Walls and Streets of Art, Relationally-speaking

That imperious-sounding term ‘relational aesthetics’ might have been first introduced to me at theanyspacewhatever exhibition at the Guggenheim, as I reviewed here, but like so many things one jives with, I’ve started to find it everywhere. It’s not exactly that the exhibition so sensitized me to my surroundings that every piece of litter on New York’s streets makes me want to sing hallelujahs, although relational aesthetics does strive for that effect. Rather, I see in work I have already been following the same aesthetic tools of surprise, fun, ephemerality, untraditional medium, and irreverence, and fueling their creation the hopeful belief that the experience of life is beautiful.

The Wooster Collective, whose blog I follow, is “dedicated to showcasing and celebrating ephemeral art placed on streets” thus taking relational aesthetics one step further than using the exhibition as a medium, as street art creates a medium out of bare concrete and brick. The art it showcases is submitted from all over, so like the Guggenheim’s group show it is an egalitarian effort, and shows the range of diversity, from a bum’s hut in Poland to this Election Day poster.

Had they been punnier, they would have said “Chews with your gum,” but not everybody can be as clever as me.

Street art fits into the category of relational aesthetics. An article on the founders of Wooster Collective from 2006 discusses the tenants of street art much line relational aesthetics:

1. Location…A work of street art reclaims the public space and the best street art has a context, builds a relationship with its environment, dialogs with the city…
2. Surprise and delight: the works tap into our emotions and we get that WTF ??? moment…
3. Have something to say…the best pieces do not necessarily make a strong political statement but they will make you see the city under a different light. Artists let
passersby make their own interpretation of the work…

‘Relational aesthetics’, then, is a way of taking art out of frames and putting it in different, often surprising, relations to the viewer, and how it affects one’s perception of the object, which is not necessarily an object but a wall or hole that makes you reevaluate your surroundings. The blog form is suited to street art; it constantly changes rather than being fixed, is fragmentary rather than whole, and both mediums originated outside mainstream channels of expression and are becoming more recognized.

Another blog I follow, Art is Everywhere, tries to document the beauty of everyday objects by taking things apart, rearranging them, and photographing them for the web. It tries to resensitize people to their surroundings, and thus to the beauty and charm of life. As it’s states:

Observing the surrounds from different points of view can change the perception
of the reality. Among the endless possible points of view, we can find the one
more near to the beauty: that is to make art. Why should everybody make art? To
seek for the beautiful in the daily things it undoubtedly helps us to…live

And that’s a lovely sentiment to be surprised with, in anyspace anywhere.

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