A Recent History of site-specificity and site-response

A Recent History of site-specificity and site-response

Gillian McIver

대부분의 site-related discourse들은 public, engagement, community base이기는 하다. 

In analysing some of these artists’ interventions in urban space, I intend to discuss the issues of recuperation /reintegration of places of former social or infrastructural use which have been abandoned and forgotten, closed to the public. The interventions serve to highlight the discrepancy between current dis/use and former use. Discrepancy between former/ present place 

The history of site-responsive art is complex and is linked to the development of  installation art, landart and the evolution of the idea of “public art.” But one of the main aspects is the movement out of the gallery and museum into other sites for the purpose of exhibiting art. There were a number of completely different reasons for this development, which began in the 1950s and continues to this day. For some, it was a reaction to the sterility of “white space” galleries (themselves reactions to the ornate culturally-loaded exhibition salons such as the Royal Academy). For others, the “closed” nature of the art scene meant that getting any chance to show work in a gallery was difficult. And for others, working outside of the gallery represented an opportunity to address audiences outside of the accepted “art scene,” particularly deprived and marginalized social groups. Still others reacted to the opportunity to work in unusually-textured, atmospheric, culturally-loaded spaces where traces of “what went before” and “what is happening now” could be played out as part of the art work.

Site-specific and site-responsive art are movements that engage with the problem of the division between “art” and “everyday life” in modern bourgeois society.

Apart from all of this, artists are still getting on with the job of making art that is “relevant” to them, and as members of the community, is relevant to others as well. Site-responsive art is one form that is integrated into immediate concerns of the locality and community, but is very much about the development of an art practice. Site-responsive art is deeply implicated in the problem of “everyday life” as a locus for, and possibly subject for, art. The artist and the art work are making a direct response to the issues of space and time, taking the particular and extrapolating from it the universal — which is traditionally seen as the purpose of art. In this way, site-responsive art can be seen as a distant inheritor of the Flemish school (as criticized by the aestheticists), which sought to make a relationship between art and life: bringing images of “life” that spiritual universal quality, which the critics felt properly belonged to “uplifting “ subjects such as religion, classical antiquity of history.

The choices made by artists to work outside of the gallery environment are as individual as the artist. To be sure, many artists initially show in non-art sites as they develop, with the aim of ultimately entering the gallery system. Some, as noted, come to art out of the punk/squatter/DIY scene and those that continue to practice as artists can be later taken up as examples of the “underground.”And others develop site-responsive practice intentionally as a specific art form.

Clearly social, political and economic concerns have done much to shape the development of siteresponsive art, particularly in Europe.

Art/Site: An Introduction to Art as Site-Response

Work site-responsively, the artist concerned with the experience of being in those spaces, in the inter-relationship of the past and present, imprints of history and current activity, the physical feel and texture of the space and with bringing those experiences out to the public. The work has the ability to make the audience think about where they are, to reintegrate the lost fragmented forgotten place back into their consciousness.

In ”On Interconnectivity’, Françoise Dupré discusses the idea of community and collective space as a site for art and describes how she shifts her practice between “approved” sites for art (galleries, museums, recognised art spaces) and “marginalised” sites (schools, community resources) and how she refuses to accept these demarcations. She discusses her work in emplacements a UK-St Petersburg art exchange that happened in 2000 and 2002, “between social and cultural zones.”

Moving away from the physical site, landscape architect and artist Kelty Miyoshi McKinnon introduces the idea of “the site” as fluid. Her current works including the one discussed in ‘Apocalyptic Pollinations, Ivy League’, deal with the perceived ‘threat’ of the natural world (a ‘threat’ which goes back to the Puritans.)

Conclusions? What is the future of art as site-response?

Gillian McIver

Is the “impermanence and transience” of the site-responsive art object/event described by Miwon Kwon a form of resistance to the commodification of the art and the artist?[1] The author goes on to say that Where site-specific art once defied commodification by insisting on immobility, it now seems to espouse fluid mobility and nomadism for the same purpose. Curiously however, the nomadic principle also defines capital and power in our times. Is the unhinging of site-specificity then, a form of resistance … or a capitulation to the logic of capitalist expansion?[2]

Put this way, “the nomadic principle” implies an either/or situation – either resistance or capitulation. I would argue that both forms are possible and which is employed can only be judged by analysis of the individual art works.

In addition, I would also argue that artists choose to work site-responsively for their own reasons, and one of those reasons must be that they actually like “the nomadic principle” in their lives and work.

Again however, I would argue that the peculiar subtle difference of site-response as opposed to site-specific, which involves an insistence on the actual dialectic between artist and all aspects of the space, not only the physical, means that there may be less chance for any “characteristic mode of operation” to occur at all. There is great potential for site-responsive art to develop this dialectic to constantly create fresh interventions into “everyday life while at the same time universalising through art the concerns that are, at their base, bound in human time and space.

The opening of the site to art is a brief, interventionist moment, not a permanent condition. Even media art is subjected to this condition, when it is site-based. Even a video projected on the wall of a building integrates with the structure: when it is moved to another space it is a different work. (이 부분이 내게는 중요하다.)

So a consciousness not only of time but of change or flux is at the very foundation of this type of work. Different experiences of time and change intersect: historical time (the lived experience of the site); material time (the materials used); experiential time (the actual period of the intervention).

즉 historical time (past) – material time (art work) – experiential time (present) 으로 구성되어 있다고 보는데, 미래는? 작업을 통해서 perceptually, conceptually, virtually tranform된 space에 대한 문제는? 


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