Networked_Performance

Review of “Relational Aesthetics” by Nicolas Bourriaud

41ktt03w1ql__ss500_.jpgReading Review – Relational Aesthetics – Nicolas Bourriaud; with additional resources: [1] Flash In Japan: Brian Massumi on Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Amodal Suspension 2003; [2] Public Warning in the Networked Age: Open Standards to the Rescue? by Art Botterell and Ronja Addams-Moring March 2007; [3] Tele-Agency: Telematics, Telerobotics and the Art of Meaning by Edward A. Shanken 2000.

The writings of Nicolas Bourriaud on the subject of Relational Form takes a broader look upon the structures of art in contemporary society. Bourriaud’s main focus is on the relationship between the artwork and the cultural space in which it was created. The cultural space that art now inhabits is so distant from a hundred years ago that it must be looked at with an entirely new set of understandings. It’s become more important now that ever before to understand that art is in a constant state of flux, and it is this environment of change which gives life and meaning to art.

Bourriaud focuses on the role of modernity in shaping the way we relate to society in contemporary times. While modernity had a teleological view of a utopian life, engineered through the great technological advances of the industrial revolution, contemporary society has abandoned this pursuit for a more realistic path. It’s understood now that we have inherited the history of our ancestors and instead of reengineering the world we live in, we attempt to improve our situation while slowly ameliorating our current social structures. Modern art attempted to present us with the world of the future, the ideological world of modernity, in a revolutionary movement. The art of today investigates the world as it is, and focusing on societies state of constant change.

In the article Bourriaud uses Michel de Certeau’s term tenant of culture to describe the role of the artist in contemporary society. The artist as a proponent for social understanding is a interesting concept. The artist has always been a cultural force, yet in modern times, culture has been appropriated by our capitalist system, so the artist is a different type agent within this system. Since culture is it’s own unstoppable force at this point, the artist is really just branching out of existing cultural spheres as opposed to crafting it’s own cultural niches. In the article “Tele-Agency: Telematics, Telerobotics and the Art of Meaning”, Edward A. Shanken discusses the interplay of technology with art practices. In reference to a 1978 report by Nora and Minc in regards to The Computrization of Society, he discusses how this great advancement of technology holds great potential in crafting our future society. They inferred that this technology will either bring way for greater freedoms, or facilitate greater control by ruling factions. This idea of freedom vs. control is addressed in Bourriauds analysis of art and urbanization of society. He goes onto explain that as we become less isolated and open up to the world, the artwork reflects that freedom. Art becomes less of a commodity and opens itself in a more free and experiential way. Art becomes less centralized around ideas of ownership and becomes a more decentralized area of exploration and investigation. This moves art closer to the ideal situation that Nora and Minc we’re referring too, a “system of connections that will allow information and social organization to progress together.”

This libration of art, from an object, to an interconnected telematic experience has changed the fundemental relationship between the audience and the work. In Relational Form Bourriard explains:

Unlike an object that is closed in on itself by the intervention of a style and a signature, present-day art shows that form only exists in the encounter and in the dynamic relationship enjoyed by and artistic proposition with other formations, artistic or otherwise.

Bourriard see’s this new relationship as a “collaborative elaboration of meaning”. He sees art becoming a sort of web in itself. It is no longer an autonomous being, it needs to be fully connected with the world around it. Looking at the work “Amodal Suspension” by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, this relationship becomes very apparent. In an article about the piece, Brian Massumi declares that it “makes visible the re-arising of reemergence of specifically human communication, in its first flush, ot flash, seen for what it is: a nonlinear crowd phenomenon”. Amodal Suspension is an interactive outdoor installation involving text messages and lights which act as visual carriers for the messages, as they travel from sender to receiver, touching on a number of different complexities within telematic communication. Massumi describes the interaction of the piece as “a visual analogue of human language, that reattaches language not only to a particular cultural evolution but also to the biosemiotic background from which it emerged”. He touches on the concepts of relational form, as he describes Lozano-Hemmer’s piece as a cultural evolution, reacting to a constant state of change, reaffirming Bourriard’s assertions on the role of the artist today. These characteristics in the piece emphasize the idea of a new mode of interaction with art, where the audience truely is a vehicle for meaning. Bourriard’s description of the audience in contemporary art can practically be applied directly to Amodal Suspension:

This is the precise nature of contemporary art exhibition in the arena of representational commerce: it creates free arena, and time spans whose rhythm contrasts with those structuring everyday life, and it encourages an inter-human commerce that differs from the “communication zones” that are imposed upon us.

At the heart of Lozano-Hemmer’s piece is this detachment from everyday social communications and opens up new ways of thinking about our existing social structures. As collaborative systems are being adopted in the exhibition of contemporary work, it becomes more than ever a fundamental element of modern art. Collaborative practices are now being adopted in other areas of art and design in a groundbreaking way.

In Art Botterell and Ronja Addams-Moring’s article Public Warning in the Network Age: Open Standards to the Rescue?, they go on to discuss the use of open-source warning systems for emergencies and hazards. While this discussion does not revolve around the art world, it poses a significant issue for design. Our current systems of warning revolve around centralized areas of broadcast, with each area of broadcast developing it’s own methods of warning. With the prevalence of the internet and mobile technology, there are open source initiatives that can unify the way we communicate warnings to the population. Botterell and Addams-Moring present some online use of wikis, blogs and websites dedicated solely for the communication of warning. These open technologies allow for easy implementation and access to tools of communciation. They make the poignant statement that natural disasters have no respect for borders, and thus our warning techniques should be open and free of borders. This universal attitude towards warning systems presents a design solution to a serious problem. They present the possibility that we can perhaps have international warnings, visual, auditory, that can be open standards compliant and be easily reproducible on a multitude of devices. This is a very real application of the technologies of the information age. We have potentially been underselling these technologies by simply focusing on new ways to watch tv and listen to music, when we could be exploring new ways of governing and learning.

In the investigation of the topic of networking, a theme kept creeping into my head. The idea of collaboration as means of deepening experience and meaning. This is the most powerful consequence of the information age. Having a system which enables extremely easy access to information, and at the same time creating new forms of rapid communication, creates enormous possibilities in furthering humanitarian pursuits. We choose to spend so much of this technology in finding new ways of entertaining us, while increasing the complexities of our daily lives. The world community is now in near perfect communication with one another, and with the masses connected, there should be nothing holding us back to begin to develop worldwide projects for the amelioration of human life. Taking for example the global project of the open source operating system Linux. It presents a great model to what an open source community can do. With the sharing of information and code, people around the globe have spent time making a computer platform that is 100% free and accessible to anyone. These sorts of projects are largely dismissed by north american government, while some european nations are beginning to adopt it at greater rates. With our capitalistic system degenerating our way of life, it could very well be a new open community of ideas and information that present new ways of living in the 21st century. [Posted on new media : ryan peter andre tobin by Andre De Pape]


Oct 30, 13:42
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  1. In Proposing my first paper « In Theory:

    […] Review of “relational aesthetics” by nicolas bourriaud. (2007). Retrieved 10/13, 2010, from http://turbulence.org/blog/2007/10/30/review-of-relational-aesthetics-by-nicolas-bourriaud/ […]


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