Emptiness

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This work can be temporarily found in the home of one of the artists of the Unintentional Art Movement. At first sight it appears to be an empty kitchen paper roll, standing on the kitchen counter of what presumably is the artist’s kitchen. Despite its recognizable, lean design the work contains a couple of strong elements, making it a daring and valuable part of the UAM oeuvre.

The empty paper roll symbolizes the individual whose freedom is permanently restrained. We think we are free, yet we are stuck, trapped in structures, rules and other boundaries that limit our ability to fully decide on how to live our lives. The roll is helpless. It cannot set itself free, but can only escape its “iron prisoner” through the intervention of a higher being or an external energy (for instance a gust of wind).

The fact that the kitchen paper roll is empty cannot be misunderstood. Both the trapped, modern individual as our current way of life are nearing a dead end. The rat race, defining our Western society, is just like the kitchen paper holder a structure where its participants cannot escape from. We are all working relentlessly, with no clear goal and with both our days passing by and our natural resources depleted. Just like this roll we are nearing the end.

The chosen material is no coincidence either. Isn’t the use of kitchen paper a clear sign of our mass consumption and its consequence? We create waste in order to clean up waste. We waste time in order to have enough money to hopefully one day catch up with it, forgetting to live in the here and the now. This unintentional artwork doesn’t limit its scope. It poses us a direct and crucial question: Will we take a new kitchen roll and continue towards the dead end or will we choose another option? Will we head in the right (and presumably better) direction?

 

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Earth’s Mouth

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Nature features heavily in the works of the Unintentional Art Movement. Earth’s Mouth is another example. It immediately reminds us of the intentional artworks of Dali or Magritte, where nature also becomes anthropomorphic . Whether it’s a rock formation in the shape of a woman or a woman clad in a slightly cloudy blue sky, the paintings of these two giants of surrealism are iconic. Magritte also branched out, adding birds to the sky, moons inside trees or a giant eagle that becomes a rock formation.

Earth’s Mouth seems to be in the same vein, with the very important difference that it’s an unintentional artwork, with different layers adding to the uniqueness of this surreal yet very real work. First of all there’s the seemingly literal link between the roots of the tree, used to feed the tree and necessary to make it grow, and the mouth depicted here. The roots have the same function as the mouth.

But just like with landing bird this can be seen as another work criticizing the way we interact with our environment. The roots are pulled out of the ground and the mouth can only appear because the direct link between the two is cut. Will the tree survive? It leaves the audience wonder about the fate and the future.

The mouth is a very fitting  symbol. Nature is losing ground because we selfishly claim its natural resources, not in the least to feed ourselves. The mouth, wide open, can also be seen as a way of critiquing our general greed, our need for materialism that is oppressing nature and perhaps even altering human nature itself.

The work can be found Beddgelert in North-Wales. Due to the nature of this work it’s possible that at some point it will be gone.

Landing Bird

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“Landing Bird” is a strong visual work, defined by a striking simplicity when it comes to the chosen material, but a complex interaction with its environment and the meaning of the artwork.

The artwork features a piece of black plastic, playfully jammed in a leafless tree, standing in a desolate Lowland landscape. From a distance the spectator might be deceived into thinking it is a big, black bird. Is it a raven? A crow? A jackdaw perhaps? The spastic and inconsistent movement, caused by the strong wind, draw the attention of walkers or other random spectators.

The use of plastic is of course not a coincidence, despite the artwork itself being very unintentional. It is a strong allusion on the pollution of our planet and our direct environment. It alludes to the plastic soup in our oceans, as well as air pollution, symbolized by the waving piece of plastic. The “Landing Bird” has a clear double message. Pollution is everywhere and it’s killing of biodiversity and is threatening fauna and flora on our planet.

The black colour adds an element of danger or ill-fate. For centuries the black bird has been seen as a symbol of evil, a harbinger of bad news, a storm crow. Cleverly, this universal representation of hazard is present in the work. And here the landing bird is composed of the thing we should be afraid of, the disintegration of our natural environment by our own garbage, caused by overconsumption and general carelessness.

“Landing  Bird” is an example of a temporary artwork. We do not know if it will stay, it can easily be blown away.

 

Lac Leman

Lac Leman

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The monumentality of this artwork cannot be denied, and more importantly, due to its vastness it cannot be ignored either. The result is irrefutably impressive, a literally major piece of art with a surface of 584 km² (225 square miles), reaching a maximal depth of 310 meters (1017 feet). Despite the immensity of the artwork, it’s in no way bombastic or overtly in your face.

The work itself is defined by softened shapes and blends perfectly in its natural environment. Due to the size one can automatically question the value of surface and depth as defining elements of this work. Perhaps the artwork is so colossal that they become abstract notions, limits that are there and at the same time aren’t. Spectators can ignore these dimensions. Perhaps one can bluntly state that  a work of art so big and all-encompassing is bound to become limitless to the individual.

On a conceptual level the depth of the artwork IS important, because it contrasts with the mountaintops that can be seen in the distance, and that become part of the artistic context of Lac Leman. It is a typical reference to the lifecycles of human beings, the highs and the lows that characterize and define each individual’s existence. Perhaps it’s telling that only the lake is part of the artwork. Does the artist want to tell us that life is all about the lows?

The striking blue color creates yet another blurry distinction, between the air and the water. It makes us consider our own position and the nature of reality. This effect is intensified by the reflection in the water and the visual effects of the natural lightning. The reflection in Lac Leman will never be the same, depending on time and position of the spectator. This means that every time a new interpretation of the artwork is given to the audience, with each member having a unique point of view and experience. It tells us we are living in a multi-reality.

The spectator creates the work of art, because his or her point of view is essential for a personalized experience. But there is another way in which the audience might participate in the creation or alteration of this impressive work. One can literally delve into the work, created entirely out of liquid material, and can add shapes or waves, as the artists call them, to Lac Leman. The artwork can be found on the border of Switzerland and France and has a 24/7 accessibility.

Intentional dialogue on unintentional art #1

Dialogue #1

Person X: It’s called modern art, but I like to call it modern waste. I understand the concept but it’s not art at all. However if you do it right, it can evolve into something of actual use, feng shui. Which is art, in style of building and decorating a home to look and feel as cozy as possible. Being in china right now, the way they build & decorate houses here is so many levels of thinking above how we do it in the west that I can see it as works of art (both inside and outside). But modern art? Who do you guys think you’re kidding?

UAM: Architecture is intentional. Feng Shui is very intentional, a very active, rational way of intervening with the environment. So I guess you do not understand the concept. In a way it is modern waste though. But perhaps we should conclude that intentional conceptual art is modern waste as well. Perhaps.

Person X: No I do understand. You’re talking about the doodle version of modern art. It can accidentally look good or not. Intentional conceptual art is not waste, it’s art.

UAM:
A) Waste can be art
B) If it looks good or not is not the point of unintentional art. So you are missing   A if not THE point.
C) The unintentional part of unintentional art is not about doing something unintentional, it’s about something being art or artful without the intent of being made as an object of art. You seem to focus on unintential as just coming up with something, for instance, throwing six spoons together and calling it art.

Green Car

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This wonderful example of unintentional art was on temporary display at the “Rue de l’église” (Church Street) parking lot in the French village Choilley-Dardeney.

It shows a green, mundane family car in complete motionlessness. This immobility is no coincidence, but is a dual statement. On the one hand it shows the inertia defining the little French village, and perhaps even the economic and societal situation of France as a nation. On the other hand there’s also a more positive connotation, an easefulness demonstrated by the lack of dynamism or movement. The car is standing still. It does not participate in the hectic frenzy of modern day traffic.

What’s special about this work of art is that it also leaves the spectator with feelings of unease. As a viewer we know that the quietness is merely temporary and can end at any given time. The owner of the car might show up, driving off and leaving the parking space empty. This strengthens the transient, almost incidental, character of the artwork and serves as a reflection upon our own limits, our own mortality.

That message comes to full fruition when one realizes that the particular parking space in the artwork borders the village’s cemetery, a subtle yet unmistakably important layer, that one can only find if one gets behind the steering wheel, takes action and ends the slumber of inactivity. It takes effort to discover the context and deeper meaning of the artwork. And yet, it also gives a shimmer of hope. Stagnation is also temporary.

On a meta-level this work of art challenges us to redefine motionlessness. It does not imply a stagnation of the mind. As such it refers to the Unintentional Art Movement itself. The objects are often immobile and sterile, and become valuable or art after being put in motion by the artist. Physical immobility is often followed by mental activity.

The materials used in this work of art are mostly thermosetting plastics and aluminum, with the circles in the lower part of the artwork consisting of rubber.