– Autumn/Winter 2000
Social Aesthetics: 11 Examples to Begin with, in the Light of Parallel History
Lars Bang Larsen
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What I choose to call 'social aesthetics' is an artistic attitude focusing on the world of acts. It also experiments with the transgressions of various economies. The term is coined as a common denominator, as one that simply lends itself with the least resistance to the internal and external dynamics of some recent and historic artistic and art-related examples.
One could probably say that the examples below describe a recent tradition of art as activism; yet they are perhaps closer to a discussion of the uses of art-institutional space than is commonly seen in art activism. The term 'ephemeral' art is also often used in this discussion as the description of a sensibility and a practice aligned to the heritage of Fluxus and Situationism but not fitting under the artistic demarcations of these schools. Common to the understanding of the eleven examples below is that the dynamic between artistic activity and the realms that are traditionally relegated to the fabric of the social fails to properly describe a dialectic. Social and aesthetic understanding are integrated into each other. Here, some forms of social aesthetic activity have deliberately been launched within the art circuit as art projects; others qualify as art, or qualify for artistic discussion, after their actualisation in other contexts.
The untenable dichotomy of art vs. reality is exploded by these projects - a dichotomy that anyway usually hides the positioning of art in a privileged and aloof status in relation to other forms of cultural activity, however weak art may be when located in 'living reality'. The distinction between art and other realms of knowledge is made operative in the osmotic exchange between different capacities