Basically, relational aesthetics is when someone with an MFA wants to meet new people but because they spent all that time pursuing an MFA, they don’t know how to talk to people normally and they got really poor social skills. Umm, and they can’t find no other way to meet new people other than forcing them into odd activities at their own poorly attended art openings. Umm, relational aesthetics is also when a successful artist, who is too busy touring the globe going from biennial to biennial and they have no time to create physical objects anymore. So, the famous artist uses the attendees at the exhibition as the artwork, in some way, to explore the social relationships between people.
~ Hennessy Youngman, Artist/Thinker
US was a completely unexpected flurry of fun activity that involved the old fashioned way of social networking – introducing yourself and talking to people. Go figure. Yes, friends, this is art. A combination of theatrics, curiosity, social graces, and diverse individuals made this exhibition successful versus Youngman’s assertion that a famous globe trotting artist has the credibility to execute this type of performance art. Granted, Youngman’s point may be true for some MFA students but certainly not the MFA students I’ve met. US was a fantastic way for people to explore their understanding of roles and constructs within the art world. All I’ve got to say is, umm, that’s brilliant, yo.
Prior to entering the main gallery, participants had to register. I was given the ‘role’ of Reporter along with a clipboard, pen, and questionnaires. The questions were different to allow for a multitude of thoughts and reactions to be documented. Personally, I wanted to be a Theorist but if Ian Colon and WE Space continue to create these opportunities, I may just get my wish! Who knows. Before I forget because I’m sure you’re wondering, the roles included…
* DJ * Artist * Reporter * Theorist * PR * Collaborator * Photographer *
My first interview was with an artist. One of the most memorable answers from our conversation entailed his breadth of knowledge regarding performance art (i.e., Tom Marioni and Tino Sehgal – I was impressed). Obviously he was well aware of relational aesthetics. Art certainly is an intellectual interest but, admittedly, he came for his friend and thought it would be a great experience. Another interview with friend (Aimee Espiritu, real-life artist and educator) who took on the role as PR answered the questions as herself AND her role!! The ways in which her answers differed showcased her real life PR skills as she doled out the art world vernacular combined with personal reflection.
As individuals trickled into the gallery, I conducted a couple of other interviews and the answers ran the gamut from thought provoking (Pascal, another PR person stated, “The art is invisible” – That was quote of the evening for me!!) to engaging to silly (i.e., apparently, there was male artist present who identified best with the basket making community of San Francisco and burns every basket he makes). Yes, these types of answers are inevitable when you ask people to participate in art.
During my interview with Aimee, she raised an interesting point about the overall set up. Walking into US, neither of us knew what to expect. Learning that the participants’ experiences would dictate the evening and the community created that evening was a pleasant surprise. Participatory art has always involved a direct engagement with the artist and usually entails the artist explaining some aspect of their work. US relied more on the participants willingness to dive into their role and utilize or act out what they believed their role to be. Overall, it was a great experience and what a nice introduction to relational art for those that have never experienced it. Well done, Mr. Colon and WE Space!! 🙂
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