The question that led me to embark on this thesis was this: why it is that four artists in particular exert such an influence on my work? A physical encounter with Robert Irwin’s Excursus: Homage to the Square³ was the key that, by demonstrating that the experience of this work is primarily a temporal and not a spatial one, allowed me to reframe my research. My thesis focuses on a specific temporality that I designate the Moment of ‘Imminence’: the moment in the viewer-artwork encounter that the viewer experiences as a heightened awareness of something that has not-yet but is about-to-happen. The significance of this moment rests in its potential to insinuate social and ‘political’ consequences in three-dimensional artworks. To explore this moment, I draw on an eclectic range of aesthetic and philosophical concepts from a diversity of multi-disciplinary thinkers. Through a synthesis of these concepts, I construct a Theory of ‘Imminence’, comprised of eight principles, explicated in the thesis. A key focus is that of ‘assemblage’. In certain artworks, contemporary ‘assemblage’ – the bringing together of diverse ideas, philosophies and materials to productively co-function – becomes the catalyst for the viewer’s transformative encounter, a dynamic moment of connection that brings meaning and reinforces that the artwork exists only in potential until experienced through its encounter with the viewer.
The thesis explores the work of the four artists, my exemplars: the German artists Isa Genzken and Wolfgang Tillmans, the American artist Robert Irwin and the Sydney based Irish/Australian artist Stephen Little. It concludes that their idiosyncratic practices utilise diverse notions of transformation to explore issues of social significance. The notion of time as ‘becoming’, expressed by French post-structuralist Gilles Deleuze, provides a conception of time that resonates with this conclusion. His writings on cinema, art and the concept of the ‘time-image’, together with his theorisation of ‘assemblage’, reinforce multi-temporal conceptions of reality. Henri Lefebvre’s work supports my research focus on the moment in terms of its unique potential for possibility through the everyday. Robin Clark’s use of the term ‘temporal object-event’ further substantiates the element of time and the experience of the encounter, while Michael Fried’s criticism of minimalism supports my conceptual position that the minimalist aesthetic is fundamental to the transformative encounter.