Reconciling interiors: The screen as installation
First Monday

Reconciling interiors: The screen as installation by James Charlton

Reconciling interiors: The screen as installation by James Charlton
In examining the failure of contemporary art to understand the relationship between the screen and the sculptural context in which it is seen,this paper critiques current notions of the screen and compares them to the spatial modalities of installation art.

Firstly identifying the screen as a product of parts — the apparatus,the image and the space — the essay draws together arguments presented by artists and theorists and exposes the strategies and assumptions that enable the viewer to experience the screen installation almost as a seamless whole.

It is argued that the spatial incompatibility of the screen and installation that effectively splits the viewer in two is reconciled in certain Net.Art projects, which bring both image and space together within one site specific frame that uses location as both content and context.


The Apparatus, the Image and the Space
The Image
The Apparatus
The Space
Tactics for the Viewer
Net.Art as Installation





With his feet planted firmly on the footpath of Disney's 1964 film, Mary Poppins, Bert (Dick Van Dyke) incants the magic words which he assures us, will transport him and the children into the world within the picture he has drawn.

But just as Bert fails to "jump" into the painting so is contemporary art failing to understand the relationship between the screen [1] and the installational context of which it is part.

While Walt Disney could rely on a timely tune and a special effect to fool the viewer, contemporary video installation has no such sleight of hand with which to assist the audience in making the transition between the modality of the screen and the modality of the installation. Instead the viewer remains stranded on the footpath and must constantly cross the threshold that is the monitor, oscillating between the information on the screen and the objects that surround it.

Even though visual arts practice has for 40 years [2] been essentially a multimedia discipline, the screen is afforded a treatment within installation art that perpetuates a sense of difference and separates it from other media.

Indebted to modernist notions of truth to materials, installation art brings together a disparate body of materials and integrates them into a cohesive statement. The contextual reading of media in which the associations and surrounding contexts are accepted as central to the work, is the basis of not only contemporary art practice but also the gallery. Even the idealized neutrality of the "white cube" is subject to this contextual reading.

Yet the screen has largely escaped contextual reading and is treated in a manner inconsistent with other media in the installation. The apparatus of the screen — i.e. the monitor — is frequently ignored both as an object within the installation and as the context for the screen.

In this way the monitor assumes a position parallel to the historical role of The Frame in painting [3]. It separates that which is interior from that which is exterior. It becomes the interface between the spatiality of the screen, the interior, and the spatiality of the installation, the exterior.

Why is it that installation art, despite having integrated almost all other media into art practice, has failed to bridge the gap between the interior of the screen and the exterior of the installation? Is there a fundamental difference in the way that we experience screen media that predisposes an incompatibility between these elements or has contemporary art practice simply failed to find the "spoonful of sugar" that will enable it, like Mary Poppins, to swallow its medicine and make a seamless transition, back to the painting on the footpath?

This paper explores the reading of the screen in an installation art context in order to identify strategies for the integration of the screen in installation art [4].



The Apparatus, the Image and the Space

The video monitor, computer screen and data show are the common apparatus of the image in installation art [5]. In each case the image presented is site specific, not only to the apparatus that is its source but also to the "site" that is the origin of the image. Both installation and screen image thus become site specific elements.

A screen image is never without a source [6]; the source being the apparatus that projects the image onto a surface. The apparatus is the monitor or the projector inclusive of the screen surface. The apparatus is the frame separating "two absolutely different spaces that somehow coexist" [7]. It is the border between interior and exterior. It is however only the secondary site within which the image is located.

The primary site is that of its origin, where it was made: in the case of the video image, where it was filmed; in the case of the computer-generated image, the software that was used. This is the space of the screen interior. It is based in the relation between the image and a space that is "elsewhere". This reading treats the image as a representation that never becomes an autonomous original that is a property of the apparatus alone.

The installation is the space within which both these sites — the apparatus and the elsewhere — are contextualised. It is the exterior space separated from the interior image by the apparatus — the monitor, the frame. Installation is often site specific [8]. Like the screen image, the installation exists in a particular space and belongs to a specific period of time. It is radically changed if it is re-made or exhibited elsewhere [9]. Both screen image and installation relate to a specific site. Installation is present in its own site, whereas the screen image is premised in a site elsewhere.

Contemporary art would have us see the screen as a strange non-site that is neither the image, the apparatus nor the physical context. The screen in this sense does not exist, or rather exists only as a concept defined by other parts. Absent if any one element is missing, the screen is an authentic illusion. It exists as a product of the vector between the parts that resembles Barthes' tableau [10].

Our attitudes to these elements — the apparatus, the image and the space — form a complex set of relationships, a triad of shifting perceptions and contradictions, which the viewer must navigate.



The Image

The notion of the image as a product of "elsewhere" is supported by two seemingly contradictory stances that present the image as either a window or a mirror.

By extending Lev Manovich's (1995) analysis of the classical screen, it is possible to locate the image within the framework of the window established by pictorial representation, a representation that is "not defined directly by imitation" [11], and is extended by cinema, television and subsequently amended by computers.

Manovich asserts that in each of these cases visual culture has been largely premised on "the existence of another virtual space, another three-dimensional world enclosed by a frame, and situated inside our normal space" [12].

Failing to analyse the composition of the screen, Manovich confuses the screen with the image. It is the image that is the product of another space and not the tripartite relationship of the screen. Nevertheless Manovich clearly establishes a chronology between the illusionary window of pictorial representation established by painting and our reading of contemporary screen images [13].

Anna McCarthy more clearly separates the image from the screen in her analysis of television in non-domestic spaces. As part of exploring the relationship between the screen image and its physical location McCarthy analyses marketing strategies that employ the screen image to promote products. These strategies are an attempt to "collapse spaces" [14] by employing a "spatiotemporal ideology of the screen as a kind of window, binding one place to another and bringing the spectator closer to another (real or imaginary) location" [15]. This "collapse of space" is a result of carefully contrived "semiotic interplay between images and things" [16]. McCarthy's work relies on a reading of the image as a window to elsewhere. For her it is a multi-directional window that can both transport the viewer elsewhere and transform the space it appears in.

This duality is the basis for Vito Acconci's Television, Furniture and Sculpture: The Room with the American View that enables us to conceive of the screen image as both window and mirror. Acconci (1990) asserts that it is naïve to perceive the image as a window to elsewhere due to the physicality of the apparatus that contains it. Acconci proposes a notion of the image as "some kind of distorting, inside-out mirror" [17]. The content of the image might be the world elsewhere, but the subject is a reflection of the viewer and their perception of the world. In this way the image can be seen as "placeless: at least its place can't be determined" [18]. For Acconci, then, "video installation is a conjunction of opposites" [19], in which the placelessness of video and the site specificity of the installation mirror each other, forming a narcissistic reflection that Rossalind Krauss (1986) would claim is the medium of video.

In analysing Acconci's video Centers (1971) in which the artist points for 20 minutes at the screen, Krauss presents the screen as a mirror that holds the image of the artist in the narcissistic gaze between the camera and monitor. The narcissism of video's gaze that is present in the image effectively eliminates the exterior world of the installation from the image's interior. The image, bound up in the reflection of its source, cannot acknowledge its context. It is a reflection of the artist and the subject but not the space that surrounds it. The artist becomes the elsewhere that is made present within the installation.

I have argued here that the image is site specific in that it is premised in a space that is elsewhere. This argument does not exclude the reading of the image as either window or mirror, as both are representations — views or reflections — of that which is elsewhere. The image can thus be located; it is not "placeless" even though that place may not be known. The image belongs to a place that is other than the space of the installation, a place that is its source. The image is thus always separated from the installation by its site specificity, which exists outside of the site specificity of the installation. This site specificity differentiates the image from other installational elements/objects. While objects may reference another context their source does not lie elsewhere. They exist autonomously in the space of the installation and within the strategies defined by the artist [20].



The Apparatus

The image is not, however, autonomous. It relies upon the electronic apparatus of the screen to give it form. The apparatus is a presentation device based on the format of frame. It is easy to understand televisions, computer monitors, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and cellphones in this way because the surface that receives the image is an integrated part of the physical equipment. The screen frame, however, is not reliant on proximity to the image and may even be so removed as to escape our notice.

Video projections have established a niche within contemporary practice by working between the conventions of painting and theatre. The datashow effectively hangs the image on the wall of the gallery and to a large extent is disregarded by the viewer in the same way that a conventional frame is. The darkened gallery space becomes a theatre and the image becomes something akin to Manovich's "classical screen" which is frontal and disembodied [21]. Margaret Morse suggests that the projection is a strange inversion of interiority and exteriority in which an image — that is "nothing but light" [22] — is emitted from the interior to be manifested in the exterior. Not only does this notion not bare comparison to the light emitting from a monitor but it conceives of the screen as a two dimensional device.

For the video projection the frame is not the surface of the wall but the dark invisible space between the projector and the wall. Viewers who haplessly walk into this space traverse the frame and are literally entering the image, much to the irritation of other viewers whose expectation of the image has been interrupted.

A frame then is not necessarily visible but is a requirement of the image that cannot exist without it. So when Manovich asserts that "with VR, the screen has disappeared altogether" [23], he is confusing the screen with the frame. While the virtual and actual spaces have coincided to eliminate the frontality of the "classical screen", the scale and relative placement of the viewer have not changed but the unseen frame of the VR apparatus has obscured them. As Darren Tofts (1999) points out in Your place or mine? Locating digital art, virtual reality requires a meta-place that is "actual". Without this "actual" space virtual reality becomes reality. The very notion of the virtual then predisposes that its image is framed. That we can't see the apparatus of the frame does not mean it does not exist.

A framing apparatus then is a prerequisite of the image in order for that image to remain separate from that which surrounds it — the space of the installation.



The Space

The space is the place of the object and the viewer. The apparatus exists as an object in the space yet simultaneously separates the space from the image it presents [24]. The apparatus mediates the relationship between the space and the image.

Installation art is premised on establishing relationships between its parts. Installation's content then is located more in the space between its elements than it is in the identity of the elements themselves. The parts are treated as signs in a text.

McCarthy includes the screen as part of the installation's textual field, stating: "At such times the wall's dense semiotic interplay between images and things extends to encompass the material on screen as well" [25]. She substantiates this by asserting that elements are capable of "referencing each other across linguistic and material categories". McCarthy sees the screen as being present in the space of the installation whereas in fact the screen, as I have argued, is comprised of three elements, one of which is located, as McCarthy acknowledges, "elsewhere". This makes it impossible for the screen to fully participate in the discourse of the parts that comprise the installation.


Figure 1: Anna McCarthy. Monitor in a restaurant.


McCarthy's own methodology supports this impossibility. Using photography to document the television in a wide variety of locations, McCarthy presents photographs to accompany her analysis [26]. In these photographs the screen image is often so unreadable or so in contrast with its environment as to effectively separate it from the objects that surround it. In the most extreme example the screen is nothing more than a glowing rectangle — it is literally missing from the space (see Figure 1).

I am not naïve enough to argue that the photograph is a "truthful" depiction of the site; after all, it too is an image that belongs to a place that is elsewhere. But I do want to propose that these photographs expose the subtlety of the dislocation that occurs almost seamlessly between the image and its environment. This dislocation is as unnoticeable and as instinctual as a blink [27]. The shift between the interior and the exterior has become so established as a frame that it becomes an almost invisible boundary. But as is the case with the frame apparatus of VR, our failure to see it does not mean we do not perceive it.

It is, then, the viewer not the artist who connects the space of the screen and the space of the installation and breaks down the proscenium arch that is the apparatus. It is, as Margaret Morse points out, the viewer "who is the subject of the experience" [28] — their own experience, and an object in the space.

Is it here in the vector between image, apparatus and space that the viewer is able to experience the screen installation almost as a seamless whole? In discussing Peter Campus's mem (1974), Krauss observes that as soon as "he stands outside the triangular field of the works, the viewer sees nothing but the large, luminous plane of one of the walls in a darkened room" [29]. The screen in McCarthy's photograph appears as a glowing rectangle because the viewer has been removed from the work by the camera.

In the viewer we find the installations gest [30] described by Barthes (1977) in which disparate sites, for Barthes the past and the present, are brought together. The viewer located in the vectors of the installation literally connects the site of the installation with that of the screen. The screen and the installation are not otherwise integrated. The viewer is thus split between two site specific locations — the actual space of the gallery installation and the meta-space of the image [31].

This has the effect of doubling "the viewing subject who now exists in two spaces, the familiar physical space of his/her real body and the virtual space of an image within the screen" [32]. While the installation viewer is thus imprisoned within the vector that is Plato's cave [33], the viewer is not immobilized. S/he simply sees nothing if s/he steps "outside of the vector formed by these three elements" [34].

An alternative interpretation of the divided viewer that does not incapacitate the viewer is found in Guy Debord's notions of the spectacle in which the viewer is both subject and object. In this sense the artwork, inclusive of the viewer, is both mirror and window, real and illusory, actual and virtual. Any separation that we perceive "is itself part of the unity of the world" [35], of the combined viewer/installation relationship [36], that is housed in the "world" of the gallery.

Seemingly Debord has found another way to dismantle the frame and separate the image from the space, the internal from the external. To do this is simply to impose a new frame, the frame of the gallery. Continuing to apply this inclusiveness to each successive layer of framing would reduce everything to sameness. However, the unified world that Debord envisages would still require Toft's meta-place to exist in. The viewer is thus destined to remain in the vector between image and space where s/he must find a means of navigating its structures.



Tactics for the Viewer

Without the viewer the vector beaks down. The interplay of parts ceases as its elements become solipsistic and isolated. The viewer then assumes a pivotal role in activating the work and is the central element in a framework contrived by the artists. The viewer thus informs the "strategies" that the artist employs in the artwork [37].

The artist, like the "strategies" of Michel de Certeau, is isolated from his/her environment. They do not directly figure in the viewer's vector and are only evident through the artwork that is the strategy [38]. For Certeau a strategy serves as the interior, "the base from which relations with an exteriority ... can be managed" [39].

Certeau also asserts that outcomes are as much a result of actions as they are of the structures that govern them. These actions are the "tactics" of those operating within the strategic systems. A "tactic" then is something that occurs within a "place that belongs to another" [40]. The viewer and his/her "tactics" remain exterior, outside of the work, informing it and navigating within it but not determining its nature.

While the relationship between the viewer and the artist is clear, the relationship between the screen and the installation is less clear given that both, being separate sites, possess "strategies" independent of each other. Within the larger strategic construct of the artist they remain exterior to each other.

The two strategic positions only achieve awareness of each other via the vector established by the viewer who is split in two, expected to conform to two sets of rules. To cope with this the viewer develops "tactics" that enable him/her to integrate the elements. This is how Anna McCarthy failed to recognize the blank screen in her photographs and why the data show and VR interface are often not seen as frames. Viewers willingly blinker themselves, choosing to ignore the conflicting spatialities as they strive to make the work make sense [41].

It is an integration that is not authored by the artist, for the artist does not conceive of the split. The art world has accepted the "tactic" of the blink, and it is ignored in the same way that the Modernist plinth was not read as part of the work. It is integration of content but not of subject [42]. The screen and the space remain separated. Even the tactics of the viewer cannot integrate them. This must be achieved within the work by the artist, so that there is a singular strategy that governs the installation (the screen and the space) and the viewer is not torn between two locations.

The artist, then, must find a strategy for integration that removes the viewer from the vector between the screen and the space. This strategy must enable the screen, the space and the viewer [43] to share the same interiority, rather than attempt to isolate the viewer in an exterior. The viewer cannot become passive in the work, for according to Certeau they will continue to develop "tactics" for interacting with it. The viewer must therefore become active. Interactivity may in fact be the "strategy" by which the artist is able to achieve integration.




This possibility is explored by McKenzie Wark where he identifies interactivity as "the medium that gives one thing, and one thing only, back to the artist; the ability to determine relations" [44]. Wark (2001) argues that instead of giving more choices in constructing the meaning of a work, interactive multimedia rigidly structures the way a viewer (or should I say participant) experiences a work. By integrating everything [45] Wark conceives of a singular dimensionality, one in which the artist reclaims control of the art work:

"Along with one dimension and one dimension alone the possibility of constraint returns. And with constraint comes the possibility of making meaning. That one dimension of the manifold, almost infinite dimensions of aesthetics is relation. Relations between sounds, images, movements, words — between any and every form. Now the artist can install a limit within the work to the omnivorous desires of the viewer, listener, interpreter. The godlike power of the other on the end of art to paw at the object, flip through pages, flick their eyes over the artwork and on to the next can be taken back and given to the artist" [46].

Wark specifically identifies the interactivity of digital multimedia as the site of this one dimensionality. But making the screen alone interactive will not unify the screen and the installation. The installation will remain outside of the screen. The installation space must be located within the screen and the screen within the installation space so that there is only one site for the viewer to interact with.

This would require installation to relinquish its dominance over the screen [47] and allow the "eleswhereness" of the screen to become part of the nature of installation. Similarly the screen would accept the otherness of installation. Installation and screen would share the same site specificity [48].

This bears comparison to Debord's unified world — a concept that becomes problematic if the gallery is excluded and becomes a meta-space. To achieve integration, the integrated screen installation must be located in the world and not separated from the experience of the viewer.

Dieter Daniels identifies the Internet as a site where such an installation might exist when he says "the Internet dissolve(s) all contextual relationships" [49]. Viewers and location are brought together by the Internet, as their content is specific to one location and applicable to all.

For the Internet to become an installation site it must do more than simply serve as a pin-board for paintings. It must be active in the content of the work — it must be site specific. "Virtual galleries" operate primarily as extensions of "real galleries". They do not establish an active relationship with the Internet as context. They remain an image on a monitor, referential to that which is elsewhere. To become a site capable of integrating the screen space and the installation space, the content of the Net-based art must address its location and the location must be both content and media.



Net.Art as Installation

The same anti-institutional, anti-commodity stance that gave rise to the land-art [50] of the 1970s in which artists began making work in the environment outside of existing gallery structures has produced Net.Art. The term Net.Art was coined in 1995 as a result of a scrambled e-mail [51]. It has subsequently been adopted to define what by nature is a diverse intangible practice that uses the Internet as a site of both content and media.

Still largely ignored, and for a long time unnamed by the art world, Net.Art is autonomous and amorphic. Its decentralised and diverse nature stems from the manner in which it is a product of the Internet.

Net.Art is too playful to be taken seriously and too cynical to be anarchistic. It implants itself in the very institutionalised systems it critiques — those of classification, communication, commodification. Perhaps the most useful definition to date is to be found in the "manifesto" Introduction to Net.Art by Natalie Bookchin and Alexei Shulgin. In the irony of sections like Critical Tips and Tricks for the Successful Modern Net.Artist [52], this Net.Art project enables the viewer to assemble a chimerical understanding of Net.Art. Net.Art eludes any clear definition, a definition that would be its demise, because there is nothing to define other than the activity of the user/viewer.

By turning the viewer into content in this way Net.Art projects create a feedback loop between the viewers and the artwork. This parallels Acconci's Centres (1971) but instead of the artist pointing a finger at the monitor it is the viewer who is at the epicentre of the work.


Figure 2: C5, Softsub.


C5's Softsub project (Figure 2) that scans the composition of users' hard drives, plots their data profiles on a comparative grid and restructures their hard drive, typifies the way that Net.Art turns viewers into content. The artist has simply managed information and compiled a database. Content is derived from the input of users/viewers interacting with the work. The information supplied is itself what constitutes the work.

Exhibited as part of the 2002 Whitney Biennale, 1.1 (Figure 3), another C5 project, eliminates the need for direct user input. Instead it uses existing Internet data to provide a visualisation of the Web. The C5 software searches the Web for possible IP addresses and maps them as a pixel value on the screen. The viewer can navigate the Web by selecting a pixel.


Figure 3: C5, 1:1.


Lawrence Rinder notes, "1:1 collapses the distinction between map and interface. Its interface suggests that it is the environment it refers to" [53]. The spatial location of the sites around the globe has become actualised in the image on the screen. The screen has become a geographical terrain, an installation space in which the project exists. It is no coincidence that metaphors such as surfing, navigating or architecture have become an integral part of both Web design and use. Metaphors are, as Thomas Erickson points out, "an invisible web of terms and associations that underlie(s) the way we speak and think about a concept" [54].

If it is hard to conceive of a screen as a spatially defining agent, consider James Buckhouse and Holly Brubach's Tap (2002) (Figure 4), in which PDAs become the screen. Users/viewers select one of Tap's animated characters to download onto their PDA. This character can be "taught" a dance routine, take lessons and give a recital by beaming information to another Tap user's PDA.


Figure 4: Buckhouse and Brubach, Tap.


What is interesting about the work in the context of this essay is the way that the mobility of the PDA engages the screen as a spatial coordinate. The mobility of the PDA that could be anywhere heightens our awareness of its physical presence in space. Its spatial autonomy, or that of the user, makes it a spatial agent. The PDAs effectively become the walls of the gallery outside of which there is nothingness. The act of beaming, while less tangible than an Internet connection, is somehow a more physical connection between participants who must achieve relative proximity to exchange data. While the Internet, due to its scale, becomes hard to conceive of spatially, it is an interrelation of sites in exactly the same way as the PDA in Tap.

Encased in a self-referential framework delineated by images in remote locations, Net.Art becomes the site where installation space and screen space are integrated. Every monitor, every room, every user connected to the Internet is part of the installation. It is a sculptural installation that exists as a result of the apparatus that frames it, the Internet [55]. In bringing both image and space together within one site specific frame, Net.Art does not trap the viewer between spatialities. It exists only in one space — the screen installation of which the viewer is part. The screen image and the space are reduced to one dimension [56] along with the viewer. The only element not part of the work is the artist.

Net.Art then is nothing but a rhizome of autonomous sites. Remove any one of its parts — the image, the site, the monitor or the viewer — and the artist is left with nothing but a strategy. Net.Art is pure strategy whose contents are determined by the tactics of the viewer/user.




The problematised relationship between the screen image and the installation is premised on a spatial incompatibility. The screen belongs to a space that is "elsewhere" and can never be fully present in the installation. This "elsewhere-ness", while abstract, is not placeless. It ties the image to a meta-space equal in its specificity to that of the installation.

The viewer is compromised and must develop tactics to shift between modalities. The tactical "blink", which enables the viewer to shift between the present and the elsewhere, also traps the viewer in the vector between image and installation. Proximity does not integrate image and the installation. The semiotic interplay between parts where the meaning of the installation is distilled cannot operate across this vector, or operates in a way that is inconsistent with the relationship of other parts within the installation.

The tactical blink is a response to the doubling of the viewing subject who is divided between two site specific locations each of which posses a strategy independent of the other. This blink does not place the screen image as an equal object in the space. It is an act of selective omission.

In order to integrate, image and installation must be specific to the same site — each existing within the other. In the way that it brings together structure and content [57], Net.Art appears to be positioning itself as such an installation site. Intangible in both its identity and physicality, Net.Art offers opportunities for sculptural practice to engage the spatiality of screen and installation on equal terms.

Net.Art, autonomous and disrespectful, has largely avoided the scrutiny of the art world. Its inclusion in recent exhibitions such as the 2002 Whitney Biennale suggests that this will be shortlived. As the art world's disciplinarity remodels itself once again to embrace this outsider, will the inclusive site specific non-locatablity of Net.Art that makes it effective be retained, or will it end up on the footpath next to Bert, waiting for Walt Disney's remake of Mary Poppins? End of article


About the Author

James Charlton is a Senior Lecturer and HOD of Sculpture at the Auckland University of Technology. As a sculptor producing multimedia installations he has exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand and the United States.



1. This essay treats the screen as a concept of framing parallel to Barthe's notion of the tableau (Barthes, 1977, p. 75). It exists as a product of the monitor (apparatus), the image (video) and the space (installation).

2. The exhibition, The Art of Assemblage (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1961), can be sited as the point from which visual arts practice became interdisciplinary. However, the first multimedia works in contemporary practice can be attributed to Pablo Picasso (Guitar, 1912).

3. Contemporary painting has largely done away with the convention of the "frame" as separate from the artwork. Instead, painting addresses its boundaries as an integral concept within the work.

4. This notion of integration privileges the installation as the dominant site into which the screen must fit. Integration in these terms is a prejudiced concept premised on the domination of an established disciplinarity over that, which is new. Strangely, installation, the Johnny-come-lately of contemporary art, finds itself entrenched within the establishment of the art world where once it was the radical outsider striving for acceptance. This is the integration-turned-assimilation to which new media are subject. Thus the screen is in the position of defining its identity within the installation context. It is expected to define itself in terms of installation rather than to negotiate a position based on its own intrinsic qualities (to develop tactics that enable it to function within installation).

5. The image produced by the video monitor, computer screen and data show all involve hardware that has physical presence in a space. With the data show we are reminded of Lev Manovich's classical screen and its proscenium arch, but denied this reading by the installation which forces us to acknowledge the data projector as a source for the image. While physically distanced from the screen the image/source relationship is no different from that of the TV monitor and the image. In fact it is more pervasive in the installation as it operates across the space.

6. In Plato's cave, the source is the light by which the image is projected on the wall of the cave.

7. Manovich, 1995, p. 1.

8. The term "site specific" came into currency within the visual arts in the 1960s as artists began to explore process-based and ephemeral works.

9. All installation is not site specific in that its environment is part of the conception of the work. Most installations are responsive to and inclusive of the site to the extent that they become site specific and can be distinguished from other forms of art which are "installed" in a gallery in a manner consistent with the conventions of that space.

10. "The tableau is a cut-out segment with clearly defined edges irreversible and incorruptible; everything that surrounds it is banished into nothingness, remains unnamed, while everything that it admits within its field is promoted into essence, into light, into view" (Barthes, 1977, p. 70).

11. Barthes, 1977, p. 69.

12. Manovich, 1995, p. 1.

13. Manovich extends this argument beyond the dual windows of the modern computer to the window of virtual reality, at which point his failure to deconstruct the screen confuses his argument.

14. McCarthy, 2001, p. 161.

15. McCarthy, 2001, p. 162.

16. McCarthy, 2001, p. 132.

17. Acconci, 1990, p. 125.

18. Acconci, 1990, p. 132.

19. Ibid.

20. I exclude from this discussion artworks that are so fused with the non-art world as to become indistinguishable from it in a manner premised in Beuys' "art is life".

21. Manovich's notion of the screen is based largely on Roland Barthes' reading of the screen as an incorruptible segment isolated from everything which surrounds it. See Manovich, 1995, p. 6.

22. Morse, 1990, p. 162.

23. Manovich, 1995, p. 2.

24. The Internet window in remote locations is not inconsistent with this premise. However in certain circumstances the Web is able to challenge this reading. See p. 9, Net.Art as installation.

25. McCarthy, 2001, p. 132.

26. McCarthy discusses her methodology in pp. 20-26 with extensive footnotes regarding photography; McCarthy, 2001, p. 22, footnote 53. McCarthy acknowledges here the problems of documenting these sites and the indistinct quality of many of her early attempts. It is interesting that she resorted in many cases to sketches of the environments that enable her to present the monitor as an equal in the space.

27. As our eye moves between the keyboard and the monitor image we involuntarily blink as a means of cutting between scenes. This cutaway device is parallel to that found in film and video where a break in continuity can be achieved by cutting away to another shot.

28. Morse, 1990, p. 159.

29. Krauss, 1986, p. 188.

30. Barthes, 1977, pp. 69-78.

31. See Peter Campus's mem (1974).

32. Manovich, 1995, p. 6.

33. Plato talks of more than a captured audience. He is addressing the contextual readings of truth and knowledge and the problem of shifting between contextual paradigms. In our contemporary context, the exterior space of the installation and the interior meta-space of the screen.

34. Krauss, 1986, p. 188.

35. Debord, 1967, p. 1.

36. Debord's combined spectacle/spectator relationship to the mirror bears comparison to Michel Foucault's "Recognition by mirror." In The Foucault Reader (London: Penguin Books, 1991, p. 152) — "without surface or exterior limits Madness would see itself, would be seen by itself — pure spectacle and absolute subject."

37. There is logically a point here where the audience becomes the author. But as with Debord's spectator/spectacle relationship this would simply shift the authorship of the work endlessly outwards in meta-space as each layer of authorship is subsumed.

38. With the exception of performance art we do not directly see the artist when we visit an exhibition. In this case, too, I would argue that the artist is absent. They have employed a strategy that is their body from which their authorship remains separated.

39. Certeau, 1984, p. 36.

40. Ibid.

41. This is analogous to poorly tuned televisions in which the continuity of the image is disrupted by a flicker. After a while the viewer is able to ignore the interference and perceives the image as a seamless whole.

42. Given that the artist is the subject of all artworks.

43. For the viewer of installation art cannot be exterior to the work and still perceive it.

44. Wark, 2001, p. 280.

45. "Signs proliferate, mutate, their relations with each other, promiscuous and obscene. Audiences shimmer like a mirage on the horizon. They warp into black holes or become polyvalent creators of their own sense and sensibility. Objects demateralise into digital bits. Everything is a copy of a copy. Everything is permitted, and so nothing is true, not even to itself"; Wark, 2001, p. 280.

46. Wark, 2001, p. 280.

47. See footnote 2.

48. I exclude artists whose work is based on the incompatibility of elements. In this case the duality I have identified becomes a "strategy" within the work. The blink in this case is likely to exaggerated, bringing it to the audience's attention.

49. Daniels, 2000, p. 15.

50. Land-art of the 1970s used the Earth's geography as a location for the work. Works existed not only in the land but in specific locations that were related to other locations and existed outside (at least for a while) of the gallery system.

51. The term Net.Art comes from an anonymous e-mail sent to Vuk Cosic in December 1995. The message was scrambled due to a software incompatibility. The word Net.Art was the only decipherable content. Vuk then started to use this term for the work he was producing. See Alexei Shulgin, 1997. Nettime: Net.Art — the origin, at, accessed 13 June 2002.

52. Bookchin and Shulgin, 1999, p. 3.

53. Whitney, 2002, p. 116.

54. Erickson, 1990, p. 21.

55. It is pertinent to note that many of the more technically sophisticated Net.Art works present data taken from the Internet spatially. Often this has nothing to do with the location of viewers rather the data they have provided. It nevertheless substantiates the notion of the Internet as a sculptural artform. See Benjamin Fry, 1999. Valence, at; and, John Klima, 2001. Earth, at

56. See Wark, 2001, p. 280.

57. "Structure=content" and "net=art"; Blank, 1996, p. 3.



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Editorial history

Paper received 9 January 2003; revised 31 January 2003; accepted 1 February 2003.

Contents Index

Copyright ©2003, First Monday

Copyright ©2003, James Charlton

Reconciling interiors: The screen as installation by James Charlton
First Monday, volume 8, number 2 (February 2003),

A Great Cities Initiative of the University of Illinois at Chicago University Library.

© First Monday, 1995-2017. ISSN 1396-0466.