Process art

In its use of poor materials, this movement developed against a background of increasing concern with environmental and ecological issues.

As in the arte povera movement, nature itself became art and the representation and symbolization of nature were rejected. The very insubstantiality and ephemeral nature of some materials was highlighted.

Process art is an artistic movement where the end product of art and craft, the objet d’art (work of art/found object), is not the principal focus; the process of its making is one of the most relevant aspects if not the most important one: the gathering, sorting, collating, associating, patterning, and moreover the initiation of actions and proceedings. Process artists saw art as pure human expression. Process art defends the idea that the process of creating the work of art can be an art piece itself. Artist Robert Morris predicated “anti-form”, process and time over an objectual finished product.


Process art has been entitled as a creative movement in the US and Europe in the mid-1960s. It has roots in Performance Art, the Dada movement and, more traditionally, the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock, and in its employment of serendipity. Change and transience are marked themes in the process art movement. The Guggenheim Museum states that Robert Morris in 1968 had a groundbreaking exhibition and essay defining the movement and the Museum Website states:

Process Artists were involved in issues attendant to the body, random occurrences, improvisation, and the liberating qualities of nontraditional materials such as wax, felt, and latex. Using these, they created eccentric forms in erratic or irregular arrangements produced by actions such as cutting, hanging, and dropping, or organic processes such as growth, condensation, freezing, or decomposition.[4]

The ephemeral nature and insubstantiality of materials was often showcased and highlighted, as is demonstrated in this review of William Basinski and his work titled The Disintegration Loops I-IV by Joe Tangari for Pitchfork Media:

You are slowly being destroyed. It’s imperceptible in the scheme of a day or a week or even a year, but you are aging, and your body is degrading. As your cells synthesize the very proteins that allow you to live, they also release free radicals, oxidants that literally perforate your tissue and cause you to grow progressively less able to perform as you did at your peak. By the time you reach 80, you will literally be full of holes, and though you’ll never notice a single one of them, you will inevitably feel their collective effect. Aging and degradation are forces of nature, functions of living, and understanding them can be as terrifying as it is gratifying.

It’s not the kind of thing you can say often, but I think William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops are a step toward that understanding– the music itself is not so much composed as it is this force of nature, this inevitable decay of all things, from memory to physical matter, made manifest in music. During the summer of 2001, William Basinski set about transferring a series of 20-year-old tape loops he’d had in storage to a digital file format, and was startled when this act of preservation began to devour the tapes he was saving. As they played, flakes of magnetic material were scraped away by the reader head, wiping out portions of the music and changing the character and sound of the loops as they progressed, the recording process playing an inadvertent witness to the destruction of Basinski’s old music.

In essence, Basinski is improvising using nothing so much as the passage of time as his instrument, and the result is the most amazing piece of processmusic I’ve ever heard, an encompassing soundworld as lulling as it is apocalyptic.[5]

The process art movement and the environmental art movement are directly related:

Process Artists engage the primacy of organic systems, using perishable, insubstantial, and transitory materials such as dead rabbits, steam, fat, ice, cereal, sawdust, and grass. The materials are often left exposed to natural forces: gravity, time, weather, temperature, etc.[6]

In process art, as in the Arte Povera movement, nature itself is lauded as art; the symbolization and representation of nature, often rejected.[citation needed]


The process art movement has precedent in indigenous rites, shamanic and religious rituals, cultural forms such as sandpainting, sun dance, and the tea ceremony are fundamentally related pursuits.[citation needed]

Aspects of the process of the construction of a Vajrayana Buddhist sand mandala (a subset of sandpainting) of Medicine Buddha by monks from Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, New York that began February 26, 2001 and concluded March 21, 2001 has been captured and web-exhibited[7] by the Ackland’s Yager Gallery of Asian Art. The dissolution of the mandala was on June 8, 2001.

Relationship to other disciplines and movements

Process art shares fundamental features with a number of other fields, including the expressive therapies and transformative arts, both of which pivot around how the creative process of engaging in artistic activities can precipitate personal insight, individual healing, and social change, independent of the perceived value attributed to the object of creation.[citation needed]

Additionally, process art is integral to arts-based research, which uses creative process and artistic expression to investigate subjects that resist description or representation through other modes of inquiry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *