Citing a Cited Citation: A Quote of Santiago Sierra


“I can’t change anything. There is no possibility that we can change anything with our artistic work. We do our work because we are making art, and because we believe art should be something, something that follows reality. But I don’t believe in the possibility of change.”

by Santiago Sierra

I was reading Claire Bishop’s “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics” and found this quote by Sierra. I became curious where Bishop found it, so I saw its footnote, and it said, “Sierra, quoted in Santiago Sierra: Works 2002-1990 (Birmingham, England: Ikon Gallery, 2002), p. 15.” Since Liam Gillick was accusing of some inaccuracy in Bishop’s article in “Contingent Factors: A Response to Claire Bishop’s ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics,'” I tried to find this original source online. You can find it easily on Google Books.

If you search the exact quote on the Internet, however, you also find the book titled, Cross-Wired: Communication, Interface, Locality. The footnote for the same quote in this book points back to the same source, but provides a further detail: Katya García-Antón’s “Buying Time.” If I googled this further, this article by García-Antoón was on Scribd. Skimming through it, I found out that the quote goes on with one more sentence, “Not in the art context, not in the reality context.” The source of the quote turns out to be “It makes them angry,” an interview with Sierra by Liutauras Pšibilskis in 2001.

To make this situation more interesting, you can find the above quote in this review published on July 6, 2012 by Stephen Squibb on Art Agenda. Those who find the quote on Art Agenda may not be able to find the original source, or may not bother to do so. Those who find it from Cross-Wired will likely reach Gracía-Antón’s “Buying Time.” Those who follow the footnote provided by Bishop will find the source but realize that the footnote information is incomplete.

Bishop’s article is in October so readers expect a well-maintained high standard of criticism from her article, but what about this careless documentation of the citation source? Gillick points out Bishop’s carelessness to details including the misspelled French title of Nicolas Bourriaud‘s Relational Aesthetics. I found that Bishop succeeded in raising issues in the general framework of relational aesthetics/art and the ambiguous intention of Gillick’s work as art, but this kind of carelessness can easily compromise the strength of argument.

While writing a journalistic piece, we put much more emphasis on the accuracy of information. In addition to this, academic writing requires respect for and acknowledge of the intellectual values of the original work. If scholars like Bishop become slippery on proper citations (and respect to other scholars’ work), how can we maintain a health academic environment? Maybe I am just exaggerating this one incident, but could we be suffering from the symptom of the Internet’s hyperlink referenceability? As the Internet has made it easy for us to refer to other pages through hyperlinks and to refer to an abundance of information through search engines, the originality of information and connections between difference sources of information have already lost its significance in making meaning.

The Information Age has added further value to each piece of information in a blink of an eye (and has often taken the value away at the same time). Can the mixture of these information pieces in the flux of value not signify the postmodernist sense of pastiche? If this is the case, Bishop’s article on relational aesthetics, which resulted from the postmodernist movement of art, is suffering from a pastiche, a symptom of the postmodernism. Like citing a cited citation, the postmodernist symptom of postmodernism is something that we have to face with delicacy.

Workers Who Cannot Be Paid, Remunerated to Remain inside Cardboard Boxes (Santiago Sierra, 2000).



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