The Part in the Story Where a Part Becomes a Part of Something Else is an exhibition that covers a lot of ground. The Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art brings together over fifty artists with multifaceted disciplines, but despite the large scale, the show can be distilled to a few threads that highlight the potential for art to create constructed moments. This underlying premise can be found in one word in the title: “Becomes.” This word reveals the potential of the transitional object of projection, just prior to the actuality of transforming into “Something Else.”
On Kawara’s Lat. 31º25′N, Long. 8º41′E (1965), one of his rare coordinate works, tells of an exact location. Its addition serves to anchor the show’s general thread of location as a symbolic or constructed place. Without looking up the coordinates, it’s an idea of somewhere else, a projection left to the viewer. Having seen this work the day before the artist’s death, I notice new weight in the piece’s reference to place. Why would Kawara want to make a point of this location? One potential answer might be that it records the location where the work was made, but the coordinates point to the middle of the Grand Erg Oriental, an unlikely part of the Sahara Desert in which to engage in a bit of painting. This is not at all a desirable destination but a place to not be at. However, in 1965, the incredible isolation of Lat. 31º25′N, Long. 8º41′E may have appeared to be the only safe haven from postcolonial global turmoil. Perhaps it’s the only site on Earth that still cannot be imposed upon except conceptually, by coordinate.