Letters and Responses -Liam Gillick and Claire Bishop
Liam Gillick in an English conceptual artist based in New York City and associated with Relational Art in his response to Bishop’s essay ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’ he draws attention to some factual errors and misrepresentations by Claire Bishop. Bishop’s essay is on ‘Relational Aesthetics’ by Nicolas Bourriaud and she references on behalf of the artist. For Bourriaud ‘Relational Aesthetics’ is not a theory of art, a stream of artistic practice concerned with producing and reflecting upon the interrelations between people and the extent to which they can be considered aesthetic. It is written on the works of the artists who are Liam Gillick, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Thomas Hirschhorn and Santiago Sierra. This reaction by Gillick, amongst the artists whom she references corrects the inaccuracies and tries to rectify the misinterpretation of Tirivanijis and his work.
Gillick addresses the limitations of ideas and implications of Bourriaud’s work on Relational Aesthetics. According to him it targets and gives a confused study of four established artists than giving constructive criticism. Bishop lacks in serious critical views and proper argument on Bourriaud. He points that Bourriaud wrote based on his experience of the Traffic exhibition at the CAPC Bordeaux in 1996 and not in 1993 as mentioned by Bishop. He adds that Relational Aesthetics was published in 1998 and not 1997 and is spelt as Esthetique relationnelle in French. She mixes her studies and analysis between Bourriaud’s two books which are Post-Production and Relational Aesthetics. He points that Bourriaud was not the curator to the entire exhibition but to one of the exhibition at the CAPC and he continues mentioning many such examples.
Furthermore, George Baker comments on Bourriaud’s unawareness to the historical precedents of these artists and he says that the book and the artists highlight ‘conviviality and celebration’. Gillick comments that Bishop’s experience of works by Hirschhorn and Sierra are subjects to scrutiny and claims for a transitive relationship between art and society. Bishop believes that relational art is not only built on use but also on observation; and often hard to identify the artist who has created an artwork. Gillick adds on to another misreading of Bishop’s comments related to ‘amenities (in a) museum’, Hal Foster’s critique on some contemporary artists by separating ‘amenity works’ from general arts. He cites another example of the reading room which according to Bishop was an artwork by Apolonija Sustersic and says that she disregards works by many other established contemporary artists who have contributed to the exhibitions.
Additionally, he says that she condemns several artists mentioned in Relational Aesthetics for being involved in biennials, triennials and manifestas without giving any lucrative examples. He goes on that she has misread Mouffe’s critique of the impractical inherent tensions in western structures of the art world. He says that her understandings on writings are limited and she addresses them as being non-specific on the contrary they are precise references, situations and statements. He narrates an incident of the Whitechapel Gallery where he was commissioned to do cultural urban projects in Brussels and Stuttgart. Bishop’s review on them changed the meaning and gave a different direction to the argument which he insists on being amended. He concludes about her understandings and her rejections in relation to artists belonging to regions as mentioned by Bourriaud.
Bishop thanks Gillick for correcting the facts and observing his lack of theoretical and methodological discourse on the argument.