tuerlinckx, for example, designed five different scenarios for displaying Un Ensemble autour de Mur (1999). For PIG (Piece In Ghent) (1994), a complex installation with objects which each refer to elements from The Lamb of God (1432) by the Van Eyck brothers, Jason Rhoades devised a single arrangement which had to be rigidly adhered to. During the course of the exhibition, Honoré d’O will arrange Draaiboek voor de Schatbewaarder (1996) in five different ways. These scenarios will be closely documented, thereby allowing S.M.A.K. to create an optimal scholarly dossier in dialogue with the artist.

Documentation room

The installations included in the exhibition offer a range of information – art-historical, the arrangement and the artist’s specific requirements, the ideal architectural context, various documentation techniques etc. – which mostly remains hidden. Inside Installations is the first ever opportunity to take a look behind the scenes. The documentation room shows the various aspects of conservation and management in a unique way. Those who want to hear from the artists themselves can watch several video accounts and those who want to dig deeper can unashamedly browse through the complex dossiers related to the works of art. And those who just want to head straight for the installations, go right ahead! Installation art? What is installation art? How does one conceive of it? Due to the enormous diversity of materials, objects and meanings, it is difficult to give a definitive answer to these questions. Nevertheless, here is an attempt to give a number of ‘possible’ features: an installation is a combination of various objects and media (and sometimes also performances), which enter into dialogue with each other and the architectural space. Sometimes you can even physically enter the artwork. An installation can use the entire space as a supporting and compositional element. It does not need a pedestal or a wall or any breathing space around it. An installation is often described as theatrical and experience-oriented. Some installations stimulate your senses, while others actively involve you in them. Whatever ‘experience’ is generated, the following saying generally applies: ‘you had to see/experience it to know exactly what it meant.’ |

A European research project

The exhibition is an offshoot of or a reflection on the European-wide research project Inside Installations: Preservation and Presentation of Installation Art, which took place between 2004 and 2007 and met with an international response. S.M.A.K. was involved in the project as one of the active partners and in this exhibition it aims to involve the spectator in the somewhat ‘hidden’ but nevertheless important tasks which a museum has to fulfil, namely conservation and guardianship. Together with Tate Modern in London and Reina Sofia in Madrid, among others, the S.M.A.K. investigated the complexity of installation art and the issues, which arise when an installation is included in a museum collection.

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