Nicolas Bourriaud's theories of relational aesthetics are an important approach to contemporary art. His claim that art has departed from the conceptual traditions of the 1960s and '70s and begun something entirely fresh has created a stir in art theory. I read his book Relational Aesthetics which comprised a collection of articles he had written about art. They were all over the place, so for this class, I will respond to “Screen Relations: Today's Art and Its Technological Models.”
“Our age is nothing if not the age of the screen” (66). Art galleries today are full of screens, which allow for unprecedented combinations of text, image, video, interactivity and an abstraction of site via the Internet. Digitalization creates another layer of remove from the signified, another layer of simulation to the image, but also extends the mechanical reproduction discussed by Walter Benjamin into a new dimension. “... It is actually now possible to produce images which are the outcome of calculation, and no longer of human gestures. (69)” Which takes us from mechanical reproduction to mechanical production.
Bourriaud asserts, “art creates an awareness about production methods and human relationships produced by the technologies of its day. (67)” He goes on to claim that “the main effects of the computer revolution are visible today among artists who do not use computers...(67) ”and of those who do to create, for example, “computer graphic images:” “at best, their work is just a symptom or a gadget...(68)” I do not entirely agree with him. Making “computer graphic images” or models of flocking or what have you, is participating in technology. Using technology in the place of traditional mediums cements its momentous primacy as experiential medium. This participation will not garner recognition as an original, individual artist, but it is worthwhile to look past individuality.
What he argues is that, rather than creating representations, technology should be used in art to simulate and represent behavioral patterns and to “decipher the social relations brought by [technology]. (68)” Specifically, “art's function consists in appropriating perceptual and behavioral habits brought on by the technical-industrial complex to turn them into life possibilities... [or] reverse the authority of technology in order to make ways of thinking, living and seeing creative. (69)”
Relational artists, he continues, construct “models of sociability suitable for producing human relations. (70)” In my mind this is not unlike a program which produces an image.
How I would relate this to my own art practice is to use interactive technology to construct sociability models. To start with, the computer is intended to be used by the individual, perhaps as a portal to a social configuration, a medium by which we interact with each other over the Internet or a network. I am interested in rearranging those social format structures by allowing many people to interact with a single computer at once and through less conventional methods. i.e. by video-captured gesture rather than using a mouse.
The Internet seems to me like an incredible tool for collapsing space and site in real time. What's more, it renders antiquated the broadcaster/receiver dichotomous communication model of T.V. or radio by allowing for simultaneous broadcast and reception by all communicators. Working with that as a medium is great as long as it is interesting an not too abstract. I intend to use it to create remote access to the object of interactivity and direct control of the interactivity parameters wirelessly, in the presence of the object. I am also interested in the ways that programming and the Internet can function as time-sensitive channels of dialogue with participants.
The trick to all of this, if one cares to involve other humans, is for the art thing to be engaging and accessible.