Conversation, Community and Cultural Sustainability: Relational Aesthetics as a Tool for Developing Sustainable Social Spaces
Individuals tend to form attachment to places which can best be described as a sense of belonging, when a community or an individual relocates they feel grief for the place lost and need strategies to maintain a link with the past culture and to discover the value of the new. Radical relocations, where there is no element of choice, are the most traumatic, but smaller deviations and changes which occur because of changes in relationships or work can also be devastating.
This relationship between place and personal and communal identity and well being is understood but it is not only place which holds a key to belonging and identity but materials, objects and other sensory experiences can also unlock personal memories of place once they have been freed from their purely instrumental role by being incorporated into imagery. I began working with communities in 2004, researching personal and communal memory. The outcome of this ongoing research includes collaborating with communities to create permanent and ephemeral artworks that reflect on this research into people, places and things.
The artworks developed over this period of time use a process most recently described, by Nicolas Bourriaud as ‘Relational Aesthetics’; the emphasis in relational aesthetics is the relationship between people. The artist may establish a situation in which all parties collaborate; discussion is used to develop a new kind of community artwork in which the onlooker becomes a participant. These artwork have the potential to truly transform community interaction and can perform a vital function in establishing a new kind of sustainable, cultural social space.
Keywords: Community, Culture, Conversation,, Relational Aesthetics
Prof Anne Graham
Head of School, Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Newcastle