Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Extracts from "Relational Aesthetics" by Nicolas Bourriaud

These are from a wonderful collection of essays/articles, of which "Towards a policy of forms" was the one I found the most arresting. More Bourriaud extracts to follow in the coming months.

Gordon Matta-Clarke or Dan Graham’s work cannot be reduced to the “things” those two artists “produce”; it is not the simple secondary effects of a composition, as the formalist aesthetic would like to advance, but the principle acting as a trajectory evolving through signs, objects, forms, gestures… the contemporary artwork’s form is spreading out from its material form: it is a linking element, a principle of dynamic agglutination. An artwork is a dot on a line.

Transitivity is as old as the hills. It is a tangible property of the artwork. Without it, the work is nothing other than a dead object, crushed by contemplation. Delacroix wrote in his diary that a successful picture temporarily “condensed” an emotion that it was the duty of the beholder’s eye to bring to life and develop. This idea of transitivity introduces into the aesthetic arena that formal disorder which is inherent to dialogue. It denies the existence of any specific “place of art”, in favour of a forever unfinished discursiveness, and a never recaptured desire for dissemination.

So through little gestures art is like an angelic programme, a set of tasks carried out beside or beneath the real economic system, so as to patiently re-stitch the relational fabric.

On the other hand, we can say that art creates an awareness about production methods and human relationships produced by the technologies of its day, and that by shifting these, it makes them more visible, enabling us to see them right down to the consequences they have on day-to-day life. Technology is only of interest to artists in so far as it puts effects into perspective, rather than putting up with it as an ideological instrument.

The future of art, as an instrument of emancipation, and as a political tool aimed at the liberation of forms of subjectivity, depends on the way artists deal with this issue. For art, no technique or technology is a subject. By putting technology in its productive context, by analysing its relations with the superstructure and the layer of obligatory behaviour underpinning its use, it becomes conversely possible to produce models of relations with the world, heading in the direction of modernity. Failing which, art will become an element of high-tech deco in an increasingly disconcerting society.

And what if real style, as Deleuze and Guattari write, were not the repetition of reified “making” but “the movement of thought”? Guattari contrasts the homogenisation and standardisation of types of subjectivity with the need to involve the being in “heterogenetic processes”. This is the primary principle of mental ecosophy: articulating particular worlds and rare life forms; cultivating per se differentness, before moving it over into the social.

Based on Oscar Wilde’s formula, modernity is the moment when “it is not art imitating life, but life imitating art”… Marx is headed in the same direction, by criticising the classical distinction between praxis (the act of self-transformation) and poesis (the necessary, servile action aimed at producing and transforming matter). Marx thought, on the contrary, that “praxis moves constantly into poesis, and vice-versa”.

For “the only acceptable end-purpose of human activities,” writes Guattari, “is the production of a subjectivity that is forever self-enriching its relationship with the world.”

The poetic function, which consists in re-forming worlds of subjectivisation, possibly would not have any meaning if it, too, were not able to help us to negotiate the “ordeal of barbarity, mental implosion, and chaosmic spasm which are taking shape on the horizon, to turn them into riches and unforeseeable pleasures”…

An idea that sets humankind apart from other animal species. In the end of the day, burying the dead, laughter, and suicide are just the corollaries of a deep-seated hunch, the hunch that life is an aesthetic, ritualised, shaped form.

Structural unity imitating a world. Artistic practice involves creating a form capable of “lasting”, bringing heterogeneous units together on a coherent level, in order to create a relationship to the world.

Making a work involves the invention of a process of presentation. In this kind of process, the image is an act.

Having imagined architecture and art of the future, the artist is now proposing solutions for inhabiting them. The contemporary form of modernity is ecological, haunted by the occupancy of forms and the use of images.

The movement of a work, its trajectory. “The style of a thought is its movement” (Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari)

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