Das Platforms / Contemporary Art


by Madeleine Preston

14 Feb 2012

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do

Two can be as bad as one

It's the loneliest number since the number one…[1]

One of the most enduring ideas surrounding art is that of the studio as the lonely site of creation. Arguments since the late 1960s have included the question of whether to stay or to abandon the studio in favour of site-specific creation.

The third option is what Felix Gonzalez Torres calls the ‘kitchen table’ studio. Work from home. Work at home. But in many ways all three options can be lonely or isolated ones. You can be alone in a studio, on a pier, or at home. All three choices will cost you time, effort and expenditure. All three will involve work.

In Daniel Buren’s 1971 article The Function of the Studio[2] he wrote of the traditional studio:

  1. 1.     It is the place where work originates
  2. 2.     It is generally a private place, an ivory tower perhaps
  3. 3.     It is a stationary place where portable objects are produced

Is the studio the place where work originates? Isn’t a project more likely to be thought of before, during and after being in the studio? Most studios I can afford are with other people so the privacy, the sense of being alone they afford is often contingent. Yes studios can be ivory towers but so too can site specific large-scale collaborative projects. Is the studio only and always a stationary place where portable objects are made? Well, yes and no: it’s a piece of string question. Buren is right and wrong – it’s a long piece of string.

In many ways the studio is seen as a luxury and an indulgence. It may be one of the reasons that artists always refer to what they do as work.

But the site specific has come a long was since Buren – in part gaining momentum through the exponential growth of the art market and its voracious appetites.

In the 1990s a generation of artists came to be known as “post-studio” artists because they did not make art by conventional means … Their practice consisted of visiting the location, conceiving of an artwork, then having the logistical expenditure of producing the artwork (or some version of it) assumed by the host institution. In such an environment, the studio came to be seen as an anachronism, ill suited for the “just-in-time” economics of the international biennial circuit.[3]

Speed and ‘just in time economics’[4]may be one reason for the rise of post studio work practices. That, and perhaps the rising cost of real estate. Art in the studio might just be too slow for the 21st century art market. It’s an indication (if one were needed) of how capital can always extract coin from the once radical.

[1] Harry Nilsson

[2] Jacob M.J and Grabner M ed, The Studio Reader – On the space of artists, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Univ of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 2010, p156

[3] Ibid., p153

[4] Ibid., p153