Sculpture n the Expanded Field
Toward the center f the field here s a slight mound, a swelling n the arth, which s the only warning given for he presence f the work. Closer to t, the arge square face of the pit can be seen, as can the ends of the adder that s needed to descend into the excavation. The work itself s thus entirely elow grade: half atrium, half tunnel, the boundary between outside and in, a delicate tructure f wooden posts and beams. The work, Perimeters/Pavilions/Decoys, 978, by Mary Miss, is of course a sculpture or, more precisely, n earthwork. Over the last ten years rather surprising things have come to be called sculpture: narrow corridors with TV monitors t the ends; large photographs documenting ountry ikes; mirrors laced at strange ngles in ordinary ooms; temporary ines cut into the floor f the desert. Nothing, t would seem, could possibly give to such a motley of effort he right to lay claim to whatever ne might mean by the category f sculpture. Unless, that s, the category an be made to become almost nfinitely malleable. The critical operations that have accompanied postwar American rt have largely worked n the service f this manipulation. In the hands of this criticism categories ike sculpture and painting have been kneaded and stretched nd twisted n an extraordinary emonstration f elasticity, display of the way a cultural term an be extended to include just about anything. And though this pulling and stretching f a term such as sculpture s overtly erformed n the name of vanguard aesthetics-the ideology of the new-its covert message s that of historicism. he new is made comfortable y being made familiar, ince it is seen as having gradually volved from he forms f the past. Historicism works n the new and different o diminish newness and mitigate difference. t makes a place for hange in our experience by evoking the model of evolution, o that the man who now is can be accepted s being different rom he child he once was, by simultaneously being seen-through the unseeable action of the telos-as the same. And we are comforted y this perception of sameness, this strategy or reducing nything oreign n either ime or space, to what we already know and are.