Although you might not actually have got lost nine feet underground in one of Alice Aycock’s tunnels, you might well have felt intimidated, claustrophobic, and puzzled. where was the next breathing hole? were you alone in here? where was the tunnel taking you? Ideally, it was taking you to a deep personal art experience that went well beyond the visual. "These works hinged on human experience,” said Kirsi Peltomäki, a Center research fellow and art faculty member at OsU. what’s more, she maintains, it is this experiential quality that distinguished the art of the 1970s and that gave the decade far greater influence on what came afterward than most art critics and historians recognize.
Peltomäki is working on a book, The Experientail Turn: The Art Encounter in the 1970s, in which she will argue that the art of the under-appreciated Seventies may have been "even more foundational to current art than the much-researched 1960's." Sixties art movements—in particular minimalism, conceptual art, and land art—opened the door of possibilities in regard to subject matter, medium, placement and distribution of art. This legacy allowed for further departures in the form of installation art, feminist art, site-specific and performance art.
“In this study, I consider how the art of the 1970s reworked the ripples of change emanating from the 1960s into practices that were revolutionary in their own right,” said Peltomäki, “while the initial transformation of art in the 1960s was indeed radical, the full extent of the change continued to unfold and expand throughout the 1970s.”
Aycock’s 1975 A Simple Network of Tunnels and Wells, for instance, invited “those who dared” to descend a ladder and crawl along cramped earth passages. not all “experiential” works put viewers into such intensely physical situations but in general the artists aimed to draw in the public in a way that led one later critic to define the art of the seventies as a change in attitude toward the audience more than a change in actual forms or even content.
Peltomäki intends to map this shift and its implications for the art world, which can be characterized as a change from the “mood of collectivity fostered by sixties sociopolitical battles” to the focus on individual experience. Though the decade has been well treated by historians and critics, its influence remains powerful.
“While all art is experiential in the sense that it is created and received through the filter of human action and experience, recently the experiential dimension has emerged as the defining matrix of much contemporary art. For example, immersive site-specific video installations, articulations of specific types of identity in art, and interactive and participatory artworks all hinge upon facets of human experience."
A previous Center fellowship contributed to the production of Peltomäki’s first book, Situation Aesthetics: The Work of Michael Asher (2010: The MlT Press).