your space: become site-specific!
By Anna Wexler.
an art work is described as site-specific it means that it
couldn’t be transferred to another place: the space
it belongs to is a part of the overall experience. In site-specific
work, the content of the art and its location work together
to tell a story, and improvisation is often used to generate
Creating site-specific work encourages pupils to engage with
spaces at a detailed level and can also be a great way to
celebrate a particular place in your community. Pupils find
this new way of working very inspiring, because the location
offers new starting-points for their imaginations.
drama and dance the traditional distance between audience
and performer will not exist in a site-specific performance,
so pupils should consider how to use the audience as a part
of the work itself. However, sometimes sites are not amenable
to an audience. If this is the case then videoing performances
can work well as an alternative.
With site-specific art work it’s possible for pupils
to experiment with incorporating aspects of the real world
into their art. For example, the way light falls on an area
at particular times of the day could be used to great effect
to create mood. Pupils could also be encouraged to consider
how the materials and textures found in a particular place
could form an intrinsic part of a design, or as in the case
of Jim Lambie’s Zobop Stairs, pupils could use the shapes
of buildings to help them create something unique.
If you’re working in school ask your pupils to think
about places where certain events might happen. For example
the toilets might be the location for some bullying or a car
park could be the setting for an illicit meeting. The students
need to spend time in their chosen places considering what
features of the environment could influence the direction
of their drama. Maybe a noisy door could alert a character
to action going on elsewhere or the positioning of windows
could allow a character to see something they weren’t
meant to see.
creation of the drama needs to happen within the space. After
their initial thinking, pupils can script a short piece which
uses the location it is performed in to help tell the story.
symbolic nature of dance lends itself well to site-specific
work, where the place becomes part of the way the story is
told. If you are able to take pupils out of the school grounds
it is possible to really experiment with the way they perform.
For example, large spaces such as parks can be used to inspire
feelings of freedom, or perhaps loneliness. Street furniture
– and everything used to divide or organise spaces –
can become props or tools in creating dances. Venues with
interesting histories and unusual layouts can form the basis
for really exciting work. The key is to encourage the students
to apply their imaginations to the possibilities offered by
the particular site.
your space: become site-specific! By Anna Wexler, Education
advisor CABE | 26 April 2010