The Wrong Place
by: Miwon Kwon
Art Journal, Vol. 59, No. 1. (Spring, 2000), pp. 32-43.
The Wrong Place
Art Journal is currently published by College Art Association.
Much of this I agree with, but unlike Henri Lefebvre, who provides the deepest dialectical consideration of the “production of space” (his phrase), Lippard seems unable to resist the nostalgic impulse. In the end, the task of a progressive oppositional cultural practice is conceived as a retrieval and resuscitation of a sense of place, a sense that ostensibly once was but now is lost. Her project implicitly calls for a slower, more sedentary mode of existence. Despite her disclaimers, hers is a vision that favors the “return” to a vernacular, nonurban sociality of small-scale spaces and face-to-face exchanges. Not that such a vision isn’t appealing. The problem is that perhaps it is all too appealing, not only to us individually but to the machinations of capitalism itself. What is lost in Lippard’s thinking are Lefebvre’s important insights on the dialectical rather than oppositional relationship between the processes of expanding abstraction of space and the production of particularities of place, local specificity, and authenticity of cultures (a concern that informs many site-oriented art practices today). Production of difference, to say it in more general terms, is itself a fundamental activity of capitalism, necessary for its continuous expansion. One might go so far as to say that this desire for difference, authenticity, and our willingness to pay high prices for it (literally), only highlights the degree to which they are already lost to us, thus the power they have over us.
Yet it is not a matter of choosing sides-between models of nomadism and sedentariness, between space and place, between digital interfaces and the….