Revisiting WORKSITE: Finlay J. Hall

The following notes were taken while rereading Finlay J. Hall‘s contribution to the WORKSITE blog.

  • Finlay asserts that a “work site” is “where a work takes place, has taken place, or is yet to take place”, while adding that “a place is different from a space” as it “depends on socio–political factors as well as personal and shared history”. It is interesting to consider the relationship of “site” to “place” and “space” – whether “site” is synonymous with one of the two, or something else entirely? There is of course a lot of overlap between these three terms, especially in everyday usage, though in art practice we tend to specify certain works as “site-specific” rather than “place-specific” or “space-specific”.
  • “Space” is perhaps more commonly associated with an interior (e.g. an “exhibition space”), whereas “site” usually denotes an exterior (as in “site-specific”). It is curious that the more open or expansive connotations of “space” might refer to such a specific and enclosed venue.
  • Does the use of “site” to refer to a specific (usually outdoor) project (as in “site-specific [art] work”) deliberately evoke connotations of the “work site” or “construction site” as a place of building and/or creativity becoming manifest? “Site” to me suggests a place where something is happening – or has happened, e.g. a “bomb site”.
  • Finlay uses the example of a work Joseph Beuys made at Rannoch Moor to suggest that the “site” of a work might precede the work itself – the site being used as a container or index for a forgotten or obscure gesture. In this way a site might eclipse a work – overshadowing it – or on the other hand the work might overpower the site – becoming the first thing one thinks of when they think of that place.
  • Finlay concludes that “the site can do a lot of the work for you. It’s like a lazy way to make something relevant.”. This links in with the idea raised above, that an artwork may leverage the connotations of a site, with the site in effect becoming part of the work itself. This would support the thesis that site and work are inseparable, or at least, that a different site would equal a different result – just as changing the colours of a painting would make it an entirely new work.

One thought on “Revisiting WORKSITE: Finlay J. Hall”

  1. It’s worth unpacking ‘site’ first I think. This seems to have popped up in the 1960s. I imagine it is because it has the connotations you note (worksite, bombsite, construction site, etc.) It’s ”neutral” in comparison with place. It also suggests a location that requires research to be ‘known’ (think of of a site in archaeology). Places are made, sites are investigated…. The faux neutrality of site betrays its orgins in the ’60s – it’s a hangover from modernism. “Site specific” is too – another form of “truth to materials” but scaled up? When you probe it, it seems odd – how can a work of art truly only be specfic to one site? How can one site only really have bear one ‘specific’ work of art? There’s a bit of essentialism or at least overdeterminism in the mix here I think?

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