Models of Site-related Artpractice: Critical Potential and Mobility in the Phenomenological Model of Site-specific Art
This paper draws on the social theory of sociologist Anthony Giddens to reconsider an aspect of the three-model schema used by art-theorist Miwon Kwon to analyse developments in site-related art practices since the 1960s. The schema's three models of the site are the phenomenomological, institutional-critique and discursive models. The paper focuses on the phenomenological model, arguing that its critical potential now is greater than that claimed in the schema. It does this partly by reconsidering the language available to artwork using the phenomenological model and partly by drawing on Giddens' account of modernity to assess the social and political significance of that language. The paper suggests its spatial language gives artworks the potential to propose new relationships between the abstract space of art and the literal space of the sites or places of artworks' locations. This contrasts with the language of the institutional-critique model of Kwon's schema, the critical potential of which lies less in constructing new spatial relationships with artworks' literal sites and more in using art's representational language to comment critically on the institutions in which they are located. The paper then draws on Giddens 'account of modernity and its consequences to interpret the social and political significance of the relationships that artworks have the potential to construct when employing this understanding of the phenomenological model. This significance lies in the role played by the value of place in Giddens' account. This is drawn on to suggest that new relationships that revalue the literal space of artworks' locations enable artwork using the phenomenological model to contribute to the much-needed social movement towards a post-modernity in which place is revalued, and away from the high-consequences risks that Giddens outlines in his account of modernity and its consequences.
Keywords: The Phenomenological Model of the Site, Site-Specific Art, Miwon Kwon, Anthony Giddens
Dr. Margaret Roberts
Lecturer, National Art School
who recently completed a PhD thesis at Sydney College of the Art titled 'Art
and the Status of Place'.