Nomadic Sites

I’ve been reading ‘One Place After Another’ by Miwon Kwon, which has led me to thinking about the nature of practices which engage with site. In the book, Kwon discusses the genealogy of site-specific art from the Serra era of works which respond to environmental conditions, to Suzanne Lacy’s new genre public art and beyond.

What emerges through the text is the evolution of art practices in which site is structured intertextually not spatially; site as a fragmentary sequence of events and actions through space (a model being the itinerary of a journey). This changes the role of the artist, as “..the intricate orchestration of literal and discursive sites that make up a nomadic narrative requires the artist as a narrator-protagonist…”; of the artist as facilitator of relationships in space.

Suzanne Lacy describes what exists between ‘public’ and ‘art’ as the unknown relationship between the artist and audience; a relationship that may itself be the artwork. So if architect and site are displaced by community, audience and social issue, as different kinds of spaces, how does this affect approaches to practice in the public realm? One way can be for artists to see community as what Bruce Robbins calls an ‘idealized specter’, enabling a fiction of unity that in fact reinforces ‘a closed system of differences’ (Chantal Mouffe).

Through conversations with my sister and collaborator Rebecca, I have been thinking about how our work could reverse site and situation, in an attempt to counteract this. Rather than the physicality of site, to insert situation INTO site. So that the practitioner and site are effectively nomadic, and we design and adapt situations according to the conditions we find. Situation as a filter for design; site as answering a set of criteria for situation, rather than the other way round.

What this has made me realise is key to my work is the logistics, and negotiation processes, involved in creating situations in sites. That in fact this might be where the practice is: not just in the outcome or the final event but in the processes and relationships, and the knowledge accumulated through dialogue.

Therefore, developing work for a new exhibition at August Art in March with curator Winnie, what emerged was the idea of a live residency in the gallery which will create the work on site, in part using the Brixton stories we collected, and also responding to conversations which take place with gallery visitors and passers by. I’ll be researching and posting further ideas on the work and process over the coming weeks…

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