I went to the frieze art fair this past weekend. My favorite experiences were the two talks I attended. In one, a conversation between Franz Erhard Walther and John Bock (a former student), Mr. Walther described his work beginning in the early 1950’s that sought to explore “the possibilities of objects and images [to] prompt viewers to do something other than just look.” The second talk of the day was given by Adam Curtis using clips from several of his documentaries to describe what he sees as a need to “change the scenery” around the way we talk about what is happening in the world (and even his failure to do so). I expected them to be quite different but they overlapped in surprising ways.
Although one was primarily speaking about work created decades ago in the studio and the other about more recent work created for the BBC, they were both about individual artists responding to the world in ways that made sense to them, outside of the fashion of the day. (The irony of the setting of the talks being in the center of one of the largest commercial art fairs in the world was not lost on me, however, it did not take away from the experience. In fact it may have even added to it, providing substance after the “candy” of much of the fair.) At their core, both talks were about relationships. For Mr. Walther it is about creating an active relationship between the viewer and the work and for Mr. Curtis, it is about the need for journalism to be more than the 12 second sound bite.
Since firmly planting my own work within the context of relational aesthetics, I have come to believe that the need for relationships is a response to the ironic self-indulgence of post-modernism. Although advertising and pop culture would lead us to believe that we still only care about our own selves, the true movements of the day throughout the world are being formed around a sense of relationship. It is still not fashionable, not sell-able and often not even public fund-able but work built on relationships is what is happening. As I continue to take advantage of the experiences in our new home country, I am most appreciative of the relationships I am forming to the ideas that surround me.