15 July 1995
Spazio Culturale Antonio Ratti
The text of the conference is available in Italian.
Nicolas Bourriaud illustrates the concept of relational aesthetics through the work of contemporary artists such as Peter Fend, Henry Bond, Liam Gillick, Andrea Fraser, and Felix Gonzalez Torres, among others. The work of art, Bourriaud argues, is no longer meaningful. It makes sense, rather, “to speak in terms of surfaces, volumes, mechanisms. Today an artist is the one who produces exhibitions, displays, which are the new basic unit of art.” This is because it is in the unfolding of relational space that art can happen as an event, can create new exchanges and relationships and, consequently, new subjects. Art in this sense is more like “an aircraft carrier: slightly offshore, it is not completely immersed in reality. Art is like an airplane that flies over a city and makes its foray before returning to base.”
Nicolas Bourriaud is an art critic and curator. From 2000 to 2006 he was curator of the Palais de Tokyo together with Jérôme Sans. He is the co-founder of the journal Documents sur l’art (1992–2000), and author of important texts on art theory, including Relational Aesthetics (1998), The Rooting. Aesthetics in the Time of Globalization (2009), and Inclusions. Aesthetics of the Capitalocene (2020). From 2011 until 2015, he was director of the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Paris.