Relational Aesthetics Nicolas Bourriaud Pdf
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A critique of relational aesthetics, as theorized by Nicolas Bourriaud, and exemplified in the work of Rirkrit Tiravanija and Liam Gillick. Using Laclau and Mouffe's theory of democracy as antagonism, the paper proposes instead a 'relational antagonism' found in certain projects by Santiago Sierra and Thomas Hirschhorn.
Concerning empathy and the arts, the goal of Greek theater was to presentstories of suffering on stage so that the audience could awaken the faculty of innerempathy (Armstrong, 2010). Similarly, in rasa theory viewers practice accessingtranscendent states through sympathetic receptivity to the gamut of humanemotions (Schwartz, 2004). In the late 19th and early 20th century in Europe and theUS, Robert Vischer, Theodore Lipps, Edward Tichener, and Vernon Lee wereformulating ideas on art, sympathy, and empathy (Jahoda, 2005). According toJahoda, each respectively researched how empathy is an instinctual, intersubjective,and imaginal practice of aesthetic einfuhlung, which at a sensory level means to feelinto the world of another. From this perspective, a relational view of aestheticsbecomes possible.
According to Nicolas Bourriaud (Ross, 2006), relational aesthetics viewsartwork through multiple lenses of concurrent interconnected relationships.Relational art removes the artist as expert and imbues creators and viewers withsimilar status. Likewise, a contemplative and humanistic view of psychotherapyattempts to remove the hierarchy between client and therapist. Art that emerges outof social interactions or therapy sessions, alive within the interstices of culture andcommunities, is at the heart this view of artistic work.
This approach to art is in opposition to over prizing objects as commoditiesdestined for museums and galleries. Within this perspective, the production andconsumption of art departs from the archetypal view of the privileged public as theprimary consumers of art as well as isolated artists working in the cloisteredenvironment of the studio. Bishop (2004) suggests that scrutiny is needed toexamine the curatorial processes that organize art shows claiming relationalintentions as a primary goal in the selection process of artworks. In the context ofthis paper, relational aesthetics is not only considered from the perspective ofBourriaud and Bishop, but also from a therapeutic and transpersonal perspective.
Art therapists have been interested in empathy and relational aestheticssince their work demands awareness of therapeutic and artistic processes withothers (Franklin, 1990; Moon, 2001; Potash & Ho, 2011). For Moon the main criteriafor art used in therapy is relational. She believes that art surfaces a web ofconnections that joins the artist, the art object, and the systemic environmentincluding other people, together. More recently, Potash and Ho studied relationalaesthetics as a framework for social change. Their study looked at the use ofresponse art to facilitate changes in personal outlook concerning the stigma ofmental illness. An art show comprised of work by people with mental illness wasartistically responded to by a group of viewers. It was found that through theresponse art process, the group of viewers increased their empathy for thispopulation accompanied by attitudinal changes concerning mental illness.
From mindful descriptions, insight and clarity associated with astuteobservation emerges (Coleman, 1981). In terms of art, judicious observations of theformal elements within the work expose insight into psychological content. Saidanother way, careful examination of the formal elements in a work of art leads to theunfolding of content or meaning. This responsible approach to the relationalaesthetics of perceiving another person and their artwork minimizes interpretivelicense to mischaracterize our clients. 1e1e36bf2d