commodification of the artist

This chunk of text comes from a book called One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity, by Miwon Kwon, 2002, MIT Press, p46-7. It struck a chord with me because it seems to cut through some of the rhetoric I crap on with from time to time. I was thinking about this paragraph in terms of my project Bilateral Kellerberrin, which although not site-specific in a late 1960s sense (ie inextricably anchored to physical location), does grow out of the circumstances of the time and place in which it was planted.

Thus, as Kwon writes, "site" is not only a physical place, but also a set of conditions, social, discursive, temporal, and physical, which situate a project, make it comprehensible to its audience or participants. But the idea of Bilateral Kellerberrin is transferrable (in fact I am looking to transfer the same project to my home suburb of Petersham in Sydney, to see what will happen) – hence the following:

Generally the in situ configuration of a project that emerges out of such a situation is temporary, ostensibly unsuitable for re-presentation anywhere else without altering its meaning, partly because the commission is defined by a unique set of geographical and temporal circumstances and partly because the project is dependent on unpredictable and unprogrammable on-site relations. But such conditions, despite appearances to the contrary, do not circumvent or even complicate the problem of commodification, because there is a strange reversal now by which the artist comes to approximate the “work”, instead of the other way around as is commonly assumed (that is, art work as surrogate to the artist). Perhaps because of the absence of the artist from the physical manifestation of the work, the presence of the artist has become an absolute prerequisite for the execution/presentation of site-oriented projects. It is now the performative aspect of an artist’s characteristic mode of operation (even when working in collaboration) that is repeated and circulated as a new art commodity, with the artist him/herself functioning as the primary vehicle for its verification, repetition, and circulation.

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