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Sculpture in the Expanded Field Author(s): Rosalind Krauss Reviewed work(s): Source: October, Vol. 8 (Spring, 1979), pp.

30-44 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 18/02/2013 22:26
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Sculpturein the Expanded Field


there is a slightmound,a swellingin theearth, Toward thecenterof thefield which is theonlywarninggivenforthepresenceof thework.Closer to it,thelarge square face of the pit can be seen, as can the ends of the ladder thatis needed to below grade: half descend into the excavation. The work itselfis thus entirely of atrium,half tunnel,the boundarybetweenoutside and in, a delicatestructure wooden posts and beams. The work,Perimeters/Pavilions/Decoys, 1978,by Mary an earthwork. Miss, is of course a sculptureor, more precisely, Over the last ten years rathersurprisingthings have come to be called sculpture: narrow corridorswith TV monitorsat the ends; large photographs hikes; mirrors rooms; placed at strangeangles in ordinary documentingcountry the floor of lines cut into the desert.Nothing, it would seem, could temporary the rightto lay claim to whateverone possibly give to such a motleyof effort of mean the can be made by category sculpture.Unless,thatis, thecategory might malleable. to become almost infinitely The criticaloperations that have accompanied postwarAmericanart have largelyworkedin the serviceof this manipulation. In thehands of thiscriticism and categories like sculpture and painting have been kneaded and stretched a display of the way a of elasticity, twistedin an extraordinary demonstration cultural termcan be extendedto include just about anything.And though this in the of a termsuch as sculptureis overtly performed pulling and stretching name of vanguardaesthetics-the ideology of the new-its covertmessageis that The new is made comfortable of historicism. by being made familiar,since it is of thepast. Historicism workson seen as having graduallyevolvedfromtheforms It makes a the new and different to diminish newness and mitigatedifference. place forchange in our experiencebyevokingthemodel of evolution,so thatthe fromthechild he once was, by man who now is can be acceptedas being different action of the telos-as the the unseeable simultaneouslybeing seen-through for same. And we are comfortedby this perceptionof sameness, this strategy reducinganythingforeignin eithertimeor space, to what we alreadyknow and are.

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No sooner had minimal sculptureappeared on the horizonof the aesthetic a paternity forthiswork, began to construct experienceof the 1960s,thancriticism the authenticate who could legitimizeand thereby fathers a set of constructivist Plastic? inert of these factory geometries? objects. strangeness production?--none could be as the ghostsof Gabo and Tatlin and Lissitzky of thiswas reallystrange, of theone had nothingto do with, Nevermind thatthecontent called in to testify. was in facttheexactopposite of,the contentof theother.NevermindthatGabo's while Judd's plastic-tingedcelluloid was the sign of lucidityand intellection, thatconstructivwith-dayglo spoke thehip patois of California.It did not matter were intendedas visual proofof the immutablelogic and coherenceof ist forms in minimalism were universal geometries,while their seeming counterparts held not by Mind but by a universe together demonstrably contingent--denoting or of to historicize or the accidents The wires, simplyswept gravity. rage glue, guy thesedifferences aside.

Richard Serra.5:30. 1969.

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Sculpture in the Expanded Field


Of course, with the passing of time these sweeping operations got a little As the 1960sbegan to lengtheninto the 1970sand "sculpture" harderto perform. or sawed redwoodtimbers rolledinto began to be piles of threadwasteon thefloor, the gallery, or tons of earth excavated from the desert,or stockades of logs the word sculpturebecame harderto pronounce-but not surroundedby firepits, a more extended reallythatmuch harder.The historian/critic simplyperformed and began to construct his genealogies out of thedata of millenia sleight-of-hand ratherthan decades. Stonehenge,the Nazca lines, the Toltec ballcourts,Indian burial mounds-anything at all could be hauled into courtto bear witnessto this work's connectionto history and thereby to legitimizeits statusas sculpture.Of course Stonehengeand the Toltec ballcourtswerejust exactlynot sculpture,and so theirrole as historicist precedentbecomessomewhatsuspectin thisparticular But never mind. The trickcan still be done by calling upon a demonstration. varietyof primitivizingwork from the earlier part of the century-Brancusi's Endless Column will do-to mediate betweenextreme past and present. But in doing all of this, the verytermwe had thoughtwe were savingsculpture-has begun to be somewhat obscured. We had thought to use a universalcategory to authenticate a group ofparticulars, butthecategory has now been forcedto coversuch a heterogeneity in dangerof collapsing. thatit is, itself, And so we stareat thepit in theearthand thinkwe both do and don't knowwhat sculptureis. Yet I would submitthatwe know very well whatsculptureis. And one of the bounded category and not a universal thingswe know is thatit is a historically one. As is true of any otherconvention,sculpturehas its own internallogic, its own set of rules, which,though theycan be applied to a variety of situations,are not themselves it would seem, open to verymuch change. The logic of sculpture, is inseparablefromthelogic of the monument.By virtueof thislogic a sculpture is a commemorative It sits in a particularplace and speaks in a representation. symbolicaltongue about the meaning or use of thatplace. The equestrianstatue of Marcus Aurelius is such a monument,set in the centerof the Campidoglio to represent by its symbolical presencethe relationshipbetweenancient, Imperial Rome and the seat of government of modern,Renaissance Rome. Bernini'sstatue of the Conversion of Constantine,placed at the foot of the Vatican stairway connectingthe Basilica of St. Peter to the heart of the papacy is another such Because monument,a markerat a particularplace fora specific meaning/event. and marking, they thus function in relation to the logic of representation and vertical,theirpedestals an important sculpturesare normallyfigurative part of the structure since theymediate betweenactual site and representational sign. There is nothing verymysterious about this logic; understoodand inhabited,it was the source of a tremendousproduction of sculpture during centuriesof Westernart. But the conventionis not immutableand therecame a timewhen thelogic we witnessedthefadingof thelogic of began to fail. Late in thenineteenth century

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the monument.It happened rathergradually.But two cases come to mind,both status.Rodin's Gates ofHell and his bearing the marksof theirown transitional statueof Balzac wereboth conceivedas monuments.The first werecommissioned in 1880 as the doors to a projected museum of decorativearts; the second was commissionedin 1891as a memorialto literary site genius to be setup at a specific in Paris. The failureof thesetwo worksas monuments is signalednot only bythe fact that multiple versions can be found in a varietyof museums in various while no versionexistson theoriginalsites-both commissionshaving countries, of these eventuallycollapsed. Their failureis also encoded onto theverysurfaces works: the doors having been gouged away and anti-structurally to the encrusted point where they bear their inoperative condition on their face; the Balzac executedwith such a degreeof subjectivity thatnot evenRodin believed(as letters by him attest)that the work would everbe accepted. With thesetwo sculpturalprojects,I would say,one crossesthe threshold of thelogic of themonument, the space of what could be called itsnegative entering condition-a kind of sitelessness,or homelessness,an absolute loss of place. Which is to say one enters modernism,since it is the modernistperiod of sculpturalproductionthatoperatesin relation to this loss of site,producingthe monument as abstraction,the monument as pure markeror base, functionally placeless and largelyself-referential. It is these two characteristics of modernist sculpturethat declare its status, and therefore its meaning and function,as essentiallynomadic. Through its fetishization of the base, the sculpturereachesdownwardto absorb the pedestal into itselfand away fromactual place; and throughtherepresentation of its own materialsor the process of its construction, the sculpturedepictsits own autoninstanceof theway thishappens. The base omy. Brancusi's artis an extraordinary of the figurative becomes,in a work like the Cock, the morphological generator and Endless Column, the sculptureis all base; part of theobject; in the Caryatids while in Adam and Eve, the sculptureis in a reciprocalrelation to its base. The base is thusdefined as essentially themarker of thework'shomelesstransportable, ness integratedinto the veryfiber of the sculpture.And Brancusi's interest in that tend towardradical abstractness expressingparts of the body as fragments also testifies to a loss of site,in thiscase the siteof therestofthebody,theskeletal support thatwould give to one of the bronzeor marbleheads a home. In being thenegativeconditionofthemonument, modernist had a sculpture kind of idealistspace to explore,a domain cut off from theprojectof temporaland a vein that was rich and new and could fora while be spatial representation, mined. But it was a limitedvein and, having been opened in theearly profitably it began by about 1950to be exhausted.It began, thatis, to be partof thecentury, At thispoint modernist experiencedmore and more as pure negativity. sculpture whose appeared as a kind of black hole in the space of consciousness,something difficult to define, thatwas possible to positivecontentwas increasingly something locate only in terms of what it was not. "Sculptureis what you bump into when

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Auguste Rodin. Balzac. 1897.

ConstantinBrancusi. Beginning of the World. 1924.

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1964. Morris. Green Installation. Robert Gallery

Untitled(MirroredBoxes). 1965.
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But it would you back up to see a painting," BarnettNewman said in the fifties. one in be of work that found the more accurate to the say earlysixties probably thatsculpturehad entereda categoricalno-man's-land:it was what was on or in of a building thatwas not the building, or what was in the landscape that front was not the landscape. The purest examples that come to mind fromthe early 1960sare both by Robert Morris.One is the work exhibitedin 1964 in the Green Gallery-quasiwhose statusas sculpturereducesalmost completelyto the architectural integers thatit is what is in the room thatis notreallytheroom;the determination simple boxes-forms which are distinct otheris the outdoor exhibitionof the mirrored fromthe settingonly because, though visuallycontinuouswith grass and trees, theyare not in factpart of the landscape. In thissense sculpturehad entered thefullconditionof its inverselogic and it could be had becomepure negativity: thecombinationofexclusions.Sculpture, thatresultedfrom and was now the category said, had ceased being a positivity, the addition of the not-landscape to the not-architecture. Diagrammatically looks thelimitof modernist theaddition of the neither/nor, expressed, sculpture, like this: not-landscape not-architecture
Isculpture I

sculpture Now, if sculpture itselfhad become a kind of ontological absence, the combinationof exclusions,the sum of the neither/nor, thatdoes not mean that the termsthemselves fromwhich it was built-the not-landscapeand the not-

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Sculpture in the Expanded Field


not have a certaininterest. architecture--did This is because theseterms expressa between the built and the not-built, strict theculturaland thenatural, opposition betweenwhich the production of sculptural art appeared to be suspended. And what began to happen in the careerofone sculptorafter another, beginningat the end of the 1960s,is thatattention began to focuson theouterlimitsofthoseterms of exclusion. For, if thoseterms are theexpressionofa logical opposition statedas a pair of negatives,theycan be transformed by a simple inversioninto the same but That is, thenot-architecture is, according polar opposites expressed positively. to the logic of a certainkind ofexpansion,just anotherway ofexpressing theterm The expansion to which is, simply,architecture. landscape,and the not-landscape I am referring is called a Klein group when employedmathematically and has various otherdesignations,among themthe Piaget group,when used bystructuralistsinvolvedin mapping operationswithinthehuman sciences.*By means of thislogical expansion a setofbinariesis transformed into a quaternary field which both mirrors the original opposition and at the same timeopens it. It becomesa logically expanded fieldwhich looks like this:

. . * *s . .


not-architecture ............compl neuter

scu ure
* The dimensionsof this structure of may be analyzed as follows: 1) thereare two relationships which are termedaxes (and further pure contradiction into the complex axis and the differentiated neuteraxis) and are designatedby the solid arrows (see diagram); 2) thereare two relationshipsof contradiction, expressedas involution, which are called schemas and are designatedby the double arrows;and 3) thereare two relationshipsof implicationwhich are called deixesand aredesignatedby the brokenarrows. For a discussionof the Klein group, see Marc Barbut,"On the Meaning of theWord 'Structure' in Mathematics,"in Michael Lane, ed., Introductionto Structuralism, New York, Basic Books, 1970; foran application of the Piaget group, see A.-J.Greimasand F. Rastier,"The Interaction of Semiotic Constraints,"Yale FrenchStudies,no. 41 (1968), 86-105.

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Anotherway of saying thisis thateven thoughsculpturemay be reducedto what is in the Klein group the neuter termof the not-landscapeplus the notthereis no reason not to imagine an opposite term-one thatwould architecture, be both landscape and architecture-which within this schema is called the that complex. But to thinkthecomplex is to admitinto therealmof arttwo terms had formerly been prohibited from it: landscape and architecture-terms that could functionto definethe sculptural (as theyhad begun to do in modernism) only in their negativeor neutercondition.Because it was ideologicallyprohibited, thecomplexhad remainedexcludedfrom what mightbe called theclosureofpostRenaissance art. Our culture had not beforebeen able to think the complex, although othercultureshave thoughtthis termwith greatease. Labyrinthsand mazes are both landscape and architecture; Japanese gardens are both landthe and ritual fields and processionalsof ancient architecture; landscape playing civilizationswere all in this sense the unquestioned occupants of the complex. Which is not to say that theywere an early,or a degenerate, or a variantformof were of a universe or in cultural which They sculpture. part space sculpturewas another as our historicist minds would have it, the somehow, simply part-not same. Their purpose and pleasure is exactlythat theyare opposite and different. The expanded fieldis thus generatedby problematizingthe set of oppositionsbetweenwhich themodernist is suspended.And once this category sculpture has happened, once one is able to thinkone's way into thisexpansion,there areother that one can all of them a condition of envision, logically-three categories the fielditself, and none of themassimilable to sculpture.Because as we can see, sculptureis no longertheprivilegedmiddle termbetweentwo thingsthatit isn't. of a fieldin which thereare Sculpture is ratheronly one termon the periphery structured one And has other,differently possibilities. thereby gained the "permission" to thinktheseotherforms.So our diagram is filledin as follows: site-construction
S %%


rarchi ecure ........



marked . sites.


axiomatic S, structures ;o not-architecture ........... neuter



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RobertSmithson.Spiral Jetty. 1969-70.(Photo GianfrancoGorgoni.) RobertMorris.Observatory. 1970.

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Alice Aycock.Maze. 1972. Carl Andre.Cuts. 1967.

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Sculpture in the Expanded Field


It seems fairly clear thatthispermission(or pressure)to thinktheexpanded fieldwas feltby a numberof artistsat about the same time,roughlybetweenthe years 1968 and 1970. For, one afteranother Robert Morris,Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer,Richard Serra,WalterDe Maria, RobertIrwin,Sol LeWitt,Bruce a situationthelogical conditionsofwhichcan no longer Nauman ... had entered be described as modernist.In order to name this historical rupture and the of the cultural fieldthatcharacterizes transformation structural it,one musthave recourseto another term.The one already in use in other areas of criticismis There seems no reason not to use it. postmodernism. But whatevertermone uses, the evidence is already in. By 1970,with the in Ohio, RobertSmithson PartiallyBuried Woodshed at Kent State University, I am calling site had begun to occupy thecomplex axis, whichforease ofreference In 1971 with the observatory he built in wood and sod in Holland, construction. RobertMorrishad joined him. Since thattime,manyotherartists-RobertIrwin, Alice Aycock,John Mason, Michael Heizer, Mary Miss, Charles Simonds-have operatedwithin this new set of possibilities. thepossible combinationof landscapeand not-landscape Similarly, began to be explored in the late 1960s.The termmarkedsitesis used to identify worklike Smithson's Spiral Jetty(1970) and Heizer's Double Negative (1969), as it also describessome of the work in the seventiesby Serra,Morris,Carl Andre,Dennis Oppenheim, Nancy Holt, George Trakis, and many others.But in addition to actual physical manipulations of sites, this termalso refers to other formsof of These the marksmarking. mightoperatethrough application impermanent Heizer's Depressio.ns,Oppenheim's Time Lines, or De Maria's Mile Long Drawing, for example-or throughthe use of photography.Smithson's Mirror Displacements in the Yucatan were probably the first widely known instances of this,but since thenthework of Richard Long and Hamish Fulton has focused on the photographic experienceof marking.Christo'sRunning Fence mightbe said to be an impermanent, and political instanceofmarkinga site. photographic, The firstartists to explore the possibilities of architectureplus notarchitecture were Robert Irwin, Sol LeWitt,Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra,and Christo. In every case of these axiomatic structures, there is some kind of interventioninto the real space of architecture, sometimes through partial sometimesthroughdrawing,or as in the recentworksof Morris, reconstruction, the use of mirrors.As was true of the categoryof the marked site, through can be used for this purpose; I am thinkinghere of the video photography corridors by Nauman. But whatever the medium employed, the possibility of the explored in this categoryis a process of mapping the axiomatic features architectural experience-the abstractconditionsof openness and closure-onto the realityof a given space. The expanded field which characterizesthis domain of postmodernism possesses two featuresthat are alreadyimplicit in the above description.One of these concerns the practice of individual artists;the other has to do with the

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question of medium. At both thesepoints thebounded conditionsof modernism have suffered a logically determined rupture. Withregardto individual practice, it is easy to see thatmanyoftheartists in have themselves found different within question occupying,successively, places the expanded field.And though the experienceof the fieldsuggests that this is entirely continual relocationofone's energies stillin the logical, an artcriticism thrallof a modernist ethoshas been largelysuspicious of such movement, calling it eclectic. This suspicion of a career that moves continually and erratically demandfor beyondthedomain of sculptureobviouslyderivesfromthemodernist and separateness ofthevariousmediums(and thusthenecessary thepurity specialwithin a given medium). But what appears as eclectic ization of a practitioner fromone point of view can be seenas rigorously another.For,within logical from in is not defined relation to a given the situation of postmodernism, practice in on a set of relation to rather the operations logical medium--sculpture--but cultural terms,for which any medium--photography, books, lines on walls, or sculptureitself--might be used. mirrors, Thus thefield setofrelated providesbothforan expandedbutfinite positions fora givenartist to occupyand explore,and foran organization ofworkthatis not
Robert Smithson.Firstand SeventhMirror

Yucatan.1969. Displacements,

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Sculpture in theExpanded Field


dictatedby the conditionsof a particularmedium. From the structure laid out it is the of obvious that the of above, logic space postmodernist practiceis no the around definition medium of a on the longer organized given grounds of the for that of It is material. material,or, matter, perception organizedinstead the terms universe of that are be in felt to through opposition within a cultural situation. (The postmodernistspace of painting would obviously involve a similar expansion around a different set of terms from the pair archiset that would landscape-a probably turn on the opposition uniquetecture! It ness/reproducibility.) follows, then, that within any one of the positions mediumsmightbe employed. by thegivenlogical space,manydifferent generated It followsas well thatany single artist any one of the mightoccupy,successively, it the within And also seems case that the limited positions. position of sculpture itselfthe organizationand contentof much of the strongest the workwill reflect hereof thesculpture conditionof thelogical space. I am thinking of JoelShapiro, is involvedin the settingof which, though it positions itselfin the neuterterm, of within architecture vast fields images relatively (landscapes) of space. (These considerationsapply, obviously, to other work as well-Charles Simonds, for example, or Ann and PatrickPoirier.)

Richard Long. Untitled.1969. (Krefeld,Germany.)

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I have been insistingthatthe expanded field of postmodernism occurs at a moment in the recent of art. It is a event with a specific history historical It seems to me extremely determinant to structure. that structure important map and that is what I have begun to do here. But clearly,since this is a matterof it is also importantto explore a deepersetof questions which pertainto history, somethingmore than mapping and involve instead the problemof explanation. These address the root cause-the conditionsof possibility-that broughtabout into postmodernism, as theyalso addresstheculturaldeterminants theshift of the a field which is This a different structured. is opposition through given obviously about thehistory of formfromthatof historicist criticism's approach to thinking of elaborate genealogical trees.It presupposes the acceptance of constructions definitive rupturesand the possibilityof looking at historicalprocess fromthe of view of logical structure. point

Joel Shapiro. Untitled(Cast Iron and PlasterHouses). 1975.

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