Benjamin Lignel’s comments to my scribbling on Nicolas BOURRIAUD

Please visit the original post ——–> HERE 

BL: Loved your enthusiastic scribbling on Bourriaud. I have a problem with your working hypothesis (as usual!?) but like your dauntless crusade!

Where I find you err (!?) is that (1) you assume that the similarities between art and jewelry are what will bring them closer (2) you use as ‘proof’ an example that is particularly unhelpful: Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics texts encapsulates a ‘meaningful departure from the norm’ amongst contemporary art makers: a way of engaging the public that is new, exciting, and representative of larger social concerns. However, while it is new and exciting for art, it is old (and exciting) for jewelry: i.e. jewelry, as you point out, has always relied on a form of public sharing to function. So in my eye, ‘relational’ is not how jewelry becomes more like art, but how art becomes more like jewelry.

KR: I am smiling. And I both agree and disagree with you. Yes, perhaps it is old and exciting for jewelry, but it doesn’t hurt to bring those qualities to the surface and compare it to something so concrete in contemporary art (has it been done?), so that at the very least, dummies who have never thought about jewelry, in its old sense or contemporary sense, can at least take a new kind of pleasure in it, or consider it (even just a tiny bit) to be something bigger and more complex than they ever gave it credit for.

It’s more like, hey everyone, you think this bourriaud relational shit is cool? well guess what: we’ve already been doing that for… ever. so maybe it is worth thinking about, or at the very least enjoying. oh and here’s a whole bunch of jewelry that you’ve never seen before, or even knew existed! you’re welcome. 

BL: I am smiling as well. Comparing is fine, and the way you express it there is more to the point, I think. I would urge you to envisage the possibility that what will make CJ more ‘like art’ is precisely what makes it different from art as we know it.

This dialogue was taken from email correspondance on April 30, 2013. Mr. Lignel is my editor at AJF. 
1 comment
  1. Hi KR and BL, Such an interesting conversation you two are having, I hope you don’t mind if I throw my hat into the ring.
    Firstly, I really enjoyed your adaptation KR, of Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics it was a relational exercise in itself and I really enjoyed it for the aesthetic of your gesture. However, while jewellery seemed a good fit on the page the theory you proposed is unfortunately not supported in the practice.

    So yes jewellery is relational, so is art for that matter, but when Bourriaud speaks of a relational aesthetic he is talking about the aesthetic of the relationship itself being the ‘form’ of the artwork.
    One problem for Contemporary Jewellery is the ‘thing’ we identify as the ‘form’, is always and with out fail the object.
    So what is the relational in jewellery?
    In the institution in which I was taught we used to bang on about the importance of maker, object, wearer relationship (presumably viewer was in there as well)

    In his essay On the Nature of Jewellery (1989) Bruce Metcalf talks about how this exchange works, I call these the rules of engagement of jewellery or the social contract. Jewellery, Metcalf says, ‘implies a transaction between the artist and the wearer’ and ‘they (the wearer) can sense the maker’s empathy and compassion’. There is an, ‘iimaginative connection’ between the two, and according to Metcalf it’s generally a sympathetic one. Aside from his needless grumblings about conceptual jewellery I like this essay by Metcalf because he articulates the modern cultural paradigm of jewellery – his opinion represents for me the standard view of jewellery for our time and culture.
    I also wonder if what Metcalf is providing us with is a description of the kind of relational aesthetic that underpins contemporary jewellery. This essay was written some time ago and I have heard more recently grumblings (from another source) of how the relationship between maker, object, and wearer has broken down, to a point where now the over riding emphasis is between the maker and the object – the object it seems performs purely as a extension of the makers ego???!!! So essentially I think there is a hierarchy at play in contemporary jewellery, one that is reducing the relational potential of jewellery.

    The other problem for contemporary jewellery in terms of a relational aesthetic is that it generally takes a fair amount of skill to make it. In Bourriaud’s definition the relational aesthetic is usually a low skill type experience.

    So I don’t think jewellery is relational in the quite the same terms as Bourriaud describes and as long as the practice remains ‘supplemental’ as in the way Glenn Adamson defines it, I don’t think there is much interesting happening in terms of its relational aesthetic potential, but hopefully some one will prove me wrong!!!
    Best wishes
    Roseanne Bartley
    May 2013

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