Sunday, April 19, 2009

Lazy Relational Sunday

Just started reading Bourriaud's 'Relational Aesthetics' while drinking my second coffee of the day. RA seems to be the new buzz phrase around college and I need to engage again with current art theory (my recent reading has been on Sound, particularly in relation to neurology). As I've been marking theses, another term: 'overdetermined' has also been reoccurring...

My first impression is quite positive, although the translation is rather inelegant in places and Bourriaud sometimes uses that rather French rhetorical-assertive tone that you also find in Barthes, Derrida et al. so that you feel as if you're being addressed as an insider but simultaneously positioned as a fraud because, secretly, you yourself have made all those assumptions that are now being challenged.

Some of the terms defined are useful:
'Relational (art)
A set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space.'

others less so:
The contemporary artist is a semionaut, he (sic) invents trajectories between signs.'

-which suggests a return to the rather narrow orthodoxies of semiology and rings just a bit silly, in my view.

More interesting is the discussion of the interstice and how artists open up new spaces for transaction and discussion. The privileging of process over the art object is nothing new, but here Bourriaud identifies a political charge in this, leading one towards the possibilities of humanist intervention in a rigid, suffocating marketplace. I'm hoping, as I continue to read, that there will be an intelligent discussion of music, especially Rock, as it is my contention that theories of visual art and sonic art have been falsely kept apart for too long. The live music performance is as radical an artistic gesture as any in Bourriaud's typology.

I am only a short way into this slim book and I very much want to read on and reflect on my practice in RA's light; that has to be a compliment. Dare I risk a third coffee?

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