Using Play to Envision New Narratives
2017. Youth Media Reporter, Special Issue: Our Desired Futures (w/National Alliance for Media Arts + Culture)
Antagonism in the Museum: The Object of Confrontational Participation in Contemporary Art
2012. Research submitted as Honors Thesis in Art History, University of Iowa
In an environment where museums are looking to provide inclusive, accessible, and interactive experiences for their patrons, art institutions are increasingly offering social exchange as product, much like the commercial entities they emulate to survive in a time of decreased funding. Within this context, artists and museums have provided participatory work that is often relational in nature. As an increasingly attractive approach to art production, relational art—which emphasizes the interhuman relationships it creates and develops—deserves to be considered more critically, in order to refine methodologies to achieve its supposed goals. Participatory and relational art have been categorized as inherently democratic approaches to art making; this presumption, however, has a number of flaws that have only begun to be dissected by cultural theorists.
In order to understand the ability of this approach to achieve democratic results, the methodologies used by artists who have been categorized as “relational” and “democratic” must be analyzed through new standards. Claire Bishop began this reconsideration, rejecting the microtopian ideal espoused by Nicolas Bourriaud in Relational Aesthetics, and adopting instead the concept of “antagonism,” asserting that dialogical tension is crucial for the debate necessary for a successful democracy. Extending that analysis, this essay contends that much of the relational and participatory work that critics and curators brand as “democratic” in form is exclusive, lacking the accessibility required for successful democracy, minimizing the supposedly democratic goals of these works.
There is a difficult balance between maintaining the trust of established art patrons, incorporating additional members of society in gallery-space dialogue, and creating dialogical tensions in an antagonistic approach to participatory and relational art; only so much confrontation is appropriate in museums. There are, however, significant advantages to embracing the context of the art museum and object-based art practice, which is inherently more accessible than many other relational practices. These works operate in the gallery setting and interact with viewers on a particularized basis, creating independent events for each viewer or group of viewers. For relational art to be democratic in structure and function, it must both engage its community in genuine dialogue and allow that dialogue to be inclusive, rather than exclusive.
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Shirin Neshat: Bridging the Gap Between Islamic Art and a Western Market
2011-2012. Presented at the Undergraduate Art History Society Symposium 2012, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
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