Sunday, January 24, 2010

Service Aesthetics: Is it really art?

By Kristin Bruch

One of my hopes for the new year is to spark conversations from this blog. Tori, my new fellow blog editor, and I are planning to share reviews of the exhibitions we see, comments on art in the making, and thoughts on articles we read. (Side note: if you have anything you would like to contribute, please let us know!)

We'd like to start the dialogue with the topic of aesthetics. While aesthetics is a fairly difficult word to spell, the word is even more difficult to define. To my understanding, relational aesthetics refers to the art of the 1990s that is more about human interaction and social context. Aesthetic art is not about personal contemplation, no longer about sitting reflectively in front of a Rothko. Fair enough, right?

One group of artists branched out of relational aesthetics to what is called service aesthetics. Service aesthetics is defined by a one-on-one connection between two people while the artist is performing a free service for the viewer, or "client."

Let me give you an example of service aesthetics that Steven Madoff discussed in the September 2008 issue of Artforum. " the Whitney Biennial in New York last March, artist Bert Rodriguez presented In the Beginning . . . , 2008. The piece consisted of a simulacrum of a generic psychologist’s office— complete with de rigueur stuffed leather chairs and potted plant—in which the artist (although he is not a trained therapist) held forty-five-minute personal consultations. By nature, these sessions were intensely personal for both the subject and the artist, moving toward a symbolic enactment of therapeutic release."

The question becomes, is this really art? Aren't these artists just performing regular tasks that we typically pay for all the time? Although my classmates may disagree with me, this is art. These artists are pushing the idea of aesthetics in a new way. They are taking the idea of the service economy we live in every day and putting a personal connection back into it, all for free, to demonstrate the lack of interpersonal connections in the transactions of our everyday lives. In my opinion, art serves as a mirror of the world, and this is one aspect of the world that needs to be addressed.

Service aesthetics is art. Granted, we get to decide whether it is good or bad. What do you think?

To leave you with some thoughts.. check out the video below from Bert Rodriguez, the nontraditional therapist, discussing his art:


Bert Rodriguez said...

thanks you for the post. I appreciate the post.

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