본문 바로가기
  • Home

The Significance and Limitations of Bourriaud's “Relational Aesthetics”

  • The Journal of Aesthetics and Science of Art
  • Abbr : JASA
  • 2011, 34(), pp.281-361
  • Publisher : 한국미학예술학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology
  • Published : December 30, 2011

김기수 1

1영남대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Nicolas Bourriaud holds that the 1990s artworld came to confront such a new artistic practice that an overwhelming majority of critics and philosophers were reluctant to come to grips with, and comes up with such concepts as “relational aesthetics” and “relational art” in order to theoretically account for this new art-practice. Bourriaud defines “relational art” as dealing with human relations and “relational aesthetics” as judging artworks on the basis of human relations. He assumes that what leads a bevy of 1990s' artists to take up such human relations as their subject-matter rests on their recognition that the ever-growing capitalist system has cut off human relations. Thus, relational artists strive to put forward an alternative to the problem of capitalism by re-connecting such cut-off human relations and thereby advancing a practical microtopia. Bourriaud has been able to establish his theory of “relational aesthetics” by borrowing a set of concepts from various theorists. In this vein, this paper shall examine―on the ground of Bourriaud's text that deals with major concepts upon which his relational aesthetics turns―⑴ the concepts of “the Society of the Spectacle”(Debord) as a way of analyzing the background of the advent of relational art and “Art as a Social Interstice”(Marx) as a way of articulating the function of relational art, ⑵ the concept of “form”(Daney & Levinas) as a way of showing how relational artists came to invent a new artistic form, and ⑶ Bourriaud's reading of Guattari's concepts of “subjectivity” and “aesthetic paradigm” so as to figure out whether Bourriaus's appeal to Guattari is relevant to relational art's pursuit for a tangible microtopia. Afterwards, this paper shall investigate the significance and limitations of relational aesthetics at once from the viewpoint of poststructualism (from which Guattari's ideas derive) and from the perspective of the 1990s contemporary art in which Bourriaud situates his relational art. This paper shall examine the significance of relational aesthetics in relevance with its contemporary art. The 1990s' context in which relational art made appearance (after the Fall of Berlin Wall) may be characterized by the contradictory combination of capitalism and democracy, which implies that global capitalism came to dominate throughout the world. Bourriaud quickly sensed that a group of the 1990s' artists started engaging into new artistic practice with their awareness of the problems growing out of the new global system, timely constituted a theoretical framework whereby to explicate what they were doing, and exquisitely organized several exhibitions for what he called relational artists. Bourriaud's contribution, it shall be argued, lies in his ingenious invention of the technical concepts such as “relational aesthetics” and “relational art” for the arguably uncharted artistic practice of the 1990s, which could establish themselves as a stylistic concept of the period of the 1990s. Nevertheless, this paper shall argue that Bourriaud's relational aesthetics contains no less problems. First, Bourriaud put to use Guattari's concepts of subjectivity and aesthetic paradigm without fully taking into account the context of poststructualism in which Guattari made up those concepts, while intending to rest relational aesthetics upon Guattari's philosophy. Second, Bourriaud's relational art has been marginalized in the spectrum of today's critical art because it builds on homogeneous multiplicity, as shown in Rancière's argument for critical art. Therefore, Bourriaud's relational art has been so narrowly circumscribed that it could not properly figure in today's various social, cultural, political conflicts, and the kind of microtopia it envisages, it shall turn out, is far from democratic. The majority of Bourriaud's problem may be responsible for the ambiguous and eclectic stance that he took between modernism and postmodernism, and between structualism and poststructualism, it shall be pointed out.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.