PRINT Summer 2005


ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, a group of American artists went into the remote landscape to push beyond the conventional boundaries of both the art world and the artwork. They sought a territorial tabula rasa for their practices, a sublime expanse whose real contours would accommodate an “expanded field” of sculptural practices that might fall outside the traditional circulatory infrastructure linking studio, gallery, museum—and even magazine. More than thirty years later, the lure of the “remote” remains seductive, but at the same time one wonders: Is such physical and conceptual terrain even available to artists today? With the remarkable expansion of the international art world and the proliferation of biennial exhibitions to points all over the globe, Smithson's idea of an “indoor-outdoor dialectic,” for example, can seem anachronistic if not quaint. Now that the art world lacks a fixed center and portable communications devices have altered our most basic experience of distance, and of space, the very notion of a geographic remote can seem tenuous.

Nevertheless, the growing number of far-flung projects indicates that artists—even if for disparate reasons—are still answering the siren song of the great beyond. With this development in mind, Artforum’s special section “Inside Out” considers a range of contemporary artists who are moving into the landscape in a manner that draws on the precedents of the ’60s and ’70s but to very different ends. If historic Earthworks call to mind the solitary figure in the desert or salt flat, for some today, as Rirkrit Tiravanija contends in our online roundtable conversation, “the exterior is about the social.” This is certainly the case for his experiment in community building in northern Thailand (chronicled here by Daniel Birnbaum) and also for Andrea Zittel’s High Desert Test Sites, which draws in equal measure on the collaborative spirit of frontier survivalism and an impulse to create “the most literal manifestation of the object and process possible” by developing and maintaining long-term, site-specific works. For Tacita Dean and Pierre Huyghe (who, along with Zittel, appear in this issue), the remote site is one “not overcrowded with meaning, rules, culture, even longitude and latitude,” as Huyghe puts it. Such terrain invites the projection of new scenarios—and the time and movement required to reach the site itself is an equal part of its allure.

In all cases, the act of translation and the problem of mediation loom large, just as they did for Smithson, who famously distinguished between Spiral Jetty the Earthwork, the film, and the magazine piece. Today, the relationships among these iterations have grown even more intricate—turned inside out, as it were—with the representations of some projects strangely seeming to precede their physical manifestations in the world. As one potential “site” in this continuum, Artforum invited several artists to contribute directly to the magazine, joining scholars Anne M. Wagner, who explores the implicit politics of place, from the Great Salt Lake to the jungles of Brazil; and David Joselit, who identifies a “navigational” paradigm in recent art. The territory has indeed expanded, and the following collection of essays and projects is our attempt to plot its ever-shifting coordinates.

The Editors