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Was it lunch, or was it "relational design"? - click opera
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Wed, Jul. 5th, 2006 08:38 am
Was it lunch, or was it "relational design"?

Two weeks ago I had lunch with Åbäke, the Swedish-Japanese-French-Welsh design collective, at their Shacklewell Lane studio in London. As regular readers of Click Opera know, I'm a huge admirer of this subtle, elliptical, eclectic, quiet, conceptual, community-minded design group. Normally they don't allow photographs of themselves or their working environment (they appeared on the Singapore Resfest DVD with their faces completely pixellated out, for instance), but they relented during my visit. "We're finding we care less and less about that kind of thing," Maki told me. So here they are, cutting up melons on a map of London, comparing cell phones with James Goggin (subject of a similar photo-essay tomorrow), wearing yellow t-shirts, displaying their builders' bum cracks and some of their work, letting me sit on their Mussolini-profiled stool (the flat-top made it look more like Henry Rollins), and telling me how to build a nice simple set of bookshelves.



So, I'm delighted to announce that, at the invitation of Åbäke, who teach there part-time, I'll be giving an unreliable tour of the Royal College of Art in November. Actually -- and this terminology will probably appall Åbäke -- it occurs to me that what they, and cohorts like Alex Rich and Jan Family, are doing could be described as "relational aesthetics meets design" or simply "relational design". Because the vocabulary of interventions, actions, meals, barters, exchanges and meetings is very much the same one encountered in the work of artists like Liam Gillick or Rirkrit Tiravanija.

Here's an explanation of relational aesthetics, from the current Jerry Saltz column in the Village Voice:

"This useful term, coined in the mid 1990s by the French art critic Nicolas Bourriaud, was meant to describe the then groundbreaking practices of artists like Rirkrit Tiravanija, Philippe Parreno, Pierre Huyghe, Liam Gillick, Vanessa Beecroft, and others whose work often involved what Bourriaud called "connectivity" and "interactivity... The Sublime is us. As messy and embarrassing as it is to admit, these days lots of people get a bigger Sublime jolt from having a cup of coffee with a friend than from standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. That doesn't mean that we're God or that nature is dead, only that a certain elementary frisson is being generated from being around one another.

"Which brings us back to relational aesthetics. In the hands of subsequent artists a lot, but not all of the art grouped under this moniker, has become mannered. Connectivity has devolved into a neo-hippie hangout involving couches, cots, tables or some kind of shelter in which participants eat, sleep, watch monitors, or whatever. Interactivity now mostly consists of the documentation of artists doing things like interviewing others, meeting workers, etc. Too often the audience is also simply lounging around while thinking about lounging around, or they're just gawking at others. Either way, everyone is essentially telling him- or herself things they already know. Relational aesthetics, once probing and complex, is becoming a cul-de-sac of fun effects, momentary experiences, and comfy playhouses."

The melon was delicious... but was it "relational design"? Let's just call it lunch.

10CommentReply

cityramica
cityramica
cityramica
Wed, Jul. 5th, 2006 06:45 am (UTC)

congratulations!


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 5th, 2006 09:31 am (UTC)

Haha. I saw you with the Japanese guy talking about the Royal College of Art at your private view a couple of weeks ago. I was going to come and speak to you but there was no where to hide while I waited for my moment, so I bailed out with a air of discomfort instead.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 5th, 2006 01:03 pm (UTC)

woo. i'll come catch the tour.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 5th, 2006 03:55 pm (UTC)

did u stop by the lux whilst u were in shacklewell lane?

www.tenminutesolder.blogspot.com


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j03
j03
sold as a novelty only
Wed, Jul. 5th, 2006 04:00 pm (UTC)
Economics of Attention


I wonder what you think of this take on art:

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468828.html

Art’s center of gravity henceforth would lie not in objects that artists create but in the attention that the beholder brings to them...

Art is whatever the artist wishes to call to our attention. Art is an act of attention the artist wishes to invoke in the beholder. Duchamp had developed this theme a few years earlier with his “Readymades.”


Seems quite similar to your article on conceptual art.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Jul. 5th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC)

---Or maybe relational aesthetics takes action...I was glad to see Saltz bringing this up; as far as what he had to say about "...everyone essentially telling him- or herself things they already know..." what with momentary exp, monitors, interviewing workers, etc , -maybe in a more positive light, it's like a footnote on it not being the artist's job any longer to showcase new areas of attention. It seems like right now there's more room for more art than ever before, and relational aesthetics popping up is like getting to the "core" of the thing Susan Sontag pointed out in Styles of Radical Will; "...most valuable art in our time has been experienced by audiences as a move towards silence..." We're getting real shamanic and remembering our roots.


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elperrodepaulov
elperrodepaulov
elperrodepaulov
Wed, Jul. 5th, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)

So how do they build a nice simple set of bookshelves?


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Jul. 6th, 2006 02:51 am (UTC)
I can relate.

There aren't enough comments on this post, so I thought I should let you know that I appreciate it. I strongly believe that at it's heart, design is a social activity.
Can "relational design" work for corporate, commercial clients? Or is consumption at that level inherently impersonal? Is saying, "It's okay to be yourself" okay for big business? Until now, I had never thought of a connection between relational aesthetics and slow life.

Sean


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Jul. 6th, 2006 05:36 am (UTC)
Re: I can relate.

a connection between relational aesthetics and slow life

Ah, good call, neither had I!


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intergalactim
intergalactim
intergalactim
Thu, Jul. 6th, 2006 04:09 am (UTC)

excellent! it is certainly "relational design", more pictures please! i think in some ways, abake/janfamily etc is even more successful than "relational art" because of the collaborative ways in which it is produced, i mean i love Relational Aesthetics Art, but all too often it seems like the gallery/curator/audience relationships that the artists are negotiating are all a bit too "Arty", wheras design can kind of bypass that ...


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