>>THAT PLACE, Moore Building, May 2002<<

I no longer travel. I only have fits of moving around.

Federico Fellini

In this era of speed and with the development of new technologies that are changing our physical space, place is no longer defined by its spatial dimensions, nor is distance measured in terms of how far something is. Today we plan our time through the Internet and use mobile phones to conduct our daily chores. Paul Virilio, the French theorist, expresses in his book From Modernism to Hypermodernism and Beyond, that it is difficult to grasp this phenomenon of acceleration unless we try to understand the theory of relativity. "We have become deterritorialized," writes Virilio, "Our embedding in our native soil, that element of hic et nunc (here and now) 'in situ', that embedding belongs, now, in a certain way, to the past. Relativity is no longer the exclusive domain of natural scientists, it has become the property of all those who live in the modern world.

Virilio explores the possibility of a non-orthogonal architecture where the principles of Euclidean space — the horizontal and the vertical — are rejected and substituted by the oblique space. This thought is based on Gestalt theory and in Maurice Merleau Panty's phenomenology of perception, a phenomena that holds that perception is the origin of knowledge. "Space was to be experienced not through the perception of the eyes, but through the movement of the body exploring new modes of habitation suggested by the possibilities of the oblique," Virilio recognizes that this alternative of the oblique responds to changes that have occurred in our" new plane of human consciousness".

Our landscape and our place have changed, and the virtual and the real have become integral parts of our existence. We can inhabit a place without physically dwelling in it. The same way, we can travel far from our home without having to displace ourselves.

Felix González-Torres' double stack piece, Untitled, (Somewhere Better than this PlaceNowhere Better than this Place) gives us that choice. These words reconcile the possibility of being here and there — of physical distance giving way to temporal distance, González-Torres wants us to take the papers with us. Through our participation the work travels to different places, allowing it to explore new ways of habitation, and the mere fact that the stacks are constantly being replenished gives the work an infinite life.

Rosa de la Cruz

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We manifest our lives in real and imagined spaces: Places to live in groups or alone, areas to hide and to seek, sites within and outside, physical environments, psychological realms, fabricated contexts, symbolic destinations. In an era of displacement and translation, one's location becomes an irrelevant question.

Can you imagine it?
Is it where the artist suffers?

Today's electronic and media environment create fluid boundaries that constantly expand, mutating signs and codes with hype and marketing. Geographic distance and space have been rendered relative and subjective. Imagined sites and simulated realms —in art, games, movies— become actual places. The messages broadcast by monitor and billboard alike begin to populate our consciousness, prodding us to be in motion and in transition all the time.

Where do I change my clothes?
Can you picture it?
Can you believe it exists?

Amidst shifting definitions and boundaries, the human body itself becomes a significant place. In our faces and bodies we expose and test identities, build public images and use our flesh and bones for conquest and nesting. Exchanging a beard for a smooth face, caressing someone's ear, we exhibit our desire for union and love in the studio, along the seashore, over the bed, and in the forbidden corner.

Can I take a nap there?
Is it where the artist hides?
Do you drive there?

Whether for official, corporate, or private purposes, places define the individuals who use them, frame their actions and give context to their activities. Stadiums are for civilized fighting and playing, churches and synagogues for praying and community building, offices for conducting business and making deals, homes for living and celebrating in, schools for learning and growing, highways and airports for connecting and running away.

Is it virtual?
Did you dream about it?

Artists have observed and recorded all of these places, at times critically unmasking accepted conventions and polite public manners. Often they have brutally placed their bodies in the limelight by taking theatrical personal risks through performances and public actions. Other times they have pointed a camera at special places, sometimes attempting to capture the poignant ruin, transitional neighborhood, or idyllic landscape. Contemporary artists everywhere continue the practice of imagining, portraying, simulating, and creating places.

Do you remember it very clearly?
Is it old?

Beyond architecture and public art, furniture becomes a territory that stages its user's place in the social fabric: The Bishop's pulpit and the judge's bench convey the authority vested in their power. The corporate boardroom table and chairs invite a type of official exchange, while the benches and easels in a drawing classroom engage the mind to coordinate its flow with what the eye is seeing. Love seats position the beloved for an inevitable tête a tête engagement. In many ways, chairs and benches invite esthetic discourse while offering public soapboxes or reclusive refuge for solitary sitting and pondering.

Will it be restful?
Do you know the way to San Jose?
Is it where the artist plays?

Far away and around the corner, everyday places become familiar spaces, areas in transition, sites of locution and madness. The recent environments of fear —manifest in episodes of urban terror —tumble and crush cultural definitions of the city as a locale of social progress and institutional order. The terrorists' threats destroy zones of comfort with blows of fate and circumstance. The military boots and jungle camouflage come marching into our urban and official realities.

Is it full of light and energizing?
Can they reach it?

Place is locus, coordinate, and corner. Humans seek refuge and safety, soothing darkness and warm interiors. Sometimes we travel from our armchairs into geographic and mythical places where we find fleeting moments of reverie and certainty. Often we yearn for excitement and connection, recently finding these qualities in the virtual realm of web sites and chat rooms. Blending fact and memory, creating places, artists take us along this intuitive spatial discourse, ultimately demonstrating that place is where the imagination leads us. And that puts us everywhere.

Is it where the artist flies?

Cesar Trasobares