Made in the late 1950s to mid 1960s, site specific art started as a decontextualisation of the museum space. The term refers to the artists intervention of a specific space, creating work that is integrated into and explores a relationship with its surroundings. It applies to work made by an srtist in a landscape either by manipulating the terrain to produce earthwork or by creating temporary or removeable art. It can also apply to an environmental installation or sculpture created especially for a particular gallery space or site.
One example of site specific art is Soft Shuttlecock by Claes Oldenberg and Coose Van Bruggen created specifically for the Frank Lloyd Wright designed rotundaof the Guggenhein Museum. The work humourously deflates the imposing structure of the building and diminishes its relative scale while underscoring the museums role as a site for both culture and education as well as entertainment and recreation.
An example of earth work is Robert Smithdon’s Spiral Jetty, asculpture built from mud, precipitated salt crystals, basalt rocks, and water. It is built on the Great Salt LAke in Utah. The water level of the lake varies with precipitation in the mountains surrounding the area, revealing the jetty in times of drought and submerging it during times of normal precipitation.
The Gates was a site-specific work of art by Bulgarian artist Christo Yavacheff and French artist Jeanne-Claude. The artists installed 7,503 vinyl “gates” along 23 miles of pathways in Central Park in New York City. The work was also specific to the season they were erected in, winter, as this is the only time when the trees have no leaves and so the gates can be seen from a distance. A visitor to the project said, “I saw the drawings, and I thought they were extraordinary, but seeing the scale, and how it mimics the terrain of the park, and then the interaction with people, and the light through the fabric as it changes color — it’s just extraordinary.”
The Red Ball Project is another example of site specific artwork, but that has the ability to be moved in order to become specific for somewhere else. The project began as a commission by Arts in Transit, an award winning public art bi-state agency based in St Louis but since then, artist Kurt Perschke has traveled around the world, squeezing this huge red sculpture into various spaces, such as under bridges or inside arches or even bus stops. Perschke has said of the project, “As RedBall travels around the world people approach me on the street with excited suggestions about where to put it in their city. In that moment the person is not a spectator but a participant in the act of imagination.” He calls it an opportunity to engage with the public – people get to interact with it, touch it, push on it, jump against it.
I really like the idea of making my project site-specific, but because I am creating digital art, I dont think its really a possibility. I think site-specific works because it gives the viewer the opportunity to interact with it – they need to be able to be near the structure in order to get a sense of its scale and feeling. Though I still may experiment with placing my sculpture into various locations, I feel that it would most be suited to quite an empty space, like in the piece I took inspiration for the project from. My sculpture is going to be personal to me, whereas site specific art has the ability to become something to, and ignite emotion in the viewer, so I think placing my piece in a blank space would allow its subject to become the main focus and doesn’t really let its surroundings influence or change what it means to me.