Marilyn Arsem: Artist´s Statement

In recent years I have been creating site-specific installations in outdoor locations in the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia.  In each work I am responding to both the history of the site, as well as to the immediate landscape and materiality of the location.  All of these recent works examine hidden worlds that lie beneath the surface, ones which lurk underground, and those which eventually decay and dissolve back into the earth.

I am particularly interested in implicating the audience directly in the concerns of the pieces.  I use different strategies to design a very distinct role in the work for the viewer, so that they have an experience that is both visceral and intellectual.  To accomplish this, I incorporate a range of media, including text, video and performance, as well as using materials and objects generated from and in response to the site.

I insert my installation into the site so that it is nearly invisible.  The viewers' initial impression is that there is nothing to see.  It is only as they begin to pay closer attention that they become aware of the elements that I have hidden in the landscape.   The audience must make an effort to discover the buried images, take time to assemble the fragments, use their intellect, often in discussion with other audience members, in order to decipher and construct meaning out of their experience.

The installations operate in a liminal space, blurring the boundaries between art and life.  Because of the almost imperceptible images, and the inevitable intrusions of the real world, the viewers' interpretation of the experience has as much to do with their own projections and concerns as it does with my own.  In that respect, the work functions as a kind of Rorschach test, and the audiences' response is a critical component of the final work.  Documentation of their interpretation of the pieces reveals the collaboration between artist and audience in the construction of meaning.