Robert Morris, ‘L Beams’ – EFFECTS ON THE CONSCIOUSNESS FROM THE ESTABLISHMENT OF SPACE (MINIMALIST INSTALLATION)

Robert Morris’, 1965, ‘L-Beams’ began to explore  ideas within minimalist sculpture and how the body relates to space and movement. When examining image of his work the realisation of the meaning from a personal experience with the work itself becomes a human and grounding experience. Not only does it heighten our awareness of ourselves but also of the space in which the installation is shown. We begin to look harder at the surrounding areas – the gallery, a typically a white walled blank space; the roof over head, and the space between the self and the object. Resulting from this is the realisation of ourselves, perceiving ourselves perceiving the installation. As the work is so much larger than ourselves and the room that we are contained within, scale becomes very important to this minimalist sculpture. Michael Fried in ‘Art and Object hood’ explains how the sculptures are within ‘a situation – one that, virtually by definition, includes the beholder’ (Fried, M., 1998, pg.154). This suggests to the beholder that the art cannot exist without them, therefore they must exist within that space too. It may be seen as comforting to the beholder themselves. Further to this, Morris states about ‘L-Beams’, that:

‘It is in some way more reflexive, because one’s awareness of oneself existing in the same space as the work is stronger than in previous work, with its many internal relationships. One is more aware than before that he himself is establishing relationships as he apprehends the object from various positions and under varying conditions of light and spatial context’ (Morris, R., 1995, cited in Fried, M., 1998, pg. 15).

However, Rosalind Krauss, art critic, explained that despite all of the beams are the same structurally, we see them as different depending on the whereabouts of the viewer. Krauss’ theory threatens the comfort that the ‘L-Beams’ offer through a space of existance alongside the art, but questions our notions of reality once again. The direct influence of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s writings ‘Phénoménologie de la perception’ – which translates to ‘The Phenomenology of Perception’ – (Merleau-Ponty, M., 1945)   His theory suggests that there is no way that we can see all three ‘L-Beams’ as the same. We see them in a way that draws upon all our existence previously experienced as a human, it no longer becomes modelled on the privacy of the psychological space, it was now structured on the convention of the cultural space in which we all live. Merleau-Ponty accounts for how the consciousness is influenced by the surroundings of the body. He has directly rejected the dualist theory that the mind is separate to the body as discussed before in Descartes terms. One key aspect of Merleau-Ponty’s theory is that:

‘the thing is inseparable from a person perceiving it, and can never actually be in itself because it stands at the end of our gaze or at the terminus of a sensory exploration which invest it with humanity’ (Merleau-Ponty, M., 1962, pg.320).

This shows that the two separate entities are in reliance of one another because of one being dependent on the existence of the other.  The relationship Merleau-Ponty establishes is between perception of existence and life itself.  As it is impossible to perceive with only the eyes, a body is needed. Furthermore, the body needs to have a relationship with the world it exists within and all of the psychological and physiological aspects that come in conjunction with having a body that exists. This includes the matrix of events that life has brought up to that point – the memories, feelings, hopes and dreams all affect the way a person perceives the world at that one particular moment. Merleau-Ponty explains:

‘I do not see space according to its exterior envelope; I live in it from the inside; I am immersed in it. After all the world is all around me, not in front of me’ (Merleau-Ponty, M., 1964, pg.178).

 

This indicates that our own consciousness gives our own worlds its own unique meaning. ‘The Phenomenology of Perception’ was translated into English in 1962, at which point within art history the medium of painting seemed to have been debilitated. Installation seemed to be the new way in which boundaries were made to be pushed into a new phenomenological realm, the window from traditional sculptures also had started to develop into installation as we know of it today. This therefore saw the beginnings of movements of light, space and sensory experiences which were beginning to take off.

 

 

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