"To move the work is to destroy the work." ~ Richard Serra

Friday, April 16, 2010

Simultaneous Life

Simultaneous Life, by Andrea Claire, was situated down Canal Street in New York City. Each one was placed on a traffic island. This project consisted of five windsocks made out of metallic fabric and placed on top of an 18ft long pole. The point behind the windsocks was to give the passer-bys of Canal Street an awareness of their surroundings. People were able to see which way the wind was blowing, the intensity of the wind, and the upper landscape. This exhibition gave people the chance to see what cannot be seen, the wind. People became more aware of the little things that people usually do not realize like the cool breeze or the lack of one. Due to the metallic surface, these windsocks were highly eye catching. It forced people to look up and take in the massiveness of the sky and buildings. Instead of constantly being focused ahead, people would look up and take a second to realize where they actually were. People were given the chance to see things they usually do not. They could visualize were the wind was going, how it affected them. This project gave people a different way to experience a natural element in a setting where most just ignore it. It gave wind permanence and presence.

Information for Peace and Democracy

Information for Peace and Democracy, by Brett Cook-Dizney, was located in the Bronx during 2002. These were 8' by 16' murals which focused on reactions to the tragic events of 9/11. Cook-Dizney interviewed five people about their thoughts on peace and democracy. After being interviewed, the interviewees were asked to help draw themselves and their thoughts on murals. This type of art is strongly based around the central issue of the interaction of the public. This piece breaks down the border between viewer and artist due to the actual participation of the subject. It is very sincere and realistic. By including quotes that the participants said, it shows the realism behind 9/11. This art speaks entirely to the public since many can relate to the views each participant expressed. This situational art allows people to engage and feel as if their voices are being heard and represented through the normal population. The sites of these murals are also important because they are generated to target a certain population. If these were to be moved to Kansas, the responses would be different. The emotions are more deeply felt in the place where one of the attacks occurred. The murals acknowledge the feelings many citizens were feeling and give people the feeling that their thoughts and opinions matter. It makes the public more aware of current issues and opens up the floor for people to engage in these matters. It opens up space for discussion. It opens up the doors to a situation where people take responsibility and take a stance. These murals allowed for community to grow and for interaction to take place. They grounded the feelings of many Americans with a futuristic lookout on what was yet to come. It combined the past and future while maintaining a connection with the people in the present. This situational art went against norms by asking for so much involvement from the people. Even after the murals were finished they asked for constant interaction through thoughts and dialouge. The outcome was discussion.


Surviellance, by Ernie Gehr, located Madison Square Park in New York City, takes a different approach towards site-specific and situational art. It is a four channel high definition video installation which exhibits the activity within the park. Its site specificity causes controversy because it takes the role of combining technology with nature. The idea of surveillance and cameras brings back the good old ideas of Big Brother except with a twist. Many people in New York City are used to the idea of cameras watching their moves due to security reasons. Although people may be used to being watched, many do not expect being watched in a park. By using the park as the source being surveillanced it makes people question to what extent is too much security. Daily New York City citizens walk by posters stating "If you see something, say something." Many are not affected by these posters and do not challenge the idea of surviellance. By being able to see themselves on camera, it makes them contemplate their amount of freedom. To some extent the idea of constantly being watched even in a park can creep some people out. This exhibition creates a situation where it is possible to challenge the idea of security and the path that the United States government is taking. It forces the controversial concept of privacy to come up, begging the question of what does one give up for another thing. What is more important, one's own privacy or one's potential safety. At the same time, by combining nature with technology, Gehr allows people to see how the two have become intertwined. How nature has become a part of technology, something that needs to be controlled and watched. The exhibition lets people to see the beauty within nature but yet how the human race has become to limit it. The site contributes to the overall message the art sends across along with the situation and question of compliance and inactivity. It makes people think of issues they may have otherwise ignored or refused to think of. Surveillance serves its purpose by at least for a brink of a second forcing people to think of the role of the inidividual versus the role of society.

The Sphere

The Sphere, by Fritz Koenig, is displayed in Battery Park in New York City. Originally it decorated the fountain in front of the World Trade Center Plaza. This piece holds a lot of symbolism and meaning not only because of its site specificity but because of the situation it represents. Its original form is battered, changed from what it used to be due to the impact it went through due to the 9/11. It is a 45,000 pound sphere made of bronze and steel. This piece distinctly represents how site and situation affect the meaning of a piece of art. Originally placed by the World Trade Center, many would simply walk by it without acknowledgement. Due to its new location it stands as a memorial for those lost in the 9/11 attack because it represents the destruction and a fraction of what was damaged and lost. By moving it away from its initial setting, it is viewed and interpreted as something else. No longer is it a decoration but a metallic sphere that is proof that what happened is reality. It gained its memorial status because of its original site and by being moved to another, it certified it. What is most important is this sphere is recognized and determined by the situation. When it used to be just a decoration, it barely got a response or reaction from the crowds. If anything there may have been some awe from some tourists due to its massiveness. Now it makes people shed tears, contemplate life, feel sorrow and remorse. A situation changed its meaning. This sphere also creates numerous situations. This may simply be from provoking emotion, giving people a place for peace and thought, or just serving as a reminder to cherish life. It is clear cut that in this case art was created by a situation, it came into existance because it gained a reaction, however negative and depressing that reaction may be.


Lamppost, by Matt Irie and Dominick Talvacchio, is situated in a park near the Metrotech Center in Brooklyn. Irie and Talvacchio use the lamppost to display how temporary things are. The site of the lamppost is most crucial. The lamp is situated among other normal lampposts except this one is bent and it seems as if the lamp was forced to bend and eventually hit the ground, hard enough to make an impact. By being placed among other normal lampposts it creates a huge contrast between the normal and abnormal. The lamppost brings into question the durability, predictability, and reasonability of life. It adresses the idea of the unknown and change. By bending such a lamppost, something which is considered sturdy and symbolizes the idea of light and direction, it makes the audience contemplate truth and reason. It makes them think of the impossible being possible because if a lamppost can be twisted to such an extent, can't everything? Also, since the lamppost is an everyday object it represents the fundamental base of a person's life. If something that is taken for granted to be a certian way is changed, it makes a person wonder whether other things are subject to change and to what extent. It makes people appreciate what they have and how it is. It brings their attention to other daily objects and allows them to think about how they are also able to be transformed and altered. It brings up the theories of force and what potentially is not discovered. This lamppost also symbolizes how regular objects impact our lives. People do not realize how much a stop sign or a pencil affect their lives because of their regularity. The hole the lamppost seems to create can be taken to signify how much these things impact our lives and how people should respect what they have. What is pretty unique is that the lamppost still functions and emits light. Some may view this as a social connotation that our direction has changed, our values are no longer moral but have fallen to the ground. Others may see this piece and think the light represents that not everything needs to be perfect, that the original must be acknowledged and that there are different ways to achieve a purpose. Either way this piece establishes a situation where the viewers allow their imagination to run wild and challenge their current opinions and thoughts on stability and reason.

The Gathering

The Gathering, by Christian de Vietri, is also located near the MetroTech Center. This piece is most interesting because of its simplicity but yet it generates a huge reaction from passerbys. Out of all the art I have seen I could most relate to this one. When I was a little kid my parents would take me to the park where I would create something similar to this piece so I could make a home for squirells. This piece symbolizes the idea of community and is titled The Gathering to represent how people used to gather around a bonfire. Vietri makes a statement with this bundle of sticks by showing the lack of warmth and spark. By being unlit it gives off the impression of being cold and lonely. This symbolizes how our communities and lives have become very individualized and the movement away from group settings. It is claimed that people look upon this art and wonder when will it light up although Vietri intends on it to stay cold in order for people to feel the same coldness and emptiness. It calls upon the audience to realize how much solitude rules the current society. Instead of being a bonfire someone would want to approach, it makes people feel distant and walk away. Another interesting thing is the fact that no one has lit this. Being in a public place in Brooklyn it is open for people toy with it, may it be young rebellious kids or homeless people. The fact that no one has attempted to light it shows the large extent of how it affects the population. It tries to make a statment about how important community is and hopes that people can leave this site with the message that it is imperative that people come together again. This bundle reflects upon the natural life and indicates that technology has such a strong hold on people that they cannot come back to such a gathering. It creates a situation where people feel the solitude but the question remains on whether they will take any action to relieve themselves of such solitude. The site specificity is also key because by being placed in a grassy park area it has more of a nature-like resemblance of what used to be when there were no such things as cell phones or the internet. Especially since it is placed in New York City, where industry rules, it creates a huge contrast where people are more able to see the difference between nature and culture. This piece is calling for the same intervention that Chris Burden asks for. Burden seeks to see how far is too far before people intervene. Although The Gathering is not as physical and drastic, it calls upon deeper emotions, relying on lonliness instead of fear to get a reaction. It creates a similar situation as to when does one take action and acknowledge the current circumstances one is in.

Michael Delucia Untitled (Fences)

This art, produced by Michael Delucia, is featured near the MetroTech Center. Delucia uses a chain fence in order to create an abstract picture for the viewer. He uses 13 panels of this fence to make a cube like structure. Since the fence overlaps, when someone approaches the art, it produces numerous different patterns. When a person moves around the surface, the patterns change. This is a type of situational art because depending on the situation and the eye of the viewer, each person sees something different. They pick out certain patterns that attract them while others repel. It is interesting that Delucia uses everyday items to form these moving patterns that have intrigued many passerbys in Brooklyn. This piece displays how Delucia uses space and distance to demonstrate the change in each situation. Not only is this situational art but also site-specific. Delucia uses elements within his environment to produce these pieces. People become more perplexed by their meaning since they see these objects in their daily lives. For example this piece would get different responses if placed in a small African village since fences are uncommon there. The fact that he uses items from everyday life makes the audience contemplate the significance of the piece even more. It makes them realize as to what their environment has to offer. Some people may question as to whether this is considered art due to its abundance in the city, but this piece makes people challenge their views on space because of its constant transformation. Delucia shows people that what is around them is beautiful and can make them think no matter what the object. It is quite stunning how something which seems so simple can draw out reactions of puzzlement, intrigue, and awe.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Burj al-Arab hotel

Not only can art be a piece in a musuem or a statue, but it can also be a hotel. This hotel is the Burj al-Arab hotel being built in Dubai. It is supposed to represent the sail of ship. Not only is its scale amazing but the entire structure is impressive. This structure can be considered appropriate in its current location due to Dubai's popularity for its sandy beaches and extravagent hotels. This type of hotel among many other in Dubai, represent the country's move towards capitalism and industrialization. Dubai has set its money making track on tourism. This hotel seems to be normal placed in this type of atmosphere due to its surrounding companions. This hotel creates the situation where now people are willing to spend an outrageous sum of money in order to be able to stay in this hotel. It not only helps the country prosper but enables visitors to experience something they probably could not experience elsewhere. This hotel increases the popularity and recognition of Dubai as a growing vendor. Not only does this hotel create numerous advantages for many but it also has its consequences. Dubai is needing extra time to pay off the loans they took in order to build this hotel. This type of art poses the question of to what extent should art be created. If a country could possibly financially suffer due to the creation of something that is correlated with a predicted positive outcome, is it worth the risk? This can also relate to less expensive art. How much is the reaction of a population worth? Should public art that costs a lot of money be created? What if that art then no longer gets any reaction? Is the risk necessary? Personally I think that situational and site-specific art is essential because it makes people contemplate the everday and recognize factors in their lives they previously may not. But what if this art is a hotel? Is the expense worth it? Dubai thinks so as of now. This hotel clearly shows that sometimes the situations that art creates is not always a hundred positive.
This piece of art is called The Ego and the Id, by Franz West, located in Central Park. This type of situational art begs for the audience to interact with it. West set up these looping forms in order for people to be able to sit on it, play, and engage with. People can be seen sitting on the seats, reading, or playing games. Located in a park, it gives people a chance to relax. This can also be considered situational art because if placed lets say in a more densely populated area such as Wall Street, there would be less interaction and the art would lose its meaning. This type of art caters to a certain audience, people willing to take a break and take the time to appreciate the art. Its colors make it stand out and seem welcoming. It asks for people to show interest and to interact. West hoped that people would engage in the art and even himself said the art is not complete without the help of the audience. This art not only heightens the idea of what is art but also has exterior consequences. It allows for community to grow, relationships to be created among those who choose to interact. The situation forces people to relate to one another and realize the others presence. It opens the eyes of the audience to their surroundings. It makes people come forth instead of being enclosed. It has an affect that many do not expect art to bring forth. The situation lets people to not only acknowledge something about art but also about themselves and others.

New York Hot Dog Stand

Although this picture seems to display the everday art, it can highly be considered as site-specific art and situational art. Hot dog stands can be seen to litter almost every street corner in Manhattan. Most people tend to walk by it or use it to their advantage. What makes it site specific/situational art is the reaction from the crowds. If for example the hot dog stand would be moved to Jamaica, Queens, which is not a good neighborhood, the meaning of it would change. People would probably wonder what the hot dog stand is doing there and would interact with it differently. There would be more recognition of its position along with different responses. If the hot dog stand, something that symbolizes New York City, would be moved to Winston-Salem NC, people might even consider it a treat to go get a hot dog. In New York, people stop for hot dogs if it is convienant or along the way. If moved to NC, people might be more willing or even go out of their way to get a hot dog. These types of different reactions show how site affects the art or the purpose of something. It gives it a different meaning and reaction. It changes the purpose of the item.

The Metropolitan Musuem of Art

I took this picture while strolling around the met. This picture encapsulated the essence of the observer with her surrounding art. She seems out of her place, somewhere where she does not belong in a setting with old Victorian furniture. This picture also captures the photographers role. In the center mirror, my reflection came up in the picture. Initially this was not the purpose and just happened per chance. It made me think about how not only does the subject of the picture matter but the relationship between the subject and the photographer. This type of situational art calls into question how much does the photographer matter. Does this mean the photographer is part of the art? Does it add anything to the piece? If anything I would say it conjures more of a presence of distance and connectivity. It makes the subject and the photographer come in as one. This type of unplanned situational art makes the viewer of the picture realize that the subject is not the only thing to be evaluated but the entire piece as a whole. The subject had no idea the picture was being taken and it seems that she is absorbed within the art. Her reaction is what makes this photo situational. It calls on the fact that for art to be evaluated it must get some reaction or recognition from a viewer. It is essential that she feels part of the element in order to fully feel it's effect.

Subject-Specific Art & Leonard van Munster

As we begin to work on our project and observe the reactions of people, we find that a different type of art ties closely into the situation and site-specific art. What is categorized as subject-specific art often goes hand-in-hand with the performance pieces that some of these artists create. Just as its name implies, the piece varies based on its subject: the viewer. While site also plays a hand in the reaction generated from the piece, the individual does as well. The site as well as the viewer factor greatly into the reaction a piece creates.

Certain artists attempt to create an interactive experience with their art, which is where the site-specificity comes into play. By placing or performing their art in a specific place, the artist also understands that he/she is presenting it to certain individuals. Leonard van Munster, a Dutch artist, often designs performance pieces or installations, both site- and subject-specific. One of his most well-known installations is a series of interactive toilets in Amsterdam, titled Private room 02, which, with the help of censors and pre-recorded responses, registers what its user is doing and provides its user with suggestions and/or inaccurate facts from Google. It's interesting to see then how van Munster is able to transform an everyday object like a toilet into an interactive installation piece, creating a sense of awareness in those who happen to use one of his talking toilets.

Another more recent installation of van Munster's is "The dancing white man", also located in Amsterdam. The piece is of a man who remains frozen until approached, which then causes him to "come to life" and begin to dance. Once again, the reaction of the viewer creates and transforms the art based on the individual's personal experience.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sarah Sze

Similarly to what the Everyday group discussed today in class, Sarah Sze, an artist known for her site-specific pieces, frequently uses everyday objects to create unique pieces of artwork. Based on the space provided, Sze designs intricately-designed installation pieces that catch the eye, though constructed from everyday objects such as water bottles, books, rulers, lamps, etc. as seen in the pictures above and below. Her obvious attention to details such as color, shape, and lighting indicate that she, unlike many, is very aware of her everyday surroundings. As a result, she is able to fashion installations such as these which, in turn, raise awareness in others about everyday objects due to the size and shape of her pieces. Though fashioned of unexpected and common objects, Sze's pieces possess a quality of grandeur about them due to their very intricate nature.

Site-Specificity in the Everyday

An interesting topic was raised in class today. Most of the discussion revolved around how your everyday changes based on your location in time and space. Obviously, this draws an important and very prevalent connection between the topic of the everyday and site-specificity. Specifically, my culture changed very quickly when I came to Wake Forest--making the switch between the suburbs of Ohio to a college campus in North Carolina. Besides the expected changes in everyday from living at home and going to high school to living in a dorm and going to college, the most obvious differences became apparent because of changes in my everyday. Suddenly, my friends laughed when I said "pop" instead of "soda" and "you guys" instead of "y'all." I also noticed an almost surreal difference between the architecture of Sylvania, Ohio and Wake Forest. When it came to its construction in 1970, my old high school was designed to be as cheap as possible. We lovingly referred to it as "The Prison" because of its lack of windows. Looking at pictures of downtown Toledo as well as the University of Toledo, I noticed that this simplicity in architecture was common in my town, especially when compared to Wake Forest. Neither of these pictures were taken from the websites of the respective schools so as to make them as realistic as possible.

University of Toledo

Wake Forest University

This just shows that one of the best places to find examples of site-specificity is in the everyday world around us.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

South Boston Mural

It's hard to imagine being able to find a connection between a Martin Scorcese film and our class, but last night proved otherwise to me. As I was watching "The Departed" for the first time, I grew intrigued by the portrayal of South Boston in the movie. As I tend to do when I find myself curious about something, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and discovered the mural above. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any further information on the origins of the mural, and I also learned that it has recently been torn down to make way for new condominiums- yet another ancient casualty of the rapid rise of new technology and desensitization. Regardless, the piece may be viewed as a truly site-specific representation of the neighborhood it overlooked for so many years. "Failte go mBoston dheas" reads the sign in Irish, over the English translation of "Welcome to South Boston". Adorning the mural in addition are a large Celtic cross in the center, flanked by the coats of arms of the four historical provinces of Ireland. The texts across the bottom read in English, from left to right, "Sinn Fein", a left-wing political party in Ireland, "Irish Republican Army", and "NORAID", an Irish-American fund-raising organization with ties to the IRA. All of these aspects represent, in many ways, the lifestyle and interests of the very residents which have shaped South Boston into the neighborhood it represents today. From the mural one can see how South Boston, or "Southie", is comprised largely of Irish-Americans and Irish immigrants. Though this is not uncommon across all of Boston, the Southie neighborhood has historically been seen as one of the working class. While many Americans view the IRA with less-than-favorable opinions, the Irish and Irish-Americans hold a deeper understanding of the struggles of their homeland. Working against the historical tyranny of the British to acquire Northern Ireland and bring about a "workers republic" across the entire Emerald Isle. Indeed, seeing as the Republic of Ireland is historically Catholic, with Northern Ireland being largely Protestant, the conflict had roots in religion, and has endured some very bloody years. With South Boston being both highly Irish and largely Catholic as well, it comes as no surprise that a mural venerating the efforts of the IRA stood tall over their humble neighborhood for so many years. Interesting to note as well is the placement of Irish text even before the English greeting on the mural. This fact, in addition to the outspoken support for the IRA and the groups associated with it, may suggest that much of the population of South Boston is more concerned with the ongoing political strife in their home nation, than in their new land of America. The foregone mural paints a true picture of the Irish identity so prevalent in South Boston, and thus may certainly be viewed as a work of site-specific art.

Sculptures by Carole Eisner

From September 8, 2009 to April 23, 2010, one can experience the nine sculptures by Carole Eisner. Each scultpure resides along malls from 64th to 166th street. What is most interesting is that each one of these sculptures produces a phone number a person may call in order to learn more about the sculpture. This type of art is situational because of the way people react to it. Each one causes viewers either to think, be offended, or to love it. According to Eisner each one of her pieces is meant to draw someone's attention and make them feel some sort of emotion. This type of art forces the viewer to interact with it. It breaks the boundary between the art and the viewer since it allows the viewer to engage my calling the number and asking for more information. When visiting one of these sculptures I found it interesting to see how different people reacted to it let alone how many actually took time out of their day to make the call. This type of art begs the viewer to interact and attempts to include the viewer as a part of the art.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New York City Waterfalls

The New York City Waterfalls was an artistic display by Olafur Eliasson. It consisted of four man-made waterfalls which lined the East River in New York. The waterfalls ran from June 2008 to October 2008. The art was made not only to blend in with the water but with its surroundings. Each scaffolding was created to look central to the area it was in. The location of these waterfalls was key due to their visibility and what they stood for. Not only did these waterfalls stand for the revitalization of the waterfront but also a tribute to the city's energy and constant bustle. It represents the value of nature and how we can reuse energy. This is mostly site-specific because of the representation of the culture and nature of New York City. Eliasson was able to combine both with the use of the scaffolding and the ladder. It gave tourists and citizens a new view of the City since the waterfalls themselves were not a buisness but rather a statement. Even though the waterfalls were assumed to bring in a lot more money from tourism, their sole function was to unite culture and nature in a city that is mostly known to not be so natural. Upon seeing them myself, I found them not only to be gorgeous but moving. I took a boat ride past the waterfalls and I found them to be stunning in their representation. To find such art on the East River was very unnatural but at the same time, fit in perfectly.

"The Alamo"

While home in New York City, when contemplating about situated art, the first piece that popped into my head was that of the popularly known cube in the middle of Astor Place on the lower east side in Manhattan. This 8ft. long and wide metal cube is formally known as "The Alamo", created by Bernard Rosenthal. The most interesting part of the art is not only its situadedness in the middle of a busy intersection, but that it also spins on its side. This art not only represents Astor Place but allows its visitors to interact with it. Every time I visit Astor Place, I personally spin the cube usually with the help of a friend. What is very surprising is the different reactions people have to this cube. This weekend I spent two hours watching the way people interacted with the cube. Many simply ignored it and walked by, probably people who see it on a daily basis. The problem is this cube is very hard to ignore. Its large mass and the space it takes up forces people to go around it, when in reality it would simply be easier to walk if it did not exist. It makes people stop and realize its immensity. While some ignored it, others would stop and stare and avoid interaction. It seems like, if anyone, teenagers would be the ones to spin it. I think this is very interesting because there is nothing near the cube which elaborates on the point that the cube can spin. One would have to test it and interact with it in order to figure this out. For some this cube becomes a part of the everyday while for others it is an opportunity to indulge in the art of Manhattan. Another interesting fact is the purpose behind the cube. Its original intention was to be a part of an exhibition called "Sculpture in Environment" in 1967. It eventually was donated to the city. The cube represents immense strength and works as a transitional feature between the Central and East Village. This art can not only be considered situational due to the interactions but also site-specific because of its chosen location to represent Astor Place the moment one steps off subway. It is truly a site to be seen.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Now that April has arrived, it means on-campus tours, and lots of them. As the spring sun beats down on the picturesque Wake Forest University, wide-eyed teenagers and their concerned parents are led around campus by an experienced student. What is a seemingly normal routine, however, might be viewed as an exercise in performativity as it relates to site-specific art. While the guide absentmindedly rattles off obscure statistics about the founding of the University, and of certain buildings, the eyes of the prospective students twinkle with an curious mix of excitement, wonder, and even trepidation. To look into the faces of these youths is to experience a truly pure form of reaction, which has in recent years come into the world of site-specificity as a performance art. One such example brought up in class previously involved an artist (whose name escapes me right now) who put on an exhibit wherein he simply stared into the faces of individual audience members for an extended period of time. This avant-garde style of performance relies heavily on facial expressions, and how people react to the situation of being stared down by an eccentric artist. Observing the faces of the parents and kids touring the campus provided a similar sort of intrigue for me as a current student, as expressions often reveal thoughts and emotions. For some, it is clear that they have immediately fallen in love with the campus, and will be attending for sure. For others, vague expressions of disenchantment might reveal one of several emotions; whether it be disinterest in our particular campus, or even crippling fear at the prospect of college life in general. Indeed, students passing by often fail to realize that these 17 and 18 year olds are in the process of making perhaps the most important decisions of their lives. This coupled with the fact that they often forget they are being casually watched by the students on the quad makes for natural and highly interesting reactions to observe on the faces of kids who might well be spending the majority of the next 4 years on this very campus. On a side note, the grandiose campus that they are so overwhelmed by will in a few months time become the "everyday" for a good portion of these very same kids. Whereas museum tours can involve myriads of different times of people, college tours almost always include teenagers in similar situations, and thus seeing the different reactions on people so similar is a truly intriguing situation.

Situation Art & the Wake Forest Campus

As I am sitting outside and pondering, musing, and writing about situation and its many applications in the world that surrounds me, a few things come to mind, all of which reside on the Wake Forest campus.
The first thing I wanted to mention was the chain link people who are set at the peak of the small hill in between Tribble and the Benson University Center. They are very much a permanent part of that particular area; they were even caution-taped off when they remodeled Benson. Something like that becomes an inscrutable part of the life here on campus; on holidays people interact with them, including tying red capes on them for Valentine's Day, and likewise events. They are undeniably a fair example of situation art.
The second example that came to mind is the bowl that resides in Davis field also, similar to Carl Andre's work with the cinderblocks, would be fairly unspectacular without the situation that it was placed in. That is, the bowl was originally made so when it was full of water it would appear to have a convex curve at the top. It unfortunately was deemed a drowning hazard and can no longer be filled. The irony is that the bowl is still in the field and is only that, a bowl. It's a very interesting piece, but most of its allure comes from the story/situation that it is in, not just the work itself.
The last example that I want to touch on is the mood swings that are placed all around campus. Each swing has a different mood and is placed in an appropriate spot around the campus. Every person has a different relationship to those swings that are specific to the site they are in; the site an interaction determine the subsequent feeling and relationship that is formed between the viewer/witness and the work itself.
All of these examples are very relevant situation/site-specific works and have a special place here on the Wake Forest Campus.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Andy Goldsworthy's Stone River

Environmental art was discussed in an earlier post and an interesting example of it is Andy Goldsworthy's Stone River. First off, an important distinction to make in environmental art is that certain artists do not consider the damage they might cause to the environment while others create pieces that will not cause any harm. Stone River falls under the latter category. Simply from the title alone, one can see how images of nature are evoked. Goldsworthy comments: "I call it a river, but it's not a river. [The sculpture is] about the flow. There's a sense of movement in the material, through the individual stones, so you just see this line." More than just the flow, this piece also examines natural light. Goldsworthy wanted to create a piece in Northern California where he believes there is "the clearest, brightest and most intense light", which plays into the site-specific nature of this piece. As a result, Goldsworthy believes that to truly understand the piece, it must be examined constantly throughout the day as the sun rises and falls, in order to see how the piece changes with the sun's placements in the sky. Stone River is an interesting piece due to the stark contrast created by its very natural components--sunlight and rock--and its unnatural formation as a wall.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Interested, disinterested, & Matthew Arnold

On the topic of the eighteenth century notion that art should have a certain didactic quality to it, versus the twentieth century avant garde idea that art should avoid the moral and the norms that it is so commonly associated with, we look today at some examples in both literature and visual art.
Silliman's "Age of Huts" has provided us with a great deal to look at, but for the sake of length, I will simply summarize. Matthew Arnold's idea of "disinterestedness" is one of enormous proportions; he says that literature is supposed to maintain a disinterested voice, so that the reader can contemplate without being disturbed. That is, the writer should not write in such a way that it disturbs the neutrality of the work, causing an undesired bias/sway in the work itself. In Silliman's poem, we see so much of that "disinterestedness" that is fairly uncommon of so many works. It is a "stream of data" that has literally no bias. It is almost as if he's writing for the sake of writing.
What does all this have to do with situation? Well for starters, it very much is a literary criticism idea that has profound impact in the realms of the situation. By being "interested" or involved and forcing a moral upon the work, it takes the situation away from the reader, in turn giving the reader a linear result. When looking at a "disinterested" work we are able to put ourselves in an ambiguous situation, the result defined clearly by each person's own situation and not by the author's influence.
Another topic we looked at was the idea of anti-didacticism, a focus of the avant garde art of the twentieth century. We look at Duchamp's "The Fountain," an iconic piece of avant garde art, and see a reflection of what we see in Silliman's writing; the emptiness and situation based feeling of interpretation. The question is then worth posing: is there a middle ground? on the scale from didactic to disinterested, can we fall somewhere in between, or do we have to set our feet firmly on the radical ends of the spectrum?
Personally, I hope there's a place for both art that is scholarly and erudite, and work that is free of opinion and allows for complete viewer interpretation. That goes for both art and literature.

Carl Andre

On Monday we spoke of Carl Andre's legacy in the minimalist field of art. To clarify, he's the man who was given upwards of a million dollars for a sculpture he made by stacking blocks he bought from home depot.
This raises some particularly tickling points in the world of situation. The allure of this particular piece doesn't come from the physical work itself as much as it is defined by situation. The buzz that surrounds it lies in the minds of the viewer- hence, if it wasn't the work that Andre was grossly overpaid for, it wouldn't be much of anything to anyone.
This is a highly unique and specific example of situation art, in the realms of minimalism, but there's a lot more to be said about this than just that.
In Fried's chapter on the "good and bad" it struck me as a particularly good example of what I understood Hegel's idea of the "genuine infinite" to be. The bricks are in themselves a very determinate, negation based object. Yet, at the same time, the situation that it is in, that revolves around it, is so undeniably present at all times and is constantly in flux, that it truly may fit the incredibly bewildering definition by Hegel that Fried inserted in the book. That is, the idea of the object being both indeterminate and determinate at the same time, therefore making it genuine. Physically Andre's piece is very negated, yet in every other sense, it is not.
It's hard to say that his work qualifies for much of anything, but on the other hand it is very difficult to deny that his pieces do provoke a great deal of questioning and observation concerning the idea of situation and site-specific art.
For a little taste of another, more site-specific related piece, click on the link below:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Keith Barrett’s “Whalsay” (2001)

In 2001, Keith Barrett designed a wooden structure to be placed on the island of Whalsay in Shetland, Scotland. This structure really draws from its surroundings, especially the water visible in the distance. From certain angles, the structure appears like a shell sticking out of the ground. Other views of the structure suggest boats turned on their sides. Without the sea nearby, it is doubtful that the viewers would be able to make the connection between the shape of the structure and its meaning. For those who dare to enter in between the two sides of the structure, it also serves as shelter from the high winds. From all these different interpretations of the structure, it is easy to see how its surroundings really play into how it is viewed, interpreted, and understood.

Barrett accurately stresses the importance of each element for the success of the piece, saying: "It is only complete in the relationship between the work, its environment and the viewer. Remove one element of this relationship from the equation and the art loses its meaning. The environment of the work is as much a part of the artwork as the built elements. The person who sees the work and engages with it completes the whole."