Notes on Lane Relyea – Studio Unbound

The following notes were taken while reading Lane Relyea’s essay Studio Unbound, which appears in The Studio Reader, edited by Mary Jane Jacob and Michelle Grabner (2010).

The essay opens with a discussion of Corin Hewitt’s 2009 installation Seed Stage, in which the artist “constructed a fully functioning workspace” in which he made art, cooked food, made photographs of both the art and the food, made prints, and maintained a compost bin; visitors to the installation were invited to explore the space, or alternatively to view from outside a number of images the artist had hung on the gallery wall. The installation “eroded” the “former oppositions” of “studio and museum, inside and outside, public and private, […] original and reproduction, production and consumption, art and life”.

This installations “endless circuitry” without any sense of “destination” reflects what the author describes as a broader shift toward “time-based, open-ended, and interactive” projects, described by Claire Bishop as “essentially institutionalized studio activity”. The “autonomy” of the artist’s studio – and it’s position as antagonist to the museum – has now been replaced by “places of fluid interchange” that “place greater emphasis on information, discussion and gatherings”, and include “interactive data kiosks” and “loungelike reading rooms”.

Relyea observes that the artist’s studio no longer appears “as an ideological frame that mystifies production”, nor does it belong to an established and stable structure (as described by Daniel Buren). Instead, the studio occupies one space in a network.

The author connects the development of the network model to the “turn” toward more physical, craft-based practices – particularly sculpture – which in some way seeks to counter the confusion of the network’s “decentralized” structure.

However, Relyea argues that the particular forms of sculpture that have developed – the works of Rachel Harrison and Isa Genzken, for example – do not present an “alternative” to the network, but actually – in their bricolage of recognizable forms – represent “object networks” that are “interwoven with larger systems of exchange” (or, networks).

The author goes on to suggest that both “studio” and “post-studio” approaches “increasingly manifest themselves as ‘practices’ that repurpose already existing objects, sites, and discourses, the aim being to access and link various databases and platforms” from information to “pop-culture inventories”.

The next section discusses the “networking” of the studio as resulting in a break down of the artists role a a maker of unique, resolved objects. A the network “privileges itinerancy and circulation over fixity”, and “diminishes hierarchies and boundaries in favor of mobility and flexibility across a more open, extensive environment”, the individual artist and studio are “subordinated”, shedding autonomy, loyalties and identifications in order to more effectively merge with the system. Artists who are successful in this environment integrate into a “diffuse ecology” that “involves not only making art but putting on shows, publishing, […] organizing events, teaching, networking” and so on.

Th author concludes that the studio is no longer an “ivory tower”, but that it “integrates”, and is “exterior”. The artist and studio are no longer private, separate entities; they are accessible.


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