Gemma Meek – Are There Forgotten and Invisible Histories Beneath and Within Relational Aesthetics?

Warning: Work-in-progress!

Why is Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics so popular? After being asked this question during a supervisory meeting, I set myself a task of trying to find out why this text was always cited in writings on participatory, socially engaged, dialogical and collaborative art. What I discovered was a whole set of forgotten or invisible histories, beneath and within Relational Aesthetics. This included the forgotten feminist artistic practices and lack of gender consideration by Bourriaud, highlighted by Helena Reckitt, to the invisible or side-lined radical, feminist informed practices of gallery education asserted by Felicity Allen, Carmen Mörsch and Michelle Millar Fischer. What these writings reveal is that gallery education is often at the periphery of practices such as relational art, not only in terms of the historical narrative that supports their emergence, but also as a form of ‘hidden labour’ in their development.

The aim of this provocation is to explore this placement of gallery education in relation to Relational Aesthetics as a thinking-through presentation, comprised of texts, positions and stories.