Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Wonderful Poet

I'm traveling through mid-December so posting will be light. The above link will take you to a poet I am currently reading, Jane Hirschfield. Her book Nine Gates is a must.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Musings on Relational Aesthetics

In a summer New York Times article on public sculpture, critic Ken Johnson wondered if, philosophical dimensions of art works aside, does the work visually compel?

This took me to Nicholas Bourriaud’s 1990 book Relational Aesthetics, which describes the evolution of aesthetic to social or philosophical frameworks in art works.  As visual recognition becomes faster and more complex, so that we see a tracking shot as a single image, our understanding of symbols, from keyboards to advertising, is immediate and comprehensive. Given the visual speed at which we absorb information, one might conclude, as Bourriaud does, that visual language becomes one trope among many, a factor in a confluence of factors that include social interaction and time as means of shared experience.  For him, social interactions and time re-invigorate the social aspects of viewing formalist artworks in ways that feel more relevant in contemporary life. For Bourriaud, the object is not necessary to establish a sense of shared connection.

I’ve given this some thought and conclude it is ultimately an academic argument that sidesteps the issue of criteria altogether in favor of a premise that expands the field of what art can be. The performative aspects of relational aesthetics recall Fluxus, Art as Life, Happenings, but the conceptual foundation is different through leveling  visual, social and philosophical frameworks.  Johnson concludes a preference for work that engages the eye beyond function - citing the visual symbolism of Tom Otternes-- but experience tells me art's presence influences people when it is in the world, no matter what. Connections are forged in different ways - how can they be any different than learning styles, or ways of thinking? They aren't, really. 

But, what interests me most in painting is the narrowness of its limitations and strictures; its unforgivability. What once seemed binding now points to freedom. For such a malleable medium, paint can become as complex as any other visual experience, real or filmed. To make a painting come alive, step away from its long, digested history into the present, remains compelling to do and see.