French critic Nicolas Bourriaud defined relational art or relational aesthetics as a set of creative practices taking their approach towards the whole of human relations and their social context for both theoretical and practical purposes but not to an independent and personal space. This is basically a form of contemporary art.
The relational creations forge out a social setting where people mingle to contribute in a collective action. Bourriaud claims that the role of creative works is not only to shape out fantasy and utopian concepts, but also to make out the ways of livelihood and replica of activity within the prevailing real in any scale being defined by the practitioners. In this new form, the spectators are imagined as an aggregate. This does not create one viewer to one object interaction. Instead it creates interactions between group of mass and product of combined actions of individuals within the mass. The explanation of the product is also collective.
Ben Lewis, the writer and director, has recommended it to be an “ism”, analogous to all the earlier “ism”s, viz., expressionism, cubism and impressionism. Lewis observes many resemblances between the onset phases of both these new and earlier “ism”s. This younger form is time and again rejected to be art as it rebuilds the concept of aesthetic like preceding forms. Claire Bishop depicts in her 2004 book “Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics”, aesthetically Palais de Tokyo being a “laboratory”, created in the 1990s by the “curatorial modus operandi” of aesthetic creations. Bishop sees Bourriaud’s book as the significant initial tread in categorizing trends in contemporary creations in visual media. However, Bishop, further inquires on what types of relations are being created by this new style, for whom, and what can be the reasons behind such relations as logical consequence of creation accepting that this form is creating relationships. As the first institutional involvement, it has been linked to the fine arts program of the University of New Mexico’s College of Fine Arts.
In 2002, at the San Francisco Art Institute, Bourriaud arranged for an exhibition, Touch: Relational Art from the 1990s to Now. The contributors were Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jens Haaning, Angela Bulloch, Liam Gillick, Andrea Zittel, Philippe Parreno and Gillian Wearing. Critic Chris Cobb agrees with the Bourriaud’s picture of 1990s visual creations being a proof of pertinence his idea illustrating various forms of social interactions concerning public and private space as creative works.