It is impossible to think of artistic works as aesthetically driven forms filled with no sense and connection to cultural and social issues. In order to conceive these new dimensions, artists often resort to changing patterns of representation, using different artistic practices.
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The truth is that, though being disguised by artistic judgment, artworks have always served as the guardians of important historic, political, and social events and, therefore, ongoing shifts introduced to this sphere are inevitable. Relying heavily on Bourriaud’s vision of culture and contemporary artistic practice, the artist can be perceived as the tenant of culture being always on guard changing patterns in culture and society.
In particular, the author supports the idea that artistic works no longer serve for re-creating fiction and imaginary, but for forming the veritable modes of living within the current realistic model. Indeed, reality presents specific circumstances and conditions an artist should adjust to and understand so as to adapt the existing environment to his worldview.
Bourriaud’s outlook on art and culture can recognized as a paradigmatic one because all artistic forms serve as relational forms to interpret the existing reality. In this case, artistic conception, that was initially understood as a source of aesthetics and inspiration, is now more congruent with ideological spirits aimed at representing historical and social backgrounds.
Even abstractionist forms of representation point out either past outlook on reality or future perspectives, as proposed by Bishop: “Bourriaud seeks to offer new criteria by which to approach these often rather opaque works of art while also claiming that they are no less politicized than their sixties precursors”(53).
The writer particularly refers to Bourriaud’s argument concerning the art of 1990s whose theoretical context is closely associated with social interactions and political underpinnings rather than symbolic and utopian representation of symbolic space.
Interpreting this, the art should be relationally represented and delivered in a wider artistic context; artistic and cultural activities should largely depend on social conditions and audience that is perceived as a community, but not as a set of individuals. Therefore, there should be a strong connection between the relational art and social entity applying to artistic representation to understand the reality.
While analyzing modernist influences, it is not surprising that Berriaud reduces twentieth century art disclosing rational ideology and artists’ desire to improving social conditions in the context of economic crisis. Modernity, therefore, is more committed to experimenting and criticizing the reality to inform the audience about the actual state of affairs.
With regard to this, the modern art cannot be simply considered as a form of interactive art; rather, Bourriaud refers to it as a tool of locating contemporary empirical practice within a larger cultural context. In other words, the audience contemplating modern art can see it a response to the ongoing changes of economic and political infrastructures.
In addition, the existing artistic form can be seen as a reaction to virtual connection between the globalization process and online technologies leading to a people’s growing desire to resort a face-to-face communication. As a result, Bishop’s suggest that relational art can also serve as a precursor of a sequence of events in future; it dictates future actions and makes people understand what problems they may encounter while living in a globalized community.
While discussing the artist’s destination as the tenant of culture, but not as the creator, Bishops interprets it in more socially predetermined way. Specifically, the writer states, instead of “utopian” agenda, today’s artists seek only to find provision solutions in the here and now; instead of trying to change their environment, artist today are simply “learning to inhabit the world in a better way”; instead of looking forward to future utopia, this art set up functioning “microtopias” in the present (54).
In this respect, Bourriaud concludes that today’s relational aesthetics consists in enhancing political and historical significance of certain phenomena, objects and figures. Pragmatism and rationalism, hence, are the main pillars that the Bourriaud makes use of to involve the audience and make it understand the essence of today’s artistic movement.
What is more important, realistic representation can also be viewed from ideological perspective because each form of representation is the artists’ attempt to fight for changes and for promoting modernity. Artists’ aspiration to create is not premised on their desire to propagandize aesthetic concepts, but to involve the audience into their day-to-day practice.
While making the audience understand reality, the artist can be acknowledged as the bearer of existing realistic and practical notes. Therefore, contemporary artists are more attached to functional rather aesthetic representation because the latter does not infuse any pragmatic importance.
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They are now more concerned with developing new cultural and social framework and inventing new reality with the audience involved in art creation. Bourriaud, hence, states that elucidating politics and culture from art is absurd because these two spheres have always been interacted with other. Just as modernity relies on the development of new artistic concepts, the art itself relies heavily to social and working conditions under which particular cultural objects are created.
Finally, relational art serves as a reason for and underpinning of immediate discussion, interaction, and debates among the audience involved into contemplation of a particular artistic form. People should themselves as a part of this art so that they should be able to recognize the problem, to discuss the opportunities and introduce possible solutions.
In this respect, Bourriaud perceives artists as cultural dictators, but not as the aesthetic creators that make the viewers encounter the way they imagine reality. Within this arguments in mind, Bishop underscores that relational aesthetic can be evaluated only with the presence of the audience. With no viewers contemplating, the artistic forms created are a bulk of meaningless objects.
In conclusion, it should be stated that Bourriaud’s outlook on art as a cultural determinant and as precursor of social and political changes is quite understandable in the light of changing artistic patterns. Modernity, therefore, seeks to present reality as it is, with no reference to utopian and imaginary representation.
In fact reality reflects particular social and historical situations and the artist’s tasks is make this reality closer to the audience. More importantly, being deprived of aesthetic judgment, they are more inclined to produce objects and concept that can be understood only when interacting with the viewers.
Hence, relational form serves, first of all, as the indicator of changes that need to be introduced. Second, it seeks to involve the audience into solving existing social and political problems. Finally, it establishes new, more realistic forms of representing modernity.
Bishop, Claire. Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics, 2004. PDF File. Retrieved from http://courses.washington.edu/
Bourriaud, Nicolas. Relational Form. Relational Aesthetics. Dijon: Les presses du réel, 1998. Print.