Monday, 30 November 2009


A view of some work I've been exploring lately, I'm looking at reducing an image to form and shape, tone and line, abstracting it so that it becomes unrecognisable as a conventional, readable image. It's been exciting to see just how much you can achieve with a 6x4 glossy print and a photocopying machine, watching how the image transforms each time the enlarge button is pressed. I'm thinking of creating some kind of wall installation of the different formats I've been working with, each has their own distinct materiality and hopefully I'll be able to create something that captures the intimacy of the original image without directly revealing it.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

How very 1994..

Relational art was a term coined at the end of the 90s by renowned art critic and curator Nicolas Bourriaud as an attempt to classify a group of artists who had come to prominence during the decade. His book "Relational Aesthetics", a collection of essays on the topic which I am currently reading, goes to some length to describe this kind of art form, which he described in short as 'an attempt to improve the world we live in' through work that prompts interaction with its audience. The work he dwells upon ranges from performance to installation and photography and video, covering a particular group of artists he championed as carrying the torch, so to speak, for this new art movement.

Bourriaud has a history of suggesting or attempting to distill ideas and themes within art practice into a definable term, the most recent example being this years Tate Triennial, dubbed 'Altermodern', a phrase coined by the curator as the next stage of modernism, alluding to the idea that modernism and post modernism are dead and this new, alternate modernism can be seen as encompassing works that address our ever globalised world. In some ways an this could be read as an extension of his idea of relational aesthetics, although I don't feel it was an entirely successful exhibition or theorem. I do feel there is merit in his idea of relational art, however. Many of the artworks he uses as the basis for his theory are often based in quite humble and simple ideals - in the context of an ever increasingly technological world they return back to the very basic idea of human interaction and, for want of a better word, spirit, whilst never becoming detached from the context in which they are made. Felix Gonzales-Torres' billboards of empty beds at once engage the wider public with the most intimate setting of the bed he shared with his lover, whilst the fact his lover had recently died from AIDS gives the picture a haunting sense of absence and provides a wider context for the work. Another of his pieces consists of a gallery floor littered with sweets, the audience involvement in some ways creating the piece - its form dependent on the how much each viewer choses to take or leave.

After a decade of big money painting and the return of the 'art hero' (in part showcased by Tate's current Pop Life exhibition) relational art, or the art classed thus by Bourriaud, was an attempt to re-engage with ideas based in human emotion and the interaction we share with others (not to be confused with interactive art..). It strove to exist for a purpose, at times only existing for those present to witness or engage with it.

A couple of pieces by artists mentioned in the book that are worth checking out:

Pierre Huyghe - Streamside Day Follies

A short film depicting the staging of celebrations proposed by Huyghe in commemoration of the anniversary of the new town Streamside in New York state. Hard to find in full online, although a short excerpt can be found here -

Dominique Gonzales-Foerster - Parc Central - Hong Kong

One of a series of films by the artist portraying various cities around the world, ambient, ethereal portrayals that suggest a dialogue between east and west and that question the Western World idea of there being nowhere left to journey to.