One place another Ch.1.

One place another Ch.1.

Miwon Kwon

Site-determined, site-oriented, site-referenced, site-conscious, site-responsive, site-related….

In response, many artists, critics, historians, and curators, whose practices are engaged in problematizing received notions of site specificity, have offered alternative formulations, such as context-specific, debate-specific, audience-specific, community-specific, projectbased.  (2)2

the book situates the questions concerning the siting of art as a spatio-political problematic (저자의 아주 기본적인 입장). Which is to say, site specificity is here conceived as what art historian Rosalyn Deutsche has called an “urban-aesthetic” or “spatial-cultural” discourse, which combines “ideas about art, architecture, and urban design, on the one hand, with theories of the city, social space, and public space, on the other.”5 Informed by critical urban theory, postmodernist criticism in art and architecture, and debates concerning identity politics and the public sphere, the book seeks to reframe site specificity as the cultural mediation of broader social, economic, and political processes that organize urban life and urban space.(저자의 아주 기본적인 입장)

3개로 chronologically 구분한다.

1. Phenomenological / Experiential : 전시 공간 그 자체 건축적 공간

2. Social/institutional :  art system

3. Discursive : public space /  community base

1. Phenomenological / Experiential

As a point of departure, the first chapter proposes a genealogy of site specificity since the late 1960s. Emerging out of the lessons of minimalism, site-specific art was initially based in a phenomenological or experiential understanding of the site, defined primarily as an agglomeration of the actual physical attributes of a particular location (the size, scale, texture, and dimension of walls, ceilings, rooms; existing lighting conditions, topographical features, traffic patterns, seasonal characteristics of climate, etc.), with architecture serving as a foil for the art work in many instances.

2. Social/institutional :  art system

Then, through the materialist investigations of institutional critique, the site was reconfigured as a relay or network of interrelated spaces and economies (studio, gallery, museum, art market, art criticism), which together frame and sustain art’s ideological system. Works by artists such as Michael Asher, Daniel Buren, Hans Haacke, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles are seen as challenging the hermeticism of this system, complicating the site of art as not only a physical arena but one constituted through social, economic, and political processes.

3. Discursive : public space /  community base

In more recent site-oriented, project-based art by artists such as Mark Dion, Andrea Fraser, Renée Green, Christian Philipp Müller, and Fred Wilson, among many others, the site of art is again redefined, often extending beyond familiar art contexts to more “public” realms. Dispersed across much broader cultural, social, and discursive fields, and organized intertextually through the nomadic movement of the artist—operating more like an itinerary than a map—the site can now be as various as a billboard, an artistic genre, a disenfranchised community, an institutional framework, a magazine page, a social cause, or a political debate. It can be literal, like a street corner, or virtual, like a theoretical concept.

While chapter 1 proposes three paradigms of site specificity—phenomenological or experiential; social/institutional; and discursive—in a somewhat chronological manner, there are no discrete separations or neat periodizing breaks between them. The paradigms are outlined as competing definitions that operate in overlapping ways in past and current site-oriented art. (3)

The second section of the chapter poses similar questions concerning the status of originality, authenticity, uniqueness, and authorship in relation to the nomadic conditions under which artists pursue new site-oriented practices today. As more artists try to accommodate the increase in demand for singular on-site projects in various cities across the globalized art network (as evidenced, for instance, in the rise in number of city-based biennials and annuals around the world), the definition of site specificity is being reconfigured to imply not the permanence and immobility of a work but its impermanence and transience. (4)

the site is not simply a geographical location or architectural setting but a network of social relations, a community, and the artist and his sponsors envision the art work as an integral extension of the community rather than an intrusive contribution from elsewhere. the site is not simply a geographical location or architectural setting but a network of social relations, a community, and the artist and his sponsors envision the art work as an integral extension of the community rather than an intrusive contribution from elsewhere. INTEGRAL RATHER THAN INTRUSIVE (6)

In the final chapter, the dissipation of the site in site specificity as described in the previous chapters—the prioritizing of its discursivity, its displacement by the community—is examined in relation to the “dynamics of deterritorialization” as elaborated in architectural and urban spatial discourse. While the accelerated speed, access, and exchange of information, images, commodities, and even bodies is being celebrated in one circle, the concomitant breakdown of traditional temporal- spatial experiences and the accompanying homogenization of places and erasure of cultural differences is being decried in another. The intensifying conditions of spatial indifferentiation and departicularization—that is, the increasing instances of locational unspecificity—are seen to exacerbate the sense of alienation and fragmentation in contemporary life. (8)


Whether inside the white cube or out in the Nevada desert, whether architectural or landscape-oriented, site-specific art initially took the site as an actual location, a tangible reality, its identity composed of a unique combination of physical elements:

  1. Phenomenological space

thus transportable, placeless, and nomadic, then site-specific works, as they first emerged in the wake of minimalism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, 시작이 minimal sculpture의 phenomenology였다는 점에서 my research와 연결해 봐라. 

And the space of art was no longer perceived as a blank slate, a tabula rasa, but a real place. Site-specific work in its earliest formation, then, focused on establishing an inextricable, indivisible relationship between the work and its site, and demanded the physical presence of the viewer for the work’s completion. (11-12)

the epistemological challenge to relocate meaning from within the art object to the contingencies of its context; the radical restructuring of the subject from an old Cartesian model to a phenomenological one of lived bodily experience; and the self conscious desire to resist the forces of the capitalist market economy, which circulates art works as transportable and exchangeable commodity goods—all these imperatives came together in art’s new attachment to the actuality of the site. (12)

2. Institutional Critique

Informed by the contextual thinking of minimalism, various forms of institutional critique and conceptual art developed a different model of site specificity that implicitly challenged the “innocence” of space and the accompanying presumption of a universal viewing subject (albeit one in possession of a corporeal body) as espoused in the phenomenological model.

…have variously conceived the site not only in physical and spatial terms but as a cultural framework defined by the institutions of art. If minimalism returned to the viewing subject a physical bodyinstitutional critique insisted on the social matrix of the class, race, gender, and sexuality of the viewing subject.

The seemingly benign architectural features of a gallery/museum, in other words, were deemed to be coded mechanisms that actively disassociate the space of art from the outer world, furthering the institution’s idealist imperative of rendering itself and its values “objective,” “disinterested,” and “true.” (13)

To be “specific” to such a site, in turn, is to decode and/or recode the institutional conventions so as to expose their hidden operations—to reveal the ways in which institutions mold art’s meaning to modulate its cultural and economic value; to undercut the fallacy of art’s and its institutions’ autonomy by making apparent their relationship to the broader socioeconomic and political processes of the day. (14)

The site shifted from the physical condition of the gallery (as in Condensation Cube) to the system of socioeconomic relations within which art and its institutional programming find their possibilities of being.

In these ways, the site of art begins to diverge from the literal space of art, and the physical condition of a specific location recedes as the primary element in the conception of a site. (19)

Concurrent with this move toward the dematerialization of the site is the simultaneous deaestheticization (that is, withdrawal of visual pleasure) and dematerialization of the art work. Going against the grain of institutional habits and desires, and continuing to resist the commodification of art in/for the marketplace, site-specific art adopts strategies that are either aggressively antivisual—informational, textual, expositional, didactic—or immaterial altogether—gestures, events, or performances bracketed by temporal boundaries. The “work” no longer seeks to be a noun/object but a verb/process, provoking the viewers’ critical (not just physical) acuity regarding the ideological conditions of their viewing… but rather on the recognition of its unfixed impermanence, to be experienced as an unrepeatable and fleeting situation. (24)

3. Public space / community based

저자는 이 형태를 site-oriented로 간주한다. 

this expanded engagement with culture favors public sites outside the traditional confines of art both in physical and intellectual terms. (24)

Beyond these dual expansions of art into culture, which obviously diversify the site, the distinguishing characteristic of today’s site-oriented art is the way in which the art work’s relationship to the actuality of a location (as site) and the social conditions of the institutional frame (as site) are both subordinate to a discursively determined site that is delineated as a field of knowledge, intellectual exchange, or cultural debate. Furthermore, unlike in the previous models, this site is not defined as a precondition. Rather, it is generated by the work (often as “content”), and then verified by its convergence with an existing discursive formation. (26)

Sometimes at the cost of a semantic slippage between content and site, other artists who are similarly engaged in site-oriented projects, operating with multiple definitions of the site, in the end find their “locational” anchor in the discursive realm. (28)

In this way different cultural debates, a theoretical concept, a social issue, a political problem, an institutional framework (not necessarily an art institution), a neighborhood or seasonal event, a historical condition, even particular formations of desire are deemed to function as sitesThis is not to say that the parameters of a particular place or institution no longer matter, because site-oriented art today still cannot be thought or executed without the contingencies of locational and institutional circumstances. But the primary site addressed by current manifestations of site specificity is not necessarily bound to, or determined by, these contingencies in the long run. Consequently, although the site of action or intervention (physical) and the site of effects/reception (discursive) are conceived to be continuous, they are nonetheless pulled apart. … The former clearly serves the latter as material source and inspiration, yet does not sustain an indexical relationship to it. 

James Meyer has distinguished this trend in recent site-oriented practice in terms of a “functional site”: “[The functional site] is a process, an operation occurring between sites, a mapping of institutional and discursive filiations and the bodies that move between them (the artist’s above all). It is an informational site, a locus of overlap of text, photographs and video recordings, physical places and things. . . . It is a temporary thing; a movement; a chain of meanings devoid of a particular focus.”23 Which is to say, the site is now structured (inter)textually rather than spatially, and its model is not a map but an itinerary, a fragmentary sequence of events and actions through spaces, that is, a nomadic narrative whose path is articulated by the passage of the artist. (내 리서치랑 연결해 볼 수 있을 듯)

Corresponding to the model of movement in electronic spaces of the Internet and cyberspace, which are likewise structured as transitive experiences, one thing after another, and not in synchronic simultaneity, this transformation of the site textualizes spaces and spatializes discourses. (29)

A provisional conclusion might be that in advanced art practices of the past thirty years the operative definition of the site has been transformed from a physical location—grounded, fixed, actual—to a discursive vectorungrounded, fluid, virtual. Of course, even if a particular formulation of site specificity dominates at one moment and recedes at another, the shifts are not always punctual or definitive. Thus, the three paradigms of site specificity I have schematized here—phenomenological, social/institutional, and discursive—although presented somewhat chronologically, are not stages in a neat linear trajectory of historical development. Rather, they are competing definitions, overlapping with one another and operating simultaneously in various cultural practices today (or even within a single artist’s single project). Nonetheless, this move away from a literal interpretation of the site, and the multiple expansions of the site in locational and conceptual terms, seem more accelerated today than in the past. (30)

Rather, the current unhinging of site specificity indicates new pressures upon its practice today—pressures engendered by both aesthetic imperatives and external historical determinants, which are not exactly comparable to those of thirty years ago. For example, what is the status of traditional aesthetic values such as originality, authenticity, and uniqueness in site-specific art, which always begins with the particular,

Is the unhinging of site specificity, then, a form of resistance to the ideological establishment of art, or a capitulation to the logic of capitalist expansion?

First, since the late 1980s, there have been increasing numbers of traveling site-specific art works, despite the once-adamant claim that to move the work is to destroy the work.

The extent of this mobilization of the artist radically redefines the commodity status of the art work, the nature of artistic authorship, and the art-site relationship.



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