the process is the artwork

To move the work is to destroy the work

De-mounting my sculpture/installation was an experience quite different in character from the process of mounting; more energetic, less planned. «Nothing is eternal»: the destruction of the piece has been a useful exercise in letting go. The end of one thing is necessarily the start of something new.

I’ve been checking out the possibility of re-constructing ‘the piece’ in different public spaces. Migrating from one spot to another, thereby changing the context of display, it will never be the same.

«If one accepts the proposition that the meanings of utterances, actions and events are affected by their ‘local position’, by the situation of which they are part, then a work of art, too, will be defined in relation to its place and position. Reflecting this notion, semiotic theory proposes, straightforwardly, that reading implies ‘location’. To ‘read’ the sign is to have located the signifier, to have recognised its place within the semiotic system. One can go on from this to argue that the location, in reading, of an image, object, or event, its positioning in relation to political, aesthetic, geographical, institutional, or other discourses, all inform what ‘it’ can be said to be.

Site-specificity, then, can be understood in terms of this process, while a ‘site-specific work’ might articulate and define itself  through properties, qualities or meanings produced in specific relationships between an ‘object’ or ‘event’ and a position it occuppies. After the ‘substantive’ notion of site, such site-specific work might even assert a ‘proper’ relationship with its location, claiming an ‘original and fixed position’ associated with what it is. This formulation echoes the sculptor Richard Serra’s response to the public debate, and legal action, over the removal of his ‘site-spcific’ sculpture Tilted Arc of 1981. Offering a key definition of ‘site-specific’ work, Serra concluded simply and unequivocally that ‘To move the work is to destroy the work’. To move the site-specific work is to re-place it, to make it something else.» (Kaye. 2000.)

Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc is «fixed in shape», as opposed to mine, which actually changes shape. If moved, Serra’s work is destroyed on a conceptual level, because the work is both the sculpture and its relation to the surroundings. My sculpture/structure/installation/intervention, then, explores adaptability and metamorphosis. To repeatedly build and break the tie between matter and site is, in fact, the work.


Kaye, Nick. 2000. Site-specific Art. Performance, Place and Documentation. London & New York: Routledge.

3 responses

  1. I’ll follow you.

    September 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

  2. Pingback: Page not found « Refuse to be a coward

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