AWS post “Considering ‘Relational Aesthetics'”

A good discussion has been mounting on Artworld Salon pursuant to my post on the Guggenheim’s theanyspacewhatever show, which just opened this past weekend.  Here I wanted to continue one more thought:

Regarding Ina Blom’s concept of a “style site,” which she elaborates in her book of the same name, and which I have to admit I have not read, I can’t help seeing her analysis as an extension of critical accounts of Pop art, such as Hal Foster’s or Thomas Crow’s.  Whereas Foster and Crow keyed Pop to the unconscious structures and latent mechanisms of the then nascent consumer culture that was gaining traction in England and the US, Blom sees the “participatory” practices as a kind of Pop art of our nascent media culture.  Instead of the Pop image, however, now we are confronted with the “styled” environment (the exhibition hall, cafe, conference room, hotel lobby, etc.).

If participatory practices can claim any kind of semi-autonomy as an art form, then it must come from the aping of these designed and designer environments, and not just in appearance alone.  Whatever the work of art, it is clear that, to be effective, it must work on the kinds of interactions that are facilitated or determined by these “sites.”  In this, I don’t see a problem with Blom’s analysis, except that it places work of the relational persuasion in a line with, and as an extension of, Pop; and I wonder if this is the antecedent that this work requires let alone deserves.  As Alex Alberro pointed out in his talk, there is “another relationality” out there, the new-concretists in Brazil: Lygia Clark, Helio Oiticica, Cildo Miereles and others.  These are figures of some standing, and given their historical adjacency to Fluxus in the US, and Situationism in Europe, I think it would be wiser to locate the radical anti-spectacularity of much relational and participatory work with these developments.

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