– Autumn/Winter 2002

Small Gestures in Specific Places: Communication and Topography

Nikos Papastergiadis

I do not want to express myself anymore, as an artist I want to connect myself with other people.
- Alicia Framis1

...what we suffer from these days is an excess of domesticity and a nostalgia for mobility.
- Guillermo Santamarina2

As a writer I am primarily concerned with the way art participates in a field of understanding and communicates with the world. I don't confine my discussion to calculating either the aesthetic value or political objectives of art but, rather, I seek to grasp the sense of place that is created as art stimulates sensations and engages relations with other people. In contemporary art practice the place for art has been dispersed and de-centred. An integral part of the practice of many contemporary artists is the specific act of placing. It is these trajectories and topographies of art in everyday life that drives my thinking. However, these topographies are surrounded by pitfalls. Engagements with the everyday and the writing of art can be compared to Elias Canetti's analogy of the interpretation of a dream to a birdcage with the door slightly ajar. You awaken from a dream but what happened? The bird has gone. While writing the story of art cannot trace the function of the feather in flight, it must suggest another trajectory. Writing does not aim to return to the imperious originality of the artwork, but to replicate the experience of the origin in the working through of ideas.

In Greek, there

  1. Quoted by Isobel Carlos in 'Non-Style and Self Refentiality', Lecture at the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney Biennale, 2002

  2. Guillermo Santamarina, 'Recodifying a Non-existant Field', in Jean Fisher (ed.), Global Visions, London: Kala Press, 1994, p.23

  3. Irit Rogoff, Terra Infirma: Geography's Visual Geography, London: Routledge, 2000, p.10

  4. Quoted in Giorgio Agamben, 'Aby Warburg and the Nameless Science', Potentialities, Stanford University Press, 1999, pp.91-92

  5. Walter Benjamin, One Way Street, London: Verso, 1985

  6. Rupert Sheldrake, 'The Rebirth of Nature', Pavel Buchler and Nikos Papastergiadis (eds.), Random Access, London: Rivers Oram Press, 1996, p.115

  7. Rupert Sheldrake, Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, London: Arrow, 2000

  8. Hal Foster, 'The artist as ethnographer', in J. Fisher, op. cit.

  9. Nestor García Canclini, Hybrid Cultures, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995

  10. For a more extensive examination of the debates on translation see my book: Nikos Papastergiadis, The Turbulence of Migration, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000

  11. Erika Tan, Pidgin: Interrupted Transmission, London: Film and Video Umbrella, 2002

  12. Mark Wilson (ed.), If I Ruled the World (exh. cat.), Glasgow: Centre for Contemporary Art, 2000. The exhibition 'If I Ruled the World' was curated by Bryndis Snaebjornsdottir and Ross Sinclair at the Living Art Museum, Reykjavik and McLlelan Galleries, Glasgow, 2000.

  13. Paul Carter, Material Thinking: Local Invention and Creative Culture, London: Continuum, London (forthcoming)