What’s so Relational about a group show?

As mentioned above, I don’t have much time to flesh out thoughts on the show but I’m going to try to summarize the things that have been going through my mind in the last month, or at least the most important two thoughts.

The first is more or less a rumination on the Relational Aesthetic of this show in contrast overall trend of the proliferation of artist generated group shows in NYC right now. (and perhaps elsewhere too?) It’s hard to make a point in the few hundred words I’m going to write here, especially since I don’t know if I have a point, but I’ll leave some discussion points in the order they come to me.

  1. Relational Aesthetics seems to me to be more about distribution than production. In fact, I’m not sure what, if any, connection RA has on the production of art (excepting practical considerations which are often sometimes to the determent of the thing itself) and as a means of distribution is mostly a secondary concern, at least to object makers such as the participants in Gifting Abstraction. Or am I being too romantic?
  2. The institution of the Secret Santa/White Elephant gift exchange idea as a structure for an exhibit is an exciting prospect. But those games always result in participants going home with gifts they don’t want. Though I’m happy with my choice, I wonder if anyone would admit to feeling cheated. In my deliberations with my wife about which work to choose we jokingly wondered what it would mean to choose my own drawing (I am going to miss it, I didn’t realize until after I offered it). At the same time (this is where my shaky grasp of economics is revealed), by artificially enforcing a spirit of fairness (everyone goes home with a gift) the exhibit may actually devalue all of the work by the neutering market forces (i.e. human desire) that create value. I’ve been trying to think how a follow-up exhibit would resolve this but I don’t have any viable suggestions.
  3. At the same time, the qualities of group exhibitions that seem to be to be truly “relational” were largely absent from Gifting Abstraction. Despite the internet, geographic proximity still trumps all when it comes to generating communities. Some type of private party and/or public opening should have accompanied the exhibit (I know there were scheduling conflicts). The trend of proliferating artist generated group exhibits is enabled by social networking but it’s inspired by the rich communities enabled by the interaction of face to face meetings at openings and social networking connections.

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2 Responses to What’s so Relational about a group show?

  1. tmartin says:

    I should ask in relation to point 3 how those who do not have billowing artist communities in geographic proximity overcome this. Obvioulsy, curating a group show (thanks again to Mariangeles) is one way to generate dialog.

  2. Hi Thomas,
    I’m going to limit my comments to point number three, although I appreciate the amount of thought that went into all of your discussion above and in the next post as well.
    Seems to me that this exhibition does fit the definition of a relational aesthetics situation. The issue you may have, the question of whether community was in fact created here, is not the fault of the design of the show. I do agree that there wasn’t much of a group formed out of this lovely idea, but there may be reasons other than the show’s design for this. For example, I wonder if there are hidden agendas in terms of people’s reasons for accepting the request to join this show.(ie., a desire for one’s work to be seen in public), rather than a need to share. I also imagine that we’re incredibly busy and it’s hard to schedule time to be present for other people, even on a blog. The set-up was there for us, and there was a small gathering of people at the unofficial opening.
    (which I had to miss). If people chose not to participate, or felt resentful of providing a gift, or waited for someone else to jump in, or chose not to respond to an email etc., it affected the quality of the temporary community as well as the individual’s sense of gratification. I think we got what we put into the experience of this show, complicated and bittersweet as it may seem to some. That’s the lesson for me about community – that it’s not only about being in the same physical space, but maybe the same shared space of generosity.

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