There are a few points in the Bourriaud reading that struck a bit of a dissonant cord with me, so I was hoping someone might help me tune them up a bit.

Bourriaud talks about relational art as something that can only be found in an “exhibition”(p. 162) which is a space the artist has designed, and that “brings into play modes of social exchange” (p. 165). One example I really like is from p. 162 where he talks about the exhibition. This is the work by Jens Haaning which “uses a loudspeaker to broadcast jokes told in Turkish on a square in Copenhagen” that has the effect of bringing together the Turkish speaking people in this Danish community and “inverts their situation as exiles.” Right now, you and I are experiencing this work of “art” through text and our imaginations. Perhaps we’ve even been to Copenhagen, maybe even outside the airport, and we can imagine a busy square of people with a scattered few who begin laughing at words broadcast in a foreign language. But we cannot ever experience this work of art.

The “exhibition” space in which relational art takes place seems to me rather like a lab, with visitors as the guinea pigs proving or disproving the “artists” hypothesis. I hope Haaning had HSC approval for this, it’s more “experiment” than “art”!

While the exhibition space is carefully designed, and the social exchanges and interactions that constitute the art itself (or are they reactions to the artfully designed experience?) are at least somewhat anticipated (otherwise why go to the trouble of designing the exhibit in the first place), I could argue that there is no artifact produced here, and therefore it is not art. There is no common thread connecting artist and viewer across time, not even a script or score as with the playwright and composer. But I believe that it is art… why??? What is artful about planing and conducting a social science experiment?

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