PRINT Summer 2005

Remote Possibilities: A Roundtable Discussion on Land Art’s Changing Terrain

TIM GRIFFIN A number of artists have recently executed high-profile projects in remote places—“remote,” at least, from traditional art-world centers. In fact, we can count three individuals participating today among them: Pierre and his recent voyage to Antarctica, Rirkrit and the Land in Thailand, and Andrea with her High Desert Test Sites near Joshua Tree. Realizing, of course, that there are significant differences among these projects—and I hope we’ll shed good light on a few of these—working in a “remote” location seems to be a broader trend (think also of projects by Carsten Höller, Tacita Dean, and Matthew Barney, among others). This development demands some comparison to work made by previous generations, such as the Land art of Robert Smithson and Michael Heizer, on the one hand, and the travels of artists like Bas Jan Ader or Hamish Fulton on the other. Is there any way that we can begin to characterize this way of working today, if only very broadly, while bearing these historical precedents in mind?

CLAIRE BISHOP To generalize perhaps too wildly, I think that a main difference between Land artists of the late ’60s and ’70s and artists today can be characterized in terms of the medium with which they’re engaged. If the precursors can be framed within an expanded field of sculpture, today’s artists are working within an expanded cross-disciplinary field more likely to involve research as a geographer, social worker, anthropologist, activist, or experimental architect. That said, there is a clear continuity in some of the projects you mention in terms of the lure of the remote. But I think we may still need to differentiate between artists for whom the aesthetics of the remote landscape remains important (such as Matthew Barney and possibly Pierre) and those artists who engage critically with the social and political discourses that mark that landscape. The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) is a good example of the latter.

PAMELA M. LEE My sense is that some of the artists discussed in these terms—CLUI, to follow Claire’s lead, would be the prototype—might be “reading” the earlier generation in a way that is closer to the Land artists’ original thinking than the primary criticism was. With over thirty years of historical hindsight, it has become abundantly clear that the impulse to work in remote locations was less about a “return to the land” as such—a kind of aesthetic nativism—than a critical engagement with the terms of artistic mediation, whether organized around institutions or forms of media.

CLAIRE BISHOP I agree, Pamela. But there’s no denying the gorgeousness of the landscape backdrops in those earlier works and the way in which the individual is set in relation to epic expanses. I’m thinking in particular of those photographs of Walter De Maria lying on the ground beside his Mile Long Drawing [1968], or the tiny person standing among Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels [1973–76].

The question about mediation, however, makes me recall that the emergence of Land and installation art go hand in hand through the ’60s. Both are grounded in the authenticity of one’s firsthand experience of a site. So I wonder if we should also differentiate between contemporary and historical Land art on the basis of that famous “indoor-outdoor” dialectic articulated by Smithson—and consider whether the “indoor” itself has changed in recent decades with the rise of installation art. For example, Olafur Eliasson is one artist who deals with the paradoxical way in which such firsthand experiences (especially that of nature) are always already mediated (by ideas of the sublime or the “uncontaminated”). You don’t need to travel to a remote location to experience his exquisite fake sunsets or waterfalls. But it is telling that while Eliasson is at pains to reveal the mechanisms behind it, his work is nevertheless criticized for being too attractive or oversize.

PAMELA M. LEE I think it’s worth pursuing the lingering appeal to “aesthetics” in this art, given that forms of artistic mediation are central topoi around which this work is organized, in both contemporary and historical iterations. In fact, the residual sublimity for which Eliasson’s work is often criticized is continuous with many of the debates played out around Land art in the ’60s; the technology has doubtless undergone radical change, but the rhetoric hangs on. Then, as now, the mechanisms supporting the production of the work were much in evidence, too. Smithson’s non-site, however unequivalent with his Land art, necessarily revealed both social and historical influences swirling around the actuality of his “objects.” Perhaps one of the historical legacies of this work has to do with our (not so) latent attachment to the aesthetic: that the “remote” might stand as code for the “aesthetic.” In which case, maybe we haven’t traveled so far after all.

LYNNE COOKE Could the criticism of those works by Eliasson that are monumental in scale or budget have to do with their lack of the kind of irony or self-conscious wryness one finds in, say, Tacita Dean’s deadpan audio piece Trying to Find the Spiral Jetty [1997]? Do the lack of self-reflection and absence of an ironizing modesty of means in work currently presented in the institution, which nevertheless draws directly on these ’60s precedents, indicate an indifference to the site/non-site dialectic, Smithson’s most crucial gambit, rather than a substantive reworking of it?

PIERRE HUYGHE In my case, the issue of the “remote” place is not exactly the point. The movement that brings you to the outside is as important as the outside itself. It’s a question of displacement. What’s interesting is how you create this conceptual displacement, the journey that brings you to this elsewhere, not the destination itself. I’m less concerned about place than the production of situations and complex, heterogeneous territories.

Our journey to Antarctica had nothing to do with going far away per se. A boat is a temporary habitat moving toward the unpredictable, a collective movement, a social time. Then it becomes about how you translate that experience. The displacement is in the constant renegotiations that take place between the people engaged in the journey. You can think of Foucault’s idea of the heterotopia as a kind of counterplace, the place that’s outside all other places but also includes them. And that could be found anywhere—in the middle of the city, at the hospital, in a museum. Going somewhere like Antarctica is an attempt to produce a place without preexisting protocol, a no-knowledge zone. It might be easier to find this in a place that’s not overcrowded with meaning, rules, culture, even longitude and latitude.

PAMELA M. LEE Pierre, I know we’re in agreement about the “remote,” even if we are coming from different places. (From my end, much of this would have to do with the critique of exteriority—and the values of immanence—taken up by much writing on globalization.) Here, though, I want to address the reception of this work through aesthetic terms because, alas, that is often the way it has been characterized. Lynne is right on the mark when she points to the ways in which today’s artists sustain some degree of historical reflection about their projects, thereby relieving them, at least partially, of the problem of aesthetics.

CLAIRE BISHOP Pam, I think your earlier point is brilliant: The remote is definitely coded as the aesthetic, and to my mind this is more interesting than discussions about the “exotic” or the “local.” But I would also want to defend the aesthetic. Smithson’s work has a distinct aesthetic, for example, although it works entirely against those conventions of landscape found on calendars and postcards—making you read decrepit industrial interventions alongside the semispoiled nature. In a different key, and bearing in mind the “social turn” of much recent contemporary art, we could think of Francis Alÿs’s When Faith Moves Mountains [2002], which he describes as a “land art for the landless.” Like Smithson, Alÿs undercuts a gorgeous landscape through human intervention: five hundred volunteers engaged in the Sisyphean task of moving a massive sand dune by four inches. Perhaps ironically, the work is distributed in the form of a postcard. It also exists as a video and (less verifiably) as an orally disseminated urban myth.

ANDREA ZITTEL I have to admit to feeling like an oddball in this discussion so far, because I don’t really consider High Desert Test Sites (HDTS) a remote project, and I’ve wondered if Rirkrit thinks similarly about the Land. My first interest in moving to the desert was primarily about finding the most direct and cohesive way to present my own work. I wanted to create a forum that could integrate the locations of cultural or functional reference, the site of production, and the final site for viewing into a single location. But I was also drawn to the desert because it is the ultimate symbol of the “frontier”—though in an expanded sense, as a space where lack of structure creates gaps in which innovation or change can happen. In this sense, you could say that the upheaval in Europe after World War I involved social and political frontiers, which set the stage for the Bauhaus and other utopian fantasies.

What I probably knew before HDTS and have now experienced firsthand is that geographical frontiers (at least in the United States) are a quickly disappearing entity. Life speeds up, distances shrink, and populations swell . . . eventually settling all open territories. So for me it’s interesting to see what other kinds of frontiers can still exist. Maybe the documentary Dogtown and Z-boys [2001] describes a kind of frontier in Venice Beach in the ’70s, for example, and I often wonder what an analogous “frontier” could be in the arts. Maybe CLUI has found a new territory in which to operate, another kind of frontier, because they have created a fuzzy space running parallel to mainstream art (yes, we are all pretty much mainstream) that is still open for invention.

RIRKRIT TIRAVANIJA To clarify something about the Land, it is actually a collaborative undertaking, in the same way that Pierre’s trip to Antarctica was. Last September, in fact, the Land became a foundation. Officially, I am the chair of the board but only voluntarily. The other board members are Kamin Lertchaiprasert, a Thai artist with whom I created the Land, and Uthit Atimana, another artist who is also a professor and the director of new-media art at Chiang Mai University. Kamin and I joined up roughly seven years ago, each of us having his own very different idea about cultivating a piece of land that would be utilized as a point of convergence. One thing we agreed on was that we didn’t want to label the place. We’ve never even wanted to make it part of the sphere of art—although now we are unable to avoid that discussion, and perhaps we should admit that we are artists, as are most of the participants.

Regarding my own interests there, it’s significant that I had previously been in a discussion with Pierre, as well as Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Philippe Parreno, Liam Gillick, Carsten Höller, and Jorge Pardo about finding a place, a house, that could be a meeting point and rest stop away from our routines. Most of us at that time were very nomadic in work and life, and I think there was a need for some distance from the circuitry of the art world—to have a thinking “site.” But even as I say that, I think it’s nonsense to label artists “nomadic” or say that they are traveling in an international art circuit today. The issue of nomadism has been with the artist even before Duchamp or Max Ernst moved to New York or Gauguin went to the South Pacific: Artists are mobile by habit or, perhaps, desire. What’s different about the present landscape, I think, is what constitutes the exterior. The Land is concerned primarily not with positive/negative, solid/liquid, mass-scale nature/culture, flux/non-flux, site/non-site dichotomies but rather with the presence of activities—with local and not-local, with living conditions. When Pierre took his trip to Antarctica, he didn’t go alone to make his work, he invited other artists along to make their own work or collaborate. When Matthew made his project in Brazil, it was for Carnival. Today, the exterior is about the social.

CLAIRE BISHOP Rirkrit, I completely agree with you that today the exterior lies in the social, in that so many artists posit the latter as the only authentic point of resistance to capital. But I wonder if you could comment on the idea of “remoteness” that Tim mentioned in the introduction. Am I right to understand that the Land is close to the university in Chiang Mai and therefore not remotely “remote” in the sense we are framing it?

RIRKRIT TIRAVANIJA That’s right. The Land is twenty minutes outside of Chiang Mai, a provincial city, which is about 450 miles from Bangkok, and so it’s no longer a remote place. Many people from the West have been there to work on projects or just to visit. Even so, the distance opens up possibilities.

TIM GRIFFIN Pierre, you’ve been to the Land. How would you describe working there?

PIERRE HUYGHE When Rirkrit asked me to come to the Land, I went there having in mind this garden where you would grow a community. There are two things that the Land is missing—an administrative building for the foundation and a meditation hall. So, I’m thinking about these needs. You cannot erase the idea of the local. You need to be corrupted by the context but without forgetting that you’re not from it.

Rirkrit has built a platform that could become a tool for the people there. In that sense, you can sort of eliminate the problem of exoticism, since exoticism is often a problem of representation. By attaching a use value to the project, you also start to get around the problem of representation and enter into a kind of postrepresentational situation. Any fiction has to produce a reality. That may in a certain way relate to the film that Philippe Parreno made there, which has a very fictional aspect to it—almost like a science-fiction film. He didn’t want it to be simply a report.

CLAIRE BISHOP Pierre is pointing to another difference between this project and its precursors of the ’60s and ’70s. There is a functional motive behind the Land, as there is with Andrea’s Test Sites: These are pavilions and units to be used by a specific community.

RIRKRIT TIRAVANIJA Yes, in fact, the Land in itself is just a land, a leveled field to be acted on, and we request that this action be in the sphere of the everyday. Which is to say that we do not encourage earthworks unless we can eat, drink, or live from them. At this point we are more interested in sustainable infrastructure than outdoor sculpture.

TIM GRIFFIN So clearly the idea of use value is central to the project of the Land. One thing that is emerging in this conversation, which bears remarking on, is that many of these projects involve a social or collaborative component, which would seem counterintuitive given the traditional connotations of a solitary engagement (perhaps even a romantic one) with distant sites. But as Claire and others have pointed out, these social components do not preclude a romantic or aesthetic use of the figure of the landscape—which is true even of Pierre’s Antarctic journey. Does this balance of the social and the aesthetic meaningfully distinguish recent projects from those of the ’60s and ’70s?

LYNNE COOKE Tim, if “use value” was a way in the early ’70s to distinguish between some of the ’60s Land artworks and various reclamation and environmental projects that were commissions from corporations and public entities, which followed soon after, would you want to make some analogy now between, say, Andrea and Rirkrit’s projects and Jorge Pardo’s urban works like the café for K21 in Düsseldorf or the guesthouse in Denmark? And, just as “remote” became an irrelevant notion then, so it would seem to be now?

A couple of things strike me as missing from our comparison of ’60s initiatives and today’s. One is the role of patronage. Virginia Dwan, Robert Scull, Heiner Friedrich, and, briefly, Count Panza were crucial in helping launch a number of the earliest projects in the ’60s. Later Friedrich and Dwan even closed their galleries to concentrate on such projects more fully, like De Maria’s Lightning Field [1977]. By contrast, the current generation seems to produce their own projects and to grow them as resources permit—pointing to a functional role of collaborating with peers.

As you may know, Pardo has been talking with various artists in his loose-knit group about starting an art school in Mérida, Mexico, where he has already begun various other projects. But the reason for locating a school there has nothing to do with the place itself per se. His reasons are far more pragmatic. They have to do with the opportunity to work inexpensively and in a wide range of situations; and with the chance for focus, for making initiatives into communities on the part of the graduates, for relatively unstructured, even intermittent teaching engagements for other artists. Above all, it would be a place where like-minded people could go somewhat informally to work and talk, to have something of that close-knit daily exchange and engagement that marked, say, the downtown New York art/dance/film/literature scenes of the ’60s and early ’70s. And so it has to do with a day-to-day connectedness of a kind that isn’t possible in a metropolitan situation today.

In this last regard, it seems to me that many of the more recent initiatives have aspects of much earlier communities but are informed with a different ideology, one that engages very deliberately with the artists’ social matrix: one that, above all, doesn’t set their activities apart on account of any aesthetic agenda. It has none of the hermetic character that so many previous collectives had. Pierre’s projects with Annlee, his Streamside Day Follies [2003], and the Antarctica venture seem very much part of this.

TIM GRIFFIN Your discussion makes me wonder whether the “social” aspect of these works necessarily relates to the collaborative, communal connotations of that word; or are there examples of work today that engage with site in a more specifically critical way?

CLAIRE BISHOP To twist that question and refer to artists outside the United States: We’ve already mentioned Alÿs’s project in Lima, but I’d like to bring up Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla’s work on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico—a location that from my European perspective fulfills the criteria of “remoteness” but that has been integral to US military strategy. Their engagement with this island is similar to CLUI’s interest in land use but is played out in a way that productively merges activism (assisting local campaigns against use of the island as a bombing range) with artistic actions and videos. And so their practice is socially collaborative but not in the sense of forming an artists’ retreat or experimental community. For example, in Land Mark (Foot Prints) [2001–2002], demonstrators could have their slogans put onto the soles of trainers, which left marks on the island sand; these formed counter-representations of the site’s function and were in turn photographed by the artists. While it would be overestimating their work to compare it to Spiral Jetty’s conceptual density and decentered objecthood (Earthwork, article, film . . . ), Allora and Calzadilla do present a politically informed yet poetic angle on many of the subjects of our discussion: artistic mediation, critical engagement with a site, global politics, scale and sublimity, the temporality of art versus that of pragmatic action.

PAMELA M. LEE I’d like to pick up on a point raised by Rirkrit having to do with the problematics of the “local” implicitly addressed by much of this work versus the terms thought to be opposed to it, the global or the nomadic. Just a few years ago, when Lucy Lippard published The Lure of the Local [1997], that old ’60s mantra “Think globally, act locally” still retained a certain political (read: activist) currency. These days, however, I doubt that we are so innocent about the virtues of artistic “locality.” By the same token, I suspect some of us participating in this roundtable assume a rather jaundiced attitude about the relationship between travel and work. A colleague of mine recently told me about a new genre of literary theory called “eco-criticism.” I’m not in any position to represent this movement accurately, but I gather one of its tasks is to undo that opposition between the local and the remote (or global) and, along with it, to uncover the ideological underpinnings that sponsor that binary. This would be one way to put pressure on the notion that we can escape the art-world circuitry—or at least challenge the language by which we engage it. Perhaps this is where Pierre’s notion of the fictive dimension of a project like Philippe’s film at the Land enters the picture.

CLAIRE BISHOP I think it’s still significant that Rirkrit and Pierre account for working in Chiang Mai and Antarctica, respectively, in terms of location affording temporary respite from art-world circuits. Rirkrit describes it as a “rest stop away from our routines.” Pierre implies that going somewhere disconnected from ingrained patterns—“a place without scenario”—can offer a conceptual tabula rasa. This is evocative of early-twentieth-century bohemian artists’ retreats, such as Eric Gill’s community of artists settling in Ditchling, East Sussex, in the 1910s, or Black Mountain College in the ’30s and ’40s. The remote, then, is perceived as a space physically and therefore conceptually at one remove from the expectations or conventions of the exhibition circuit—and in this, very little has changed over the course of a whole century.

TIM GRIFFIN Claire, you’re suggesting an interesting historical continuity, but your comment makes me want to introduce a point made by scholar Anne M. Wagner elsewhere in this issue of the magazine. In order to more carefully consider shifts in the kinds of work we’re discussing and their changing contexts, might we claim that a “new economy of scale” has affected art’s relationship to site—and if so, how? As you mention, Rirkrit pointed out a certain absurdity to the notion of the artist as “nomad,” yet the Land did arise in part as a kind of respite from the art-world “circuit.”

PAMELA M. LEE Your reference to the “new economy of scale” resonates in a number of distinct but compatible ways for contemporary work. To begin with, “scale” was the catchword in the ’60s for discussions of Minimalism and Land art, and more often than not it was used to conjure the image of a viewer dwarfed in the presence of some massive object or installation. The term, of course, does not suggest an absolute relation, but there was a tendency to confuse scale with size on the part of some critics and curators who came to treat scale as a formal attribute, something inherent to the work on display.

I do think—and I partially follow James Meyer on this one—that we need to restore the relational dimension of scale in reflecting on the new generation of Land art. And by “relational,” I’m not thinking so much of Nicolas Bourriaud’s notion of “relational aesthetics” (though the social element decisively informs this discussion) as I am of the systematic questions these works raise. Questions of access, mostly. To that end, “new economy of scale” implies not only the expansion of audiences and markets for these works—the fact that, say, many of us will want to visit the Land or HDTS—but their necessarily uneven expansion across various registers of the art world. In other words, you could take the phrase to mean the scale of the works relative to the various sites at which they’re staged. The relationship is largely “uneven” insofar as the works will come to organize an art world around them, become sites for “art tourism.” I hasten to stress that this is not a colonial impulse at work—absolutely not in Rirkrit’s case! I just want to point out that art and various expressions of gentrification are not-so-odd but rather very old bedfellows. To wit: Someone recently told me how the property values at Marfa have experienced astronomical growth that’s off the charts with respect to the rest of the country.

ANDREA ZITTEL I have to say that, for me, the relationship of HDTS to the “circuit” is complicated, because it’s something that I thought I wanted to get away from—but now HDTS seems to have become yet another destination on this same circuit. I guess I’ve always felt resistant to how orchestrated our lives are when it comes to a predictable cycle of certain geographical destinations (it has made me feel more like a traveling salesman than an artist), and so I thought that there was a way to break free of that while nevertheless maintaining a presence and level of dialogue within the contemporary art community. Obviously, one can break free . . . but you can never really leave it behind.

PAMELA M. LEE What this touches on, it needs to be said, is how the new work is unavoidably inflected by issues of the global art world, the scale of which is itself unprecedented. We’ve danced around the G word too long here. I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that the proliferation of this new Land art, however disparate its iterations, coincides with the biennial fever we’ve witnessed in the past decade. Maybe, then, the old inside-outside dialectic of gallery/site has been displaced (or rather expanded) by the terms of the “large-scale” exhibition and work in the land. And the image of social interaction that follows shares in this larger geopolitical dynamic by extension.

RIRKRIT TIRAVANIJA Perhaps the Land is not so much intended as a “respite from the art-world circuit” as another circuit altogether. Which is not to say that the wires don’t cross. But we’ve been working with the idea of not having expectations or a time frame, thinking of the Land as a garden, or a tree in a garden. The idea is that the growth and cultivation is a long-term, self-sustaining condition, and parallel to this is the idea of a laboratory lending itself to notions of experimentation—which I think resembles Andrea’s HDTS and brings into play Claire’s point about Black Mountain College, in the sense that the Land has become a place for artists to gather between lectures given by passersby and to see exhibitions, both organized and unorganized. (There is not a real system anywhere else to support younger Thai artists beyond the very traditional, Beaux-Arts structure of the university.) In fact, I’m thinking about the economy of time rather than scale (although perhaps time is the super-size of scale), or such attendant ideas like globalization and the seeming proximity that comes with interconnectivity and information culture. One of the main reasons for me to be involved with a different circuitry is the necessity of pursuing time.

PAMELA M. LEE Rirkrit, your comment recalls one of my favorite passages from Lyotard: “The metaphysics of capital is a technology of time.” I really like your formulation of the Land and the economy of time because, if I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that your present relationship to time is subjected to the same “economy of scale” more immediately linked to global and spatial relations. Indeed, they are indivisible.

That you’re leaning to the temporal side of the equation regarding problems of scale and the Land, however, underscores that the rhetoric we have been using to describe the new Land art begs further qualification. For instance, the word “remote” would need to be crossed with the language of mobility, and not just in terms of the time it takes to get from one place to another or the sense of displacement that modes of travel afford (and here one could consider the kind of displacement that Pierre brought up at the very beginning of our conversation). I’m thinking, rather, of the ways in which you mobilize or, more important, choose not to mobilize the site: how you might give it a relative velocity in terms of the art world.

PIERRE HUYGHE The issue is not so much a physical elsewhere as it is a platform that allows scenarios to emerge. These open scenarios are time based. For instance, I invented the Association of Freed Times to extend the temporal protocols of a collective exhibition. It existed as a point of departure, playing with exploratory paradigms and temporal games. The idea of buying an unfinished house in a project like The House or Home? [1995] was based on the concept that the house could be completed through a series of discussions and open-ended scenarios rather than a preexisting plan. It was the construction of a situation, a temporal unfolding that would produce a place. In Extended Holiday [1996], a group of people were invited to extend their holiday into a journey through the concept of tourism. A project like Temporary School [1996] worked as an itinerant and intermittent school, while Mobile TV [1995] allowed for the production of an alternative time. Through projects like these, I’ve tried to engage and activate the kind of “large-scale exhibition” that Pamela was referring to.

TIM GRIFFIN Surely, however, we shouldn’t argue too seriously that there is any getting outside of the art-world circuit here (although I must plead guilty for hauling artwork back into the art-magazine context on a monthly basis). I think that we have to acknowledge that there is still a kind of foothold for all the work we’re discussing in the gallery and museum situation, whether we like it or not. The kind of indoor-outdoor dialectic engaged by artists in the ’60s and ’70s remains in play—even if, as Claire suggested at the outset, there has been an evolution of the “indoor” with installation art (which might extend to the “large-scale” exhibitions Pam mentions). Therefore, it’s worth considering the changing status of artistic “mediation” as it applies to relaying information back from these remote projects.

LYNNE COOKE Tim, to take up your question, it could be worthwhile to look again at Smithson. The works he made on his Yucatán trip in the spring of 1969 were devised expressly and exclusively to be photographed and included in an image-text work, a non-site. And then, by contrast, there is Gianfranco Gorgoni’s footage of not only the completion but also the construction of the Spiral Jetty, photographs that Smithson immediately used for his contribution to MoMA’s “Information” show in 1970. Smithson distinguished between the three different works he titled Spiral Jetty: the film, the essay, and the sculpture. The film and the essay were not substitutes for the sculpture but works with the same subject in another medium. That is, there was no equivalent, no possible surrogate, for the in situ experience of the Earthwork. I think it’s just as important today to differentiate between material gathered or shot on location in remote places, providing the basis for work to be installed in a gallery—such as the sounds Tacita Dean collected from around the globe for the piece she devised for London’s Millennium Dome [Friday/Saturday, 2000]—and work deliberately made to resist any adequate representation elsewhere.

PIERRE HUYGHE Smithson was asking himself how you deal with an experience and translate or transport it. What happens in this kind of movement? The film Spiral Jetty, for example, exists at an intersection of science, fiction, document, and travel. The film becomes a thing in itself. It has this double effect. And I don’t think I see that so often in the many “documentary” artworks today. For me, documentation really has something to do with the problem of the trace. I think some of the people of my generation are trying to get around the problem of the factual report by introducing a fictional parameter into the account, the real and the unreal dialogue. A coefficient of fiction has infiltrated the preproduction of a project itself, in its narrative protocols as well as in its mediation. The place of presentation is real, but it incorporates fictional elements. The fiction is a reality principle.

LYNNE COOKE I think Pierre has hit on a key aspect of the Spiral Jetty film and the feature that makes it so prescient: its fusion of fiction and reality, as seen in the footage from the Natural History Museum or the sound of the “respirator’s” heavy breathing, et al. Something hugely important in setting a paradigm for this kind of work that was outside all previously known or pregiven boundaries, it bears mentioning, was Tony Smith’s famous account of driving down the unfinished New Jersey Turnpike at night. Smith’s evocation of a nighttime ride is followed by references to abandoned airstrips in postwar Germany. Travel, especially travel in dystopian landscapes, seems as important at times as the sites themselves.

Galvanized by Smith’s paradigm, Smithson used the phrase “a position of elsewhere” to characterize the place he was trying to get to. He also indicated that it might be in “the reel world.” It leads me to wonder how much Rirkrit and Pierre are, or will be, concerned with other channels of relay, just as Alÿs’s Lima project was constructed to be received as much through word of mouth and rumor as through any official documentation he might orchestrate.

RIRKRIT TIRAVANIJA Kamin and I have been very concerned about the representation of the Land. Already, the Land has been in some sense mythologized. And while we always stress that the Land is a collaborative, most people assign my name to the place because of my profile and the fact that I often speak about it in public. Word of mouth, rumor, and “reel life” have certainly entered into the creation of fact and fiction around the Land itself. As I’ve said, we would prefer not to have the Land discussed as yet another project produced by a group of artists but rather to have it be displaced in people’s minds into another condition. We’re not sure how to achieve that, but we do always ask people who are interested in the Land to go there. Find out for yourself firsthand what the conditions are; don’t make any plans until you have spent some time there. So perhaps the condition of nonexpectation should come into play.

Beyond that, for me, the gallery and the Land are two separate conditions. Both activities are part of my practice, but I’m not at all interested in bringing those situations together. However, when it comes to artists working on the Land, Philippe Parreno and François Roche, for example, started with the idea of making a film, which then became the platform for making their building in the landscape. And Tobias Rehberger actually built a house for an exhibition at the Moderna Museet, which he sent to the Land after the show. In these cases, instead of the outdoors being brought back indoors, we have the reverse.

PIERRE HUYGHE My “Expédition Scintillante” in Bregenz, Austria, might relate to this. The exhibition was presented in 2002 as a physical scenario for a hypothetical journey to Antarctica. The postulate then had to be verified so that, as Rirkrit said, the movement in a certain way goes from inside to outside, from a fiction to a fragile reality.

ANDREA ZITTEL This in some way may connect to an experience I’ve had as a result of making my work and life public under the auspices of A-Z West. Much as in the site-specific projects of the ’60s and ’70s, I had originally thought that I wanted the most literal manifestation of the object and process possible. But what I’m now starting to suspect is that this attempt at total immersion and literalist manifestation ultimately makes all of life feel like a display—i.e., even what is real feels not real. So I am wondering if Pierre’s interest in fiction is somewhat parallel to this: In creating fiction, there is a duality allowing for a real experience in life as well as a real/unreal experience in viewing.

PIERRE HUYGHE Lynne was speaking about channels of relay, and if such a relay is indeed necessary, the mediation itself has to take into account the quality of the “always-already mediated” that Claire mentioned at the beginning of the conversation. This might be again where fiction could enter—as a tool of transmission. It could take the form of the culture you speak from, and it needs an object of address, a whom. The fiction in Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know About Her [1967] makes us understand more about the suburbs in the ’60s than any kind of documentary report. An even more precise relationship between a place and its representation can be found in the way the Aborigines communicate and understand their sense of place through song. Their songs are topologically identical to the land they’re crossing. A journey can become an opera, the opera a guide to produce a journey.