Suburban Interventions

Clancco  ||   3 September 2006

Physical violence, whether realized or implied, is important to the legitimation, foundation, and operation of a Western property regime. Certain spatializations (the frontier, the survey, the grid) play a practical and ideological role at all these moments. Both property and space…are reproduced through various enactments. While those enactments can be symbolic, they must also be acknowledged as practical, material, and corporeal.

-- Nicholas Blomley, Law, Property, and the Geography of Violence, (2003)

(Suburban Intervention: After Michael Asher, MoCA Chicago, 1979 )

(Stack of drywall located on construction site premises, suburban home car garage)

Suburban Interventions, originated in West Texas in the summer of 2000. Since then these projects have been installed or taken place in diverse locations throughout the United States: from Los Angeles, California and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to El Paso, Texas and Cambridge, Massachusetts. These projects incorporate and juxtapose the disciplines of sculpture and architecture with the Western legal discourses of property, the First Amendment, and intellectual property law. In particular, these projects invoke, and thus critique, the assumed universality and normativity of Western jurisprudence.

(Suburban Intervention: Arch & Columns)

In effect, one disturbing aspect of these images is that these Western legal fictions now reside, spectrally, in unassuming and commonplace three-dimensional structures. Not only are the concepts of discovery, trespass, and title clearly apparent in the procedural aspect of these projects, but more importantly what is elucidated is the increasing shift from real property to intellectual property, particularly in respect to trademark and copyright laws. Ironically, it is only through an understanding of property law that the concepts and force of intellectual property law can be understood.

(Suburban Intervention: Circular Window)

Suburban Intervention, takes the following procedural manner: a suburban location under construction is located; new construction materials from the site are appropriated and used; and architectural structures are built within that same suburban location (site) without any permission from the property owners. Suburban Intervention, applies the legal fiction of discovery, title and trespass to private property law. Incidentally, because not all “non-commissioned” structures are discovered or found by the “true” property owner, the concepts of home and belonging--of the spectral and the parasitic--are also indexed.


In Suburban Intervention (playground), an empty desert lot was located in West Texas in 2001. Three children’s playground structures were then added to this site without any previous permission from the “original” property owner: a half-moon aluminum structure; a steel swing-set; and an aluminum and plastic slide. Upon returning to the same location one year later, it was discovered (and documented) that the original elements first installed had not only been left in place, but curiously that this illegitimate site had now been given a sense of propriety and ownership: a surrounding makeshift “wall” made of discarded car tires and cable wire, to be entered through a “gate” made of wooden beams. What was once a violently discovered territory had now been appropriated and designated as “private property.”

(Suburban Intervention: Installed Three-Sided Divider)

(Suburban Intervention: Location of Three-Sided Divider (Contextual Shot))

Copyright © 1997- 2006 Sergio Muñoz-Sarmiento. All Rights Reserved.