is admittedly wide-ranging and difficult to categorize, but professor Claire Bishop lays out some overarching characteristics of the form in her book Installation Art: A Critical History
. Unlike a traditional painting, sculpture, or video—which require only a “pair of disembodied eyes”—installation art depends on all five senses and a physical body that can move through a space. Works of installation art “deny the viewer any one ideal place from which to survey the work,” Bishop writes, replacing the traditional model of art viewing with one incumbent on a multiplicity of perspectives.
More specifically, Bishop divides installation works into several broad categories, and Beach House’s vision for their project overlaps heavily with what she terms the “dream scene.” In these sorts of installations, “the viewer does not identify with a character depicted in a scene but is placed in the position of the protagonist”—the sort of mental absorption and physical immersion one experiences in a dream.
It’s clear there are monumental roadblocks in the path from concert to installation art. A live show functions as the total opposite of Bishop’s “dream scene,” since the protagonist of any concert experience is the band—all eyes are trained on them, all ears are cocked for the next lyric or strummed chord. And while a concert does assume the audience is more than a pair of eyes, it’s really only expanding that definition to a pair of disembodied eyes and ears. There’s one perspective, both aurally and visually.
Such restrictions also are part of theatrical performances, during which audiences watch from a set position, unable to interact with space in any meaningful way. But as with music, theater has seen pockets of experimentation—take The Industry in Los Angeles, a company engaged in pushing the boundaries of opera and performance. The Industry’s most recent work, Hopscotch, was considered a “mobile opera.” The performance took place at multiple sites across LA with a fleet of limousines ferrying audience members from place to place. It’s the kind of thing that could potentially be translated to a rock concert, perhaps by allowing the audience to move around in a space where the sound changes depending on location.