Claire Bishop on Installation Art

Claire Bishop’s book on installation art provides insight on how installation art can be used by artists like myself who wish to emphasize the conscious mind considering it’s subjectivity. According to Bishop, by definition, the purpose of installation art has become ambiguous and loosened as a result of the artwork of the 1960s in response to consumer culture, where the term was, and still is, used to describe any arrangement of any object(s) in any site, often being mistaken for what should be referred to as an installation of works of art. However, Bishop claims that the term is more appropriately used to define the work of artists who wished to create space in which their audience was embodied, providing them with a subjective experience through interaction with their conscious mind

Bishop believes in the relationship that a viewer can have with an installation piece because first-hand experience substantiates the articulation of the piece at hand. This inevitably correlates with the reoccurring idea of Introspectionism – and rightly so: when an individual views a piece of artwork, their initial interpretation is subjectively dissimilar to any other individual because it’s a representation derived from their own schema, and thus more than likely, different to the artists intentions. By embodying subjects, it could be argued that artists can eradicate, if only somewhat, the gap between conscious minds ( She says the idea of experience seen in her view of installation art has been interpreted by many different philosophers, ‘yet every theory of experience points to a more fundamental idea: the human being who constitutes the subject of that experience.’ (BISHOP, 2010: 8). Bishop is suggesting that the work of installation artists provides that subjective experience which enables the artist to have a direct alteration of the conscious mind correlated with a body within their space

Research into the work of French philosopher Merleau-Ponty echoes what Bishop writes: ‘the thing is inseparable from a person perceiving it, and can never actually be in itself because it stands at the other end of our gaze or at the terminus of a sensory exploration which invests it with humanity’ (MERLEAU-PONTY, 1998: 320). Merleau-Pontys perception is exampled by the Minimalist Sculptors of the 60s, of which highlight the relationship an object has to its surrounding space. As a viewer circumnavigates the piece, they are prompted to consider the external, negative space that creates the surrounding environment of the piece. Their mental process of perceiving it altogether is addressed because of the elimination of any other psychological absorption and therefore emphasises and plays on the aspect of accentuating the awareness of being aware (also known as meta-consciousness: self-awareness of self-awareness). The minimalist sculptures are site specific which suggests a consideration by the artists of the surrounding environment (much like Richard Serra at the Gagosian Gallery: and so the whole environment therefore is conspicuous in embodying the viewer of the artwork.

Rupert Sheldrake said that vision is embedded in the brain’s activities but isn’t confined to the inside of ones head; so objects and phenomena that are external to the artist are just as significant as the internal processes. An artist has the role of portraying their rounded concept but another artist deliberating the same theories would produce very different outcomes because of their theoretically influential surroundings. This idea is also known as Externalism (2nd year work found at:; that a consciousness is a world-involving dynamic process, further indicating the installation art that Bishop speaks of in this book as a prosperous medium to practise for this concept because an artist can directly communicate by doing so.

Embodiment creates a strong personal narrative communication; experiencing that for myself through Craig Thomas, a PHD student of Rob Peperell at Cardiff School of Art and Design, proved to be a very influential and inspirational way of working, taking the relationship I had with the piece as an authentic memory (

Surrealist intention combined with embodiment and acknowledging its success in unsettling the consciousness, can potentially engage the viewer to initiate the expansion of their own imagination, and incorporating the surreal will suggest this sublime inner world in the most directly articulate but creative way. Consequently, I wish to push my surrealist approach into this area of installation work to not only articulate the phenomena itself as we existentially know it, but to propose the suppressed capacity of the viewers own consciousness through the use of simple dream phenomena.


One Comment on “Claire Bishop on Installation Art”

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