Filed under: Thoughts on readings
I had always been interested in Bourriaud’s definition and discussion on relational aesthetics.
The book mainly draws on various artists/musicians whose artwork is re-made from existing things. The idea of re-making that he discusses often positions the reader/viewer/audience central to it having meaning. The ’sample’ that artists use to re-make new works and meaning doesn’t represent anything more than a ’salient point in a shifting cartography.’ (p. 19) In contrast with the emphasis on the artwork itself, he argues how contemporary artwork doesn’t position itself as the ‘termination of the “creative process” (a “finished product” to be contemplated) but as a site of navigation, a portal, a generator of activities.’ (ibid). It is a process and a chain of interactions that can never end. ‘The artwork is no longer an end point but a simple moment in an infinite chain of contributions.’ (p. 20)
Michel de Certeau is called upon when establishing an idea of the consumer engaging in a ’silent’ production. Certau suggests how an artwork can be inhabitable in a similar manner to a rented apartment. Bourriaud explains ” To use an object is necessarily to interpret it. To use a product is to betray its concept. To read, to view, to envision a work is to know how to divert it: use is an act of micropriating that constitutes postproduction. We never read a book the way its author would like us to.” (p. 24)
I think it would have been useful to reference him in the Fashion City paper. His discussion on objects as mediums of experience echoes what we were tying to articulate in that paper, using Sander’s references. He explains” The work of art thus consists of a formal arrangement that generates relationships between people, or be born of a social process; I have described this phenomenon as ‘relational aesthetics,’ whose main feature is to consider interhuman exchange an aesthetic object in and of itself.’ (p. 33) His argument on calling the tacit, immeasurable, unquantifiable experience ‘an object’ makes me think that he’s politically bringing greater attention to it so that it can become an ‘object’ of focus for artists and for future discourse.
He attempts to shift the politics even further when he declares “The supremacy of cultures of appropriation and the reprocessing of forms calls for an ethics: to paraphrase Philippe Thomas, artworks belong to everyone. Contemporary art tends to abolish the ownership of forms, or in any case to shake up the old jurisprudence.’ (p. 35) In this collective ownership, a culture of activity becomes created. He also begins to critique the activity and meaning of participation. He starts by bringing in the notion of ‘open work’ by Umberto Eco who opposed the classic schema of communication that presumed a transmitter and a passive receiver. But some artwork offer the receiver a certain latitude by allowing them to react to the initial response provided by the transmitter. He comments on how this participation is a contract which the ‘artist reserves the right to sign’ (p.88). It contradicts the idea of a collective ownership and he critiques the limitation of the reader who is only invited to ‘fill in the blanks, to choose between possible meanings.’ (by Pierre Lévy, p.88).
Bourriaud references Liam Gillick’s text to explain how the objects that surrounds us, like mobile phones, clothing or tv credits promote collective values and visions of the world. They are folded and hidden away in all cultural products and everyday surroundings. (p. 46)