There are a number of artists who have worked with, and expanded upon, the notion of site-specificity.
Michael Asher – he exposed the gallery space to its bare bones, showing the administration side. The stripped away the exterior to show the processes of running a gallery. He wanted people to see the gallery as it really is.
Hans Haacke – through his Condensation Cube, his message was that you can’t have a completely pristine minimalist piece of art. It is an impossibility. Even the most stripped-down object will be subject to its environment, specifically the environment in the gallery. He was also exposing the gallery space, encapsulated in a box.
Daniel Buren – also known as ‘the stripe man’. He said that the artist should examine the influence of the framework upon the artwork and consider the artwork beyond the frame. There is no such thing as a neutral space. Was he showing here (below) that you have one impression of the artwork within the gallery atmosphere, and another once outside?
Mierle Ukeles – she explored the notion of what maintains the formal art activity. She looked at the people behind the scenes (the cleaners, the toilet attendants, the administrators). She is known for an art project where she shook hands with bin men to point out that rather than being unsanitary, we have a lot to thank them for in terms of sanitation.
Mark Dion – he conducted his art in different sites. He blurs the distinction between art and anthropology, history, and archeology. He was, similar to Haacke, exploring the idea of considering the frame.
Fred Wilson – he aimed to expose different issues through art. He worked at the museum site classifying objects. His Mining the Museum, which selected items from an exhibition to group together, brought out how African-Americans had been treated, mistreated, and perhaps ignored in conventional museum displays of art and the decorative arts. He was active during the era of ‘multicultural identity politics’, which was very fashionable in the 1990s.
This idea resulted in similar museum-curatorial-practices elsewhere and gave birth to a trend. Has it now become a little gimmicky? Hereafter came the biannual artist, the artist who travels around for the cultural promotion of different cities through biannual exhibitions. The artist then becomes the organizer of events, and a touring travelling showman.
Jeremy Deller – who is he? He’s the epitome of the artist as showman. He comes up with wacky ideas and projects to get himself noticed, to cause a stir and to make a point. His background is in art history. His projects have included: arranging for a brass band to do covers of acid house music, creating archives of folk culture, reenacting a major minors’ strike clash, and an as of yet undisclosed film about Depeche Mode fans.
As his website says: ‘Jeremy Deller is a celebrated British artist who makes politically and socially charged performance works’.
Questions about site-specificity
Does this evolution of the artist as aesthetic to artist as travelling showman limit the artist?
Does this trend dilute the creative skills of the artist?
Does it mean that anyone can claim to be an artist (Heston Blumenthal for example – is he an artist?)?
Does it mean that there are no limits to art, or is this trend just a way of setting new limits to replace old ones?
Are these artists rebels, social commentators, or just pandering to cultural expectations and the demands of the art market?
Is this really individuality, creativity or originality? Are we expecting certain issues to be covered, illustrated and highlighted?
Is art becoming a type of theatre?
What does this say for the future role of the artist? He / she is becoming a celebrity, a businessman / businesswoman, but are they still an artist?