This presentation addresses site-specific sonic practices from the artistic practitioner’s perspective. The intention is to outline a proposal for a revitalisation of the field of site-specificity beyond transcendentalism, offering a challenge to conceptualisations of “form” and “content” that still hover around site-specific practice today.
Departing from the assumption that spatial production understood in its broadest sense should always be understood as process (Massey 2005) and informed by Spinoza’s notion of “body,” which later on was developed in Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) “ontology of assemblage,” public space can be understood in terms of assemblage in consisting of a tremendous number of components, human and non-human, material and immaterial, each of which has specific relations and its own agency—that is, the specific capacity to affect and be affected. Focusing on sound, sound from such perspective can be understood as having its own agency as a vital part of the production of the assemblage we refer to as public space.
The focus for this presentation is on bringing forward various crucial effects that such an assumption has on site-specific (sonic) practice in terms of vital spatial practice: “Site-specific practice it’s not a question of how one should ‘install’ a work but a question of how to articulate an assemblage” (Cox and Stjerna 2015). Such a statement returns to the idea of considering the site as a body composed of two vectors: latitudes and longitudes. “Latitude” concerns the specific material, historical, political, and social components of a place and the way in which they establish different relations. “Longitude,” then, is about my ability as an artist to understand and to modify these relations in the work, how I can reformulate those relations through sound.
Consequently, site-specific practice, on the one hand, should be understood as an exploration of the heterogenic and complex force relations that together constitute the assemblage of a place and, on the other hand, the modification of these relations through art. As a practitioner, I think of myself as exploring what Deleuze and Spinoza call the longitude and the latitude of the place. Through some recent actualised artistic projects, I intend to discuss site specificity as an ability to trace the ways that specific relations form or have formed a specific site or spatial context and the ability to alter it through art (Cox and Stjerna 2015).
The proposed presentation is mainly based on the first chapter of my ongoing (still untitled) artistic research project on sound art in public space.
Cox, Christoph, and Åsa Stjerna. 2015 [forthcoming]. “Sound, Affect, and Public Space: Åsa Stjerna in Conversation with Christoph Cox.” In Dirty Ear Report. Berlin: Errant Bodies Press.
Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press.
Massey, Doreen. 2005. For Space. London: Sage.