There’s been so much hemming and hawing about “social practice” art in the past few years, it’s a little painful to even say, or type, the phrase. So, it felt a little odd to be picking up a fairly lengthy book on the topic, What We Made: Conversations on Art and Social Cooperation. But the number one reason I was intrigued by this volume is the person who put it together: Tom Finkelpearl.
You’re digital! I’m digital! We’re all digital! No better way to stir the pot than to bring up the post-IRL condition that has us all confused: What does it mean that we spend so much time online? How are artists engaging technology? Everyone’s arguing, from the curmudgeonly Artforum-approved art historian Claire Bishop to curator Lauren Cornell and author Eleanor Heartney. Here’s what they’re saying.
Art historian and associate professor at New York’s CUNY Graduate Center Claire Bishop has taken to the pages of Artforum’s September edition to issue a kind of rebuke for contemporary art. She argues, in an extended essay that only briefly detours into egregious artspeak, that though the new realities of technology and the internet provide the fundamental context for art currently being made, art and artists have failed to critically confront this context and are too content simply to respond and adapt to it.
The standard cliché summary of modern (and contemporary) art is that now, anything is art. Jackson Pollock threw paint around. Duchamp strung up a shovel, upended a bike wheel into a stool, put a urinal on a pedestal and called the resulting three “sculptures” art of the highest order. After so long, we’ve started to run out of things to suddenly deem “art.” But relational aesthetics, or the posing of an artist-constructed social experiences as art making, is the latest step in this process of turning everything into art.