What if…?


In this week’s readings, I was very inspired by the idea that to create participatory experiences based in relational aesthetics, we must understand the social and spatial context first in order to use it or depart from it later. As Nicolas Bourriaud writes, “the role of artworks is no longer to form imaginary and utopian realties, but to actually be ways of living and models of action within the existing real, whatever the scale chosen by the artist”. In my perspective and based also on the art experiences analyzed in the other three articles, this ‘existing real’ involves every aspect of daily life like architecture, our different devices or even the human body’s sensory capabilities. Acting within these elements, should allow us to create a sense of community and empathy through participation.

Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument tried to achieve this idea by creating an architectural framework for social activities in the Bronx, based on Antonio Gramsci’s ideas about developing alternative cultures as a way to overthrow the current hegemony through self-education and self-organization. Christine Sun Kim’s work, on the other hand, seeks participation by creating a common sensory experience. She made people relate to space and to each other by using sounds below hearing range, providing an equal experience to the bodies in the room. Finally, Alien Staff was a device to empower immigrant individuals, allowing them to talk about their personal stories or experiences to strangers by amplifying their body capabilities through elements based on media.

I like how all these projects transcend social and spatial conventions, making people relate to their social environment in a way that is unconventional but at the same time responds or reacts to the specific context. The idea of building an alternate reality, adding new layers to life as it is lived everyday, is very appealing to me. I am not sure to what extent these projects were successful in he moment of performing them, or if they generated any social change, but I feel that the point is to make people think about different these different realities, opening the question ‘What if…?’

Read the articles:
– Excerpt from Relational Aesthetics by Nicolas Bourriaud
The Gulch Between Knowledge and Experience: Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument
Critical Vehicle by Krzysztof Wodiczko 104~117
– Christine Sun Kim Interview with Jeffrey Mansfield

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