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February 15, 2008

Thinking About Space...5. The Proposal

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The last entry was meant to cover this topic but I ran out of steam. I think though that the discussion of site specificity is an important one in my consideration of this project. We were introduced to this topic in a class room. As part of the description of both the class and this project we were asked to read articles, look into Zumthor's Kolumba, Richter's stained glass window at the Cologne Cathedral, and asked to attend a special Saturday edition of glass at D. Devening's studio space and his gallery space Devening Projects + Editions. I have already touched on the articles and the window and museum. So, today I will put down some of my thoughts on the class session.

What is Devening Projects + Editions?

I am sure that Dan has a fancy description of his project space on his website...Instead I will just say the room where our project is to take place is smallish, rectangular, features two types of lighting (flourecent tubes, and bright white track lights). The walls are immaculate except for a remnant of the original space, a wooden beam which protrudes about 5 inches from the rest of the wall effectively breaking the space of the wall to the right.
The space is entered from a single door which faces the far wall.
I will say again here that the project space was introduced to us as part of Dan's art practice. Something like "Yes, I definitely consider curating part of my practice."

So what's the idea?

These days I have been thinking a lot about the internets. More specifically about the "social" role(S) played out on the internet. I have been intrigued by sites like digg or communities like stumble, or flikr, or even facebook. There are several things which are interesting to consider in this case I want to consider youtube.com as a virtual space/site/dwelling. Millions of people around the world across just about every demographic actively use youtube to upload, watch, share, and comment on mostly short videos. Most of the content then is really shitty DIY home video style stuff. But, often the most popular videos are advertisements like the new Indiana Jones movie. So, despite the availability of millions of vids. people still choose to watch an advertisement...Another quite curious thing is wild popularity of the voyeuristic vid. I have seen many videos of "the others" doing curious things...perhaps the most shocking and even disgusting of these vids. are the reaction tapes to the porno clip two girls one cup. The idea that people live out these social situations for the entertainment of everyone is curious. Youtube also serves as an archive for shared social memory in this way. Apart from the tourist vids. of nice places like the Cologne Cathedral youtube is also saving odd social situations. In addition to all these above reasons/ideas youtube also allows the ability to comment. The user comment board is another very odd thing to consider. Why is it that people feel the need to write "first" if they are first to comment? One of the funniest things I have ever heard is news media referring to "Anonymous" commentors or author's as a "terrorist" organization. The comments are hilarious even though it seems more often than not they are just for the LULZ.

My official proposal for the DD space then is to install several (or as many as possible) projections with sounds in the space and on these screens play youtube or other social network style site content on these screens with the following rubric: all content must be produced by someone/anyone from the area of Devening's project space. The content should be shown with the comments, and the ability to comment should also be available in the gallery space.

For some other information on the internets and terms like LULZ and trolling check out the Encyclopedia Dramatica. Keep in mind that everything on that site if meant to offend, but its all for the LULZ. Or just google LULZ. http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=lulz&btnG=Search+Images&gbv=2

February 8, 2008

Thinking About Space...4. The Proposal

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In my introduction to these series of posts on SPACE I wrote briefly about a curatorial project which my class will be proposing for our instructor's gallery space, Devening Projects + Editions. This entry is a compilation of my thoughts on this project. I will limit this entry to a brief definition of "the white cube", issues of site specificity, and issues related to curatorial projects or artist as curator. In pursuit of this end I will include some ideas from Miwon Kwon's essay "One Place After Another: Notes on Site Specificity" all quotes then will be from this essay unless otherwise stated.

What is the white cube?

In January I had the opportunity to see some Chelsea galleries and New York City for the first time. In introducing the idea of site specificity is important to consider Chelsea galleries as the epitome of the "white cube". For those outside art related fields it may seem strange to consider the immaculate white walls, high ceilings, and bright lights as anything more than a perfect place for showing and selling art. For some artists and curators the idea of the white cube is more than just a nice space, it is the embodiment of the "institution" against which they must react. But what makes a space a "white cube"? A white cube is space designed for the viewing art most often with the end of selling work in mind. A white cube then is meant to be a perfect setting for this end, the viewing space should not interfere or hinder the viewing of the art in anyway, the space should recede from the work and leave you and the work "in the clearing". The white cube then is a sort of no-place space, a not specific site, an "innocent space" (39).

What is site specificity? A Look at Miwon Kwon's Essay

Site specificity according to Kwon can be defined as a mode of thinking which emerged in the late 60s and early 70s which was a reversal of the modernist paradigm of thinking of art work as "autonomous, self-referential, transportable, placeless, and nomadic" (38). Site specific work is further characterized as having at least two distinct approaches. The second approach leads to a third mode which I see as derivative of the second.

The first is characterized by emphasis on the physical. Richard Serra, according to Kwon would fall into this first category. This first type stresses "the physical inseparability between a work and its site of installation" (39). The second mode of thinking of site specificity is "informed by the contextual thinking of minimalism, various forms of institutional critique and conceptual art" (39). This model emphasizes a challenging of "the innocence of space and the accompanying presumption of a universal viewing subject" (39). Artists like Michael Asher, Marcel Broodthaers, Hans Haake, and Robert Smithson fall in this category of thinking. Importantly this second mode includes the firsts consideration of physical and spacial terms but stresses the "cultural framework defined by the institutions of art" (39-40). Kwon describes this further:

"The modern gallery/museum space, for instance, with its stark white walls, artificial lighting, controlled climate, and pristine architectonics, was perceived not soley in terms of basic dimensions and proportion but as an institutional disguise, a normative exhibition convention serving an ideological function. 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 hierarchization of values "objective," "disinterested," and "true" (40 my bold).

This idea can be extended "to encompass interrelated but different spaces and economies...the studio, gallery, museum, art criticism, art history, the art market, etc. that together constitute a system" which is inextricably connected to and controlled by "social, economic, and political pressures" (40). All these things together are what make a site specific and to be specific to such a site is to decode, recode, or expose the institutional conventions at play (40-42). An even further extension of this mode leads to a third notion of the site specific. The third mode as described by Kwon is characterized by several ideas with much overlap from the second. I will list the characteristics here rather than work through Kwon's explanation.

Characteristics of the third mode for site specificity:

  • a focus on institutional effects and techniques as they circumscribe the definition, production, presentation, and dissemination of art
  • a de-aesthetization ie withdrawal of visual pleasure
  • dematerialization of the art work
  • resistance to commofication
  • stress temporal boundaries
  • the viewer becomes active in viewing and critique of institution and or work of art
  • work not solely physical
  • impermanence
  • work is integrated into social, political, etc. realm
  • spatial expansion, radio, internets etc.
  • informed by broad range: sociology, literary criticism, psychology, etc.
  • attuned to pop culture
  • site is not a pre-condition
  • site becomes semantic
  • curatorial framework becomes a site
  • location can be discursive
  • anything can be a site!
  • site specificity no longer is in an indexical relationship to physical space
  • (40-46)

The last characteristics in bold are those which most clearly represent this third mode of site specificity. Finally, I will emphasize that according to Kwon

"these modes are not stages in a linear trajectory of historical development. Rather, they are competing definitions, overlapping with one another and operating simultaneously in various cultural practices..." (46)

Kwon in her essay uses these three notions of site specificity as a launching pad for her further discussion of site specific art. Though interesting in the examination of the success of site specific art work I do not have the energy to include notes on that discussion here. Instead I will skip ahead to her discussion of artist as curator.

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The Birth/Death of the Author? Artist as Curator...

What happens when site specific becomes a semantic game? According to Kwon it can result in "a hermetic implosion of auto biographical and subjectivist indulgences, and myopic narcissism is misrepresented as self-reflexivity" (53). Wow! The artist becomes a sort of commodity, but not in the sense of a celebrity that is "produced/consumed" but more in the sense that the artist reflects what has already occurred in relation to "production and labor relations...which are no longer bound to the realm of manufacturing things but is defined in relation to the service and management industries. ..What artists provide now, rather than produce, are aesthetic, often "critical-artistic," services" (53). So, artists have become "negotiators, coordinators, compromisers, researchers, organizers, interviewers, etc...aesthetics of administration" and "artists now function as authorial figures in their own right" (53 my bold). This change in thinking has led to a reemergence "of the centrality of the artist as the progenitor of meaning" when as already stated can result in "a hermetic implosion of auto biographical and subjectivist indulgences, and myopic narcissism is misrepresented as self-reflexivity" (53). Wow!
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So what to do about this project?

RUN FORREST! Ok. So this is an abrupt end. But I am out of time. Tune in later for a look at the project specifics and some proposal ideas!

February 6, 2008

Thinking About Space...3. Richter's Stained Glass

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Another installment of thoughts on SPACE.

The focus today is Richter's stained glass work for the Cologne Cathedral. I will again just add a couple links with a short summary of the article...


I saw this article on WIRED months ago but did not pay to close attention to it. The article is short and does not say much about the window.

This second article from sightandsound.com is longer and more informative about the project and Richter's thought process on the whole thing. The author does make some claims that are seemingly based on anecdotal evidence more than anything else...

An article from artforum.com has some interesting commentary on the religiousness of the work. Interesting considering that Richter stays "neutral" on the topic. This article from artnet.de suggests that Richter's work in this case is evolution in Richter's ideas. A change from "antagonism" to this change of heart. "I'm less antagonistic to 'the holy', to the spiritual experience, these days," he said. "It's part of us, and we need that quality."

Just for good measure a New York Times article...It's good but does not say anything new...

Now some video links.


This video is a personal video of the interior of the cathedral prior to the new Richter window. It is good to see the plain glass window, and to get a sense of the immensity of the cathedral interior and the echoing sounds.

I hoped to find a nice video of the Richter window but could not. So, that's all for now.