Bourriaud – and me

Everdien Breken MaHKUzine #9 02In April 2010 MaHKU hosted the very successful symposium ‘Doing Dissemination’, in which I played a humble part. Us students got to cook dinner, set tables and wait upon the guests, and if I remember correctly my team’s Salmon Norway Style was a great success. Inbetween, we got to sit and eat, too. With everybody switching tables between courses, the thing was a quiet nightmare logistically, but dissemination-wise it was tremendous.

For the duration of one course – and I forget which – I had the honour of sitting next to Nicolas Bourriaud, of ‘relational aethetics’ fame. I was reminded of this because I found this  picture of our table in the most  recent issue of MaHKU’s very own art magazine: MaHKUzine #9 (I am i quoted in one of its articles). I distinctly remember asking mr Bourriaud a question about the absence of religion in his work, me having just read Gadamer who points at religion as a common ground between people and a significant force in the field of aesthetics. Quote from my blog ‘the relevance of the beautiful’:

“…… aesthetic perception does not reside in the individual, but is part of something larger, is rooted in the relation between the individual and the society she lives in. This is why any shift in the way the individual relates herself to [the whole of] society effects aesthetic perception. Gadamer’s essay, page 7: “So long as art occupied a legitimate place in the world, it was clearly able to effect an integration between community, society, and the Church on the one hand and the self-understanding of the creative artist on the other. Our problem, however, is precisely the fact that this self-evident integration, and the universally shared understanding of the artist’s role that accompanies it, no longer exists.”

Don’t think that mr Bourriaud is particularly interested in religion – his answer was along the lines of ‘the effects of religion are so self-evident they don’t need any treatment’. This was more a conversation stopper than an answer, really, but me being inexcusably polite, I let it rest at that and we moved on towards other topics. Have never been able to understand why religion is a non-subject in modern art. Note: this is changing – check for instance the work of Dutch artist Marc Mulder.

Anyway, it was inspiring to be  vis-a-vis with a great thinker. Read more about his contribution for Doing Dessimination here.

A quote:  Perhaps the main character in the political arena today is the irresponsible subject, the subject who does not own citizenship for several reasons. Because he or she is an immigrant, because he or she is illegal, because he or she is far away from political decision making and what they address. It seems that we all have become irresponsible and out of touch with effective political measures. We seem to be indolent in front of the progression of the logic of neo-liberalism all over the world; we seem to be spectators facing an image industry producing more and more images for us; we seem to be puppets in a theater play whose directors appear to be far away from us; we live in a civilization where the decision to fire people from a factory where they have been working for the last thirty years might have been taken by someone living in Miami or just someone somewhere in the world, someone who never had any close experience with the work they did. So, distances are increasingly consequential. The impression of a world where people are purely passive, where people are no longer active actors, creates an imagery affecting the current dissemination of the field of culture. When you take the history of the avant-garde and the history of left-wing thought over the last fifty years, it is quite obvious that the main theme is the abolition of the barriers between the actor and the spectator, between the producer and the consumer. That was more or less the theme of my book Postproduction (2002). The abolition of the distance between the artist and the beholder is similar to that; it is the activation of a will to suppress the barriers between the active and the passive. The distance and abolition of the barriers between activity and passivity has been the real theme of the last fifty years.

It seems that the abolishment of the notion of distance – effect of the Internet and the 24hrs economy – encourages passiveness. It’s like the effect of  having eternal life:  why do things today when they can be done in an eternal tomorrow? Whyget moving when the notion of distance is moving towards extinction?

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