Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Relational Aesthetics and Other Expanded Feilds

The main points of the reading this week center on Bourriaud’s concept of relational aesthetics, post production and appropriation as a form of contemporary art making. Post production is an interesting way of describing this form of art making that is a direct result of appropriation. Artists aren’t working from raw materials but from cultural objects that are in circulation within the cultural market. The artist searches for their place amongst this onslaught of cultural objects and then must look for a new mode of production from it. In this case Bourriaud used the example of the internet, as being a tool for the artist to help sort through this chaos. Through appropriating, the artist doesn’t change the meaning of the original object but changes the objects relationship to culture and individuals. Instead of “What can we make that is new?” Bourriaud asks “how can we produce singularity and meaning from this chaotic mass of objects, names, and references that constitute daily life?” Bourriaud describes postproduction artists as semionauts who search out connections between things essentially different through signs to form new connections in our culture. The artwork isn’t the end result, it is the means to new opportunities.

This photograph from Hank Willis Thomas, Branded Head, portrays his seminautic practice combined with what the Situationist International calls detournament. He not only appropriates the Nike logo but misappropriates it to show a connection between past race relations and current black culture sutured by advertising modes of contemporary society. So convincing to the point that some viewers actually think Nike is sponsoring the event the artwork is shown. Art can sometimes leave the realm of representation and become part of reality itself. Thomas is working in the instance of post production, using culture as a toolbox to form new relationships between logo, capitalism, race relations, history, and culture. Postproduction artists try to navigate through the cultural chaos and create work that fits into this new expanded field, all the while “highlighting those aspects of our environment that still bear imprint on yesterdays order.”

Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel is referred to as a readymade object as opposed to an appropriated one. He puts the readymade in the same category as the object of paint on the canvas. Much like how a painter chooses paint to create art, Duchamp chose an object to react against art. But it’s still said that choosing the readymade is not appropriation because he is giving it new meaning by removing it from its place of origin. Indifference is key with the readymade because you must not desire to own it. You can’t feel indifferent toward an appropriated object. When the readymade is displaced is when it achieves its power. It becomes an object of concept and thought when taken out of its original environment and placed in the museum. I’ve been trying to put specific guidelines on the readymade and appropriation, and once I had it figured out Beuys comes in with his analysis and states that Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel is nothing but appropriation. His comparison of appropriation to the Purloined Letter could mean a few different things so this is where my confusion begins. Is the readymade now an appropriation because it is an object of value now? Or is it because Duchamp is commenting on the relationship between object (art), institution (museum), and person (viewer)? I’m going to need some explanation on this.

1 comment:

  1. i love hank willis thomas. i was lucky enough to see a huge room filled with his work in the 30 Americans exhibition during the 2008 miami art basel. I was actually first introduced to his work, though, via an amazing exhibition put on by my former art history professor Kevin Concannon, called Agency: Art and Advertising. check out his prospectus here.
    it was an amazing show that dealt with artist who used advertising as their main vehicle for artwork. there was some performance, but most of the artists used appropriation or parody. Justin Lieberman's work actually consists of two different series that do both, respectively. my favorites from each are National Peanut Board and Lexapro. That dude's got some giggle fest going on in his brain man.

    also, that picture by Thomas, do you see a reference to Mapplethorpe's work in it, as well? talk about cultural references man.

    anyway, i like Bourriaud's way of describing appropriation art as putting two different things together and making something new out of them. its like a cake. a simple artwork cake, baked in the oven of globilization and culture.

    speaking of Thomas' reference to the cultural institution of the art world with the mapplethorpe reference, there was a show at my friend's gallery in cleveland (Forum Artspace) called Art on Art. most of it wasnt appropriation, but there was one particular piece by Brian Sabalausky (i think) was was just a HUGE print of all the little thumbnails from MoMA's online art catalog. for me, that was my favorite piece in the show,though it could have been presented better (it was just hung on the wall with magnets and was bowing all over). To me the piece created this tongue-in-cheek cultural dialogue specific to artists, artwork and the institutions that both support the artists and catalog and archive the artist's work. An art piece about an institution's archiving and cataloging OF said institution's archiving and cataloging? hot damn, my sarcastic spidey senses are tingling.

    I think its funny that neither you or andrew have mentioned the obvious connection of Bourriaud's Relational Aesthetics to Douglas Crimp's Pictures Generation exhibition and The Postmodern Activity of Photography essay. especially since Crimp's earlier work is much more specific to photography (obviously) than Bourriaud's later work. Talk about appropriation, man. Sherrie Levine's Walker Evans photos and not to mention Richard Prince. Levine's work is specific to the very concept of photography, appropriation and photography's artistic aura (Benjamin, eat your heart out). I also saw some Richard Prince pieces recently at the Mapping the Studio exhibition during the Venice Biennale this year that were interesting just in terms of reappropriating artwork. They were paintings that referenced (and used) De Kooning paintings, but he had pasted and layered into them photos of what looked like underwear models. no, really. underwear. maybe porno. underwear models=softcore porn. yesssss.it was funny to see how the Modernist and slightly misogynistic (ill say it) De Kooning models related to the porno-esque "underwear models"(thats what im calling them now.) that Prince had layered on top.

    anyway, i cant decide what i enjoy more, postmodern artwork that references the artworld specifically, like Levine and Prince, or the wider scope of global society and culture in works like Hank Willis Thomas'. either way i've always thought that you can't look at contemporary art without understanding art history. which is probably why every mother and grandparent is destined to utter "my kids could have made that!" everytime they enter the contemporary wing of a museum.