Relational Aesthetics, Activist Public Art, and Queer Desi Futures

College Art Association Annual Conference, 2010

“How is “Queer” Art Relational?” Panel

Virginia Margaret Solomon & Robert Summers, co-chairs

Chicago, IL

February 10 - 13, 2010


Critic and curator Nicolas Bourriaud’s “relational aesthetics” and art historian Claire Bishop’s update of his theory as “relational antagonism” both do not adequately address activist art projects that imagine an incipient queerfuture.  Bourriaud emphasizes an almost depoliticized here and now – as opposed to “happier tomorrows” (his words)or a more utopian ethos – and Bishop invokes “non-identification”as seemingly irreconcilable with any notion ofcollectivity.  To tease out my claims, I consider a series of public art projects–part of the exhibitionMixing It Up: Queering Curry Mile and Currying Canal Streetwhich I organized – that were situated in the cultural institutions, public spaces, restaurants, and bars of the city of Manchester, UK in 2007. Overall, this paper aims to construct a model of relational aesthetics that does not reject collectivity or antagonism wholesale and is more sensitive to activist art that imagines a queer future.