Definiton Essay – Jodi Dziedzic

Art is something that cannot be defined by one individual because it is usually so subjective. However, street art often falls under one particular category- street art is site-specific art. Forms of site-specific art range from installation sculptures or performance art in a public place, to particular paintings in a room designed specifically for the artwork itself. Site-specific art sometimes is created for and placed in an environment, which assists the piece in becoming a successful work of art. Artists will often choose or be assigned an exact area which they will be putting their art, and the piece will be designed to allow it’s surroundings be complimenting and appropriate- or possibly inappropriate and ironic. On the other hand, street art can be site-specific in the sense that it does not belong in another place, other than the public.

A popular form of site-specific art, and street art is installation art. Installation art and site-specific art go hand in hand, mostly because an installation is created then installed on the site, usually incorporating items, materials or the setting as part of the piece. Installation art also includes performance art- something that cannot happen unless it has a specific time and setting.

Many infamous spectacles in the world today are actually site-specific sculptures. For example, British artist Anish Kapoor’s, “Cloud Gate” in Chicago, Illinois. Within Millennium Park lies this 66 feet long, 110+ ton “bean shaped” sculpture. Having been inspired by of a drop of mercury, the sculpture was created using a number of large stainless steel plates. After an intense amount of time polishing the edges, it now has a smooth, seamless, mirrored effect. This large, organic shape achieves mirroring the beautiful, panoramic skyline view from Millennium Park for visitors and townspeople to enjoy. The factors of the material, size and location all come together in making this a successful piece for viewers to observe.

A lot of artists will create a piece of art to correspond with its environment, based off of the way it will interact with nature. Off the shore of Great Salt Lake in Utah comfortably sits Robert Smithson’s iconic earthwork “Spiral Jetty.” Smithson installed the piece in the 1970′s, and it remains intact, looking naturally as a piece of the land. The jetty is 1,500 feet long and 15 foot wide. The jetty is made up of local basalt rock and sediments from the Earth, which allows it to have an earthy and natural appearance. Smithson’s intentions while creating this piece were to assure that it is “intimately involved with the climate changes and natural disturbances” of the lake and it’s fluctuation in weather. Inevitably the piece eventually begun to wear away and now, although it still stands, it shows signs of erosion and “sand and silt deposits.”

Removing a piece of art that is site-specific seems counter-productive. If Anish Kapoor had decided to place his “Cloud Gate” inside of an art gallery, that could fit his 66 foot long mass of stainless steel into a room, the meaning would not be the same. The surroundings of the piece would most likely be blank, white or off white walls and a neutral floor. Although the panoramic effect that “Cloud Gate” achieves is very exciting, the mirrored image would not be. Had Robert Smithson decided to build his “Spiral Jetty” within a designated floor space in an art gallery, it most likely would have just looked like a swirl of rocks and sediment. This would be the exact opposite of the artists intentions.

In a sense, street arts intention is to have a shock factor. Even if the artist does not pick a designated wall of a store on a corner of two roads at a specific time of day- it’s made for the streets. Taking something so visually stimulating, like art, and removing it from it’s expected context in shocking.

When a piece of art is not presented in the way it was meant to, it loses a piece of significance. Taking something like a piece of street art and placing it into a confined area like an art gallery causes it lose meaning. Vice-versa, taking a piece of art and putting it in a place it does not belong seems wrong, but in the ways that art street art, it is right. Street art is guerrilla art, and the definition of guerrilla is “a person who engages in irregular warfare especially as a member of an independent unit carrying out harassment and sabotage.” It would be improper and inappropriate for something of such significance to be placed into an area where it does not belong, forcing the work to lose its integrity.

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One Response to Definiton Essay – Jodi Dziedzic

  1. davidbdale says:

    Jodi, this has all the elements of an excellent definition essay, and does most of its work well. It only fails in its rhetoric, so I’ll try to help you with that.

    Instead of “complaining” that your term is going to be hard to define, why not hide the fact that you’re trying to define a term at all? After all, would anybody deliberately read an essay called, “What Exactly is This Thing We Call Street Art Anyway?”

    In most cases, street art isn’t really site-specific in quite the way you mean, except that it’s outdoors, so the “site” is “not where it belongs” or “not inside a gallery.”

    When we don’t appreciate the work of an artist who’s displaying in a gallery, our common reaction is: “That doesn’t belong in here.” Similarly, when we’re surprised to see something we really admire slapped on the side of a building, we think: “That doesn’t belong out here.” And that reaction of ours is part of the work.

    Some pieces are positioned in a very particular place to comment on a very specific site: but others would work equally well anywhere distant from wherever we expect to see art.

    Do I sound like I’m writing a definition essay? I hope not. I’m just wrestling with a concept out loud and letting you in on my thinking.

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