Category Archives: Relational Aesthetics

here at First Draft

“here” at First Draft. Performance evenings presented by Terminus Projects:

The last few weeks, I’ve been heading down to First Draft to check out the performance evenings put on by Terminus Projects. The two that have happened so far haven’t been formal performances really, not in the sense of “an audience focusing for a particular period of time and then cheering afterwards”, and not, either, in the way Artspace seems to have been promoting lately – endurance events of a cathartic nature. They’ve been casual, and rather unassuming.

Koji Ryui and Huseyin Sami hosted the first night, two Wednesdays ago. Koji was doing portraits of visitors, using only his hands to “read” the face of his sitter. He had a white cube helmet on his head, restricting his vision, and sat at a simple wooden desk, with an array of pencils and paper in front of him. One by one, those who wanted to be drawn would sit in a chair opposite. He would reach out and gently touch the contours of their head. The touching lasted a few minutes. Then he would grope around for his pencil and paper, and draw what he could remember.

For me, the encounter was surprisingly intimate. When I sat for my portrait, Koji first spent some time feeling my hair. I was aware how greasy it was, especially since his hands were dry, soft, and clean. Although I had shaved that day, I could feel that his fingers felt the new stubble, as well as the clefts in my nose and chin, which are almost indiscernable visually. His fingers had a tentative, gentle patting motion on the skin – obviously, he was trying to get a sense of the shape of my face, but it seemed he was cautious, not wanting to be too “forward”.

I joked with him, trying to draw him into having a conversation with me while he worked, but I don’t think he wanted this. The drawings were quite quickly executed, distorted, of course, but with a lightness of touch and a confidence of line. When I compared mine with Lisa’s, it occurred to me that Koji is probably a very good “draftsman” – there was a knowingness about the linework and a confidence. I wondered whether this exercise of “blind drawing” would be more interesting if the artist was not an accomplished drawer, or if he used his left hand. But maybe that’s just my obsession with seeing “struggle” and “learning” in the actual execution of the work of art – seeing it happen right before your eyes (rather than “here’s one we prepared before the show”).

Huseyin’s work was certainly happening live – he was serving up delicious, home made fried breads as we came in the door. I assume that the bevy of smiling ladies he had working with him were his mother, aunts, and grandma, but I didn’t stop to verify that fact. One was making up the dough, kneading and then handing it over to Huseyin, who rolled it out with a rolling pin. Another lady was doing the frying work. The finished rounds, which looked like small chappatis, but tasted like a cross between Turkish bread and Lebanese bread, were laid out on a table for guests to help themselves. As I took my first (I ate three) I held it up to say thanks to the ladies, and to Huseyin. They seemed pleased with themselves. It was a generous gesture. First Draft at that time of day was bathed in orange light. It felt like a good time of year to be in Sydney, and this seemed like the right kind of art to match my mood.

The second evening (last Wednesday) was hosted by Brian Fuata. His event seemed to be about the crap jobs he’d done in his time. When I arrived (a bit late) he was already up to the second of three simple actions. He was sitting at a chair, doing nothing much, and Sarah (from Terminus Projects) was writing a long story up on the wall behind him, in charcoal. The story had something to do with him working at the airport, sorting linen. I only read a bit of it when I noticed I was standing next to Barbara Campbell. I had been wanting to talk to her for a while, she’s been doing this amazing 1001 nights project, where each day at sunset, she reads a story as a webcam performance. (The stores are submitted by her website readers, as prompted by a quote from the day’s newspapers. Barbara takes a quote from the _inevitable_ coverage of political affairs in the middle east.) So I got talking to Barbara, I wanted to tell her I was enjoying the project. It must be quite a feat, to submit oneself to this task, every night for three years, without one night off. I suggested it might be hard over summer in Sydney, to force herself to head back from the beach before sunset…We talked a bit about Lone Twin, their cycling project, the idea of “daily” activities which build up into something. She said she had to hurry actually, as sunset would be soon, and she had to read Brian’s story and run.

I left her to it and wandered into the back room. There, a woman in a red gown was sitting on a chair, eating a sandwich. Again, Sarah was writing text on the wall behind her, with charcoal. She started high, and was dragging a ladder around to reach. Instead of an anecdotal story, it was a “biography” in another sense – the list of her achievements as a professional dancer. She had danced in London with this company, in Brisbane as part of that festival, dates, etc. None of it really meant that much to me, but I could see she was accomplished in the field. When Sarah got to the bottom of the column of text listing the dancer’s CV, she wrote, “I ASKED HER TO EAT A SANDWICH, AND SHE SAID YES.” And there she was – eating that sandwich. Laboriously, too, I might add. Brian was standing next to me, and I suggested to him that she might need a glass of milk to wash it down. He laughed, and went over to the wall and began scrubbing it with a sponge dipped into a bucket of water. Bit by bit, he erased (imperfectly) the dancer’s story, leaving only the sentence “I ASKED HER…” I thought it was a funny and subversive way to “use” the talents of his colleague.

Possibly it had something to do with Brian’s crap jobs – having all this amazing experience, but being required to do something banal for your “bread”. When I returned to the front room of First Draft, I found the remnants of another performance that had taken place before I arrived. A glass display case, like the sort of thing in a sandwich bar, was sitting there, filled with sandwich ingredients. A story was on the wall, again scrubbed out. There was a story there too, but you could barely discern it. Something about a job making sandwiches. I should have asked someone, but forgot to – whether in this phase of the evening, Brian had made the sandwich that his dancer later had to munch her way through. That’d make sense, I guess.

Brian’s, Koji’s, and Huseyin’s events had a lightness about them I really enjoyed. It didn’t feel like we were being badgered into “bearing witness” to something groundbreaking and of great profundity. The performances presented as part of “here” were more intimate, quieter, more “one on one”, and the the small (smaller than First Draft’s usual) crowds helped make that happen.

Some pictures are here.

one2one festival, New York

I recently made contact with Sal Randolph, who runs intheconversation. From her, I heard about the one2one festival going on very soon, in New York. Wish I could be there!

one2one festival, November 20, 2005

Be Something announces the first biannual one2one festival, taking place at private and public locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn on November 20, 2005. A small and intimate participatory performance festival, one2one is based on the concept of direct energetic transmission of the artist to the audience and back again. All performances are designed for an audience of one (or in very special situations, a pair of close friends or relatives).

In most cases, performances run consecutively throughout the day. Appointments for individual performances can be made through

A closing party will take place in the early evening, open to participants and general public. Location TBA.

participating artists:
Michelle Nagai
Jonathan Osofsky
Sal Randolph
Kathe Izzo
John O

mass observation, intheconversation, hostel, transfiguration

just a quick note about four things:
"The Mass-Observation Archive specialises in material about everyday life in Britain.
It contains papers generated by the original Mass-Observation social research organisation (1937
to early 1950s), and newer material collected continuously since 1981."
great lil blog about uncollectable art processes and "social architectures"
"Hostel is an organization dedicated to the support and presentation of artwork in public and social space. We have a particular focus on supporting artists who wish to research or execute work in cities other than those in which they live." [thanks to Lisa for the ref.]
Transfiguration of the Commonplace, by Anna Dezeuze, published in variant. An account of how "art" and "the everyday" might (or might not) intersect, via Danto, Warhol, Fluxus, Tiravanija, Bourriaud… [a pdf of this essay is here]

allan kaprow student experiments

…from page 60 of “Allan Kaprow”, Corso Superiore Arte Visiva, Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Skira, 1998, Milano.

Find a comfortable place and sit down. Choose someone from among the people you can see and observe him/her.
Copy his/her position, movements, etc, exactly.

Split into three groups. Each group must try to push three different types of materials towards a given point.
Use only the power of your breath.

Choose a partner.
Pinch him/her and then let him/her in turn pinch you.
Check the increase in temperature of the part of skin pinched.

Arrange into small groups.
One person volunteers to be completely passive.
The others must push him in directions they consider to be right.
Having first agreed among themselves.

Choose a dirty mark.
Try to clean it using your saliva and one or more Q-tips.

Choose a partner.
One of the pair draws a line on the ground in chalk. The other partner must follow the line close behind and erase it until either the eraser or the chalk is completely worn out.

Choose a partner.
Observe your partner’s mouth in a mirror and copy his/her expressions.
Each time, move further away, one pace at a time.
Stop when you are too far away to see each other.

Sit on a chair.
Wait for a partner to rest his/her brow on your knee.
Exchange heat.
If you want, swap places and repeat.

Find a place inside.
Moisten a finger and blow on it until it is dry.
Moisten it again and wait until it has dried by itself.

Choose a partner.
Cover your head with a sheet of newspaper.
Breath in and hold for as long as possible.
Stop when the sensation of warm damp becomes unpleasant.

Split into groups.: those who wear glasses and those who don’t.
Those who do not wear glasses mist up the lenses of those who do.
Those who wear glasses must then give the glasses to those who don’t.
Repeat the procedure.

Form a line.
A boy/girl will give you a cold kiss and a warm kiss on each cheek.
Try to spot the difference.

Take a paper handkerchief.
Place it over your mouth.
All walk, starting from the same line.
Hold your breath or breath in until the handkerchief falls.

some relational aesthetics reading…

These links I compiled for my own reading while preparing a small lecture on relational aesthetics for Barb Bolt's class at Melbourne Uni:

Dan Graham: Video/Architecture/Television: Benjamin H. D. Buchloh (Hg.), Writ-ings on Video and Video Works 1970–1978, Halifax: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, New York University Press, New York 1979), S. 62–76.

Work Ethic by Helen Molesworth

some Rirkrit Tiravanija links:

marc horowitz's errand feasability study:

relational aesthetics glossary:

“Daily” Projects I have enjoyed…

"When I wake up in the morning I go out and film a one minute observation of the day." -Johanna Marxer
[thanks to metafilter for the link to this one…]

"In 1001 nights cast, Barbara Campbell performs a short text-based work each night for 1001 consecutive nights. The performance is relayed as a live webcast to anyone, anywhere, who is logged on to this website at the appointed time, that is, sunset at the artist’s location."
[the artist's location is currently Paris…]

"Marc Horowitz wrote “Dinner w/ Marc 510-872-7326” (his name and cell phone number) on a dry-erase board fixed to a desk-like piece of furniture, which was being shot as a retail product for the 2004 Crate & Barrel Catalog. He did it in hopes to have dinner with whoever calls the number from the catalog. The catalog was distributed and he received over 3000 calls. As a result, Marc has decided to take a year-long Trans-America journey to meet with as many people for dinner as possible and document this journey through writings, photographs, and digital recordings."
[thanks to my flatmate Bec for sending me this link. She thinks Marc and I should meet up…]

christine hill

"Like many social artists, Hill sees most of her work as both introverted and extroverted. It is in fact a skillful updating of what used to be called 'Life Art'. In an aesthetic echo of the American dream, Hill's work has gone from downscale (street vending, rummage sales) to the pseudo-corporate (board meetings, TV shows, fashion show). Yet it still offers an endearing mixture of Dada, pop, performance, process art, and conceptual art, recycled for the 21st century with a certain fin de siecle élan. Her trajectory provokes insights about the relationship between lifestyle and 'baggage', mobility and status quo, packing and unpacking (postmodern intellectual processes in themselves), the familiar and the foreign, cultural memory and amnesia, as well as the dangers of uncritical service. There's no telling how far she will go in this direction, but as she pushes the envelope, Hill is also pushing the letter. And that can only be good for art. Is Volksboutique a bargain? A gift? A joke on art? In its ambiguity lies its success. I know I'm right because, after all, the customer is always right…"

more “relational aesthetics” links interview with nicholas bourriaud of new mexico relational arts programme penney arts centre -a great blog with media/networked art/technology links aplenty, exchanging and vernacular media essay from test blog


[this article was written in early July 2004, and originally appeared in Spinach7 Magazine, under the title SPLINT MATE. Before that, it emerged as a scrappy blog entry here.]

LUCAS IHLEIN argues that ‘interactive’ arts practice means more than pressing buttons; and assembles a gammy billy-cart to prove his point.

Much has been made of recent advances in new media art — particularly the development of ‘interactive’ and ‘immersive’ environments and installations. Melbourne’s Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and its German sibling Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie [ZKM] pride themselves on supporting artists who experiment with new ways of overwhelming our senses with sound and image. The public (so the marketing department tells us) is hungry to see futuristic interfaces between human and machine. Yet how many of these artworks succeed in engaging museum visitors beyond “press here and see what happens”? How often is it that a simple, old fashioned conversation is more rewardingly ‘interactive’ than the choose-your-own-adventure style new media works to which we are increasingly exposed?

Around the same time that ACMI launched its teched-up exhibition 2004: Australian Culture Now in Federation Square, CLUBSproject inc, an artist-run venture above Melbourne’s Builders Arms Hotel, presented multipleMISCELLANEOUSalliances (mMa). Taking place in July, mMa was an ongoing series of “art conversations” taking the form of “collaborative events and activities […] by and between people whose practices construct, explore, and enact multiple social relations”. The most sophisticated items of ‘new media’ in mMa were video cameras and television sets — all of which have been more or less available as artists’ tools since the early 1970s.

Among the myriad of old media projects at mMa was Splint, a kind of organic Meccano set made by Jason Maling and Torie Nimmervoll. Described as “the way of the stump and the strap”, Splint is a toy/tool-kit, hand-made from wood, rope, and leather that deliberately comes without instructions or hints.

Nimmervoll and Maling rarely present Splint within an art gallery context, which they claim can restrict free play and participation (they prefer to work in schools or public places). Gallery visitors usually come with a tentative not-sure-if-I-can-touch inhibition, which they learn from the conventional presentation of art. Splint’s makers set arbitrary (and often silly) tasks for themselves and willing participants to carry out — usually within an urban context. For instance, “use the apparatus to scale a tall, sheer wall”.

When I arrived at CLUBS my friend Damien was already sniffing around Splint — he was instinctively drawn to it, but wasn’t sure exactly how to tackle its mysterious inventory of spare parts. The elements of the kit seem very much like found industrial tools for the engineering of a car. They look like something ‘proper’ — something extremely well made with a (hidden) intended purpose. The kit is divided up into “cells” – each cell contains wooden disks, various lengths of rope, spiral-carved “stumps” (much like medieval cricket stumps), and a leather harness and hexagonal mat. All are engineered to withstand the hammering they receive from enthusiastic users, and are often repairable when damaged or worn out.

Splint lends itself to — and almost demands — collaboration. Soon enough Damien and I were diving into the metal cases containing the stumps and rustic-smelling sisal rope, and attempting, in our uncritically-masculine way to make our own ‘billy-cart’. This playful, absorbing construction task kept us going for a few hours, and even when our makeshift vehicle ended up in the pits, with a tragically split chassis, Maling didn’t chastise us — “I guess we’ll retire that piece,” he said with a shrug.

Cleverer than us were a duo of (also male) theatre designers who set about designing a comfy and functional chair out of the versatile kit. The dedicated pair, concerned not just with the use-value, but also the look of their piece of furniture, gave themselves the limitation of not using any knots. Such aesthetic concerns are very much a part of the Splint experience. The kit comes complete with a “self-assessment” system — a blackboard (pictured) upon which participants can rate their own progress — using criteria like “environmental negotiation, utility, gameplay, geometry, physical negotiation, and aesthetics”. And Maling and Nimmervoll have kept a log of results at regular intervals during the evolving life of Splint.

One of the most important products of Splint is also one of the most intangible: the collaborative relationship which stealthily develops between the two or more ‘players’ as they work on a common task. This was evident in the knotted brows of the chair-makers as they quietly tackled problem after problem with the utility of their ad-hoc furniture, while not wanting to sacrifice the aesthetic decision to avoid knots. Splint is thus a tool for learning, not only about physical construction, but also about how to negotiate joint decision-making in a (self-determined) task. This educational aspect renders the kit ideal for workshops with children — and watching them work with the elements of Splint helps Maling and Nimmervoll improve its materials and design in a constant process of evolution.

When I returned to CLUBS a few days later, I found our billy-cart had been recycled by subsequent participants into a harness and rope ladder for scaling the exterior wall of the Builders’ Arms Hotel — a MacGuyver-style emergency exit system from the bustlingly sociable art venue.

Each time I visited mMa it was jam-packed and chaotic. Groups of artists seemed to be cooking up projects in every corner, and newcomers were warmly welcomed to join in. Soup was doled up as you walked in the door, and free tea and coffee were available. These humble, hospitable gestures may seem minor, but I don’t doubt that they were as thoroughly discussed and orchestrated as any of the other rich and interactive elements of mMa.

addendum for blog:

Also part of mMa:
-a vast repository of artists books, zines, articles and journals, set up in a comfy couchy carpeted space next to a ricketty photocopy machine.
-a re-creation of Azlan McClennan‘s censored artwork – complete with a planned forum to discuss the issues surrounding the work, on Sunday 4th July…
-an old Mac Classic set up so that visitors can log in their immediate responses and messages regarding the show (presumably these responses will be posted on the CLUBS website shortly)…
-documentation of The Laws Project by Damien Lawson and Kylie Wilkinson – this piece began with the distribution of hundreds of fridge magnets outlining the US government’s INTERROGATION RULES OF ENGAGEMENT – rules which became apparent following the scandal surrounding the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers.
Wilkinson and Lawson followed this up with a “re-enactment” (in Federation Square) of the famous photograph of the Iraqi prisoner balancing precariously with a black sack on his head.
-and there are DOZENS more projects coming up during the rest of the mMa…

The launch afternoon of mMa was jam-packed and chaotic. Soup was doled up as you walked in the door, and tea and coffee were constantly available for free. These humble, hospitable gestures may seem minor, but I don’t doubt that they were as thoroughly discussed and orchestrated as any of the other elements of mMa.

mMa was organised by Bianca Hester as a part of Resistance Through Rituals, coordinated by Lisa Kelly at Westspace.


…Huyghe fabricates structures that break the chain of interpretation in favor of forms of activity: within these setups, exchange itself becomes the site of use, and the script form becomes a possibility of redefining the division between leisure and work that the collective scenario upholds. Huyghe works as a monteur, or film editor. And montage, writes Godard, is a "fundamental political notion. An image is never alone, it only exists on a background (ideology) or in relation to those that precede or follow it." By producing images that are lacking in our comprehension of the real, Huyghe carries out political work: contrary to the received idea, we are not saturated with images, but subjected to the lack of certain images, which must be produced to fill in the blanks of the official image of the community.


 have you found nicholas bourriaud yet? he wrote postproduction. in speaking about pierre huyghe, an artist who does things like "photographing construction workers on the job, then exhibiting this image on an urban billboard overlooking the construction site"

i thought the following quote spoke a little to your tshirt screen idea, especially the notion that "we are saturated with images/we are saturated with the WRONG KIND of images"

…Huyghe fabricates structures that break the chain of interpretation in favor of forms of activity: within these setups, exchange itself becomes the site of use, and the script form becomes a possibility of redefining the division between leisure and work that the collective scenario upholds. Huyghe works as a monteur, or film editor. And montage, writes Godard, is a "fundamental political notion. An image is never alone, it only exists on a background (ideology) or in relation to those that precede or follow it." By producing images that are lacking in our comprehension of the real, Huyghe carries out political work: contrary to the received idea, we are not saturated with images, but subjected to the lack of certain images, which must be produced to fill in the blanks of the official image of the community.

by the way, do you know kirsten bradley and cicada ( – they often do quite interesting imageplay with video where they replay images of the city back into the spaces they filmed. i think this is a possibly interesting direction when thinking about exactly what kind of stuff is going to occupy these screens…