Bishop_antagonism - Ant agonism and Relat ional Aesthet ics...

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Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics CLAIRE BISHOP OCTOBER 110, Fall 2004, pp. 51–79. © 2004 October Magazine, Ltd. and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Palais de Tokyo On the occasion of its opening in 2002, the Palais de Tokyo immediately struck the visitor as different from other contemporary art venues that had recently opened in Europe. Although a budget of 4.75 million euros was spent on converting the former Japanese pavilion for the 1937 World’s Fair into a “site for contemporary creation,” most of this money had been used to reinforce (rather than renovate) the existing structure. 1 Instead of clean white walls, discreetly installed lighting, and wooden floors, the interior was left bare and unfinished. This decision was important, as it reflected a key aspect of the venue’s curatorial ethos under its codirectorship by Jerôme Sans, an art critic and curator, and Nicolas Bourriaud, former curator at CAPC Bordeaux and editor of the journal Documents sur l’art . The Palais de Tokyo’s improvised relationship to its surroundings has subsequently become paradigmatic of a visible tendency among European art venues to reconceptualize the “white cube” model of displaying contemporary art as a studio or experimental “laboratory.” 2 It is therefore in the tradition of what 1. Palais de Tokyo promotional and Website, “site de création contemporaine,” <http://www.palais- detokyo.com> 2. For example, Nicolas Bourriaud on the Palais de Tokyo: “We want to be a sort of interdisciplinary kunstverein —more laboratory than museum” (quoted in “Public Relations: Bennett Simpson Talks with Nicolas Bourriaud,” Artforum [April 2001], p. 48); Hans Ulrich Obrist: “The truly contemporary exhibi- tion should express connective possibilities and make propositions. And, perhaps surprisingly, such an exhibition should reconnect with the laboratory years of twentieth-century exhibition practice. . . . The truly contemporary exhibition with its striking quality of unfinishedness and incompleteness would trig- ger pars pro toto participation” (Obrist, “Battery, Kraftwerk and Laboratory,” in Words of Wisdom: A Curator’s Vade Mecum on Contemporary Art , ed. Carin Kuoni [New York: Independent Curators International, 2001], p. 129); in a telesymposium discussing Barbara van der Linden and Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Laboratorium project (Antwerp, 2000), the curators describe their preference for the word “laboratory” because it is “neutral” and “still untouched, untouched by science” (“Laboratorium is the answer, what is the ques- tion?,” TRANS 8 [2000], p. 114). Laboratory metaphors also arise in artists’ conceptions of their own exhibitions. For example, Liam Gillick, speaking about his one-man show at the Arnolfini, Bristol, remarks that it “is a laboratory or workshop situation where there is the opportunity to test out some ideas in combination, to exercise relational and comparative critical processes” (Gillick quoted in Liam Gillick: Renovation Filter: Recent Past and Near Future [Bristol: Arnolfini, 2000], p. 16). Rirkrit Tiravanija’s
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Bishop_antagonism - Ant agonism and Relat ional Aesthet ics...

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