Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Accessing Relational Art

Bourriard notes that the role of art is no longer based in finite use of forms or in representation of utopian ideals about the world. Rather, its role is to provide interactive modes of living and experience within the world as it exists, and therefore to apply a kind of process ontology to the encounter between artist, artwork and viewer/participant.

In the theory of process ontology, becoming is more important than being. All reality – all being – is itself constantly in process of becoming something else. This is another way of understanding the Deleuzian concept of 'immanence' – in which, among other things, identity is formed by relation, not by contained, static attributes. Relational art, according to Bourriard, follows this same idea by focusing on intersubjectivity as the "substrate" of the art form.

The work that falls under the rubric of 'relational art' is fascinating for its newness and its expressive models of globalized/interconnected culture. What I would like to know is if someone finds this work "moving" in the traditional sense of having an affective response to an artwork. (e.g., being moved to tears by an incredible painting or film). From Douglas Gordon's "24 Hour Psycho" to Jenny Holzer's LED displays to Orozco's reconstructed car – do those works become activated through the emotions or the intellect? I would venture to say it's always the intellect with relational art, as it has this characteristic of doing away with all sentimentality. For all its focus on 'intersubjectivity' and 'connection' between people, it seems to want no emotional entanglements; in other words, the connection between viewer and artwork is sterilized, rationalized, forcing the viewer into meaningless participation with the work, leading at best to some sort of "a-ha! I get it!" moment.


1 comment:

  1. Noelia, the point that you make here seems KEY to me in distinguishing Deleuze's practice of relations from Bourriaud's relational aesthetics. For Deleuze, relations are affective. We will see this in his original and inspired re-definition of ethology (ala Jakob von Uexküll) not as the study of animal behavior but as the study of affects. A question we might ask here though is: whether there is a more pronounced affective dimension to relational aesthetics than Bourriaud himself considers. Are the participatory forms that he advocates examples of purely rational, conscious human interactions, or is there something else that is provoked by such encounters? (Indeed, are these interactions exclusively human, as he suggests?) The art critic Stephen Zepke has critiqued conceptual art (vis-a-vis Deleuze) for similar reasons that you allude to here. But while I don't necessarily disagree with his claims I think they could be made with with a bit more nuance and sophistication. Let me know if you'd like a copy of his work.