Nicolas Bourriaud came up with the term ‘Relational Arts’ in the year 1995. He defined it as the artistic practices that include all people and their environment as the point of origin. He did not consider art to be an independent aspect. Art has faces with people and their surroundings. Bourriaud gave art a whole new outlook. In this case, artists no longer had to create artwork from hidden ideas, but could create an art that pays respect to the social surrounding. This is where people come together and take part in group activities. In this case, the act is seen as being between a community and art, as opposed to the individual viewer and the object of art. The meaning of a given piece of art is thus shared by different people in society in relational aesthetics. It is not limited to the perceptions or views of individuals. This in itself means that art has an open and clear display which is easily comprehended by the community where that piece of art has been developed. This is because the community can easily identify with most of the aspects which relate to the art.
Relational aesthetics keeps art within a level that can be easily understood by the society and takes it off the high levels of complicated processes. Complicated processes results in the production of dry, academic, mechanical and superficial works of art that are empty of meaning, emotions and integrity (Rosati, Para. 2). When art cannot reach out to the society, it has no use since it cannot have any physical, moral, spiritual or psychological effect on those viewing it. Such art fails to take to account the needs of the society which in turn threatens the survival of culture.
Relational aesthetics has aspects of social art which cover the views of the public. The basic nature of existence is founded by the interaction between people in the society. Relational art simplifies the art by eliminating the aspect of seriousness. It creates an environment where people can enjoy themselves in art and creativity when this art is allowed to flow limitlessly. Joyfulness depicted in a piece of art ranges from a given piece of relational art to the other. However, this depends on the level of communal or societal aspects that are employed in the piece of art. An example of a piece of relational art which brought more joy is the pieces of work of Aphrodite. Relational art seeks to create seeks to unite people in the society by bringing art to a level where all people in the society can relate. This is contrary to normal art, which was only meant for people who understood its complexities. Relational art is simple and familiar to many people in the society. It is an art about certain aspects of life which relate to the ordinary individual.
Relational aesthetics seeks to maintain cultural aspects in the society. It portrays issues in that are within the society. The artists who use relational art bring out themes which are familiar to the society. This is done in works which can be easily interpreted. This is what makes it social and interactive as the society can relate to such works.
Many modern artists have developed a keen interest in Bourriaud’s concept of relational aesthetics and have embraced the concept. One such artist is Maurizio Cattelan. Cattelan is an Italian artist based in New York. He is popularly known for his dark humour shown in his work that is mostly satirical in nature. His view towards art is that it can be used for bringing humour at various systems of order in the society. This has earned him the reputation of an “art scene joker”. He has adapted the concept of relational aesthetics presupposed by Bourriaud. It is depicted in all his works. Two of his works such as La Nona Ora and HIM will discuss in this work.
The La Nona Ora is a sculpture which is made up of the effigy of the Pope John Paul II clad in his full ceremonial attire, lying beneath a meteorite that has crashed through a glass ceiling and is about to crash him. This is one of his most popular pieces of art.
Maurizzo Cattelan La Nora Ora – 1999
Extracted from: Lamb, 2012
One face value that is conjured by this sculpture is humour for those viewing it. This is a sarcastic piece of art. The humour comes by the understanding of the piece of art. The well-known representative of God – known the world over is crushed by a meteorite coming from heaven. This implies aspects of hypocrisy and betrayal on the part of Christians.
Maurizio uses relational aesthetics in bringing out the views and opinions of the society. He tells people through his pieces of work that life was not easy for him. He came from a poor background which made him grow with a negative attitude towards authority. According to his opinion the ceilings of command and authority ought to be non-existent. Thus, he found his niche in relational aesthetics where art gives the artists the freedom to express their feelings and opinions. This is because artists do not need to hide their feelings behind abstract ideas and other complexities of art. The above sculpture is extremely direct. It is remarkably straightforward and expresses the conflict between science and religion. The question is: which one between religion and science is true and stronger? In the piece of art, science disapproves religion by the fact that an earth body lands on a religious leader. This is unlike the normal art where the viewer has to look for hidden meaning behind a given art. Relational art is direct, and meaning can easily be derived.
The relational aesthetics aspect in the sculpture of Maurizio provides a chance of interaction between people. According to Wilcox, relational keeps it awe for a realm where it truly belongs which is the interaction between human beings (Wilcox 339). The La Nora Ora created a very large wave of awareness that people had already seen its pictures even before it was brought to public. This is because it depicted issues that were relevant in the society. Therefore, members of the society could easily relate to that piece of art. Most convectional pieces of artwork are often reserved for certain scholars who understand the depth of the concept of the artist. Relational art is open and easy to understand as it touches on concepts that are familiar in the society (Wilcox 340). Wilcox seems to share a lot of ideas on relational art with Bourriaud. The two shares the opinion that relational arts can be understood easily compared to other pieces of art.
Cattelan’s “HIM” is a child size rendition of Hitler on his knees in prayer. Like most of his works, this sculpture is a satirical depiction of Hitler. The notion that Adolf Hitler could kneel down and pray despite the atrocities that he committed arouses many emotions among the viewers who look at the sculpture.
Maurizio Cattelan ‘him’ 2001
Extracted from Lambe, 2012
Relational aesthetics gives a .lot of options for an imaginative artist. Cattelan uses this aspect of relational art to maximum. The sculpture above is a .projection of how he provokes and challenges the restrictions and limits that contemporary systems have. He uses figurative aspects of language like irony and humour. The child size feature of Hitler, the attire, the pose and look on his face is subject to different opinions and interpretations. People make comments on how the picture depicts a humble man. The picture is interpreted to mean the other possible side of a person who was known to be very brutal. The concept and theme of this work is direct, and this makes it easy for public interpretation. People can also easily relate to it. This is an aspect of relational aesthetics set apart from relational aesthetics. The works of Maurizio Cattelan often combine sculpture and performance just as in the sculpture. He seeks to bring out the reality of all situations in all its complexities without partiality to any ideologies (Lambe, para 5).
The relational aesthetics concept, which was developed by Bourriaud, had made a lot of contribution to artwork. From his works, many artists have used the concept in developing relational pieces of art for instance Maurizio Cattelan. The characteristics of pieces of art that have been developed using the relational aesthetic concept have made them gain prominence in the modern world. They have managed to edge out traditional and convectional arts. A lot of ideas and opinions have been expressed through relational arts.
Lambe, Claire. The Last Word – A Report on the Retirement of Maurizio Cattelan. 2012. Web. April 28, 2012. http://www.rollmagazine.com/the-last-word-%E2%80%93-a-report-on-the-retirement-of-maurizio-cattelan/
Rosati,Lauren. Providence: Relational Aesthetics and the Underground. 2008. Web. April 28, 2012. http://www.artandeducation.net/paper/providence-relational-aesthetics-and-the-underground/
Wilcox, Alana. The State of the Arts: Living with Culture in Toronto. Toronto: Coach House Books, 2006. Print.