Site, Non-site, and Website


  • Richard Rinehart


In the 1960’s, artist Robert Smithson articulated the strategy of representation summarized by “site vs. non-site” whereby certain artworks were simultaneously abstract and representational and could be site-specific without being sited. A pile of rocks in a gallery is an “abstract” way to represent their site of origin. In the 1990’s re-de-materialized the art object and found new ways to suspend the artwork online between website and non-site. In the 21st century, new technologies suggest a reconsideration of the relationship between the virtual and the real. “Hardlinks” such as QR codes attempt to bind a virtual link to our physical environment.

Throughout the 1970’s, institutional critique brought political awareness and social intervention to the site of the museum. In the 1980’s and 90’s, street artist such as Banksy went in the opposite direction, critiquing the museum by siting their art beyond its walls.

Sited art and intervention art meet in the art of the trespass. What is our current relationship to the sites we live in? What representational strategies are contemporary artists using to engage sites? How are sites politically activated? And how are new media framing our consideration of these questions?