Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

AFB’s Terms of Art #24: Installation


Now that increasing numbers of people are stuck at home and sheltering in place, I figured I’d do a little series. Every weekday for the duration of this intense period, I’ll post a short definition of some term in/related to aesthetics and philosophy of art. Let’s see how this goes! See them all here.

The theme this week is art world stuff. Up today:

Terms of Art #24:

Pronunciation: you know how

Definition: Any piece of art can be installed (that just means placing it: hanging it up or putting it under its glass cabinet or whatever). But when people talk about “installations” – or installation art – they mean art pieces that are usually:


the ubiquitous Drake meme-that-won’t-quit, with images from his music video for “Hotline Bling”… inspired by (ripped off?) James Turrell light installations! See video below.

  1. large
    bigger than a normal sculpture on a pedestal
  2. immersive
    you be surrounded by it, or it’s big enough to change the feel of the entire space
  3. site-specific
    it was designed to go in THIS room in THIS museum
  4. mixed media
    it may involve non-traditional materials or video, special lighting, sound, etc.
  5. temporary
    “installation” implies temporary; if it’s permanent, it’s often called a “permanent installation”
  6. indoors
    if it’s outside, it’s usually called something else, like land art

These six features aren’t necessary, but they’re very common. Installations are also sometimes:

  • interactive
    you can interact with it, by moving around physical pieces of it or moving your body to affect the video/light/sound effects
  • performances
    artists or actors doing something – like lying in a bed, maybe for you to talk to

Key examples:
The rotating installations in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. This is the most famous contemporary installation space in the world.

Related terms:
installation art – one of them is usually just called an installation, as a genre or category, it’s installation art

Not to be confused with:
installation – the thing that every app wants you to do, that makes you annoyed because it takes so long, that makes you want to throw your computer and/or phone out the window BECAUSE JESUS CHRIST WHY CAN’T I JUST OPEN IT WITH ONE OF THE DOZENS OF PROGRAMS I ALREADY HAVE

And now… the installations that inspired Drake’s Hotline Bling video:


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