Situatedness, Situationism

Situatedness is a theoretical concept that postulates the end of the dualism of mind and world. In this position the human mind is intertwined with environmental, social and cultural factors. Following this idea, the human body is not a container, but a dynamic process in constant and direct exchange with the systems surrounding it. It exists in a functional context that in practice shares its environment with other functional contexts in a performative manner – a space for example. Emphasizing the materiality of affect and agency this concept tops the concept of context when it comes to contemporaneity. Agency means the dynamic interplay between an agent (which has not to be necessarily human) and its environment – which has not to be necessarily real. 

Emphasizing play in the affective dynamics of situating; situatedness and situated knowledge(s) has also led to new forms of materialism. Relational aesthetics. Situational aesthetics. Situational Aesthetics – a term that became popular in in theory of photography – claims that the specific nature of any object formed is contingent anyhow. If you pay attention to time, formed object are partially located in real space and partially located in psychological, interior space.

In an exterior artist space that is called One Minute Space situatedness also refers to the situation and the moment. The situation as a form of presence and nowness. Space as a sculptural performance. Something that cannot be recorded because its lives by the intensity of the moment times itself performs a sculpture “Live” – is something that happens right here and right now: ΕΔΩ ΚΑΙ ΤΩΡΑ.

The ephemerality of nowness would mean in this case that the idea of liveness can fade away. The idea of the moment – and the importance of it – fades away which can happen in the near future with quantum computing and the possibility of a so called “superposition” – which would take away the uniqueness of the situation because the idea of time and space would totally change.

Situatedness has already been used in the research field of artificial intelligence, there often referred to as “situated action”. It sets a counterpoint to the idea that the human mind and the mind of a machine can learn in a similar way. Action, as well as learning, is situated.  A machine cannot adapt to a situation. A human – and an animal – can. Plants are masters in adapting to the crisis in their environments. It is as if plants develop a form of situational knowledge.

A feminist idea from the 1980s – situational knowledge(s) – referring to new forms of knowledge production not going back to scientific “objectivity” but foster a partial perspective that reflects upon its own positionality and how seeing is influenced by subjectivity. Being still stuck in the idea of objectivity, the male dominated Situationist International of 1960s brought politics into art by distinguishing the situation from the (art) happening and the spectacle and later identified historical events such as the Pariser Commune as a “situation” – with the pandemic one could say that we had another historical situation.

But what if one would think of the whole cultural revolution that takes place in the art world right now as another form of this kind of situation? Decolonization and Globalization are the enemies of Western nowness. The nowness of Western art represents the fortitude of the West.

What about if situatedness mean that one steps out of the context which in this case would mean Eurocentric philosophy and historiography? Which ideas of history, progress, future, modernity, ecology would survive a revision of Eurocentric philosophy and historiography? 

What if we called the revolutionary changes that take place a form of situation and start to situate ourselves in this change. 

What if decolonizing the art world would also mean to re-think socio- political concepts of space like the one of de- and reterritorialization ? Are they still contemporary? And if not are performance, agency, abstraction and ephemerality good substitutes? 

What it could also mean is to recognize the changed that are going on now on different levels and which shake up the context in which we received what is called art. 

The constellations, policies, hierarchies, and concepts of authority and legitimacy of the cultural institutions – because that is mostly background of normativity – are the opposite of situatedness. Situatedness in this case means to question everything you were grown up with or you are used to.