This is the first installment of this essay introduces one part of five areas of inquiry related to the process of evaluation and ideas for my new project.
This essay is an attempt at picturing the development of an idea for a work in progress I am calling: Mapping without Mapping, Psychological Occupation Verses Real Estate. The project started with an interest in investigating into the geographical history of the American presence (official and unofficial), and includes addressing more contemporary issues related to being non-Korean, in Korea. However as time has passed it has become more broadly a study into the concepts of place, in the sense of both belonging and creating. At this point this project is highly theoretical, and this essay is one part of an effort to respond to my previous works, in an attempt to understand, and address my prior intentions and to some degree alter my methodology. This text is broken into five parts that lace together inquiries and objects from different sources, existing in works completed or ideas left hanging. Here I hope to more cogently interrogate ideas of space and site for this future work; outline the project’s parameters to date, such as notes, image ideas; express some ideas on mapping; define space and place as related to this project, while making an inquiry into the theoretical differences between place and space.
- An Investigative Search of Previously Used Space and Sites
In relation to a presence like the United States in Korea three terms came to mind as I thought through my subject: stains – starting points – soil. These words reflect critical and visceral ways of thinking; and also how the waters get muddy. We don’t hear it much anymore, but driving much of American exceptionalism is the idea of manifest destiny. In general nationalism is driven by the idea that there is something distinct held within borders drawn. So I am seeking a sensitive address to such issues—ways to look at this idea of entering space metaphorically, psychologically and materially. These distinctions are crucial, especially when considering how one culture rests in, resists or rejects another.
Recall, this is a work in progress and this essay is a part of the progress of realizing the work. So I’ve often thought this effort here is a little like the work of performance artist/monologist/actor Spalding Gray, in that I am setting out to tell you something but that while I am telling you I will never get there: to my point, and instead I will make another point, perhaps equal to my intended, but perhaps not, but that it will all lead to an anxious attempt at coherence. That I suppose is the nature of defining something.
Crucial to this and all my work, I have been concerned with site specificity since I was an undergraduate in the 1980s when I was asked to make an architectural model and place in a context—in Central Park. The directions: seek scale and moorings that could hold your model so as to not look artificial or outsized led initially to an indirect search for the place in which art happens. Then one more directly about place formed of space. There have been, including this first, at least nine moments, some of which are no longer available or merit description; however it was in the text that site really took hold. In book arts, I realized a space that was portable and specific. Later an exhibition Outside (1990) in the woods allowed the idea of sighting to arise. Meaning that rather than announcing itself as art, the value of the random person seeing the work outside of the institution began to form. This inclination towards the discreet gesture, a thing present, but only accounted for by those who found it, drove my projects EveryDaySky (2000-2002) and Occurrence
(2000). Both of these projects are defined by how site and sighting interacted. Of course it can be said of any work, but when these works were activated/realized by seeing them, it was in the context of the passage way the sidewalk or the street, not places where one then expected to find art. Therefore recognition and access are defining characteristics of both works. EveryDaySky was also concerned with memory of non-events. Using
a camera to photograph the sky everyday for a year, and then a year later upload that image to the web, I was commenting on the transfer and slippage of memory related to days and time, and its mediation through the apparatus. My last sited project, re:location (2004-2005), directly utilized sight and the apparatus to document a space. Rather than take photographs I scanned Dogmatic, like eyes brushing across much of its surfaces, with a flatbed scanner. The importance of re:location was in its making. It was perhaps a failure in its later incarnation as an installation of printed images. Still, the transfer of space into information, as a map is important to my next work.
These projects are now diagrams for siting and the sighting of work, and most, if not all, were denials of the institution. My reasoning then centered on capitalism’s grip, and my want to make works that functionally were only gifts, exchange without currency. I’m still interested in this as a strategy of resistance, yet I feel this work needs to be as immaterial as possible for many reasons. So, as I’ve gathered information for this new project I have found myself asking: how to make a map without making a map. Clearly these earlier works are maps that are not maps, but they come with copious amounts of materials. As well, this work, that I am prefiguring, is very much about institutional power, power great enough to deny its own existence. So here the intersection of mapping and the denial by the institution is much like a double negative, or rather a Mobius strip, folding back onto itself without end.
To be continued …
Julia Marsh, Editor, sitecited