spectacular agency in Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics

What follows are my thematic notes from readings in preparing my masters thesis. These quotes are from the English translation (2002)

Eva, Studio of TV AVS, January 28, 1995, Ghent, Blegium.

Sam Samore asks gallery owners to take photographs which he then selects and reframe[s]. But this artist/curator pairing, which is an intrinsic part of the institution, is just the literal aspect of inter-human relations likely to define artistic production. Artists take things further, by working with spectacle figures […] the series of public activities organized by Phillippe Parreno for the imitator Yves Lecoq, through which it was his intent to refashion, from within, the image of a television person (Un homme public, Marseille, Dijon, Ghent, 1994-1995). (Pages 33-4)

Image from airdeparis

In the Glossary at the back of Relational Aesthetics we have the following definitions:

The ideals of modernity have not vanished, they have been adapted. So “the total work of art” comes about today in its spectacular version, emptied of its teleological content. Our civilization makes up for the hyperspecialization of social functions by the progressive unity of leisure activities. (page 111)

Society of extras
The society of the spectacle has been defined by Guy Debord as the historical moment when merchandise achieved “the total occupation of social life,” capital having reached “such a degree of accumulation” that it was turned into imagery. Today, we are in the further stage of spectacular development: the individual has shifted form a passive and purely repetitive status to the minimum activity dictated by market forces. So television consumption is shrinking in favor of video games; thus the spectacular hierarchy encourages “empty monads,” i.e. programless models and politicians; thus everyone sees themselves summoned¬† to be famous for fifteen minutes, using a TV game, street poll, or news item as go-between. This is the reign of “Infamous Man,” whom Michel Foucault defined as the anonymous and “ordinary” individual suddenly put in the glare of media spotlights. Here we are summoned to turn into extras of the spectacle, having been regarded as its consumers. [….] So, after the consumer society, we can see the dawning of the society of extras where the individual develops as a part-time stand-in for freedom, signer and sealer of the public place. (page 113)


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