art21:

“The spontaneous is always where it’s the most interesting for the artist and for the viewer.”
—Sarah Sze

Artist Sarah Sze, who represents the United States at this year’s Venice Biennale, is our current 100 Artists featured artist. For the 2013 Venice Biennale, Sarah Sze has transformed the United States Pavilion with a site-specific installation, Triple Point (2013), commissioned by The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York.

Seen here is a reinstallation of the artist’s work, The Uncountables (Encyclopedia) (2010), at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nice, France, as featured in a 2012 episode from Art21’s Exclusive series. “Improvisation is crucial,” says Sze in the episode. “I want the work to to have this feeling that it was improvised; that you can see decisions happening on site the way you see a live sports event—the way you hear jazz.”

WATCH: Sarah Sze: Improvisation

IMAGES: Sarah Sze, The Uncountables (Encyclopedia), 2010. Installation view at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Nice, France, 2010. Production stills from the Art21 Exclusive film, Sarah Sze: Improvisation. © Art21, Inc. 2012.

Artistic, aesthetic aspirations and theories about form are in tension with the psychological and social aspects of space, but they are not eclipsed by them. The science of psychology provides some parameters for design without prescribing the end result. When two disciplines meet real innovations can be made. Certain elements of environmental determinism can be usefully combined with a flexible system, which truly evolves with the user.

As a result of this review I would like to set out a modest manifesto. If architects are to design for people they should:

(1)be aware that psychologically healthy spaces need to be flexible enough to allow for individual differences, sub cultural differences and changing needs over time, in order to achieve a sense of ‘place’

(2)be aware of certain core, universal human needs while accepting individual and cultural differences,
(3)avoid writing their own subjective scripts for what they perceive to be psychologically healthy buildings or cities, and

(4)if they can not design ideal spaces for peace and happiness, at least aim to minimize psychological and social harm by understanding how a space gains meaning.
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