Joe Scanlan
Wanderers in the Expanded Field, 2009

Acrylic paint and ink on painted cement
Installation view in Self as Disappearance,
a group show organized at the Art Center,
Ancienne Synagogue de Delme, France

 

WANDERERS IN THE EXPANDED FIELD
by Joe Scanlan

At first glance, Rosalind Krauss’s diagram “Sculpture in the Expanded Field” would appear not to take into account the artist’s body as a sculptural site. On closer examination, however, the diagram would seem to posit all artists as sculptures, since their bodies are neither landscape nor architecture. If the artist’s body can explicitly be a site marker (Mendieta), a constructed site (Oiticica), or an axiomatic structure (Nauman), then the body of every artist must implicitly be a sculpture.

But what of the artist’s body in motion — of “going for a walk” as a work of art? Krauss cites photographic documents of walking in relation to the expanded field, but she makes no mention of what to do with the act of walking itself. Since an artist’s body can only ever be indoors or outdoors, she would seem to assume that it is always able to be located in her landscape/architecture dichotomy.

What interests me about this assumption is how the idea of wandering — that is, of going for a walk, allowing an element of chance to influence your movements, and resisting a premeditated duration or final destination — introduces a degree of doubt into the diagram. To borrow from quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg, wandering artists embody a state of uncertainty. Stopping an artist from wandering in order to determine their location would destroy the essential character of their artwork, which is being in motion. But as long as the artist continues walking — that is, wandering — the artwork remains incomplete.

Many artists who have gone for a walk and called it art over the last forty years have done so, in part, to experience this sense of forestallment, of indeterminacy. In that spirit, this diagram, devised with art historian Claire Bishop, changes Krauss’s landscape/architecture antipodes to more interior, motivational points of reference, ones rooted in the artists’ sensitivity (or lack thereof) to the environment and what (if anything) they want from it. The perfect sculpture in our diagram, then, would be an artist who wanders forever without arriving anywhere or wanting for anything.

“Wanderers In The Expanded Field” is a simple plotting of this potential. It contains all the artists we could think of whose works, as acts of wandering, activate Krauss’s schema in the same moment that they unravel it.