June 2021 | By Kenny Jensen
The Making and Unmaking of an Installation
Visual artist Kenny Jensen explains the intricate logistics of assembling an installation
made of natural objects – a more complex process than hanging a painting on
a wall. You can find out more about Engulfed, a recent exhibit at HCC’s Gallery 221
in Tampa focused on artistic responses to climate crisis and environmental issues here.
Gallery and Beyond
I will share some of the installation and deinstallation process of the Understory in the gallery, as well as the process of transporting and storing the artwork after leaving the gallery.
Transfer Template Points
After many days of experimenting and adjusting, I determined the placement and height of about 60-70% of the overall installation, which also includes the placement of objects that rest directly on the floor.
The next step was to create a template the same size as the install space to record all the coordinations that would allow me to transfer all the ceiling installation points to the gallery. To achieve this goal I purchased a special tripod-mountable laser level that includes a plumb line feature.
In the studio I lined up the plumb line to transfer the ceiling points to the floor template. As shown in the image above, I reversed the process in the gallery to mark all of the installation points.
Once all the points were set, I determined the type of the wire to use, based on the weight of each object, poked it through the acoustic ceiling tile from above and attached each line to custom anchors on the reverse side of the tile.
I approximated the initial height of the objects based on the measurement I recorded from the ground to the top of each object. Most objects required additional adjustments, to get everything to line up correctly.
Closer to Home
During multiple days of hanging pieces from the ceiling, I reflected on what would work best to further define the human outline on the gallery wall.
I played around with several options, but had the best results using a variety of common grass root sculptures taken from local yards. I have been collecting dead lawn roots for more than a decade, and painted them to use in a variety of projects around five years ago.
The smallest roots were quite difficult to attach to the wall. I started without a specific plan and just intuitively arranged them until I ran out of materials. The gallery staff had no idea what I was going to do on that wall beforehand. I think they were pleasantly surprised. I am pleased with how it turned out.
I have included a time-lapse of the deinstall to show how just how many pieces were included in the completed installation.
One of HCC’s student workers Daevion Givan assisted me towards the end of the install with the final pieces that were not laid out prior in my studio, and assisted with the entire deinstallation process. I enjoyed working and talking with him. He was a big help and also provided helpful input and feedback.
In addition to the more obvious tasks of installation and deinstallation in gallery spaces, I spend a lot of time and energy on the in-between tasks that make gallery work possible. It can be challenging to pack, haul and transport organic forms that don’t easily fit in containers, etc.
In addition to the awkward and incompatible shapes, many of the roots used in this installation were also very fragile. Several pieces were damaged during the packing and transport. Thankfully I was able to fit the entire post-installation mess and my tools into this little truck that my father kindly lends me to help make my art possible. Thanks Dad!
Organization & Long Term Storage
Another challenging aspect to creating large scale installations containing multitudes of objects is finding adequate space to safely store everything before and after exhibitions.
I had to temporarily store many of the larger objects outside in my yard to make room for other projects in my studio and to prepare for packing. The smaller pieces are put up out of the way as much as possible.
Thanks for your interest in my process!
You can explore Kenny Jensen’s work at kennyjensen.com