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Rob van Gerwen

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Rob van Gerwen, Ph.D.

Kunst en het kwaad, Esthetica

periode 2, 2018-19

August 25, 2018

Relational Art: a New Ism?

In his documentary on so-called 'relational art', Ben Lewis asks whether some particular new development in art can be conceived of as an -ism, keeping it unspecified whether this -ism should be conceived of as a new style in art, or whether perhaps it is a new art form. French art critic, Nicolas Bourriaud, wrote a book on Relational Aesthetics, describing new developments in art. Lewis's non-specificness is relevant because developing a new style is not by far as difficult--or philosophically interesting--as setting up a new art form. Lewis addresses 8 theses, and some can be seen to be more relevant to the initiation of a new style, while others are more pertinent to the introduction of a new art form. Yet others can be relevant to both depending on how they are addressed. Are any of these necessary for something to be a new ism; are they, perhaps jointly, sufficient.
In the video, we can see Ben Lewis search for the relevant procedures, and for what, when found, would make them artistic.

» 1. A new ism must develop from an old ism. [According to Levinson's historical definition a new procedure cannot become artistic unless the way it should be appreciated somehow resembles regards of prior art forms. If the thesis pertains to a new style, one might read it like a specification of how the new style relates to older ones--e.g. how cubism diverted from impressionism, or realism.]
» 2. A new ism is a new way of thinking about art.
» 3. Artists of a new ism must hang out together. [Contingent requirement.]
» 4. A new ism is invented by an art critic. [Contingent requirement; Points to the involvement of theorists (critics and/or philosophers) in the development of art.]
» 5. A new ism always has a slightly different British variety. [Contingent requirement.]
» 6. At first, people think that it is not art. [Necessary requirement in case of a new art form, contingent for a new style.]
» 7. A new era leads to a new ism. [Contingent requirement, non-falsifiable: what is an era? A period that has a new ism (if it doesn't have a new ism it cannot be a new era)?]
» 8. A new ism must have a landmark exhibition. [varies on 4.]

Things Lewis came up with: you don't have to open your eyes to watch some of these works; they may be functional; they don't have to mean anything; the artists share a political point of view; the goal is not to have a goal; they are interested in the relations between people and thus compensate for the loss of such relationality due to internet, etc.; subject and medium is raw life itself;ephemeral, time-based; how to appreciate this?
Persons discussed: Nicolas Bourriaud; Carsten Höller; Anna Best; Vanessa Beecroft; Philipe Bareno; Santiago Sierra; Rikrit Tiravanije, etc.