Sunday, January 29, 2012

rirkrit tiravanija & relational aesthetics

While I was visiting the MoMA several weeks ago, I stumbled upon this installation/happening/experience orchestrated by NYC-based Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija. The piece, a rendition of an event the artist first organized in 1992, and a recent acquisition of MoMA's collection, is basically, in the simplest of terms, a meal. Following in Gordon Matta-Clark's footsteps (see Food), Tiravanija has orchestrated a space in which viewers quite literally become a part of the work, activating it you might say, by partaking in  a bowl of vegetarian curry and rice (quite delicious I must add), experiencing the event alongside other visitors.

This type of social organization is part of the growing discourse surrounding the relatively new (past 20 years) artistic genre known as "relational aesthetics" or in some cases, "social practice."

(another work by Rirkrit Tiravanija featured on the cover of Bourriaud's Relational Aesthetics)

Curator and critic, Nicolas Bourriaud coined the term "relational aesthetics" in 1995 and authored the seminal text of the same title (more here). In it, he defines relational art as "a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space." So rather than producing objects (paintings, sculptures, photographs, etc.), artists in this field are more interested in eliciting audience participation, in staging interactions among viewers, and calling these events/interactions the work itself.

YouTube personality Hennesey Youngman does a pretty good job explaining the subject in a rather cynical, yet quietly hilarious manner. Notice he alludes to Rirkrit Tiravanija's "covivial happening in the  antiseptic confines of an art gallery." This guy knows his stuff, despite his appearance and less than tasteful vocabulary (please excuse the potty words). See more of his Art Thoughtz here!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

richard serra's drawings

Richard Serra, "Drawings After Circuit"(1972), charcoal on paper
In thinking about how to integrate elements of drawing into my own practice (which hasn't come naturally for me), I've been drawn to artists, such as Richard Serra, who have taken more contemporary approaches to an age-old medium. Some go for a more conceptual approach, while others might rely on a more active physicality, but in the recent years, drawing has proven to be a quite limitless media that's most certainly worthy of our attention.

When I think of Drawing (with a capitol D) in this way, as an ever-growing, all-encompassing means of creating, I'm reminded of what Rosalind Krauss had to say about Sculpture in her famous 1979 essay "Sculpture in the Expanded Field." I won't go into details, but basically, what I mean to suggest by this is  perhaps that Drawing has entered an 'expanded field' of its own. Perhaps the line culture has "drawn" between drawing and sculpture isn't quite as clear as we may think. The same could be said for drawing and performance (in which the drawing is a record of performance - see Tony Orrico), as well as many other overlapping categories of art-making. John Dewey, in Art as Experience, makes a clear argument for this idea, suggesting that the various media "form a continuum, a spectrum, and that while we may distinguish the seven so-called primary colors, there is no attempt to tell exactly where one begins and another one ends."

My intention in this post was originally to highlight Richard Serra's accomplishments in drawing, but it seems I've gotten off topic. I'm on the verge of delving into a lengthy discussion of categorical classifications in art-making - its effect on art education - and many relevant opinions on the subject (this topic is discussed at length in Art School: Propositions for the 21st-Century)... but perhaps I'll save that for another day.

a site-specific drawing by Richard Serra
Instead, I'll leave you with this video about Richard Serra's drawings, made in conjunction with his recent retrospective organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the NY Times review of the show here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

ann weber

I'm not a HUGE fan of Ann Weber's work, but I can really appreciate her way with materials. She uses cardboard, staples, and polyurethane... and that's all! Her forms don't particularly grab me, but her ability to transform such a mundane material is really quite extraordinary. I've been soaking thinks in polyurethane lately... as well as building structures out of cardboard... perhaps now it's time I try the two together!

Monday, January 23, 2012

mona hatoum

 In preparation for the upcoming semester, I've been poring over some art theory textbooks (I'll be TA-ing for an intro Art Theory course) hoping to familiarize myself with the material before I have to discuss it with a class full of students (all by myself). Towards the end of one of the books, I came across a page or so about Palestinian artist, Mona Hatoum. The description of one of her most well-known pieces, Corps Etranger, particularly caught my attention. The video installation consists of projections, on the floor, of the artist's various bodily orifices. With the help of a doctor, she used an endoscopic camera to trace the surface and various orifices of her body, including the lining of her digestive track. Viewers were invited to step inside of a dark built cylinder, atop of the projection. I can only image how surreal and disorienting it must have felt - like being swallowed into the scale-less abyss of fleshy membranes.

In a fantastic interview with Janine Antoni, Mona Hatoum says of her work...
I want the work in the first instance to have a strong formal presence, and through the physical experience to activate a psychological and emotional response. In a very general sense I want to create a situation where reality itself becomes a questionable point. Where one has to reassess their assumptions and their relationship to things around them. A kind of self-examination and an examination of the power structures that control us: Am I the jailed or the jailer? The oppressed or the oppressor? or both. I want the work to complicate these positions and offer an ambiguity and ambivalence rather than concrete and sure answers. An object from a distance might look like a carpet made out of lush velvet, but when you approach it you realize it’s made out of stainless steel pins which turns it into a threatening and cold object rather than an inviting one. It’s not what it promises to be. So it makes you question the solidity of the ground you walk on, which is also the basis on which your attitudes and beliefs lie.
 (read the rest of the interview HERE)

I've come across Mona Hatoum's work in various forms, but never have I looked at it together, all at once, as a body, if you will. Despite the variety of materials and forms that they take on, her sculptures and installations deal with some over-arching themes/concepts that carry over quite nicely from piece to piece. The human body and its evocations of the familiar/ambiguous, enticing/disgusting, political/social, etc. Many of these themes (as well as some strikingly similar formal investigations of such) have been creeping up in my work as well.

Here are some examples of some of her other projects...

Marrow, 1996

Grater Divide, 2002
fabricated steel

Socle du Monde, 1992–93
iron filings on magnetic fabricated steel structure

Entrails (detail), 1995
silicon rubber

"Half-recollections emerge in feelings of unease, only to be held just out of reach in any kind of firm and knowable sense."   more here