Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Relational Art: Is It An Ism?

In 2004, the BBC aired Relational Art: Is It An Ism?, a documentary exploring the movement (or trend, perhaps is more suitable a term) of Relational Aesthetics. As the title suggests, the documentary's director Ben Lewis quests to discover whether this fascinating, and often confounding, tendency in contemporary art possesses the subscribed theoretical and ideological practices necessary to deem it "the first Ism of the 21st century." Although perhaps designed to compartmentalize the emergence of this new trend, Lewis' investigation is nevertheless an interesting one. What's even more interesting, however, is the pronounced aloofness, evasiveness and even condescension that Lewis is met with when interviewing various Relational artists.

This quote from Nicolas Bourriaud's book Relational Aesthetics begins to clarify the ideas behind Relational Art:

"The possibility of a relational art (an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space), points to a radical upheaval of the aesthetic, cultural and political goals introduced by modern art."

"Relational Art: Is It An Ism?" (2004)
© The BBC