Administrator’s note: This week’s topic is by Rebecca Jones, who provokes an inquiry into the relationship between site specificity and the ubiquitous “art fairs.”
In Miwon Kwon’s “One Place After Another: Notes on Site Specificity”, Kwon lays out a chronological history of the types of sites that site specific works have worked with and within. The text was written in 1997 and an interesting new phenomenon to discuss in the context of sites for art is the more prevalent than ever Art Fair. The nomadic location of the Art Fair is not the same set of limitations for the artist to work within as a gallery or museum because it is not a physically grounded site. However, the Art Fair carries with it the same framing function that the gallery does, by being in a fixed and enclosed context, politically, geographically, and culturally. The context shifts from location to location of course, and so the same work is read differently each time, like a traveling exhibition. But now the work has a new set of restrictions unique to the concept of the Art Fair.
The institutional critique of the 1970’s that began the pronounced emphasis on subversion in site specific works (with Mel Bochner’s “Measurement Series”, as an example), as well as the prevailing resistance to commodification (as discussed by Kwon) has more potential than ever in the Art Fair, which now directly manifests the heightened capitalism and nomadic “societies of power” of our times (as in Gilles DeLeuze’s “Postscript on the Societies of Control”). It will be interesting to see whether or not, as it grows and continues, there will be a resurgence of such subversion with the site of the Art Fair as its main focus.
A second aspect of the relationship between the Art Fair and site specific work is the opportunity to be specific to a new physical site, not just a new political or theoretical site. In the Art Fairs in
Kwon asserts that “artists are inevitably engaged in the process of cultural legitimation” despite an intent or stated position against it. And so the question presented by the new prevalence of Art Fairs, is whether artists will succumb to the extreme commodification of their works they participate in by having them taken around from one hyper-commercial fair to the next, or if they will start to take command more of the commercial process through the work that gets passed around.
Reading for 7 February: Chapter 7: “YBA as Critique: The Socio-Political Inferences of the Mediated Identity of Recent British Art” by James Gaywood.