Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Relational Aesthetics Continued

We had to create to live, we had to explore to discover, and we had to experiment in order to move forward. I agree in a way with Bourriaud’s opinions on contemporary art and that ‘contemporary art resembles a period of time that has to be experienced, or the opening of a dialogue that never ends.’1 When art stopped being used as a form of communication, when art had moved away from the decoration of useful objects or craft, when art became something valuable, something special, something wonderful and different, it took on a new form, it became contemporary, it was controversial.

Anyone who has ever produced something ‘unique’ in the sense that it was different to the ‘art’ of the time, produced a work of contemporary art; which is why we need to go backwards to discover what once was in order to improve our knowledge of what could be. I do however also disagree slightly with Bourriaud as I feel that if you knew a work of art was ‘contemporary’ in its day, if you read and learnt about other works around at the same time as this ‘new’ piece, if you possessed the ability to empathise with people of that era, you wouldn’t need to experience the work first hand because your imagination could do that for you. I think by putting yourself in the position of an audience member from whichever period the work was created, you are allowing yourself to form your own opinions on the work without modern eyes and by comparing the ‘new’ work to others created around the same time, you are seeing how this work becomes ‘contemporary’ in comparison.

A lot of artists deny or discourage the use of the word ‘relational’ to describe themselves or their work, even those who are considered to be by Bourriaud. ‘He saw artists as facilitators rather than makers and regarded art as information exchanged between the artist and the viewers. The artist, in this sense, gives the audience access to power and the means to change the world. Bourriaud cited the art of Gilian Wearing, Philippe Parreno, Douglas Gordon and Liam Gillick as artists who work to this agenda.’2 The ability to give an audience such freedom could suggest that these artists or ‘relational’ artists could be considered to be existential artists.

1. Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics (Dijon: Les Presses du Réel, 2002)
2. Wilson, Simon and Lack, Jessica, ‘The Tate Guide To Modern Art Terms’ (London: Tate, 2008)