Glossary

On this page you can find descriptions of the most common artistic terms used by MCA.

Simulacra

A Platonic philosophical term referring to the copy of a copy of an ideal form. Revived by postmodern theorists (Jean Baudrillard and Gilles Deleuze in particular), the term was used in discussions about the relationship between an original artwork and its replication, and questioned the continuing relevance of the original.n (often described as a multiple).

Interdisciplinary

Terms used to describe inclusive art practices that blur the boundaries between the traditional categories of painting, drawing and sculpture. Since the 1960s mixed media works have incorporated all forms of electronic and audio technology: installations combining music, performance, lighting, film, video and computers are commonly referred to as multi-media events. An inter- or multi-disciplinary artist is one who embraces a range of materials and forms in their practice.

Architectural Folly

A non-functional architectural form that is designed purely for aesthetic purposes; originally an eighteenth century neo-classical garden structure built for decorative purposes.

Canon

A group of artworks generally accepted as authoritative and representative of a tradition, movement or genre.

Casting

The technique of pouring a molten metal or liquid material (which will then solidify) into a mould in order to create a sculptural form that may be fabricated as a limited edit

Composition

The ways in which the elements of an artwork have been formally arranged, including the relationship between those elements.

Conceptual Art

Conceptual Art In basic terms, the idea or concept behind a work of art takes precedent over its material realisation. First coined in the 1960s, Conceptual art has come to embrace a range of practices – including art projects that remain as written statements or instructions for others to carry out – where the form that the work takes is determined by its motivation or idea.

Concrete Poetry

A typographical arrangement of words that encapsulates and celebrates synergies between the sound and shape of letters, playing with words and their meanings to evoke visual and poetic impact.

Conservation

Art conservation concerns the care and preservation of art works. It entails curatorial maintenance and storage in a secure and stable environment

Diaspora

The exodus and dispersal of a people from their traditional homeland.

Digital Animation

A computer generated sequence of images that creates the illusion of movement. Some digital animations incorporate an interactive element, giving the viewer some control over the resolution of the work.

Formalist

The emphasis on outward appearances or form over content or meaning – that is, the way the work is made and its purely visual aspects. In painting the focus would be on the composition: the colour, brushwork and line. Formalism was a response to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism – a reaction to the work of C├ęzanne and others – and in terms of 1960s abstract art, an emphasis on 'pure form’ as espoused in writings by the influential American critic Clement Greenberg. In turn, this modernist ideal was challenged by the advent of Postmodernist theories.

Framing

The way that something is framed: for instance, the composition of a scene within the lens or visual field of the camera before shooting.

Installation

An artist’s arrangement of objects positioned in a particular relation to the architecture and/or environment. The intention is to include the viewer within the context of the work, to elicit an experiential response.

Interactive

Installation-based art that involves the input of the spectator to realise its potential. Since the 1990s, computer-based interactivity has introduced a new kind of hybrid techno/art experience which has further blurred the boundaries between art, science and technological invention.

Kinetic

Art that depends on movement to achieve its purpose. Recent projects have moved beyond motorised elements for animation, exploring temporal aspects, light and duration as key components.

Lo-fi

Art made from modest, everyday materials such as cardboard or string, employing simple modes of fabrication. The term derives from 'low fidelity’ (as distinct from 'high fidelity’ or 'hi-fi’), often low-budget, technically-flawed audio recordings containing distortions.

Modernity

Western art produced from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries that rejected tradition and the rule of reason, and took artistic innovation as its highest aim. Modernist art drew on scientific innovations and political discourse and assumed the power of the artistic avant-garde to influence social change.

Monocoque

A structural system found in nature which is replicated in built forms to create load-bearing surfaces such as aeroplane parts.

Motifs

A recognisable pattern, fragment or theme – often repeated and in variation – to be found in a single artwork or across a number of works by the same artist.

Multi disciplinary

Terms used to describe inclusive art practices that blur the boundaries between the traditional categories of painting, drawing and sculpture. Since the 1960s mixed media works have incorporated all forms of electronic and audio technology: installations combining music, performance, lighting, film, video and computers are commonly referred to as multi-media events. An inter- or multi-disciplinary artist is one who embraces a range of materials and forms in their practice.

Palimpsest

A document that has been overwritten: for instance, a manuscript written over a partly erased older manuscript in such a way that the old words can still be read beneath the new.

Post Modern

A late twentieth century development in Western society, art and critical theory, signifying the death of the modernist project. In challenging dominant orthodoxies, postmodern art appropriated existing artworks, recontextualised objects and ideas and dismantled distinctions between mass culture and high art, centre and periphery, art and non-art.

Rorschach

Named after its creator, Swiss psychologist Hermann Rorschach the Rorschach inkblot test is a pseudo-scientific test in which a subject’s perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analysed. Some psychologists believed the test revealed aspects of a person’s personality and emotional functioning.

Storyboard

A tool used in cinema production to visualise a film before it is made; a sequence of graphic images that tells a story.

Super 8 Film (commonly called Super 8)

A motion picture film format , 8mm in width, released by Eastman Kodak in 1965 as an improvement on the older 'Double’ or 'Regular’ 8mm home movie format. With smaller perforations on one side of the film, the exposed area was made larger. The original Super 8 was a silent system but in 1973, a format including a magnetic strip for sound recording was released. There were several different varieties of Super 8 but the most popular by far was the Kodak system.

Time based

Art that relies on the passage of time to realise its effects. Also durational art, a term used to describe certain time-based performance works -including some Conceptual art projects – incorporating the passage of time as an integral component.

Video Loop

A video work that is played repeatedly in a continuous fashion.