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Bourriaud: Relational Aesthetics
Holmes: The revenge of the concept
Lovink & Garcia: ABC of Tactical Media
Raley: Border Hacks: Electronic Civil Disobedience

“artistic activity is a game, whose forms, patterns and functions develop and evolve according to periods and social contexts; it is not an immutable essence.” – Bourriaud

This week’s discussion starts with a shift in aesthetic considerations. Some might call it an aesthetic distance, it begins by expanding the view of ‘art’ into a contextual or situational position, and away from a formal art object, or theatrical staging. Bourriaud in his book relational aesthetics establishes a ‘relational’ criteria for framing such works. We could spend quite a while addressing the subtleties of his argument, but to expedite our process I will jump ahead and say it acts as a great stepping stone out of the chinese finger trap of art, but falls short by its inherent position within the art institution. Quite literally the author is working within the museum, and addressing works that inhabit a ‘art world’ context, a frame that is dominated by a sense of ambiguity and abstraction. The ambiguity of the ‘art world’ context imbues its framed charms with an aura of universality, while white washing over its own market function. In this trajectory of thought Bourriaud’s notion of form, is problematic to say the least… ultimately re-articulating Art(with a Capital A)’s position as a derivative asset market, with very little concern for the inequities or alienation of current societal formations outside of the ‘art world’. If the relational art project is about securing the art institution as a viable articulation of capital’s power, Tactical Media is aiming to illuminate the contradictions inherent to, or jam the path ways of, such power relations. As the Critical Art Ensemble says “…power is no longer centralized but has become networked and nomatic…” their strategies for creating actions of resistance are equally decentralized. Whether such creative actions are digital or otherwise, does not change their inherent relationship to context. Such works articulate their meaning in their relations with the symbolic expressions of capitalistic logic.

Capitalistic logic is not the only articulation of power to consider when addressing advanced capitalism, there is a territorial logic of power that interfaces with the flow of capital. As David Harvey says the two “ …are not reducible to each other, but they are not autonomous to each other either, they are tightly interwoven”. While the capitalistic logic of power flows quickly across boundaries and boarders, from one territory to the next, in “a kind of molecular process”. The territorial logic of power experiences a much more grounded spatiality, site specific negotiations, a game of geopolitics with the specific aim of improving the well being of the territory and its residents. It is in this space of territory that ‘Social Practice’ typically resides. Granted these categories are just that, categories, and there are certainly ways of examining such topics that would erode such distinctions, or build new ones, but for the sake of articulating a vocabulary we must demarcate such practices.

Social Practice is conceptually tied to relational aesthetics in the shift from representation to actualization. Although social practice typically has less of an antagonistic relation to its context, it parallels Tactical Media in its marriage to context for the production of meaning. Social practice is interested in the everyday and the common. It is engaged in the imaginary moment of reorganizing accessible elements of the immediate surroundings as a way of transforming the situation. Social practice is inherently collaborative, and usually process oriented. And when discussed as a political project, it can often be considered pedagogical, be seen as weakening or challenging perceived hierarchies, or bridging spaces previously divided, developing or presenting shared resources, or enacting a performance of community. Social practice is about as many things as there are people, but its methodology is grounded in the material reality of our everyday lives as a site of humanizing creative production.