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Emily Carr University of Art and Design Graduate Studies (Degree granting institution)
From site to place and back and forth: Towards a fluid methodology
CanadaNorthwest TerritoriesPhenomenologyEarthworksModern artSite-specific
Site-specific art practices are becoming increasingly prevalent. This observation draws on the amount of recent literature devoted to the subject and its popularity as locus for biennials. However, several authors note that a clarification of the term and its meaning are necessary (Kwon 2, Cartiere Re/Placing 43). For example, one may associate sitespecificity as art related to the topography of the site, and regard place-specificity art as work that use the topography as well as addressing social contexts (Lippard Lure 275-281, Cartiere Re/Placing 43). Through a critical literature review and sited artistic practice, this thesis examines the role of place-specificity within site-specific art, the use of relocation of a work as a method, and the reconciliation of the lyrical and the critical in art productions, in an attempt to construct a methodological framework adapted to my location. I first introduce the context of the research: living in a small, remote locality. Proposed methods to conduct research while living in Northern Canada are outlined: they include a phenomenological experience of place, the use of water as an art medium, and practice-led research. I then define in more detail site-specificity and place-specificity, and offer examples of both practices utilizing artists’ works engaging with water as a medium: Andy Goldsworthy, the Snow Show, and Helen Mayer and Newton Harrison. Analysis of these works furthers inquiry on environmental art practices, the romantic impulse, and relevant spatiotemporal theories, notably drawn from human geography. Non-representational theories, a subgenre of human geography, are considered as an alternative framework to view “natural” sites and their unfolding. Subsequently, the thesis focus is examined through the creation of new sited works, produced in the community of Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories, and Vancouver, British Columbia. Finally, a discussion tying the theoretical research and artistic practice ensues.