A Sense of Place

one place.jpg

"Errance, desert, exile, the outside.  How can we conquer the loss of ourselves and go to the heart of the anonymous dispersion, indefinite, albeit never negligent, how can we enter into a space without place, in a time without begetting, in 'the proximity of that which flees unity,' in an 'experience of that which is without harmony and without accord?"  

- Peter Pal Pelbart

Over the last few months I have been working through UCLA Art Professor Miwon Kwon's book, One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity.  The book takes a historical look at site-specific work from right after the wake of Minimalism in the 1960s to the present day site-oriented art practices.  In her conclusion she makes the argument that while the freeing up of art objects or events from being inexorably attached to their sites (such as Richard Serra's infamous Tilted Arc) is a welcome change, the current incarnation of such practices where artists fly from biennial to biennial and whose work bears little or no attachment to the site is problematic as well.  She writes, "Not only is the art work not bound to the physical conditions of a place anymore, but the artist-subject is 'liberated' from any enduring ties to local circumstances.  Qualities of permanence, continuity, certainty, groundedness (physical or otherwise) are politically suspect in this context." (160) She offers the suggestion of "double mediation," of practices that don't necessarily choose sides between space and place - between "nomadism and sedentariness" - but rather deal and live in the tension between these two poles.  She suggests, as best as I can decipher, that this spacio/psychic zone between the two poles can be relationally continual by seeing the multitudinous facets on our lives as being next to one another not coming after one another.  "Only those cultural practices that have this relational sensibility can turn local encounters into long-term commitments and transform passing intimacies into indelible, unretractable social marks - so that the sequence of sites that we inhabit in our life's traversal does not become generalized into an undifferentiated serialization, one place after another."

As a TCK (third culture kid), a Christian, a post-modern American and having been forced into or chosen to move 25 times in 38 years and now living abroad, thoughts about my sense of place or my "locational identity" have been really weighing on me.  I feel these thoughts coalescing slowly into ideas for art work but I can't yet articulate them.  Right now I am wondering what my transient life would have looked like if I had held the various places, people, thoughts and fragments of my life next to one another and not dismissed them down the conveyor belt of time?  What fabric could have been woven; what places of potential might have opened up?  Experiencing the pastness of events in my present experience by seeing them next to each other and not after one another creates a "proposition."  Propositions are a tool used by choreographer William Forysythe as a way to generate new material for improvisation. Erin Manning, describing Forsythe's process writes this: "[a proposition] creates the conditions for tapping into this intensive interval of the between.  It inflects the occasion, creating a relational matrix that transforms the singular elements into a network of potential."   I can't write about propositions for myself yet but I like the idea of how my past and my present - by seeing these events as adjacent and not sequencial - can unleash potential for contrast, for something different, for something new and undiscovered.