The Crossover of New Media Immersion and Site-Specificity: Contemporary Art and Spatial Experience


, Mar 1, 2009


In the literature on contemporary installation art, a conceptual paradox keeps rearing its head: frequently artworks are described as immersive and site-specific. But how can they be both? Although both terms have solid foundations within art history, they tend to be regarded as mutually exclusive categories, pertaining to very different kinds of aesthetic experience: “immersion” draws on our relationship with new media and engages a long history of illusionism and simulation, while “site-specificity” focuses on actual places as a way to circumvent illusionism and reveal the material or ideological forces that define a particular site. Given this difference, my objective is twofold: first to discover their respective usefulness and limitations, and then to ask, what happens when we think of them together?

In answer to this question I propose that the discourses of new media immersion and site-specificity have created a “crossover.” That is, the two discursive zones have neared each other to the point that they have created a force field between them, thereby generating a new zone altogether. I am using the figure to suggest the drastic waning in prominence of new media immersion and site-specificity as discrete discourses within art history over the last decade: each falls away to the margins, falling by the wayside of validated art practices, leaving between them the expansive zone of the crossover.

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