Everyday Life: Relational Aesthetics and Transfiguration of the Commonplace

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Author(s): Anna Dezeuze
Read: February 2014

  • 'My contention is that the reasons why these differences are, more often than not, neglected by art historians and philosophers alike [and here the author is speaking about the different perspectives on the everyday expressed by Filliou, Rauschenberg and Kaprow] is that discussions tend to forget the other term of the relationship. Instead of asking "what is art?", shouldn’t we be asking: "what is life?"'(143)
  • There is no universal definition of the commonplace - need a plurality of definitions. There's also an important point to be made here about the singularity of the actual.
  • Core argument: Many ways to think about the commonplace... Both AD's and NB's understanding of the interplay between art and the everyday are too reductive. AD's is too reductive because his ontological enquiry is restricted by the polarity he sets up between art and the commonplace which is, in essence, nothing more than everything that is not art; NB's is too reductive because he fails to show how the everyday practices that he celebrates participate, resist, etc. the dominant social order.


  • Begins with three quotes: (1) ‘Art is what makes life more interesting than art,’ Rober Filliou; (2) ‘Painting relates to both art and life… (I try to work in the gap between the two),’ Robert Rauschenberg; (3) ‘the line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible,’ Allan Kaprow
  • Looks at the ways in which AD's Transfiguration of the Commonplace and NB's Relational Aesthetics grapple with the everyday with reference to de Certeau’s Practice of Everyday Life.
  • Noting the sudden visibility of the everyday in the 1960s is one of AD's greatest accomplishments - reference to AW’s Brillo Boxes – argument – differences – the artwork takes the nonartwork as its subject matter and simultaneously makes a point about how this subject matter is presented. The mode of representation thus creates a surplus meaning, which prevents the two objects being equated with each other. (144)
  • Ref to Alison Knowles’ important Fluxus work, ‘Make a salad’ (1963)...connect to: Alison Knowles Workshop way back in October of 2009.
  • There’s discussion here of AD's relationship to Zen. What’s the new Zen?
  • What is the difference between AK’s instruction and the everyday act of making a salad? With reference to AW’s BBs, AD concludes: ‘What Fluxus helped us see is that no theory of art could help us pick out which were the artworks, since art can resemble reality to any chosen degree. Fluxus was right that the question is not which are the artworks, but how we view anything if we see it as art.’ (145)
  • There's a fascinating observation made - recalls MA's logic - Horowitz and Huhn consider the conditions of AD's aesthetics. The question they ask: does Pop according to Danto allow the everyday to take over art ('a return of the everyday in art') or is it rather a moment in which art seizes the everyday for its purposes ('a return to the everyday by art)? Their conclusion: A return to the everyday by art...(everyday as subject) it's about a critical distance - more than just presenting the raw everydayness of material - rather, about commenting simultaneously about the state of art, the accelerating production and increasing sophisticating of packaging and advertising. (145) - so to make the everday available for aesthetic experience, we need to have detached a specific aspect of its commonplace (its novelty, its aesthetic qualities, its strangeness...) from it's original 'rawness'. (I'm not quite sure what this last bit means - is Dezeuze saying that it's about focusing on an aspect...or a specific aspect? - That aside, the author goes on to argue that in her view, Fluxus works like AK's 'Make a Salad' to shirk the distance presumed by Danto. (The paper gets a bit muddy here, but it seems to say that AD sought to eliminate the use and habit of the everyday - as evidenced by AW's Brillo Boxes. But Fluxus, and especially with its emphasis on the performance (over object) was doing something else. Though emphasizing habit, Fluxus establishes a radically different relation to the common commonplace.
  • RA - example of RT's 'Untitled (Free)' - according to NB - RA's 'takes as its starting point human relations and their social contexts, as opposed to autonomous and exclusive art' - it's 'an aesthetic theory of consisting in judging artworks in terms of the inter-human relations which they show, produce, or give rise to.' - RA = alt to AD's commonplace because the former concerns exactly that the latter excludes.
  • 'It is much more difficult to define what the work actually consists of. Whereas Danto systematiclaly tried to define Fluxus and Pop works as ontological entities, NB is content with describing "form" as nothing more than a "coherent plane" on which heterogeneous entities can meet.'(147) This is interesting because it links to Bishop's concerns...nothing really to assess/to evaluate.
  • AD's ideas = too restrictive/NB's ideas = not precise enough - also issues around the commercialization and specularisation of interpersonal relations.
  • Discussion of Allison Knowles' 'Make a salad' as a recipe - discusses recipe format (not useful as a recipe) to think about issues that are relevant to Fluxus - (1) authorship (claims recipes tend to be authored collectively - not sure about this); (2) emphasis on the oral - recipes often transmitted like folklore; (3) complex relations between process and result - relation between a musical score and the performance of that score; (4) The recipe is one tool among others within a process, and cannot be considered as an isolated object - so it's part of a wider network that includes implements, ingredients, etc.
  • Everyday life emerges as a practice to be explored in contrast to a boring routine that is waiting to be transfigured by art. (149)
  • Discussion of Certeau's distinction between 'tactics' and 'strategy' - strategy = a means of calculation and manipulation in order to gain power over another, in situations where the distinction between one's own space and the other's isn't clear cut. tactics - everyday ruses in which some members of society tinker with the dominant social order...but can these subvert the everyday in a way that's politically radical?
  • Discussion of the singularity of the actual - generic quality of the salad recipe but the situated complexity of the actual salad
  • 'Certeau's poetics successfully captures the singularity of everyday life, but encounter problems when trying to theorize the political, subversive potential of its practices. This issue, which is one of the central problems of studies of everyday life through the twentieth century, plagues Bourriaud's relational aesthetics as well.' (149)
  • AK's Proposition, Brecht's chairs, RT's curry dinners: they deliberately ask to be dismissed as unremarkable occurrences which exist in the same time/space as everyday activities in a way that AW's BB or RR's combines could ever dream of.
  • Filliou's definition - important because reversible - everyday at least as complex as art - hence why we need artworks to tell us about the complexity of everyday life.


  • See Horowitz and Huhn's, 'The wake of Art: Criticism, Philosophy and the Ends of Tate' in a book by the same name.
  • Connects to CP's Research on Value, which isn't actually easy to grasp...cognitive practice (?) There's this interesting comment that *everyday life emerges as a practice to be explored in contrast to a boring routine that is waiting to be transfigured by art...how does this connect to evaluation?
  • Connects to FR's work too.
  • Certeau's poetics in connection with Bakhint's prosaics

Return to I'm reading... * Post-doc * Main Page

I'm reading... * Post-doc * Main Page See also:

  • Michel de Certeau's The Practice of Everyday Life
  • Henri Lefebvre...
  • Kraynak, J. (1998), 'Rikrit Tiravanija's Liability', Documents 13, pp.26-40, autumn - Could be a good model for discussing complexity?