The CAA conference is pretty much the industry standard place to go for those seeking teaching jobs with colleges, as well as administrative or other jobs with colleges or museums. Unfortunately, it’s a big investment of time and, more importantly for those seeking rather than holding full-time teaching jobs, money. There’s the cost of your CAA membership, the conference registration fee, airfare, hotel, and all of those fancy meals with friends and trips to the bar with more successful colleagues whom you passively aggressively resent, which you rationalize as “networking expenses.” All that shit adds up, and frankly, that kind of travel and fun in the name of business are some of the perks that make the shallow horror of the art world bearable. (“Art world” being here distinctly separate from “art,” the making of which is so a separate from the culture that surrounds it that the common language is misleading, in the same way that a “carpet” isn’t a pet that rides in the car with you. That’s a little Ramona Quimbey reference for the Beverly Cleary fans out there.)
Fortunately for my Chicago-based readers, the College Art Association conference is coming to Chicago in February 2014. It’s a lot easier when you don’t have to travel to get there, and a lot cheaper too. In fact, if you can, you should probably see if any of your fellow alums or old friends from school are coming into town and want to sleep on your couch to save on the cost of a hotel. This can be a great way to turn a competitive frenemy into a collaborator and confidant, as they seek to avoid cognitive dissonance, preserving their positive self-image by attempting to repay the favor by, for example, telling you about an opportunity. (If you’re reading this, and we know each other, even rather distantly, like you saw me naked at a party one time, call or email or hit me up on Facebook, and you’re welcome to the couch or at least some floor space. Even if I kind of hate you.)
There are some tricks to cut the cost and get smart about attending CAA, particularly if your primary motive for attending is as part of a job search. Here’s the dirty little secret most people don’t know about the CAA conference before their first time attending: You don’t need to register for the conference to attend the professional development stuff or go into the Interview Hall. That just requires a current CAA membership, which you’ve probably already gotten, since the friend whose membership number you were using to look at the jobs on the website either got their job or gave up, and either way let their membership expire.
There are good reasons to register for the conference; the price of a badge is well worth it if you’re going to attend a bunch of the panel sessions. These are a great way to keep current in your field, particularly if your field is something like “The Post-Gender Significance of Nipples on Ancient Sumerian Bronze Armor.” It’s also probably a good idea to go if anyone you know is presenting. Just try not to glare at them from the back row, resenting their success. Plaster on a fake smile, fight your way to the front at the end of the presentation, and try to put a positive spin on whatever you’ve been up to for the last couple of years. See if you can call your babysitting gig a performance piece.
I’m talking shit, but I actually really enjoy the panel sessions. I’ve seen some great ones, on “The Opposite of Snake” (spoiler alert, it’s “bird”), and on Nazi curatorial practices at the Exhibition of Degenerate Art. These sorts of art historical things are half professional research (I’m sure they’re good for my making, teaching, and writing, somehow, even if the connections are neither direct nor immediately clear) and half guilty pleasure. For a contemporary artist, writer, or educator, a panel session on a given art historical topic may be neither more nor less relevant to their practice than watching a History Channel special on sea monsters.
The thing is, if you’re on the job hunt, there are far better uses of your time than showing up for the conference because a bunch of jobs you applied for said they’d be interviewing, then scowling your way through a bunch of panel sessions because nobody wanted to interview you. You can prowl the Interview Hall; again, no conference registration required, you just need a current membership ID. During the conference, there’s a career services subsection of the conference section of the website, where they tell you who’s interviewing (useless if you don’t have an interview lined up), but more importantly, who’s accepting drop-off packets. In my experience, at a given conference, an average of 2-3 places have been hiring in my medium (studio art focusing on drawing, painting, or foundations), and accepting drop-off packets.
So rather than bringing 50 copies of your CV, bring 5 full packets, including a generic cover letter, CV, references, sample syllabi, a CD containing 20 images of your work and 20 images of student work (if need be, this can be student work from your graduate assistantship, if that’s all you’ve got), and image lists for those. Copies of your transcripts (unofficial okay) and copies of your generic letters of recommendation aren’t usually necessary, but couldn’t hurt. Obviously you’ll want to bring a USB drive with these documents on it, in both print-ready PDF format as well as editable docx and jpeg files. That way if you discover a typo, you can rush to a computer to fix it (there are computers in the candidate center, or you can use your laptop). You can also go see who’s accepting drop-off packets in your medium, then go bang out a custom cover letter real quick, print it off, sign it, and swap it out for the generic letter in your packet.
It’s also a good idea to bring your images in multiple formats: at a mock interview I signed up for, the mock interviewer’s laptop was newly-issued to him, and he didn’t realize until our interview that it didn’t have a CD drive! Fortunately, I had my images available on my website, as 8 ½” x 11” prints in an Itoya folder, and on my USB drive, so this wasn’t a major problem. On a related note, one tip I received was that if you’re offered an interview, bring new copies of all the materials you submitted with you to the interview, because it’s entirely possible that the interviewers didn’t bring them, lost them, forgot them, or dropped them on the subway. So bring new ones, just in case. Some other helpful tips I received at the various professional development workshops I attended were:
1. On your CV’s exhibition list, don’t separate solo shows from group shows until later in your career. It’s confusing to the search committee to have to jump around. Keep ‘em together, in reverse chronological order.
2. Separate solo shows from group shows, to highlight them. Your solo shows, particularly if they’re at a reputable gallery, are the heart of your exhibition record, so they should go at the top.
3. Remove from your exhibition history any shows at coffee shops, bars, restaurants, banks, or other businesses.
4. Omit nothing from your CV. Include everything. The definition of a CV is a complete record of ALL of your professional activity.
5. Use printed CD labels. Writing your information on the cd in marker looks unprofessional.
6. Don’t use printed CD labels. They can get stuck in the CD drive. Write your information directly on the CD in marker.
Literally, I received all six of those tips at one time or another while at the conference this year. Like Ned Flanders, I’ve tried to follow all of these commandments, “even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff.” The annual CAA conference takes place in February, more the middle of the “search season” than the end, so even if, like me, you don’t score any interviews at CAA, it’s not too late to put these tips into practice. Full time teaching positions for the Fall often have deadlines as late as the preceding March or April, so if you’re looking now, there are still a few postings open for Fall 2013 positions. If none of them pan out, well, I’ll see you there, February 12–15, 2014, somewhere in Chicago (probably the Hyatt Regency on Wacker, where they held it in 2010). May the odds be ever in your favor.
This week, I feel like writers have been articulating an inherent push against traditional boundaries and bounds — what is art that smells? Where do we locate the human/non-human divide? What if we dissolve that distinction? What becomes of performance then? I am deeply interested in blurring the borders and bounds between human/non-human, natural/unnatural, living/non-living, as in doing we can destabilize hierarchal patterns that have been in place for decades. It sounds crazy, maybe — but consider how much one’s thought would shift if we simply de-emphasized the Human. If the Natural panorama was equivalent with a panaromic, digital experience — the immediate recoil and rejection of such a thought reveals some the depth of our quasi-relgious interpretations of “landscape.”
We began the week with a buffet of smells, as provided by Shane MacAdams’ visit to a “smell show” called Art and Scent in NYC, a show that called enough attention to smell that it affected his experience of surrounding environs. As he put it, “Any quaintness Greenpoint offers is mitigated by the realization that it’s sitting on 30 million gallons of spilled oil, that comes out in occasional farts that engulf the neighborhood.”
There seems to be an obvious connection between that undercurrent of oil and João Florêncio’s post, “Performing Ecology,” where Florêncio goes through series of snapshots (or “Scenes), describing the performance of the body in space, illustrating the connecting networks that such performances can highlight. For instance:
Scene 6. Johannesburg, South Africa. A white man in drag wears an old chandelier as if it was a tutu and struggles to balance himself on his disproportionately high high-heel shoes while walking on debris, stones, and dirt in one of South Africa’s shanty towns. Around him, workers hired by the local authority, armed with crowbars and wearing orange overalls, demolish the locals’ dwellings to allow for the construction of the future Nelson Mandela bridge. This is Steven Cohen’s Chandelier.
These scenes are not strictly about humankind. Rather, they illustrate our position in our present ecological time, a time that has been coined: “Anthropocene.” Florêncio will continue to write about this in the coming months: “I will be presenting an overview of the anthropocentric role theatre and performance have played throughout History, some of the ways in which they have been criticised and reinvented, and, ultimately, the ways in which they ought to be thought differently as a consequence of their unfolding on the broad Anthropocenic stage.”
Victor Delvecchio posted about Performance Architecture — focusing on the work of Alex Schweder and how his intervening “scripts” at the TATE altered visitors’ movement through the museum. “Having worked seven years as a mold and leak expert… [Schweder] comes to the point that buildings are alive, uprating much more similarities to our flesh than we want them to.” Schweder, who’s show at Opus Project Space in NY opened this weekend, describes the work this way:
Performance architecture is about aestheticizing the action that occurs within the building and using the building as a script for doing so. There is a whole history of architecture involving the body as an example giving a kind of history of how idealized bodies have come to inform the way we design building, building as effigies of those bodies that we would like to have; and then we occupy these bodies that we would like to have.
Juliana Driever posted a great interview with Mare Liberum, a “freeform publishing, boatbuilding and waterfront art collective based in the Gowanus, Brooklyn.” Throughout the week, I feel like there is a regular return to the idea of our environment and this interview is no exception. In the words of one ML member, Dylan Gauthier:
We borrowed the name Mare Liberum – which is latin for Freedom of the Seas – from a 17th century commentary which championed the natural rights of maritime trade and navigation and forms the basis of modern maritime law… In taking the name we oriented the collective toward a study of past relationships with the water as well as to the present environmental threat to the sea through global warming but also the exploitation of oil resources and other risky undertakings that threaten the health and stability of this water-commons. For us Mare Liberum is also a bit tongue-in-cheek, since we were interested in getting out on the water for as little cost as possible, hence our translation and our website “thefreeseas.org”.
Our Atlanta-based correspondent, Meredith Kooi posted a great essay about Full Radius Dance’s performance of Touch:
Touch, in its multiple parts involved dancers of varying bodies and abilities. As a physically-integrated dance company, Full Radius’ dancers are both abled and disabled, some use wheelchairs in their everyday lives. [Douglas] Scott first became engaged in this practice through a workshop offered at Shepherd Center, a hospital and rehabilitation center located in Atlanta that specializes in medical treatment, research, and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord and brain injuries. He realized that all bodies do not move the same way that his does and that there was opportunity to explore the “limits of physicality” with various bodies.
What’s amazing about Kooi’s description of the dance, is the way wheel chairs are fully absorbed and incorporated into the whole choreography, thereby pushing the bounds of what we might consider “body” and “non-body” (or machine). This article raises questions about how we define the body, and especially, how we might engage and incorporate the non-normative body. It reminds of Anthony Romero’s post from a while back, “What Can Be Done with Dance?” where he reminds us that most space is defined by “an athletic body.”
The week would be remiss without Stephanie Burke’s TOP 5 — a veritable road map for gallery enthusiasts. (CHECK IT OUUUT!)
Richard Holland has started a new column in the spirit of levity and delight — so keep your eyes peeled for that, and here is his first installment. It’ll be a nice respite from the Anthropocene……
(At least we can safely say, the Mayan’s were wrong)
Abraham Ritchie was inspired to post an essay about everyone’s darling THE BEAN, in reaction to a live tweet he disagreed with (that’s intended as a kind of bread crumb trail. In case you want to go back and follow the tweets, so to speak). What I’d like to repost here is an excerpt from the end of Ritchie’s essay (and please, take note of Ritchie’s use of the word “alien,” because I at least have always assumed that if the world ever does end, that thing is probably going to turn into a space ship and carry the president to safety.):
The alien form of the abstraction identifies itself immediately as Art but does not alienate, instead it draws people in through their curiosity and the work’s generosity. Kapoor’s contribution accomplishes the mission of Millennium Park, while being wholly successful on its own terms. Rather than an indifferent sculpture, this is public art that lives up to the aspirations of its genre, bringing people together and inspiring them.
Part of what is so awesome about The Bean is that it is alien, and strange, and yet it engages its audience (us) by reflecting our faces. We are fascinated by the translated-fun-house-mirror distortion.
Nicholas O’Brien asks about site specificity when applied to the digital space? How does such an application challenge traditional ideas about installation, and can we apply the same terminology Land Art employs with regard to site. Here too, O’Brien engages a virtual landscape as a literal one. In doing so it can easily feel alien, it might even reflexively alienate oneself (or me) from the supposed “natural” landscape (after all, I certainly spend more time on line that outdoors).
Perhaps it makes good sense that we begin the week in NY and end the week in LA: a successful coast-to-coast transfer. We began with smell and we end with Adrienne Harris’ post on a murder mystery game at the Getty. There is something I deeply dig about the simulacre of a murder mystery scavenger hunt — the body-lessness of the crime. The parody of real life located in the land of Hollywood. In Chicago we stand in the dregs of winter — warming days that melt and muddy the world, only to morph into freezing night that stiffen everything anew. The point is, I’m always daydreaming about California. Someone told me once that California was the future — it was as far into the future as any American could go. The edge of the West. On the edge of that coast you stare into the east, though my same friend pointed out there is an island of plastic in the way, otherwise known as the Plastic Vortex.
Today is a truly gorgeous day in Los Angeles. It’s sunny and warm. The sky is blue, the traffic is light and the brunch crowds are friendly, enjoying another beautiful weekend on the left coast. In fact, most days in LA are relatively gorgeous. We really do have excellent weather and blue skies with an unreasonable consistency. It’s early March and Los Angelinos are in t-shirts and sandals, enjoying our comfortable 80 degree weather while much of the rest of the Country suffers through a frigid Winter. So what do we do with our delightfully sunny and pleasant weekends? We lounge. We go sunbathe at the beach or stroll around the Farmer’s Markets. We hike Runyon Canyon and walk in Griffith Park. We go to the dog park (because everyone in LA has a dog) or take our adorably well dressed kids to the zoo. Or, if you are a super sleuthing wanna-be detective, art lover (like I am) you go to a Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt at the J. Paul Getty Museum that sits high in the rolling hills overlooking the city.
Now, I’ve been to the Getty before. Lots of times in fact. It is an impressive museum that apparently houses some beautiful and valuable works of art, but that is not why people flock to this particular museum. The Getty itself is a work of art. The architecture, the landscaping and the views it offers are all breathtaking. The buildings are slick white stone with fountains and water fixtures in every courtyard. The trees are planted and pruned in perfect symmetry, a veritable geometry lesson in right angles and perfect squares. The garden is a spiral of creeks, flower lined paths and footbridges, and the lawn is a stretch of perfect, almost neon green grass, sprinkled with picnic blankets of romantic couples and adorable families. There are also hidden secrets that a guided tour of the museum will enlighten its viewers about. A leaf stamped into a stair is there on purpose because, I don’t know, Getty loved leaves or something…I don’t remember, I took the tour years ago. And admission is free! It’s a magical place and I love to share it with out-of-town visitors. And so, last weekend, when a friend from New York came out to visit we went there, but not just to gaze at the spectacle of the Getty, but to take part in a Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt that a friend of mine signed a group of us up for. I thought this would be a perfect activity, and extra bit of fun as we walked around the Getty and took in a little art and culture.
What is a Murder Mystery Scavenger Hunt, you wonder? Well, let me tell you. A company called Watson Hunts sets these games up in cities all over the Country. Basically, you and your team wander around the museum solving clues about the works of art in the different wings of the museum and fill in the answers on your work sheet. Then you analyze not only your answers but also the clues themselves (left by the murdered museum curator…duh!) to piece together who murdered the curator and why he (or she) had done it! You have two hours to complete this task, and come up with a clever team name.
My team, the Van Gogh-Get ‘Ems were determined to win, and so we set off, racing through rooms, solving codes, whispering answers together and manipulating other teams to throw them off our trail. My friend from New York was an inspired asset to our team. She was practically a ringer, solving the clues and decoding the anagrams in a matter of seconds. And before we knew it, our two hours were up, the sun had set, the game was over and we had won!
Later that night I thought about our afternoon at the Getty and was struck by something. I had brought my out-of-town friend there so she could see one of the best sites that LA had to offer, and we had neglected to appreciate any of it. We were so busy rushing around, determined to win, that we hadn’t really looked at any of the art, except to locate the next clue. We hadn’t appreciated the 360 degree views from the balconies. As we raced from one building to another, I would occasionally yell out to my friend, “hey friend…look at that view! Isn’t it great? Now hurry up!” and we would rush through a courtyard, ignoring an enchanting fountain, back inside to solve the next clue. In fact, as the sun set over the ocean, we were gathered inside at the café (which is pretty gourmet for a museum café) to analyze our answers and solve the murder. We missed the sunset. I’m told it was glorious.
This is the problem with life in LA, sometimes. We take the beautiful things about living here for granted. We spend all day in our cars, or in our offices, in writers’ rooms or on a dark sound stage (but mostly in our cars) and we don’t stop to watch the sunset, or dare I say it, smell the flowers. We take an hour or two on the weekends to hike, or walk our dogs, or go to a museum and then spend it rushing around trying to beat the other team. Maybe I’m wrong. I do know some people who are super outdoorsy and settled and teach yoga and eat Organic and all that good California stuff, and they are living the hell out of their Southern Californian dream (like Katy Perry in her California Girls music video) but what I seem to hear people grumbling about most often while I wait in line to buy coffee or at the bank is how cut throat, competitive and insular their LA life has become. I know what they mean. I wanted to show my New Yorker lawyer friend how beautiful life outside the mad rush of the Big Apple could be, but we spent most of our time running around a museum and sitting in a dark corner at a wine bar where the exposed brick and dim lighting seemed much more suited for her city than mine.
Maybe this is not just a LA phenomena. Maybe this is true of every great city. Maybe this is why people move to the country…to make sure they are living the most lively of lives. Maybe I just feel more regret about not being outside more in LA because the weather is so nice. So you see, it is not my fault that I am busy inside trying very hard to be successful instead outside enjoying my life. It is LA’s fault for being so sunny all the time and making me feel bad about it. (As I write this I can feel my yoga teacher friend shaking her head at me…”you just don’t get it…and maybe you never will”)
So the lesson that I chose to take away from this experience at the J Paul Getty Museum is that in order to be a truly happy Los Angelino you should arrive for your treasure hunt early enough to show your friend the art, the views and garden AND THEN kick the other teams’ asses and walk away victorious! A Perfect Afternoon! Now, if you will excuse me, I have to slip on my sandals and drive to brunch, where, if I’m lucky, I can get an outside table.
by Richard Holland
I had kids for many reasons, they are wonderful. One of the fringe benefits is that they enable me to spend lots of time rediscovering cartoons I’ve loved in the past and exploring the current crop of offerings. I was always more Warner Brothers than Disney, but Disney has some excellent and at times charmingly subversive offerings. The best of which is today’s delightful thing: Phineas and Ferb. It is a thoroughly entertaining mix silliness, fun, with plenty of allusions and clever asides to keep adults on board. The premise is simple as laid out in the ska-power-pop-punk theme song, Phineas and his half brother Ferb are going to maximize every moment of their summer vacation, usually in the form of building something outrageous, as their disgruntled sister tries and fails to out their mischief to Mom. There is a side plot every episode pitting their pet platypus (in his closeted secret life) against his nemesis Doctor Heinz Doofenshmirtz. It is pleasantly formulaic and never becomes rote or unimaginative. Bonus in that the line “and giving a monkey a shower” in the theme makes Hank laugh every time without fail.
So, having a lousy day, bored, disgruntled. Here you go, and this episode even has a contemporary art theme:
In an exhibition last year at the Geffen Contemporary in Los Angeles entitled Ends of the Earth: Land Art to 1974 co-curators Phillip Kaiser and Miwon Kwon attempted to create the most comprehensive assessment and categorization Land Art to date. This exhibition was lauded for not merely being comprehensive, but also for challenging the American-centric notions that usually define this movement, thus extending the conversation into a more international discourse. Thinking about this exhibition, and the attempts by the curators to reintroduce site-specific practices into a contemporary conversation has made me question the role of site and of location within digitally produced works.
Kwon herself offers many perspectives on the shifting state of site-specific work in her One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity. The book examines the emergence of site-specific artworks as a direct response to the stale/domestic/white cube settings that more commonly permeate contemporary art at the time. She notably points to the shift of site-specificity from wilderness sites back into the gallery due to the convenience of re-fabrication processes. This practice is then eventually supplanted by an adoption of institutional critique performance by museums as a way of continuing to support site-specificity work. However, this gesture of support still truncates this work within the confines walls of the institution. As a result of the increased modularity and/or insularity of many site-specific works – an effort to make these pieces more capable of traveling to multiple institutions – Kwon argues that the very nature of a site-specific practice is more mobile as of late. As a result:
“the specificity of the site in terms of time and space is rendered irrelevant, making it all the easier for autonomy to be smuggled back into the art work… The artwork is newly objectified (and commodified) and site specificity is redescribed as the personal aesthetic choice of an artist’s stylistic preference rather than a structural reorganization of aesthetic experience…. In this way, site-specific art comes to represent criticality rather than performing it.”
This trajectory not only asks artists to take hold of the performative role of a location based work (as famously done by Andrea Fraser) but it also asks artists to take the materiality of mobility as the primary location for criticism. If a work of location-based art is freed from needing specific time and space to discuss locational identity, then how might this serve an artist already working with a medium that embraces mobility? If one were to embrace the spatial and temporal flexibility of location then this site can become decentralized or abstracted in order to speak to the underlying cultural significance of a specific place.
It’s important to note here the importance difference in the two types of locations that artists might engage: space and place. In space, artists are concerned with geography, geometry, and dimensions of distance or volume; however, in place, artists are investigating the culture, history, identity, and politics of a location. This differentiation is important since space is the only location of the two that requires (or at least asks) the artist to be physically present with the site. (Various Marina Abramovic puns can be inserted here).
With place, that physicality is not required. In fact, place does not inherently require any physical manifestation whatsoever. Place can exist in memory, in writing, in oration, or in any variable/ephemeral media. In this way, place is much more akin to Conceptual art of the 1970s, where the idea of a work takes precedence, and the execution of object-making for the purposes of containing that idea are secondary (or at least that is the hope). If place can then exist within non-physical environments, then it is a ripe location for digital artists to inhabit and work within.
I feel as though there are already artists dealing with space as a decentralized phenomenon. For instance, in his Tantamount Series, JK Keller flattens various mountain peaks into a unified horizon line. This gesture then visually and metaphorically flattens the rooftops of the world into one single homogenous space. Regardless of Keller’s visually inventive gesture, this work does not necessarily take into account the actual placial relationships these locations might possibly have with one another. The decentrality of these mountaintops marks these locations more as a type of “any-space-whatever” then it does a place with a specific history/identity. This is not to fault Keller by any means, but his work serves as fitting evidence of a continued trepidation to address place within the digital arts.
Some artists seem to be slowly approaching place as it relates to personal history, however. Nicolas Sassoon has made a couple of works – notably Fidji – that address the architectural history of locations from his childhood and how these sites have influenced his amazingly consistent style. Works like Legend by Timur Si-Qin, on the other hand, addresses place not through personal narrative, but through the context of the gallery in which he is shown/invited. The place in this piece (although situated in a specific space) involves the family of one of the gallerists. Si-Qin asks the gallerist to engage with her father’s interest in medieval reenactment through the devices of contemporary warfare. This process then creates a fictional, decentralized place that involves a specific family history and cultural lineage. The catalyst for creating place in this work occurs in the “simulated anachronistic battle [that] double[s] as the act of artistic production.” The physical space of the gallery is then made somewhat irrelevant, and in turn creates a “context-specific project.” (Above quotes taken from the press release of the exhibition at Fluxia in Italy).
Si-Qin combats falling into the trappings of a more typical context-driven methodology that takes cues from the spatial concerns presented by a physical gallery or institution. This more standard way of working, however, is what most artists I know would identify as site-specific work (or what I too have identified in the past for invitational projects). It goes something like: a gallery asks to do a show with an artist, and the artist seeks to make a new body of work in response to such a request. This process is still grounded in issues of space, and rarely addresses the place of the gallery or site. As a result of this trend the gallery itself becomes a no-place, and merely serves as a spatial vessel for transporting (or manifesting) the consumable goods that Kwon had initially argued against. However, because digital art does not require spatial presentation of a work (although some would argue this abandonment is naïve), artists in this medium should take the opportunity to create work that investigates the nuances of place.
I could be asking for too much, since the lure and attraction of showing in a gallery poses artists with an opportunity to sell work or to recoup production/education costs. I suppose it’s more than a lure, it’s a real/physical possibility that digital artists are rarely afforded. But in my mind artists should already be working on projects or ideas regardless of representation and/or exhibition opportunities. Due to the accessibility – and I use that term lightly – of the net, the potential for emphasizing placial concerns should be unavoidable. This is particularly the case since the space of the Internet is much more decentralized. So why is there still reservations in discussing the potential of a decentralized place?
It might be that the conceptual project of a decentralized place is much more of a challenge to those already comfortable with the idea of working within decentralized space. How does one talk about the specifics of a culture or history in such a way that is not predicated on a particular geography? One recent project that I feel is attempting to approach this conundrum is a kickstarter initiative by Lance Wakeling entitled Field Visits for Bradley Manning. In his description of the project Wakeling outlines a particular methodology for tackling the task of decentralized place through looking at multiple spaces:
“despite the title, Field Visits is not a straight-up documentary about Bradley Manning. Instead, the video explores the peripheral histories and landscapes of the surrounding areas. The case of Manning and the fight for open information become one tile in the larger mosaic of an internet impatient to assume the world.”
By stitching together histories, sites, and spaces, Wakeling is attempting to create a place – an imagined and decentralized location – to discuss the implications of free information in a heavily surveiled society. In doing so, the space of these locations – Kuwait, Virginia, Kansas, and Maryland – becomes subservient to the place in which these locations come to represent. Thus the place of this work is situated in a decentralized location.
In looking back at the strategies of Land Artists included in Kwon’s exhibition one can observe how desire to relocate art outside of the minimalist influenced “neutral” interiors of the gallery was an act of rebellion against the sterility of that aesthetic. The organic forms of Land Art, in and of themselves, serve as an oppositional stance against the geometric rigidity and spatial obsessiveness of minimalism. Artists working with digital technology have certainly taken it upon themselves to investigate how the ephemeral material of their medium challenges traditional notions of space. However, artists of this ilk must also take advantage of that ephemeral materiality as a way to challenge traditional notions of place. In this way, I wonder how the potential for a new form of decentralized or actively mobile site-specificity might in turn serve as a reaction against the rapid commercialization and institutionalization of art online.