Relational Art

relational art (wikipedia) OR as defined by Nicolas Borriaud in: bourriaud_relational_aesthetics_chapters_1_2.pdf
 

Some background: The Performance Art of Gilbert and George


 
The Relational Art of Vanessa Beecroft (contemporary):
Vanessa Beecroft on Vimeo, and vanessabeecroft.com

Art critic Roberta Smith for the NY Times on Beecroft in 1998: Critic’s Notebook; Standing and Staring, Yet Aiming for Empowerment

Janine Antoni’s Lick and Lather, 1993

http://www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/janine-antoni/

Lick and Lather, 1993
 
Interview with ART 21:
ART21: Let’s talk about your sculpture, Lick and Lather. How was it made?

ANTONI: I wanted to work with the tradition of self-portraiture but also the classical bust. So, the way I made it is: I took a mold directly from my body. I used a product called alginate, which is the kind of material that you might be familiar with when you go to the dentist, that sort of minty tasting stuff. It’s an incredible product because it gets every detail, every little pore. I even cast my hair. So, I started with an exact replica and then I carved the classical stand. I made a mold, melted down thirty-five pounds of chocolate, poured it into the mold. And when I took it out of the mold, I re-sculpted my image by licking the chocolate. So, you can see that I licked up the front and through the mouth up onto the nose, over the eye and back up over the ear onto the bun, and then down in the back around the neck.

I also cast myself into soap. She started as an exact replica of myself. We spent a few hours in the tub together. I slowly washed her down, and she becomes almost fetal because all her features start to be washed away. So, I was thinking about how one describes the self and feeling a little uncomfortable with my outer surface as the description of myself. And this piece very much is about trying to be on the outside of myself and have a relationship with my image. So, the process is quite loving. Of course chocolate is a highly desirable material, and to lick my self in chocolate is a kind of tender gesture. Having the soap in the tub was like having a little baby in there. But through that process, I’m slowly erasing my self. For me it really is about this kind of love-hate relationship we have with our physical appearance.

ART21: Is it also erotic?

ANTONI: Yes, well, the thing about chocolate is that it has the product phenylamine in it. That product is the chemical that’s produced in our body when we’re in love. So, I think that’s why chocolate is so addictive.

ART21: Is there something humorous about this piece?

ANTONI: I think what’s humorous about the piece is that I’m playing with a tradition of the classical bust, which is very serious. And I asked myself some questions about why, traditionally, would artists want to make a self-portrait. And I came up with a few answers for myself.

The first one is to immortalize yourself. But, of course, my materials are ephemeral, so I’m kind of trying to work against the grain of that. And it was a funny thing because I conceived the piece to be in the Venice Biennale, and I knew that there would be classical sculpture everywhere. And I arrive in Venice and, as you probably know, Venice is totally eroding. I came upon these stone sculptures, and they looked very much like my soap head because the features had been washed away. And I thought to myself, “What does that say about our mortality, that even stone has a lifespan?”

And then the other answer I gave myself about “Why make a self-portrait?” is this idea of creating a public image of yourself, an image that you were presenting to the world. And I guess my question was: is that an accurate description of the self? And are we more ourselves alone at home eating a meal or in the bathtub, in these everyday activities? So, that’s where I got the idea to work with the chocolate and the soap.

ART21: Can you talk about the arduous quality of making the piece?

ANTONI: Yes, it took a long time to make the pieces. We spent several hours in the tub together. And I think what’s important about that is that we were very intimate with each other. And my hope is that you as a viewer can feel that intimacy. That’s what a portrait is: a way of getting close to the person that it’s depicting.

ART21: And beauty?

ANTONI: In terms of the classical bust, an issue that my work deals with a lot is the idea of woman and beauty. And thinking about how women have been depicted traditionally in sculpture and trying to take that on. There’s something quite startling about the erasure, of my process.

ART21: And also, the classical bust is traditionally a man.

ANTONI: The thing about the classical bust is it’s usually reserved for depicting men, and usually very powerful men. And then, when we see women in classical sculpture, they depict hope and charity and love. I was particularly conscious of that when I made the bust and thinking about this act of erasure of this specific personality. With this particular bust here, I licked the chocolate and I licked right up the front and over the cheek. I also licked the eye and the lips and nose. And then I came around and licked, you know, over the ear and back onto the bun. And then I thought it would be nice to just lick under the nape of the neck, along up under the ear on the other side. It’s modeling, in the sense that when you carve, you start with a block and you remove from it. But what I’m doing is starting from a representation of myself and then removing from it.

ART21: What does the removal process signify for you?

ANTONI: I think it’s a funny thing when you think about the creative process and what we go through when we’re making a work. A lot of times, there’s this element of destruction, that we have to kind of unmake in order to make, and that interests me very much. And also, working from very basic materials. I’m also thinking a lot about this idea that there’s this kind of relationship between me and her, that I’m literally feeding myself with my self and washing myself with my self. So, there’s this circular narrative that’s happening.

ART21: Is there a ritualistic aspect?

ANTONI: Sure. I was thinking of everyday rituals like eating and bathing but also other rituals. Certainly the Eucharist is about eating the body, so that also comes to mind.

ART21: How do you decide to shape a bust this way and not that? Is it simply intuitive?

ANTONI: In terms of the creative process, I think that I begin with a kind of conceptual structure. That I know to lick my self in chocolate means something, or to wash with my self in soap means something. When I feel sort of comfortable with the security of a very (hopefully) rigorous conceptual structure, then I can actually let go of that kind of thinking. And when I go to wash or lick, I’m not necessarily thinking, “If I lick this area, it means one thing or another” but really trying to get intimate with the process, so a kind of surprise happens, especially with the soap bust. You know, I’m in the tub, and all of a sudden this person appears to me, and I’m not sure if she’s a relative or an alter ego, but she’s related and yet different. And there’s something so beautiful about that process, that lets her evolve through the process.

ART21: There’s something happening in the actions you’re performing.

ANTONI: I think that because the process is so, sort of, gentle and loving, there is some kind of idea of self-love. You know, of trying to come to terms with that surface being you. I think that—and I don’t know about you, but—when I look in the mirror, I don’t really recognize myself. I somehow see myself as I was as a little girl or in other manifestations of myself. So, it’s always this contemplative moment, of trying to come to terms with what I see and how that relates to what I feel inside and trying to bring those two things together. So, I think with this whole process, you can imagine how jarring it is or how peculiar it is to lick your self. It’s like being your own lover, like putting yourself in the position of your lover and trying to understand what they’re seeing when they look at you.

ART21: Do you feel closer to the chocolate or the soap busts?

ANTONI: I really feel close to the soap bust because we spent a lot of time in the tub together. And I just sort of rub her all over and, you know, she sort of smoothes down, and then she becomes almost fetal. It’s really quite a nice process. And it’s interesting to think about cleaning and purity and just washing as a kind of ritual and its bigger meaning. I think this idea of cleaning is associated with purity.

I think I was thinking about purity in terms of woman, and that is a kind of idealized state, which of course is in contrast to the chocolate. Another way that women have been thought about is in terms of desire. So, the work is about looking at the flip side of those two states and not feeling comfortable with either.

The brown and white—really, with all my work—it comes from the material. So, I’m not so much thinking of my self in a dark color and my self in a white color. I’m thinking of my self in chocolate and my self in soap. But there is something beautiful about the way that, in her purity, she disappears.

ART21: Is there something about casting, in particular, that you enjoy? You seem to come back to that process in your work a lot.

ANTONI: I don’t know, I can think of a lot of things that aren’t done that way. Certainly you have your skills and your knowledge and you use it, and maybe there are many different ways to make an object, but you use the experience that you’ve had. So, there are certain processes that seem to come back. I was just talking to [my assistant] Melissa about this, this morning. We were moving some plywood around, and I’m like, “Why are we always making these diving boards?” Like, the way we made the rope, and then we use the same sawhorses to make the other piece. And I think we were talking about that—how there is this kind of repertoire that you come back to.

With mold making: it’s just that you look around and most of the objects around us are made that way. And because I am always trying to replicate or in some way work with everyday objects, everyday materials, I find myself there a lot. Also, I am trying to make an everyday object out of another kind of material, so casting it into that shape makes sense.

ART21: Is casting a ritual for you as well? Like transformation or transubstantiation?

ANTONI: I was saying the mold making was about imitation, like I was trying to imitate these things from the world. For me, the transformation happens somehow when I am working with the process. The process is what transforms it. Sometimes that’s in the mold making, but most of the time it’s not. Usually, at least with Lick and Lather, it’s afterwards.
 

Rebecca Horn

Rebecca-horn-.1

Unicorn 1968-9 by Rebecca Horn born 1944

Rebecca_Horn

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In 1968 Rebecca Horn produced her first body sculptures, in which she attached objects and instruments to the human body, taking as her theme the contact between a person and his or her environment. Einhorn (Unicorn) is one of Horn’s best known performance pieces: a long horn worn on her head, its title a pun on the artist’s name. She presented Einhorn at the 1972 Documenta.[5] Its subject is a woman who is described by Horn as “very bourgeois” is “21 years-old and ready to marry. She is spending her money on new bedroom furniture,” walks through a field and forest on a summer morning wearing only a white horn protruding directly from the front of the top of her head and the straps holding it there. These straps are almost identical to the ones worn in Frida Kahlo’s painting Broken Column. The image, with wheat floating around the woman’s hips, is simultaneously mythic and modern. (wikipedia)
 

 

Author James Elkins on Art Critiques

In the book “Why Art Cannot be Taught” James Elkins describes different types of critique orientations based on an account by M.H. Abrams:

Mimetic: how closely does the work imitate nature/represents something in the world? This type of crit focuses on skill.

Pragmatic: designed to help the student please, delight, move, or instruct. how well are you communicating? entertaining? (is that even the goal?)

Expressive: does the work express the artist’s impulse or feeling (internal)? (this type of critique no longer relies on the audience or external world).

Objective: an attempt to focus the critique on the object itself, independent from the outside world (note: this is impossible).

Usually, most art critiques focus on all four of these orientations simultaneously.
 

3 stages to a critique:

1. Recognition Stage: 5-10 minutes at the beginning. time to see and “take-in” the work, to find the right angle for viewing, to feel and hear it.

2. First-Impression Stage: where the obvious is stated and initial impressions are voiced by the group.

3. Analysis Stage: where more difficult questions/criticisms are brought to light. Sometimes answered by the artist, sometimes not.

A format for the constructive participation in a critique of someone else’s work:

Judgement: A statement made by you about your opinion of a classmate’s artwork
Reason: A justification for your judgement.
Assumption: The (usually) unexamined or unrecognized principle behind the judgement
Axiom: The general truth that supports the assumption.
 

Dialogue Example: Unexamined Assumptions

A. “I think this film has too much playfulness about it, it’s goofy”

 B. “Why is that bad?”

A. “Well, because it starts out seriously, then ends up careless.”

 B. “Why is it bad for a work to start out serious and end up silly?”

A. “I think the work promises to take itself seriously in the beginning and then ends up flippant”

 Teacher: “So does that make you distrust the artist’s intentions?”

A. Yes, I suppose so.
 
The unexamined assumption in this exchange “A film like this should not be devious.” It could also be any combination of:

– Any film should not be devious
– Any work of art should not be devious
– This one film should not be devious (in this way)
– Any work of art should not be devious (in this way)

Or other underlying assumption could be, “A work of art should not hide it’s intentions.” or (a more personal version) “A work of art like this is bad if it succeeds in tricking me”

 
Statement Example: Axiom (a difficult to argue “truth” that can be used to justify assumptions)

“Sculpture should deal with space.”

 

Your Waste of Time by Olafur Eliasson

In “Your Waste of Time” by Olafur Eliasson the artist placed several massive pieces of ice that broke off from Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, in a big room that was cooled down below 0°. The oldest ice in the glacier is estimated to have originated some 800 years ago. How did he do this? Solar panels supplied the energy that cooled the room. They were installed especially for the exhibition, on the roof of the MoMA PS1.
 
your_waste_of_time_1

your_waste_of_time_2

your_waste_of_time_4
 

System: Definition

System:

A set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole.

• Systems have a structure defined by their individual components; these
components dictate the composition of the whole.
• Systems have interconnectivity; the various parts of a system have
functional as well as structural relationships to one another.
• Systems often have a set of rules that govern structure (how it comes
together) and behavior

Example:Lee Walton’s sports-based drawings: