Art After Modernism-Fall Semester 2013

On Consideration of a Hornet’s Nest

      Thought waves about intertextuality and intermediality constantly came to mind as I parsed through the essays from the reading list below. There was a sharpness of theory and facts in Miwon Kwon’s essay that remained limitlessly complicated to me as they seemed to coincide in explanations and were brought forward into thoughts about art today. It made me want to immediately purchase Situation, a book edited by Claire Doherty that I passed up when ordering reference material for my research for this semester.

In my investigations I discovered the simplest definition of intertextuality as it usually defines literary text and intermediality in its simplest relevance to inter-art do not cut it when related to site art (as, or in place; as, or in space, and all other iterations), and are further complicated by any combinations of what Kwon described as “… the three paradigms of site specificity…phenomenological, social/institutional, and discursive…” and are exactly as she wrote in her essay as not punctual, not neatly linear stages, and that are overlapping and very often simultaneous. [1]

While working this past week to prepare for a meeting tomorrow about water issues in the Southern region of the Chihuahuan Desert, I struggled with Kwon’s essay and how it might relate to this possible new division of my art practice that feels entirely uncertain and already so complicated that I realize in the end I will have to choose one direction or the other; I cannot have success (defined as deeply delved theoretical and visual art results = time!) at both personal memory work and environmental work.  As I see it they are not combinable.

From within my mind’s infancy about them, I applied Kwon’s three paradigms to a few of my churning ideas of performance videos, as well as ethereal interventions and site-works that will not be lasting like a privileged Richard Serra sculpture or as cyclically “interacting” as Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels. Knowing that all thoughtfully created artwork will always be discursively fluid, expansive, and transformative, I questioned how it is possible for this new art to be social/political, not institutional. A quick answer before tomorrow’s opening up of potential institutional collaboration is fairly straightforward: the natural elements as harsh as they are in the desert will take their toll with great speed removing institution as a factor unless photographs, videos and public media circulate by association, perhaps not even in association since the media is quick for a snappy story. The social is easy. The political seems closer on its way.

The introduction of people and bureaucracy (institution) on top of the already known higher governing politics sitting on top of the water issues here complicates freedom of movement, but could aid in getting larger works completed. Respect for the sanctity of nature and the city, state, federal, and international laws protecting specific regional lands and waterways complicates ideas of moving nature from outdoors to indoors, such as in the work of Mark Dion, who is known for his mighty feat of a project On Tropical Nature (1991).  And I could take some lessons from Nancy Holt about how to gain favor from a local community. Ranchers here have already yelled out their gun-toting language of cease and desist, don’t go near my horses, and nope I got too much to do besides worrying about an ar-tist doing videos on (and get this) near my land. Perhaps in a rancher’s world everything that surrounds water rights is the kind of phenomenology that will open doors instead of one person’s memory work. Who can say except to continue to try at it?

So, ethereal gestures about the ruination of the Rio Grande and the pipeline that carries water past our region’s struggling farmers onward-ho to Texas could easily become lost if not institutionalized in some way or be taken into the vastness of inter-media. My questions to myself are wide in scope and heavy in consideration, and not even fully realized yet.  Kwon’s essay has become an invaluable launching off point causing me to begin digging into what I had only romantically envisioned. When earlier in the week I was trying to parse through my thoughts about the differences between the two words intertextuality and intermediality that I keep reading often in reference to art, I presented many questions to a fellow artist who replied, “Maybe you should just do the art yourself on the tiniest scale and think about it later because those words sound like ‘the emperor has no clothes’ to me”. I was also given a gift that was lightly tossed onto my desk, “Here’s some intertexuality for you!”  It was dry alphabet pasta in a bag…tiny letters all jumbled together…uncooked…waiting to become something delicious. The letters arrived in the nick of time…right when I was thinking about what the director of the Southwest Environmental Canter said, “You don’t realize what a hornet’s nest you want to walk into.”

[1] Miwon Kwon. “Genealogy of Site Specificity”. One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity. Cambridge:MIT Press. 2004. Pp. 30. Print.

Reading List

  • Nancy Holt. “Sun Tunnels” (1977).  Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings. Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz, Eds. 1996. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Pp. 536-539. Print.
  • Miwon Kwon. “Genealogy of Site Specificity”. One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity. Cambridge:MIT Press. 2004. Pp. 11-33. Print.
  • Robert Smithson. “A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey” (1967).  Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings. Jack Flam, Ed. 1996. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Pp. 68-74. Print.
  • James Turrell. “Mapping Spaces” (1987).  Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings. Kristine Stiles and Peter Selz, Eds. 1996. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Pp. 574-576. Print.
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