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Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, and Sherr ie Levine. Haacke’s work, she wr ites,
“invited viewer s to decipher relat ions and ﬁnd content already inscr ibed in images
b u t d i d n o t a s k t h e m t o e x a m i n e t h e i r o w n ro l e a n d i n v e s t m e n t s i n p r o d u c i n g
images.”32 By contrast , the subsequent generat ion of art ist s “treated the image itself
as a social relat ionship and the viewer as a subject constructed by the ver y object
from which it formerly claimed det achment .”33
I will return later to the quest ion of ident iﬁcat ion that Deut sche raises. In
the meant ime it is necessar y to obser ve that it is only a short step from regarding
the image as a social relat ionship to Bourr iaud’s argument that the structure of an
art work produces a social relat ionship. However, ident ifying what the structure of
a relat ional art work is is no easy t ask, precisely because t he work claims to be
open- ended. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that relat ional art works are
an outgrowt h of inst allat ion art , a form t hat has from it s incept ion solicited t he
literal presence of t he v iewer. Unlike t he “Public Vision” generat ion of art ist s,
whose achievement s—largely in photogr aphy—have been unproblemat ically
assimilated into art-histor ical orthodoxy, inst allat ion art has been frequent ly denigrated as just one more form of postmodern spect acle. For some cr it ics, not ably
Rosalind Krauss, inst allat ion art’s use of diver se media divorces it from a mediumspeciﬁc tradit ion; it therefore has no inherent convent ions against which it may
self-reﬂexively oper ate, nor cr iter ia against which we may ev aluate it s success.
Without a sense of what the medium of inst allat ion art is, the work cannot att ain
I am thinking here of much Conceptual art , video, per formance, inst allat ion, and site- speciﬁc
work t hat expressed it s polit ics by refusing to gr at ify or collude wit h t he art market , but which
remained self-referent ial on the level of content . See Lucy Lippard, Six Years: The Dematerializat ion of the
Art Object 1966–1972 (Berkeley: Univer sit y of California Press, 1996), pp. vii–xxii.
Rosalyn Deut sche, Ev ict ions: Ar t and Spat ial Polit ics (Cambr idge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996), pp.
295–96. It alics mine.
Ibid., p. 296. 64 OCTOBER the holy grail of self-reﬂexive cr it icalit y.34 I have suggested elsewhere that the viewer’s
presence might be one way to envisage the medium of inst allat ion art , but Bourr iaud
complicates this assert ion.35 He argues that the cr iter ia we should use to evaluate
open- ended, part icipator y art works are not just aesthet ic, but polit ical and even ethical: we must judge the “relat ions” that are produced by relat ional art works.
When confronted by a relat ional art work, Bourr iaud suggest s t hat we ask
the following quest ions: “does this work permit me to enter into dialogue? Could I
exist , and how, in the space it deﬁnes?” (RA, p. 109). He refer s to these quest ions,
which we should ask in front of any aesthet ic product , as “cr iter ia of co - existence”
(RA, p. 109). Theoret ically, in front of any work of art , we can ask what kind of
social model the p...
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- Spring '09