In June 2009, the Vancouver Biennale in Canada proudly announced the installation of a new artwork by Dennis Oppenheim Arriving Home. Interestingly enough, a separate work by Oppenheim, The Device to Root Out Evil, was featured at the same biennale only a couple of years prior. This artwork was subsequently installed in front of a condominium complex on Vancouver Island, enraging the residents of the surrounding nature with its perceived blasphemous and politically charged qualities. The works of Dennis Oppenheim frequently insight debate and intrigue due not only to the aesthetic and formal design qualities of the installation pieces, but also to the public spaces in which the artworks live. In many ways, Oppenheim’s artworks perpetuate public art’s mandate to reinforce the positive qualities of a given neighbourhood; they are aesthetically ornamental and accentuate their surrounding social space. The artworks dialogue with public spaces and in turn the people who occupy them, resulting in a perceptible shift in place-bound identities.
It is my hypothesis that the works to be discussed in this essay, namely Martian Rock with Tunnel (2003), Stage Set for a Film (1998) and The Device to Root Out Evil (1997), have the transformative power to disrupt geographically based cultural identities. Through their active engagement with tenants and space, they reveal the strengths and weaknesses of communities in transition and thus have both positive and negative effects on these environments in flux. Finally, this essay will attempt to reconcile Oppenheim’s artworks with the dialectic of the counter-monument, where artworks have the power to raise questions about traditional monuments and produce narratives of monuments suggestive of shared collectives and an inherent questioning of values.
|Keywords:||Oppenheim, Spacial Identity, Public Art|
Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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