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28 x 23 cm | 11 x 9 in
233 ills | 288 pages
Hardback
ISBN 9781910433928
 
Ship to Europe and elsewhere $69.99
Ship to USA $59.99
Ship to Canada $49.99
 
Black Dog Publishing, London
www.blackdogonline.com
www.vanderstukken.com
 

GLASS: VIRTUAL, REAL

Koen Vanderstukken

Glass: Virtual, Real is a unique publication that explores the increasing use of glass in contemporary art as a relatively new artistic medium in the broader context of art history. It reflects upon the changing use of glass within a post-modern context and in the light of the digital revolution.
 
Sculptor and educator Koen Vanderstukken investigates how post-modern art brought glass to the forefront as a breakthrough art medium due to its intriguing qualities. Furthermore, Glass: Virtual, Real draws clear parallels between our increasing familiarity with a virtual reality in today’s digital era and an improved understanding of glass within an artistic context.
 
The final, and largest, section of the book explores the impact of glass on the contemporary art scene, focusing on how artists are using the medium in exciting ways in their practices. This section includes works by contemporary artists such as Gerhard Richter, Josiah McElheny, Mona Hatoum, Fred Wilson, Jan Fabre, Wim Delvoye, Joseph Kosuth, Dani Karavan, Ann Veronica Janssens, Dan Graham, Dustin Yellin, Javier Perez, James Carpenter, Olafur Eliasson, Koen Vanmechelen and many more.
 
Providing a fascinating glimpse into the impact of glass as a medium of contemporary art, this book will appeal to historians, educators, students, artists and academics. Glass: Virtual, Real is a beautifully produced ‘coffee table’ style publication with over 200 images accompanied by critical texts exploring the history and impact of glass, particularly within art.

Posted 7 February 2017

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After proofreading this book’s text in 2014, I studied this project with great interest, exploring what this book would add to my knowledge and vision. Those items are the extraordinary attention to the visual arts and the title. Reading the different chapters with rather formal use of language, reaching chapter 5 “Glass in a contemporary context”, I got more and more annoyed. Instead of explaining the title at the beginning, the book ends with describing the word "virtual" and its de-energizing in the last pages. To me, the title is would-be as we are not living in a real or virtual world and as according to the philosopher David Hume, all human knowledge stems from perception as we collect information through sight, smell, sound, touch and taste and our brain interprets the world around us and creates the experience of what we call reality.
 
I love to call a spade a spade as to communicate related to art is hard enough.
To describe art and artworks we use words and notions. When we speak about “reality” (de werkelijkheid) we do not use “real” (echt). If we use “virtual” it can be all but “reality” as this all-purpose words are so wide that I would prefer notions as optical effect, diaphanous qualities, illusion, fantasy or all the subjects Vanderstukken mentions in his book. My main problem is the question what does the title of the book add to understanding art? Is it important when we speak about a diorama that it is virtual or that it is a mobile theatre device? Is it helping to call all effects from optical illusions virtual?
 
And that is just what visual artists ought to do: through their work we can make our own new reality with information we hardly observed ourselves before. The word “real” is only used in US English as the UK English speaks about “thorough” or “reality”, the state of being real.
 
All new technology influenced our thinking and brought new words, so “virtual” did too, as did the notion “the glass delusion”, a psychiatric disorder in the late middle Ages and early modern period when the alchemists and early scientist used so much new glass devices to observe reality or as modern men think the brain is a computer.
I hope youngsters still understand the difference between real and virtual while computer-bound media let them forget that the brain does not work as Google... To store knowledge we have to use the techniques to store in the now the information! So we are bound to reality, the physical encounter with the tangible world. And with art.
 
I know Vanderstukken’s field of interest within his own works is concerning the duality of glass where “appearances become reality while reality conceals itself in a haze of deception”. But only a few visual artists use virtually with respect to content as the digital reality of computer driven performances, the pixelated windows Symphony of Light in the cathedral in Cologne by Gerhard Richter and others are playing with illusional tricks with the optical properties of glass as in the works by Adolf Luther who made kinetic and optical sculptures. Good enough notions for me. In the 70s Florian Lechner wrote: “Glass is a border material, it delineates and protects, isolates and makes the underlying space also visible.” I prefer this word over “interface” as that is literally the shared boundary of two separated components, while for me glass as border material could be the carrier of images, focus point, loaded with optical illusions as parallax, or magnifier; it is object, wall or window and projections and so much more at the same time, simultaneously. Glass is multi-functional and multi-interpretable.
 
Hammering on the subject contemporary art, for instance, the chapter on stained glass is missing the initial producers the alchemists, working at the cloisters inventing the lead cane, the blown glass sheets and the colors of the glass before there was a craft at all. But why is it so important? Good to read is the Article Mirror Mirror on the wall… by Mireille Houtzager>  on the subject.
 
For decades I was an advocate of bringing the contemporary visual artists who work with glass to the attention of the glass world. And showing and describing them in all catalogues, magazines and e-magazines, I made the qualities of their art objects visible and understandable. I understood also from Vanderstukken’s speeches, that he grew more and more towards visual arts guaranteeing to make the difference. I would like to warn to stay critical and to go and see all outcomes from that formula first, for much is not art at all!
 
It seems to me that more and more writers, teachers and readers hardly see works in the flesh which almost makes talking about art become a virtual act itself. We need to be physically confronted with art to be able to use all our senses and to explore what the function and the content of glass could be.
 
So, read the book, drag all students away from their computers and phones and plan your next visit to an exposition!
 
Angela van der Burght

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