Volatile Substances

Substantial and insubstantial

The unusual use of materials in contemporary art shares much with chemistry, physics, not to mention poetry and religion. Go to Mad Materials for more teaching ideas related to substances, their use and abuse. This resource also appears as Ephemeral Art under Installation.

Passing Clouds

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde creates clouds in a room, playing on the idea of a transitional sculpture. The clouds only last a few moments and can only be experienced through documentation and photography.

Interested in knowing about the process that Smilde uses to create his rainclouds?  How to make clouds indoors: Berndnaught Smilde on the BBC.

Art and TOK Question

Does the impermanence of the work make it any less valuable as an art piece? Does art need to be permanent to endure in our minds?

Natural Substances and Nothingness

With a few carefully chosen natural substances--beeswax, stone, milk, pollen--which the artist collects. Wolfgang Laib constructs simple but potent installations in a slow, ritualistic process. These installations are delicate and precarious and remain intact only for a short period of time. Again, it their documentation that lives on after the work ceases to exist.

Wolfgang Laib: Transcendent Offerings.
Art in America, March, 2001, pp 88-95

Teaching Ideas

Studio Work

Create a transitional art piece that does not have any real longevity. It may exist for a few seconds or an hour, a day, a week, whatever. You can use any materials you like, including performance or audience participation. Make sure you document it as thoughtfully and beautifully as you can. Remember the documentation ( photo or film) is what remains of the art work and is how we will experience it after it's ephemeral existence has expired.

 Research and Reflection

Investigate the historical movements of happenings in the 1960s and 70s, Performance Art, Site specific installations. How did the introduction of art being impermanent, not needing to endure, affect art history? How does this affect its' commercial value?  

Look up some of these artists who work with ephemerality and find more on your own. Can any of these inform your work, either as inspiration or dialogue?

Berndnaut Smilde Marina Abramovich, Joseph Bueys, Andy Goldsworthy, Wolfgang Laib

Download resource on  Ephemeral Art

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