Happenings and installations as visual art have never impressed me. While I understand the intellectual motivation behind doing weird things or rigging up three- or four-dimensional constructions in a given space for a short period of time, I seldom find it visually appealing. Content is all very fine and commendable, but form needs at least an equal share of the pie.
What I had never realised before, is the joy the installation artist can get from “doing art” in this way. Not that I have recently participated in some big artistic event. What I have done, is to rediscover the joy of building a castle.
No, I have not suddenly found a new mud hole and a spot in the woods to build my next cob house. That is a dream for another day. What I have found, what has been lying a stone’s throw from my front door, is the beach.
Remember childhood? Remember the joy of shaping wet sand into castles and driveways and tiny shell gardens? Remember running along the beach to look for something special to add to your castle – a piece of glass polished to a jewel, a bottle cap, a sea-tanned leaf, the dried out pincer of a crab? Oh, the bliss of fitting it in just the right place, to form a bridge or a flagpole or a tinted glass door. What is this, if not installation art?!
And then, standing back to enjoy your creation, the fierce pride with which you defended it against rival castle builders. Even the pain and disappointment when the next high tide washed it all away was in some way an exquisite and necessary part of the whole creative process.
Some years ago I took part in a Creature Making Day, where friends and artists and other funny people all created fantastical creatures from bits and pieces of scrap and throwaway material. It wasn’t immortal art. It would be washed away with life’s next high tide – a spring-clean or a garage sale. But my goodness, what fun it was!
It is a skill worth rediscovering. Here’s to the joy of transient creativity! Here’s to building castles in the sand!