Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Andrea Zittel and Relational Aesthetics

Andrea Zittel is a contemporary sculptor and installation artist whose work bleeds into the realms of both art and life. A quote from the New York Times article "Rethinking the World by Cutting it Down to Size" describes the majority of her oeuvre:
Her one-woman lifestyle company, A-Z Administrative Services, has created personal uniforms to alleviate the daily angst of "What should I wear?"; carpeting that can be used as furniture; dehydrated food for eating dry or cooked; elegant chamber pots; small habitats that can be built without permits and easily transported; and "escape vehicles" for inside the home that help the user tune out the external world. [1]
Her habitats, such as the "A-Z Management and Maintenance Unit" (1992), were her attempt to create pre-fabricated spaces that could function as everything she needed in her living quarters. In his text Relational Aesthetics (English, 2002) Bourriaud mentions Zittel as one contemporary artist who encompasses his concepts surrounding the new realm in which contemporary art exists: it is no longer "a space to be walked through...It is henceforth presented as a period of time to be lived through" (15). This notion of "a period of time" is exemplified in her personal uniforms that she wears during a four-month period as well as in her floating personal island project depicted in her film Gollywobbler.

Andrea Zittel
A-Z Personal Uniforms

In constructing the first of her home units, Zittel believed "that when I made that piece and I had everything perfected that [would] solve all of my problems" [2] of living in the confined space of a storefront in Brooklyn. However, once she was done with the first unit she discovered that " was perfect and there was nothing left to do to it, I felt completely despondent, very listless and depressed. At that point...I had this revelation that no one really wants perfection; that we're obsessed with perfection, we're obsessed with innovation and moving forwards, but what we really want is the hope of some sort of new and improved or a better tomorrow." [3] In this way, Zittel's home units encompass Bourriaud's concept of "learning to inhabit the world in a better way"; that the goal of contemporary art "is no longer to form imaginary and utopian realities, but to actually be ways of living and models of action within the existing real" (13). The fact that Zittel actually lives within her creations and encourages others to share in the experience of developing a relationship with her pieces makes her method of creation one that can easily exist in the contemporary art world defined by relations and conversations spoken of by Bourriaud.

Photo credit: Andrea Zittel/Andrea Rosen Gallery
"A-Z Management and Maintenance Unit, Model 003," a 60-square-foot living space.

It is no wonder that Bourriaud mentions her in his section entitled "The aura of artworks has shifted toward the public": her work includes "the presence of the micro-community which will accommodate it" (58) as well as his notions that contemporary art forms should have a conversation with the viewer by means of a bodily commitment, or at least the work's recognition of the viewer as subject. Zittel asserts that one of the main purposes of her work is to relate to other peoples' experiences with the world, which keenly aligns with Bourriaud's ideas that "art has always been relational to varying degrees" (15).

I feel as though my thoughts can be made more clear by actually seeing her work in person, but in any event I found Zittel's personification of Bourriaud's work absolutely uncanny.

..Katharine Relth

[2] ART:21, Consumption. Start video at 27:00.
[3] Ibid.

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