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Br it ain and the U.S. seem reluct ant to move on from the polit icized agendas and
intellectual batt les of 1980s art (indeed, for many, of 1960s art), and condemn
ever ything from inst allat ion art to ironic paint ing as a depolit icized celebrat ion of
sur face, complicitous with consumer spect acle. Bourr iaud’s book— wr itten with the
hands - on insight of a curator—promises to redeﬁne the agenda of contemporar y
art cr it icism, since his st art ing point is that we can no longer approach these works
from behind the “shelter” of sixt ies art histor y and it s values. Bourr iaud seeks to
offer new cr iter ia by which to approach these often rather opaque works of art ,
while also claiming that they are no less polit icized than their sixt ies precur sor s.8
For inst ance, Bourr iaud argues that art of the 1990s t akes as it s theoret ical
hor izon “the realm of human interact ions and it s social context , rather than the
“Ever y six months, an art ist is invited by the Palais de Tokyo to design and decorate a small space
located under the main st aircase but placed at the heart of the exhibit ion spaces: Le Salon. Both a space of
relaxat ion and a work of art , Le Salon offer s comfort able armchair s, games, reading mater ial, a piano, a
video, or a TV program to those who visit it” ( Palais de Tokyo Website [http://www.palaisdetokyo.com],
my translat ion). The current premises of Port ikus Galler y in Frankfurt feature an ofﬁce, reading room,
and galler y space designed by the art ist Tobias Rehberger.
Hal Foster, “ The Art ist as Ethnographer,” in Foster, The Return of the Real (Cambr idge, Mass.:
MIT Press, 1996), p. 198.
“Contemporar y art is deﬁnitely developing a polit ical project when it endeavor s to move into
the relat ional realm by turning it into an issue” (Bourr iaud, Relat ional Aesthet ics [Dijon: Les Presses du
Réel, 2002], p. 17). Hereafter cited in the text as RA. 54 OCTOBER assert ion of an independent and priv ate symbolic space” (RA, p. 14). In ot her
words, relat ional art works seek to est ablish inter subject ive encounter s (be these
literal or potent ial) in which meaning is elaborated collect ively (RA, p. 18) rather
t han in t he pr iv at ized space of indiv idual consumpt ion. The implicat ion is t hat
this work inver ses the goals of Greenbergian modernism.9 Rather than a discrete,
port able, autonomous work of art t hat t r anscends it s context , relat ional art is
ent irely beholden to t he cont ingencies of it s env ironment and audience.
Moreover, this audience is envisaged as a communit y: rather than a one-to - one
relat ionship bet ween work of art and v iewer, relat ional art set s up situat ions in
which viewer s are not just addressed as a collect ive, social ent it y, but are actually
given the wherewithal to create a communit y, however temporar y or utopian this
It is import ant to emphasize, however, that Bourr iaud does not regard relat ional aesthet ics to be simply a theor y of interact ive art . He consider s it to be a
means of locat ing contemporar y pract ice within the culture at large: relat ional art
is seen as a direct response to the shift from a goods to a ser vic...
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This document was uploaded on 02/20/2014 for the course PHILOSOPHY 244 at University of Tennessee.
- Spring '09