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Julia Svetlichnaja Relational Paradise as a Delusional Democracy - a Critical Response to a Temporary Contemporary Relational Aesthetics Paper prepared for

the Art and Politics panel, BISA Conference, December 19-21, 2005, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland.

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

In attempt to theorise artistic practices of the 90s trend towards interaction and interpersonal connection, French art critic and co-director of Palais de Tokyo in Paris Nicholas Bourriaud has devised the term Relational Aesthetics1, which soon became known as the most serious recent theoretical attempt to define the position of art in relation to capitalist society. Bourriauds book, Relational Aesthetics was the product of the on-going debate within the artistic circle that the author worked with, and it concentrated mostly on the works of European and French artists in particular. Recently, for its political implications and, specifically, for its claim that relational art has democratic potentials, Relational Aesthetics has overcome its geographic boundaries and it come to internationally renewed attention. Referring to the generation of artists that populated the 90s, Bourriaud claims that the most striking feature of their works is first and foremost, the democratic concern that informs it.2 In Bourriauds view, art is a form of information and communication flows between audiences, and from this standpoint, the role of the artist is to facilitate and enhance this exchange, which will lead to the emergence of the powerful networks in art. Analysed in Relational Aesthetics artworks were more concerned by the relations with or between the spectators, than with the form of the work itself. Bourriaud argued that works such as cooking a soup for the viewers, creating environments for a genial talk, or directly chatting with the audience serve as alternative modes of sociability; less standardised and more liberating. In other words, intraaudience encounters catalysed within a relational art paradigm offer, in contrast with the capitalist system of exchange, affective resonances and revived social connection, which directly contribute to societys democratisation. The purpose of this paper is to present Bourriauds theory of Relational Aesthetics and examine its alleged democratic potentials. Does Relational Art, which core notions is to inhabit the world in a better way by producing inter-subjectivities and thus humanise capitalism, contribute to more democratic society and if yes, what kind of democracy does it foster? What is Relational Art? Nicolas Bourriaud defines Relational Aesthetics as aesthetic theory consisting of judging artworks on the basis of the inter-human relations they represent, produce or prompt. Bourriaud insists that
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Nicolas Bourriaud, French art critic, curator of Palais de Tokyo contemporary art centre in Paris. Bourriaud coined the term "Relational Aesthetics", which he outlined in a next for the catalogue of the exhibition "Traffic" shown at the CAPC Bordeaux in 1996 2 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002: 57

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

Relational Aesthetics is a theory of form rather than a theory of art as it does not imply the statement of an origin and a destination. For instance, the goal of avant-garde movement was to revolutionise society by means of braking away from a conformism and tradition, interrupting the sense of continuous development in the arts by its transgressions against anything established as a given, and, of course, avant-garde has deeply concentrated on the object not as it is but as it is for us. While avant-garde artist valued private subjectivity and an original, unique and final product of it whether it is a painting or a sculpture, relational artist values the process over the final object and common space where subjectivity is produced rather than a private one. However, what is precisely meant by the process? Let me give you an example. New York based artist of Thai origin Rikrit Tiravanija3 cooks Thai curries for the gallerys visitors and leaves the leftovers and used food packets in the gallery when he is not there. Bourriaud explains that artistic work such as Rikrit Tiravanijas should not be perceived in terms of a space or objects involved but rather as duration or a process to be experienced. In other words, the performative and engaging feature of the work is far more important than either objects to be viewed in space or the space itself. In this way it is problematic to define exactly what form relational art consist on as it is completely indebted to the contingencies of audiences and sites. What Bourriaud percives as a form is nothing more but a coherent plane on which heterogeneous entities meet. This form therefore must be flexible, open to dialogue and exchange. Bourriaud argues that this relative immateriality is a sign of a priority given by artists to time in relation to space. They [artists] display and explore the process that leads to objects and meanings4, writes Bourriaud. While it is ambiguous what form relational art consist on, it is more problematic to address what possible meanings it might lead too. Answering this question, Bourriaud quotes Tiravanija, who, in turn, quotes Wittgenstein: Dont look for the meaning, look for the use. While Wittgenstein emphasized the role of the context in defining the content, Bourriaud implements this standpoint rather literally. For Bourriaud the politics of use imply the elusiveness of the content itself, which, in his words, may be inserted into different programs and used for multiple scenarios.5 In this way, the politics of use serve as rather anti3

Of Rikrit Tiravanija's art could be said that it is very typical for the type of contemporary expression that emerged in the mid-1990ies that is sometimes referred to as "relational aesthetics", a term invented by French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud, or simply "social art". Tiravanija's art is indeed highly social and often dependent on the visitors input to function and come alive. Tiravanija, who was born in Buenos Aires in 1961 but has lived most of his life in the New York is of Thai origin and in his early works he often used the skills he learnt from his mother, who was a cook, to prepare Thai meals for the visitors, works which in a sense became a type of low-key interactive performances including all involved to socially engage in everyday tasks. His installations often takes the form of stages or rooms for sharing meals, cooking, reading, playing music or even living and they can be seen as open-ended social experiments in which the artist as much as the public is testing the borders of the work. 4 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002: 54 5 Ibid: 19-20

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

Wittgenstein standpoint as it proclaims the power of content over context. Bourriaud writes, The artwork is no longer an end point but a simple moment in an infinite chain of contributions. 6 In other words, there is no finite space or a context but rather an endless succession of actions, which Bourraud calls space-time elements. The next logical question to ask is who actually contributes to this chain of meaning-via-use, how and why?

Temporal Collectives by means of Free Association Relational art sets up situations in which audiences form temporal communities, a momentary grouping of participating viewers, as Bourriaud puts it. That is to say that temporary collective constructed during the process of performance contributes to the establishment of a meaning. To make this point clearer, Bourriaud gives an example. Jens Haaning broadcasts amusing stories in Turkish through a loudspeaker in the middle of Copenhagen. This produces a sense of community among immigrants, upset by collective laughter at their exile situation. Thus, relational art creates a micro-community, a group of individuals who advocate their response to the exile situation and this is a meaning of the work. Bourriaud writes, It is in this sense [momentary community] that we can talk of a community effect in contemporary art. 7 However, what happens to this collective after performance ends? Furthermore, how one can verify the formation of some kind of grouping, even though momentary, in the first place? I am amongst the ranks of those that reject the notion of community and the collective8 when it comes to acts of interpretation or perception. The transition from purely formal perception to subject matter or meaning is an open-ended and complex process, which deals with multiple codes that govern the collective consciousness. When the viewer attends an artistic event, he or she is not necessarily open to embrace in free floating meaning creation. In his Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste 9, Pierre
6 7

Bourriaud, Nicolas, Postproduction, Lukas & Sternberg, New York, 2005: 20 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002: 61 8 It also must be said that we have seen truly disheartening agendas produced in the name of collectivity. Walter Benjamin criticised modernism on the basis that painting simply is in no position to present an object for simultaneous collective experience. He assumed that this simultaneous collective experience is an unqualified good, and under the impact of Bolshevism in general and Brechts theatre in particular this may well have seemed so. However, would such a belief qualify to survive Hitlerism, Stalinism and Maoism? Benjamin, Walter, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction [1936] in Illuminations, New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1968: 236
9

Bourdieu, Pierre, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

Bourdieu points out that joining museums, contributing to exhibitions, serving on boards of directors is a means for acquiring symbolic capital and therefore gaining stature in a social group. Bourriaud, however, denounces Bourdieus understanding as outdated. For him, the aura of artworks has long ago shifted towards their public: The public is taken into account more and more.10 This is because the audiences nowadays not just getting together but doing things together. However, how legitimate is Bourriauds claim of increasing publicness of the audiences? Rosalyn Deutsche has repeatedly called to distinguish between public and an audience. In her view, gathering together and doing things together does not contribute to the creation of a public. In her seminar Making Public at Tate Modern in London (March 2005) she stated that audience is a consumer while public is always a debating public. It comes into existence through a feedback on the work and the contest of the audiences between themselves 11. Moreover, the role of the artist is to provoke the debate, that is to say, to initiate the publicness. In Deutsches view, an artist never deals with the public; it deals with audiences, who, in turn, can be transformed into the public. Deutsche also points out that what characterises the public and public spaces are gaps and discontinuities rather than an ongoing dialogue. It seems that Bourriaud does not have much of a problem with making generalisations about the body in a public space, for him audiences are the public, although, he admits its illusive nature. Addressing this problem, Bourriaud writes, The artists seek interlocutors: since the public remains a rather unreal entity, they include the interlocutor in the production process.12 However, who exactly are these interlocutors? They are a limited circle of artists and curators who direct the process of meaning construction in one way or another. Thus, it can be said that Bourriauds view that micro-communities or publics contribute to the creation of the meaning is highly problematic since the very conception of a public is not a selfevident. Rather, it depends thoroughly on an artist as he or she, as Rosalyn Deutsche states, is responsible for developing an experience of being public. I will come back to this point later on in this paper but in the meantime, let us now turn to the second question of how, in which ways audiences actually participate in the process of meaning creation? Bourriaud explains, by means of free association 13 because no meaning is imposed on the viewer via objects or sites but, rather, the aura is created by accidental connection between the situation
10 11

Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002: 61 Deutsche, Rosalyn, Making Public seminar, Tate http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/ 12 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002 13 Ibid: 61

Modern,

London,

March

2005,

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

and the participants, - this aura is one of random subjectivity. Bourriaud claims that, according to Felix Guattaris theory, subjectivity is the network of relations between the individuals and other models of subjectivity, which construction process proceed wherever the social prevails. Hence, subjectivity is random as it splits, connects, re-connects and re-distributes; it never is subsumed under a homogenic self.14 Bourriaud connects random subjectivity with random materialism. He explains that philosophical tradition which underpins relational aesthetics was defined by Louis Althusser as a materialism of encounter or random materialism: This particular materialism takes as its point of departure the world contingency, which has no pre-existing origin or sense, nor Reason, which might allot it a purpose.15 Here Bourriaud comes to the central argument, which, in his view, radically divorce Relational Aesthetics from any previous artistic movements. Departing from the theory of random materialism, Bourriaud declares that The essence of humankind is purely trans-individual, made up of bonds that link individuals together in social forms which are invariably historical. 16 In this way, the essence of art is to offer a situation in which human relations could be catalysed and thus produce affective resonances and social connection. Although art, no doubt, has always been relational - meaning that the ultimate arts goal was to communicate ideas to the world - it did not take its theoretical horizon from the realm of human interactions. This radically new grounding, argues Bourriaud, reflects societys overall shift from a traditional, more real form of human interaction to a virtual mode of Global Capitalist Society, which turns social bond into a standardised artefact or, to put it simply, mechanises human relations. Automatic public toilets, writes Bourriaud, were invented to keep streets clean, the same spirit underpins the development of communications tools17 In other words; Bourriauds Relational Aesthetics stand for more human, less mechanised relations, a culture of friendship 18, as he puts it. While human relations in communication society are simplified to the forms of capitalist exchange, Relational Aesthetics stand for emancipation of human exchanges. In Bourriauds view, the real challenges of contemporary art lies within the freeing up of inter-human communications
14

Bourriaud describes the programmatic Guattaris construction of the "Three Ecologies" (mental, environmental, social) under an aesthetic paradigm, art being the model for thought by its ability to create possibilities without referring to the given order 15 Ibid: 18 16 Ibid 17 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002:16 18 Ibid:32 19 Ibid: 60

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

since, according to Bourriaud, the emancipation of individuals in our post-industrial society is no longer an issue. The first questions that Bourriaud prompts audiences to ask when looking at a work of art are: Does it give me a chance to exist in front of it, or, on the contrary, does it deny me as a subject, refusing to consider the Other in its structure? 20 This question, Bourriaud claims, does not refer to anthropomorphic vision of art but to a simply human vision and forms. New Types of Human Relations in a Shared World First, does such thing as a typically human form exist in nature? Our perception creates forms according to the aesthetics standards and patterns of the times. Second, how legitimate is Bourriauds claim of simply human vision? Unpacking Bourriauds models of human relations created via audiences encounter with art, it becomes clear that his vision of human affairs is limited to a combination of social practices which do not produce any adversity. Rikrit Tiravanija invited the homeless to come in and eat his soup during the artists New York show in 1993. This artistic performance persuades public to accept gifts.21 Felix Gonzalez-Torres encourages members of the audience to try a sweet from the artists pile of sweets work. This is supposed to communicate the sense of responsibility to the visitors, as taking all the sweets would eventually destroy his artistic creation. Alix Lambert gets married to four different people in six months and subsequently divorces them all. In this way the artist undermines the institute of marriage. All these examples refer to rather weak modes of human interaction such as loving, sharing, conviviality and friendliness, which Bourriaud takes as a platform for social bond. There are, however, stronger ways of relating such as aggression, fear, hate or racism. In his Civilisation and Its Discontents, Freud points out a hostile nature of mankind, who are not gentle creatures who want to be loved they are, on the contrary, creatures among whose instinctual endowments is to be reckoned a powerful share of aggressiveness. 22 However, Bourriaud insists that hostility and conflict belong to the past. He grounds this claim in the presence of new historical conditions according to which the imaginary of our day and age is concerned with negotiations, bonds and co-existences. 23 In Bourriauds view, we are no longer communicating by means of conflict and via invention of new assemblages because [n]obody nowadays has ideas about ushering in the golden age on Earth,
20 21

Ibid: 56 This immediate generosity might be linked to the Thai culture in which Buddhist monks do not work but are encouraged to accept peoples gifts, suggests Nicolas Bourriaud in Postproduction, Lukas & Sternberg, New York, 2005: 49 22 Freud is quoted by Chantal Mouffe, On the Political, Routledge, London and New York, 2005: 25 23 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002: 46

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

and we are readily prepared just to create various forms of modus vivendi permitting fairer social relations, more compact ways of living, and many different combinations of fertile existence. 24 This means negating the existence of antagonism, in fact in his view hostility and conflict belong to the past and subsequently, an artwork reflects this condition by proposing to exist in a shared world, which gives everybody their chance to be a part of it. What Turn in Art History? The idea of an art made from the social, from people participating in social interactions, descends from the Dadaists, revolutionaries, and utopians, infusing various strands of art-making in the 50s and 60s including John Cages Black Mountain events, Alan Kaprows happenings, Fluxus, Gutai, the Situationist International (SI), conceptual, body and performance art, and the work of Joseph Beuys, who crowned the swell by coining the term social sculpture. Joseph Beuys defined social sculpture as how we mould and shape the world in which we live. It is in this context that he made his famous statement that everyone is an artist. He envisioned an art that was literally revolutionary, in which every human being would be participating in the total artwork of the future social order which he imagined as a free democratic socialism. The main difference that Bourriaud points out in attempt to distance Relational Art from any previous artistic movements is that instead of projecting utopian ideas, artists seek temporal solutions. In Bourriauds view, the dream of social change by means of utopian visionary has lost its actuality, and what is central to societys functioning are the conditions of the present rather than the futures possibilities. While people just try to inhabit the world in a more suitable way, [a]rt, likewise, is no longer seeking to represent utopias; rather, it is attempting to construct concrete spaces25, declares Bourriaud. While Fluxus, SI believed that society can and should learn from artists to instigate permanent change, Bourriaud envisages art as temporary and only relevant to the art world solution where people can have a glimpse of freedom and relief. Bourriaud also claims that unique role of Relational Aesthetics consists of updating and reconciling Situationism26 with the art world of today. The aim of the Situationist International movement (SI,
24 25

Ibid Ibid 26 The Situationist International (SI), an international political and artistic movement, originated in the Italian village of Cosio d'Arroscia on 28 July 1957. The Situationists would argue against any separation between a "false" spectacle and a "true" daily life. The movements leader, Guy Debord reverses Hegel by arguing that within the spectacle, "the true is a moment of the false". The spectacle is not a conspiracy. The Situationists would argue that society reaches the level of

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

1957-1972), anarchist who saw themselves as Marxists with populist ideological foundations, was to intervene directly in everyday life, creating situations that confuse both: a spectators and an artists ability to define reality. The SI, led by artist and theorist Guy Debord, offered a sustained critique of many forms of domination including the capitalist forms of exchange. Bourriaud, however, insists that Debord is wrong identifying inter-human exchanges as the capitalist forms of encounter. Instead of an opposition between art and everyday life, Bourriaud portray art as a social interstice, the term he borrows from Marx who used it to describe exchange spaces that elude the capitalist economic context (barter, autarkic type of production are Bourriauds examples). Thus, claims Bourriaud, Relational Art is exactly this social interstice, which he describes as a space in human relations which fits more or less harmoniously and openly into the overall system, but suggests other trading possibilities. 27 For instance, Bourriaud perceives Tiravanijas work as generous offering, which provides an alternative logic to commodity fetishism. However, in his The Fetishism of Commodities, Marx points out that exchange value is bound up with use value. The use value is precisely what makes [s]ocial relation between men to assume the fantastic form of relation between things. 28 In other words, relations between people themselves become objectified and thinglike. Developing Marxs point, Jean Baudrillard declared use value to be itself a fetish. He argued that the fetish was above all a fabrication, an artefact, a labor of appearances substituting the manipulation of forces for the manipulation of signs. 29 Economics therefore fell under the purview of semiotics. The production, exchange and consumption was no longer a science of abstract values measured as price, but had become a signifying practice no more rational or stable than art. To concentrate, as Bourriaud does, on the use value rather than exchange value is to render to the fabric of hegemony rather than being critical of it. Janet Kraynak30 has repeatedly criticised the use orientation of Bourriauds theory. In her view, Tiravanijas work embraces the shift in the new globalised economy from the production and exchange of material objects to that of equally alienating symbolic capital, which reveals the increased homogenisation of cultures as they enter the new symbolic order of global capitalism. While participatory artistic practices of the 60s could still dream of a de-commodified reality, Relational Art in the 1990s celebrated an embrace rather than a rejection of the museum as well as
the spectacle when nearly all aspects of culture and experience have become mediated by capitalist social relation. This concept of modern life being a step removed from reality shares common ground with Jean Baudrillard's ideas of Hyperreality, which examines societies that replace real experience with spectacle 27 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002: 16 28 Marx, Karl, The Fetishism of Commodities (1867) in Capital, Volume 1, London: Dent, 1974: 77 29 Baudrillard, Jean, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, Saint Louis: Telos, 1981 30 Janet Kraynak, Rirkrit Tiravanijas Liability, Documents # 13, 26-40

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

a return to traditional modes of authorship because the presence of the author is always a necessary aspect of Relational Aesthetics. Thus, Relational Art rather betrays than updates Situationists who valued precise intervention in human affairs, which they perceived as intrinsically based on logic of use and exchange. Nicolas Bourriaud also incorrect when he states that the relational sphere is to art today what mass production was to pop art and minimalism 31 Andy Warhols relationship with the object was the crux of the matter. Baudrillard writes, He is someone who, with utter cynicism and agnosticism, brought about a manipulation, a transfusion of the image into reality, into the absent referent of star-making banality. 32 In some way Warhol freed us from aesthetics via his mechanical snobbism, he introduced nothingness into the heart of the image. Pop art and minimalism critically engaged with the world of consumer by producing objects manifested by irony, distance and banality, while Relational Art celebrates freedom from objects as sufficient grounds for producing and enhancing positive human relations. Relational Art has managed to demystify objects only to mystify more the figure of the artist-curator. Modern arts autonomous and specialist status was treated as a hindrance to be overcome; art should not be limited to its own small sphere, it should revolutionize society. The ultimate aim of Dada, Surrealism and the historical avant-garde in general had been to integrate art into the Lebenswelt, into society and everyday life. What Relational Art attempts to do is to integrate everyday life into art. Bourriaud confirms this by saying The subversive and critical function of contemporary art is now achieved in the invention of individual and collective vanishing lines.33 Relational Paradise as Dialogic Democracy Bourriads call for blurring individual and collective might seem paradoxical when art value, as argued by Bourdieu, precisely derives from the play between private subjectivity and social reality. However, Bourriauds understanding of subjectivity, grounded as we have already said earlier in Guattaris theory, corresponds to the network of relations. We can understand Bourriaud's conception of the self as a constant networking activity, which purpose is to create a constellation of local and temporary encounters, called subjectivity. The self of the artist is particularly adapted to this activity and therefore is able to organise possible places and times for others to encounter together. This gives others more opportunity to distribute their selves, thus producing mutual
31 32

Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002: 24 Baudrillard, Jean, The Conspiracy of Art, Semiotext(e), New York, 2005: 44 33 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002: 31

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

common subjectivity as a trajectory through the society. Hence, subjectivity here is understood as inter-human relations. The value of a relation is central to Bourriauds understanding of critical functions of contemporary art. He claims that while our society is badly affected by capitalist relations of exchange (mechanisation of human affairs), Relational Art offers genuine relationships with the world based on ongoing dialogue and openness. This conception resembles Anthony Giddens understanding of democracy as pure relationship, i.e. a relationship into which one enters and remains for its own sake because of the rewards that associating with others brings. 34 Relational art, where collaboration and communication regarded as a good in itself and people meeting people, in Tiravanija's words, as an end in itself, is a perfect visualisation of Giddens dialogical democracy. Giddens writes, Globalisation, reflexivity and de-traditionalisation creates dialogical spaces that must in some way be filled. These are spaces which can be engaged dialogically, invoking mechanisms of active trust35 Although, these spaces described by Giddens as dialogical is, in fact, spaces of void, exclusion and resistance to the very globalisation and reflexivity, Relational Aesthetics is exactly what can turn these gaps into a dialogical space by providing everyone (marginalised and excluded) with tools to adopt to the current situation by promoting flexibility, connectivity, adaptability, fluidity, responsibility and, of course, trust. Let me give you an example. In 1991 Michael Clegg and Martin Guttmann have installed Open Public Library, - "A library without librarians and without surveillance, the stock of which is determined by the users themselves through a system of exchange, according to which every borrowed book is to be replaced by another chosen at will by the user. 36 This project, which supposed to invoke trust and responsibility as self-definition of a community, was described by authors as an experiment with a radically democratic institution 37. The political dimension of this experimental arrangement is found in the challenge of self-determined collective action, although the absence of rules and regulations cannot be found anywhere in an institutionally administered repressive society. Despite the fact that Open Public Library has repeteadly became vandalised, authors are optimistic about its future as it takes time to build trust. Again, akin to Giddens approach, supporters of Relational Aesthetics convinced that forces of progress will eventually win because hostility and conflict belong to the past, and in the meantime all we have to do is, according to Bourriaud, inhabit the world in a more suitable way.

34 35

On the Political, Routledge, London and New York, 2005: 47 Giddens quoted by Mouffe, Chantal, On the Political, Routledge, London and New York, 2005: 47 36 Clegg & Guttmann, The Open Public Library, Distributed Art Pub Inc, 1995: 120 37 Ibid

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

Thus, relational artists provide the viewer with an operational concept of art as a producer of a better society, by means of building experimental social grounds where renewed relationships can be imagined. Relational Aesthetics is a good art which is prepared to improve a bad world and it has all necessary elements to humanise capitalism such as principles of openness and dialogue, responsibility and trust, participation, fluidity and temporality, - creation of micro-utopias, which fit entirely into Giddens vision of democracy. This, however, is not the only one understanding of democracy. Agonistic Democracy Rosalyn Deutsche states that "[h]owever much the democratic public sphere promises openness and accessibility, it can never be a fully inclusive or fully constituted political community. Conflict, division, and instability, then, do not ruin the democratic public sphere; they are the conditions of its existence.38 Deutsche takes this bearing from Chantal Mouffe, who repeatedly argued that antagonistc dimension of the social is the very condition for its existence. Every society is the the temporary and unstable articulation of contingent practices, which cover their political construction as if they were self-founded. Chantal Mouffe writes, Things could always be otherwise and therefore every order is predicated on the exclusion of other possibilities. It is in that sense that it can be called political since it is the expression of a particular structure of power relations.39 As the very existence of this social order implies exclusion, it is impossible to overcome we/them distinction and reach a final consensus. Mouffe states, What is crucial in the hegemonic struggle is to be able to think in a political way and this requires relinquishing a lot of illusions, for instance the idea that there is a necessary direction to history, which would lead to a final reconciliation, or the idea that we could reach a stage beyond politics, where antagonism would be eliminated and a perfect democracy realised.40 While a perfect democracy is simply unforseebale, the aim of democratic politics consists in transformation of the existing power relations and susequently establishing a new hegemony. In On the Political, Chantal Mouffe points out inability of centre-left to grasp the impossibility of overcoming dialectical opposition which drives the social. While [a] democratic society requires a debate about possible alternatives and it must privide political forms of collective identivications around clearly differentiated
38 39

Rosalyn Deutsche, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics, Cambridge, London, The MIT Press, 1996: 329 Mouffe, Chantal, The Public in Question: What is at Stake? 40 Mouffe, Chantal, Which Democracy in a Post-Political Age, available on http://darkmarkets.t0.or.at/materials/abstract_mouffe.htm

line

at

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

democratic positions41, what we are witnessing now is an unchallenged triumph of neo-liberalism offering no alternatives. Capitalist modes of relations and, as a consequence globalisation and deepening individualisation are taken for granted. Therefore, all we have to do is to discuss and negotiate, presvade others to share this vision and if they refuse to do so, cast them as the enemy of democracy. Mouffe warns that politics... is not an exchange of opinions where right and wrong are established, but a contest for power, which implies thinking in terms of left and right. She states that [t]he fundamental difference between the dialogical and the agonistic (realtions between adversaries but not enemies) perspectives (of democracy) is that the aim of the latter is a profound transformation of the existing power relations and the establishment of a new hegemony.
42

In this way, the question of democratic potentials of Relational Aesthetics could be posed in

different terms: in which ways if any Relational Art participate or resist the dominant social order. Does it address we/them opposition agonistically? Does it accept dialectical opposition as the very basis of society and therefore revaluate and re-work arts tactics so that the oppositional tension is sustained and not removed? Critique The purpose of Bourriauds theory is to address how can we sustain or resist the current capitalism with cultural practices. In his view, there are two main features that characterised Relational Arts struggle with the dominant social order: immateriality and establishing a relation. Bourriaud writes, The contemporary artworks form is spreading out from its material form: it is a linking element, a principle of dynamic agglutination. 43 Regarding a relation, it is understood as an everlasting sequence of relational space-time elements, a network of artist-viewer subject-positions: the artwork is no longer an end point but a simple moment in an infinite chain of contributions. 44 Relational Art desires to put things in motion rather than consolidate any possible positions. That is why its core notions are connectivity, flexibility, adaptability, mobility and openness. In their The New Spirit of Capitalism Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello point out the emergence of new paradigm of social order, which they identify as the third spirit of capitalism. While the first and the second spirits were build on the industrial model where proprietors were seen as main holders
41 42

Mouffe, Chantal, On the Political, Routledge, London and New York, 2005: 31 Ibid: 52 43 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 200: 21 44 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Postproduction, Lukas & Sternberg, New York, 2005: 20

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

of modern values such as family, state, wealth, the third spirit transforms the definition of a value. Boltanski and Chiapello meticulously explain a shift from the value of objects, work and people (efficiency and professionalism) towards the value of relations. They state that capitalism, which is characterised by endless abstract accumulation process and wage earning inevitably produces aggravation and exclusion because neither executives nor workers cannot be satisfied with the financial abstract or practical reasoning, therefore they ask for meaning. Following socialist movements in 60s and 70s, capitalism searched how to create new working conditions that satisfy artistic and social critic of the state apparatus as main force of domination and oppression, longing for autonomy and the flexibility. The third stage of capitalism or connexionist capitalism rejects hierarchy, planning, discipline and embraces mobility and flexibility. Words such openness, teamworking, dynamics and mobilisation, networking have become the new motto of human resources departments. Previously linked to the product, the value now integrates the relation and its effects. Boltanski and Chiapello write, Whereas, in a commercial world, the product is separated from persons and stabilized by conventions or standards guaranteeing its quality this, in particular, is the role of brands in a connexionist world the product, which circulates with difficulty when separated from persons, is transformed by the relation. 45 While in the trade world, the transaction does not modify the product quality or the suppliers and demanders down the chain, [i]n a connexionnist world, by contrast, links are useful and enriching when they have the power to change the beings who enter into relations. 46 The opportunity to produce links or mobility thus becomes a source of profit. At this point oppression is easy and natural, - these who do not move around (or move less) contribute to the formation of the value added of those who do (more).47 Some peoples immobility is necessary for other peoples mobility 48 is what Boltanski and Chiapello identify as a new form of oppression, which is more severe. Whereas in the past a man was secure in poverty and it was understood that to escape it, one must risk everything, but if one did not gamble, he/she could not lose, now, those who do not gamble lose all the time, even more assuredly than those who do.49 This reveals how Relational Aesthetic is part of the transformation shift from the second spirit of capitalism to the third, by focusing on and installing relationship as the main value. The figure of
45 46

Boltanski Luc, Chiapello, Eve, The New Spirit of Capitalism, Verso, 2005: 130-131 Ibid: 131 47 Ibid: 362 48 Ibid: 362 49 Peguy, Charles quoted by Boltanski Luc, Chiapello, Eve, The New Spirit of Capitalism, Verso, 2005, Prologue

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

the artist has become the exact model for a new leadership, - an operator, strong at networking, mobile and flexible. The consequence is that promoting network and its values such as connectivity, flexibility, mobility, openness now emerges as promoting the core ideology of the third capitalism which Relational Aesthetic in fact claims it fighting. In Bourriauds view, postcolonialism and globalisation have provided a framework for identifying new kinds of transcultural relationships in the arts. He writes, Artists are looking for a new modernity that would be based on translation : what matters today is to translate the cultural values of cultural groups and to connect them to the world network. 50 Thus, Bourriaud accepts globolised and networked society as the only possible basis for the future of art. While democratic politics, following Chantal Mouffes understanding of democracy resist the dominant social order and offers alternatives, Bourriauds vision of globalisation as multitudes and flows embraces current hegemony of neo-liberalism. Here Bourriaud contradicts himself. On the one hand, he welcomes globalisation as a dialogical space and on the other hand he offers to translate and connect the results of these dialogues into the worlds network, which lead to the homogenisation of artistic practices. What kind of dialogue could take place in a homogenic space? Boris Groys argues that the homogenisation of art practices leads to the stabilised regime of art which implies the death of the discussion. Criticising the straightforward openness and transitivity of contemporary art practices he points out that one must create an outside to talk to otherwise art becomes a machine of ongoing expansion and inclusion.
51

In fact, Thomas Hirschhorn sees his

projects as 'never-ending construction sites; Tiravanija rejects 'the need to fix a moment where everything is complete'. The key relational artists such as Liam Gillick or Vanessa Beecroft insist that they cannot make any decisions regarding the meaning of their work without audiences. In his seminar on Spheres of Action: Art and Politics in December this year Boris Groys 52 stressed that an artist deals with a finite word rather the infinite one and therefore he or she is obliged to make a decision.53 This decision would obviously lead to exclusion and this is precisely, what relational artists do not wish to acknowledge. For example, Thomas Hirschhorn portrays art as a game where is nothing to gain and nothing to lose. He claims that the artwork is never a success and
50

Bourriaud, Nicolas, Modern, Postmodern, Aftermodern, http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/aaanz/abstracts/nicolas_bourriaud 51 Groys, Boris, Spheres of Action: Art and Politics seminar at Tate Modern, 10 December, 2005, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/ 52 Boris Groys, Professor at the School of Fine Arts, Karlsruhe, author of The Total Art of Stalinism, (Hanser, 1988) and Ilya Kabakov (Phaidon Press, 1998). 53 Ibid

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

never a failure54. Rather, it is, in Hirschhorn view, a middle ground for exchange of subjectivities (or inter-human relations). Chantal Mouffe writes, Every order is political and based on some form of exclusion. She points out that the aim of democratic politics is not to overcome we/they distinction (every consensus is founded on acts of exclusion) but to construct it agonistically, which means acknowledging that there is no rational solution to their conflict, nevertheless, recognising the legitimacy of their opponents. Relational Art is not able to grasp the necessity of we/they difference because it perceives the Other in terms of morality. Following Bourriauds discourse, it becomes clear that the Other is envisioned as poor and disadvantaged (homeless, old people, homosexuals) therefore it would be wrong to exclude these groups. However, as Mouffe argues, politics deals not with right and wrong but with left and right. Exclusions therefore cannot be perceived in moral terms. Mouffe writes, Some demands are excluded, not because they are declared to be evil, but because they challenge the institutions constitutive of the democratic political association.55 Thus it can be said that Relational Art does not address we/them distinction agonistically simply because, in the best tradition of current new-liberalism, such division should not exist in the first place. While New Labour partys slogan has now turned into offering choices, the motto of Relational Aesthetics is to provide chances, - to participate, to communicate, to become a part, although it is not clarified what jigsaw one is actually a piece of? Full of Possibilities, a Life According to Gillick An exclusive child of Relational Aesthetics philosophy, British born artist Liam Gillick envisages his work as a matrix of possibilities, with no starting and no ending points. Interested in negotiations and non-fundamental adjustments to the social fabric, Gillicks ambition is to animate the present, rather than resolve things the idea is to re-animate things 56 explains the artist in his talk with the curator Jeremy Millar at Tate Britain in November 2002. However, what exactly is Gillick reactivating? "A Brief Text on the Possibility of Creating an Economy of Equivalence", the show Gillick has prepared for the Palais de Tokyo refers the adventures of a group of workers who were to run their factory themselves. Explaining his project, which also is a written work, Gillick states, The former "producers" chose to return to their place of work and take up the building of ideas rather than automobile objects. One of their first tasks involves remodelling the building itself by
54 55

Hirschhorn, Thomas, talk at Tate Modern, 13 November 2003, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/ Mouffe, Chantal, On the Political, Routledge, London and New York, 2005: 120-121 56 Liam Gillick, an artist talk with Jeremy Millar, Tate Britain, 20 November 2002, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/archive/gillick.htm

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

cutting new windows in the faade. Another entails putting together a mountain landscape to be seen from those windows and from the long path that runs between the bar and their firm. They spend their days testing new production models with the idea of setting up an economy of equivalence, according to which one input unit would equal one output unit, i.e., an economy in which everything that is invested (physically or intellectually) would be paid back without loss or change.57 While workers recognise that they have become the material of this process, their desire to turn focus upon the question of how to fundamentally reorganise the way things are put together will have a lasting influence on others even while they eventually dissipate and dissolve into their former, now unrecognisable workplace.58 There are two aspects of this work that I wish to address: first, the idea that the workers identities are dissolving into their workplace. Economy and subjectivity are merging into one stream as if there were no authority and no order constructed by these economic powers. Economy, thus, is presented as a given situation, the necessary background for workers to actualise themselves. Economy is the only context where the process of self-realisation can actually take place. This fits entirely into Giddens notion of a reflexive modernity according to which [l]ife politics concerns political issues which flow from process of self-actualisation in post-traditional contexts, where globalizing tendencies intrude deeply into the reflexive project of the self, and conversely where processes of self-realisation influence global strategies.59 What Gillicks project is really saying is that the workers are emancipated enough to make life decisions i.e. to improve economy so that everything is invested returns without loss or change. The second aspect of the Gillicks that I wish to address is the implications of a constant reorganisation or an improvement. I'm offering an adjustment of things.. 60, states the artist who never stops recuperating and re-activating whether a public housing estate, airport, Londons metro or a gallery. I absolutely believe that visual environments change behaviours and the way people act61, says Gillick. Does this change the way people think? However, Gillick is not interested in what might be thought as one cannot possibly know what he really thinks. 62 I am
57

Liam Gillick, A Brief Text on the Possibility of Creating an Economy of Equivalence, 2004, http://www.palaisdetokyo.com/fr/presse/artistes/gillick/comgillick.htm
58 59

Ibid Anthony Giddens is quoted by Mouffe, Chantal, On the Political, Routledge, London and New York, 2005: 43 60 Liam Gillick is quoted in Tates website, http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/turnerprize/history/gillick.htm 61 Ibid 62 Referring to Liam Gillicks talk with Jeremy Millar, Tate Britain, 20 November 2002, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/archive/gillick.htm

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

interested in these Deleuzian visions, explains Gillick, who perceives the Self as a constant networking activity. The value of art of the modern period has always consisted in its exemplary relativity, its ability to express the most subjective within the subject. Perhaps, only art, the most subjective of values, can express the concealed subjectivity of all values? The danger of understanding the Self as a network, the inter-subjectivity so to speak lies in imposing a universal model, which limits the very essence of subjectivity. In this way Deleuzian inspiration of liberating powers of a multitudes beyond sovereignty, nation, the state and the Self, serves as a platform to utilize audiences, languages, time and space frames. If art to achieve inter-subjectivity, it would no longer be art but controlled, managed and neutralized aesthetic practices. Tates website claims that Gillick's work often investigates the relationships of power found within the world of politics and decision-making. Using a combination of text and installations, Gillick provides documentation of the way social and economic realities are shaped and manipulated. 63 The artist himself confirms his status of a Deleuzian documentalist, who, answering how art has changed in the last decade stating that that the characteristics of a contemporary art are the rise of super-subjectivity and the documentary tendency in art. 64 The whole idea about documentation refers to a protocoling without a judgment. Artistic activities as any other have always been documented and represented in whether it is a gallery or a TV series. However, while providing information about the artworks and the artists, documentation itself cannot possibly engage with the realm of power. Boris Groys states that This type of documentation simply refers to art without itself being art. This type of documentation is often presented in the framework of an art-installation for the purpose of narrating a certain project65 Here the full force of contradiction between Gillick being a contemporary documentalist and his claim of being engaged in power relations comes clear. Art has a lot in common with politics as it creates power from nothing. It fights for the right to exist and make this existence known, in other words, it struggles to establish its own hegemony. Boris Groys writes that Art and politics are connected in one fundamental respect: both are realms in which struggle for recognition is being waged. 66 What is at stake here is not simply gaining a status of a successful contemporary artist but struggling for an aesthetical equality and to do so one must have his or her own subjectivity to start with. In his talk with Jeremy
63

Announcement of Liam Gillicks work: Annlee You Proposes, September 2001 April 2002, http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/exhibitions/gillick.htm 64 How Has Art Changed? Part two, http://www.frieze.com/archive 65 Groys, Boris, The Politics of Equal Aesthetic Rights, Spheres of Action: Art and Politics seminar, Tate Modern, 10 December 2005, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/webcasts/spheres_of_action/ 66 Ibid

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

Millar Gillick reflects on how a suburban product can be involved in art without having any visions. Gillicks answer is a correct description of a current situation in art: put things in motion, do not resolve and never stop discussing. It is just that Habermasian notion of communication without constraints is somehow transforming into a machine of constant expansion and inclusion. Claire Bishop states that Rather than determining a specific outcome, Gillick is keen to trigger open-ended alternatives to which other may contribute. The middle ground, the compromise, is what interests him most67. Gillick is not interested in compromise; he is a product of this compromise. In the context of reflexive modernity with its dialogical approach to social relations and the idea of constant adjustment to the existing hegemony, relational artist serves as a good model of fine-tuning individual. The impossibility of resolving a singular art discourse becomes a positive quality. In fact relational artists do not envisage themselves as an artistic movement in the first place. When writer and director Ben Lewis goes in search of what he hopes might be a new ism, many of the artists whose reputations were advanced by Bourriaud's exhibitions and writings, refuse to be interviewed, deny they are relational, or once interviewed, try to ban Art Safari (BBC Four) from showing their work. Ben Lewis comments I was completely amazed that that was a very off-putting question (whether they belong to Relational Aesthetics movement) for many artists. A lot of them refused point blank to be in the film and British artist Liam Gillick was absolutely livid with me. He was furious about that line of questioning. He thought it was superficial and trivial. Quite frankly it wasn't, but the trouble with art theory is that it's fine as long as it stays within the sanctified realm of art critics sitting in galleries having complex discussions with long words that nobody understands but if somebody comes along from the outside and asks "Well, actually, why are you all in this book together?", it becomes a very threatening scenario for them.
68

Rejecting

any collective identity is not surprising; - an absence of identity perceived as a positive quality of reflexive modernity. Once there is no identity and subsequently no clear position, there cannot be any political implications. However, all so called relational artists see themselves to be quite

67

Bishop, Claire, Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics, October 110, 2004: 61

68

Lewis, Ben interview to BBC Four, following documentary Relational Art: Is It an Ism?, BBC Four, 8 July 2004, http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/art-safari1-int.shtml

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

political in their concerns, certainly anti-capitalist. 69 First, it appears that Relational Aesthetics is a style after all, and not an ideology, second, is the notion of political art legitimate at all? There Is No Such Thing as Political Art In her Antagonsim and Relational Aesthetics Claire Bishop argues that while antagonism is not clearly envisaged in works of some relational artists, it is present in works of others. Bishop writes, By contrast, Laclau and Mouffes theory of democracy as antagonism can be seen in the work of two artists conspicuously ignored by Bourriaud in Relational Aesthetics and Postproduction: the Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn and the Spanish artist Santiago Sierra. These artists, in Bishops view, are compatible with the political project as the relations produced by their performances and installations are marked by sensations of unease and discomfort rather than belonging because the work acknowledges the impossibility of a micro-utopia and instead sustains a tension among viewers, participants, and context. This is a simplistic understanding of Chantal Mouffes theory of agonistic democracy and never possible reconciliation of a society as a whole. Following Claire Bishops agrument, one can arrive to a conclusion that art which upsets more or more discomforting and shoking, thus, more democratic. Boris Grooys, however, points out that while one [artist] can stabilise order, he or she can also stabilise disorder, for instance make scandalous art; this cannot be used as a paradigm to draw a difference between democratic and non-democratic art. Chantal Mouffe writes, I want to stress at the outset that when I think about the relation between art and politics, I do not see it in terms of two separately constituted fields, art on one side and politics on the other, between which a relation would need to be established. There is an aesthetic dimension in the political and there is a political dimension in art. This is why I am never speaking of political art because I consider that one cannot make a distinction between political and non-political art.70 The political dimension of art is realized not in simply creating more upsetting work but in accepting antagonism and impossibility of final reconciliation as the very condition for societys existence. Thus, the role of the artist is not to stabilise any order or disorder but to sustain this tension by means of continious revaluating and reworking arts tactics. In other
69

Responding to the question of political claims of relational artists, Ben Lewis says Yeah, I'd say all their work was informed by a crushingly nave political viewpoint that could only have been nurtured in the bubble of an art school. I think the misfortune of that kind of art is that it's politically imbecilic, and on an intellectual level they're still living off the arguments of the Frankfurt school - Adorno and Horkheimer - from the Sixties. They argued that we are all slaves to something called dominant ideology; this bourgeois thing that was constructing our way of thinking for us, our politics and our society, http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/documentaries/features/art-safari1-int.shtml 70 Mouffe, Chantal, The Public in Question: What is at Stake?

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

words, there cannot be a clear cut strategy such as Relational Art with its claims to inclusivity and transparency but rather constant exploring the ways in which the current dominant order can be resisted and how the new hegemony could be constructed. Conclusion Bourriauds theory of Relational Aesthetics claims to offer a new territory of art in relation to the capitalist society. However, by installing relationship as the main value and promoting the network and its core references such as connectivity, flexibility, mobility and openness, Relational Aesthetics appear promoting rather than resisting the core ideology of the third spirit capitalism. In the society where flexibility and mobility are rated as ultimate merits, the substance of art is reduced to serve as a flexible facilitator of active utilisation of so called relations rather than passive consumption of objects. Bourriauds idea of the Self as a network implies that any judgement is dissolved in random subjectivity of all. Not just Bourriaud accepts globolised and networked society as the only possible basis for the future of art, he also argues that these conditions provide a framework for identifying new kinds of transcultural relationships where all cultural values could be translated and connected via this network. One can understand Relational Aesthetics as a perfect description of the problem that we have to seriously address rather than a possible solution to it. Answering to Bourriauds claim that the most striking feature of Relational Art is first and foremost, the democratic concern that informs it,71 one can say that the only type of democracy it enables to foster is a Deleuzian one. Deleuze and Guattari write, The unconscious poses no problem of meaning, solely problems of use. The question posed by desire is not What does it mean but rather How does it work72 This is precisely what Bourriaud refers to when he quotes Wittgenstein: Dont look for the meaning, look for the use. However, in reality, such an approach merely serves for the creation of a false conscious so to speak. Can desire win over order? Boris Groys writes, The privilege of the context over the text, the unconscious over consciousness, the other over subjective, or all that is known as the unsaid (non-dit) and unthought: (impense) over the individual human being merely means the dominance of the person who speaks about, or
71

Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002: 57 Deleuze, Gilles, Guattari, Felix, The Anti-Oedipus, New York, 1977: 109

72

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

even more precisely, the person who actually works on, this context, this unconscious, this other, this unsaid73. The fact that nearly all relational artists are highly successful in the art world does prove that Bourriaud has chosen the right horse to ride. Bourriauds claim that Relational Aesthetics is a theory of form rather than a theory of art is a fake excuse. The fact that it does not imply the statement of an origin or a destination simply means the absence of any will to power, distinctive of any artistic movement. In fact, relational artists envisage themselves as something external and distant from the existing power relations because they perceive power in terms of desire and not an order around which a given society is constructed. How one can declare any political relevance without first acknowledging an antagonistic dimension of any present hegemony and second, taking a clear position towards it. Supporting a myth of a dialogical democracy longing for a final reconciliation and total inclusion, relational art contributes to the imaginary of the third spirit of capitalism, - a world where desire would have triumphed against order, where the immanent constituent power of multitude would have defeated the transcendent constituted power of the state, and where the political would have been eliminated.74 Claiming democratic relevance, one should look at how particular art resist or fight the dominant social order and whether it addresses we/them distinction agonistically. However, antagonsim should not be understood as simply creating scandalous and shoking works of art, rather it should be invisaged transcending conflict, negativity and will to power. While the claim for democratic potentials of Relational Aesthetics is not a legitimate preposition, it can be understood as a symptom of a trauma or an indicator of anomie75, caused by the third spirit of capitalism. It is what Durkenheim called the indicator of anomie, - an anxiety associated with the difficulty of identifying the origin of the problem and impossibility of projecting oneself into the future and stacking in the present (Bourriauds idea of the concentration on the present rather than the futures possibilities: [a]rt, likewise, is no longer seeking to represent utopias; rather, it is attempting to construct concrete spaces, 76 or Gillicks obsession with reanimating the present). In
73 74

Groys, Boris, The Total Art of Stalinism, Princeton University Press, 1992: 120 Mouffe, Chantal, On the Political, Routledge, London and New York, 2005: 115

75

An anxiety associated with the difficulty of identifying the origin of the threat and impossibility of projecting oneself into the future is what Durkenheim called the indicator of anomie, quoted in Boltanski Luc, Chiapello, Eve, The New Spirit of Capitalism, Verso, 2005: 533 76 Ibid

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

his recent talk at Tate Britain Peter Weibel 77 has pointed out how the Neo-avant-garde after 194578, which traditionally was discredited as a purely formalist movement, betraying the political content of the avant-garde of the 1920s, in fact, operated on the level of the display, the dispositiv, the tool, negating our traditional media of memory and representation, because after Stalinism, Fascism, and Hitlerism it became difficult to believe in the means of traditional culture 79. The NeoAvant-Gardes urge to destroy the means of representation, its inability to speak 80 was an expression of trauma occured as a consequence of the second World War. While the Neo-AvantGardes response to this trauma had a negative module, - an inability to start speaking, Relational Aesthetics is a positive expression of the trauma, - an impossibility to stop. Liam Gillick explains, the idea (of Relational Aesthetics) is about who stops first? 81 In this way Relational Aesthetics, which appears nothing more than an amateur sociology paying lip-service to a woolly notion of dialogical democracy, at the same time can offer deep insights into a current hegemonic order or, to be precise, into its deepest crisis.Accordingly, the artistic critique is today caught in a dilemma both of whose horns reveal its impotence.82

77

Peter Weibel, Director of the Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, and author of Fast Forward: Media Art (Ingvild Goetz, 2004) and The Open Work, 19641979 (Hatje Cantz, 2005) 78 Neo-Avant-Garde, an artistic movement (1950-1970s), best known for its deconstructive formalism. While Avant Garde declared the death of the painting, Neo-Avant-Garde tends to destroy this painting as means of representation such as destroying the canvas; artists: Yves Klein, Piero Manzoni (The Italian-German Zero Group), Zoran Music, Arnulf Rainer (Rainers style evolved towards Destruction of Forms, with blackening, over-paintings and maskings of illustrations and photographs, close to the Vienna Actionism, featuring body art and painting under drug influence), Herman Nitsch, Otto Muehl (founder of the Institute for Direct Art and participation in the Destruction in Art Symposium in London), Robert Rauschenberg 79 Weibel, Peter, The Political Revolution of the Neo-Avant-Garde, Spheres of Action: Art and Politics seminar, Tate Modern, 10 December 2005, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/webcasts/spheres_of_action/ 80 In his manifesto Perspective of annihilation, 1952, Neo-Avant-Garde artist Arnulf Ralner writes, Absence against yourself, death against life, the other against the world, nothing against everything, mentioned in Peter Weibels presentation 81 Liam Gillicks talk with Jeremy Millar, Tate Britain, 20 November 2002, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/archive/gillick.htm 82 Boltanski Luc, Chiapello, Eve, The New Spirit of Capitalism, Verso, 2005: 467

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

Bibliography
Baudrillard, Jean, The Conspiracy of Art, Semiotext(e), New York, 2005 Baudrillard, Jean, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, Saint Louis: Telos, 1981 Boltanski Luc, Chiapello, Eve, The New Spirit of Capitalism, Verso, 2005 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Relational Aesthetics, Les presses du reel, 2002 Bourriaud, Nicolas, Postproduction, Lukas & Sternberg, New York, 2005 Deutsche, Rosalyn, Evictions: Art and Spatial Politics, Cambridge, London, The MIT Press, 1996 Deleuze, Gilles, Guattari, Felix, The Anti-Oedipus, New York, 1977: 109 Groys, Boris, The Total Art of Stalinism, Princeton University Press, 1992 Laclau, Ernesto, Mouffe, Chantal Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics, London: Verso, 2001 Laclau, Ernesto, Emancipation(s), London: Verso 1996 Mouffe, Chantal, On the Political, Routledge, London and New York, 2005

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com

Marx, Karl [1859] A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Selected Works, Moscow: Progress, 1970 Marx, Karl, The Fetishism of Commodities (1867) in Capital, Volume 1, London: Dent, 1974 Stiles, Kristine and Selz, Peter, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, a Sourcebook of Artists Writings, University of California Press, London, 1996 Other sources & articles Bishop, Claire, Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics, October 110, 2004 (Fall) Bourriaud,Nicolas, Modern, Postmodern, Aftermodern, http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/aaanz/abstracts/nicolas_bourriaud Deutsche, Rosalyn, Making Public seminar, Tate Modern, London, March 2005, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/ Gillick, Liam, Contingent Factors, 2005 (not published yet) Gillick, Liams talk with Jeremy Millar, Tate Britain, 20 November 2002, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/archive/gillick.htm Holmes, Brian, On Interaction in Contemporary Art, Liar Poker, Reflecting Museums, www.utangente.org Hirschhorn, Thomas, talk at Tate Modern, 13 November 2003, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/ Janet Kraynak, Rirkrit Tiravanijas Liability, Documents # 13, 26-40 Mouffe, Chantal, The Public in Question: What is at Stake Spheres of Action: Art and Politics seminar at Tate Modern, 10 December, 2005, http://www.tate.org.uk/onlineevents/ Verwoert, Jan, World in Motion, http://www.frieze.com/feature_single.asp?back=1&f=988

Julia Svetlichnaja PhD Candidate, Centre for the Study of democracy University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London W1T 3UW, United Kingdom. Email: svetlichnaja@gmail.com