Apart-ART(Ment): A Discussion of Place-bound Identities in Domestic Spaces in the Work of Dennis Oppenheim

By Olivia C. Pipe.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.645-654. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.853MB).

Olivia C. Pipe

Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Olivia C. Pipe is a second year Master’s candidate in the Graduate Art History Department at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Her scholarly interests primarily include explorations of syntax and language in relation to contemporary feminist artistic expression since the mid-twentieth century. Her thesis, entitled Girl Words: feminized language and politicized body in Jana Sterbak’s drawings, focuses on the relationship between different kinds of theoretical bodies and the manifestation of feminist language through Jana Sterbak’s preparatory drawings. Notions of language have permeated Olivia’s scholarly studies, artistic practice and curatorial strategies. Olivia has published essays in various academic settings, including but not limited to StudioXX’s journal .dpi, the Canadian Heritage Information Network, The Concordia Undergraduate Journal of Art History and through other professional collaborations. Her artwork has also been featured in Canada’s Got Treasures! and Music to See: Pictures at an Exhibition, held at McGill University in May 2011. Forthcoming, Olivia will be pursuing a doctoral degree.


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