Issue 2, 2006 | Nick Tapper

Me and You and Everyone we know: The Aesthetics of Joining In

The exhibition may have turned into a set, but who comes to act in it?
Nicolas Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics1

Q. Why would I want to join an inexplicable mob? A. Tons of other people are doing it.
Bill Wasik, 'My Crowd'2

Nicolas Bourriaud’s theorisation of a 'relational aesthetics' in his book of that name has elucidated for many artists and critics the changes in the form of art that emerged in late twentieth century practice. It offers the possibility of a form of art that might initiate social change by creating works that establish open and democratic social structures within the aesthetic realm. Bourriaud proposes in Relational Aesthetics that such artworks can elude the failures associated with the utopian designs of earlier avant garde artists – who hoped to reconstruct the fabric of their societies from the ground up – because they offer a new, contingent kind of art production based on 'perceptive, experimental, critical and participatory models.He labels relational artworks 'micro-utopias', positing them as laboratory experiments that construct novel and politically subversive forms of social engagement through the establishment of experimental aesthetic prototypes that engage with the social arena. These prototypes can, according to the theory, be taken as paradigms to be recreated outside the art world; Bourriaud argues that such paradigms will engender a more just and transparent social order. 'These days', writes Bourriaud;

utopia is being lived on a subjective, everyday basis, in the real time of concrete and intentionally fragmentary experiments…It seems more pressing to invent possible relations with our neighbours in the present than to bet on happier tomorrows. That is all, but it is quite something.4

Artists and their interlocutors are in the process of 'learning to inhabit the world in a better way.'5

Bourriaud’s book argues that relational art proposes a new and unprecedented aesthetic mode based on observation of the present; that the work of the artists he analyses emerges as a response to a unique set of conditions that cumulatively define the globalised social order. Primary among these conditions is what he describes as the reification of the social bond as a 'standardised artefact'.6 Bourriaud argues that relational artworks attempt to renegotiate the workings of a 'society of extras' (a retooling of Guy Debord’s notion of the 'society of the spectacle'7), and in so doing dodge 'the empire of predictability' that is global capitalism.8 Relational art is based on a critique of the ongoing experience of urbanisation and urban life within globalisation. It expresses, suggests Bourriaud, disillusionment with the commercialisation and objectivisation of the art world, and with the technologisation of everyday life. Its grounding in, and attempt to address, the quotidian problems of the present set relational art apart from its most obvious aesthetic predecessors: Conceptual Art, Fluxus and Arte Povera.  Relational artists 'simply use these like a vocabulary, a lexical basis. […] When relational art makes reference to [such artistic predecessors …] it is to convey lines of thought that have nothing to do with their own thinking.' 9

In arguing for relational aesthetics, Bourriaud thus attempts to reinvest the modern project with purpose, by shifting avant garde art’s emphasis from overarching and utopian social transformation to a small-scale, tactical approach. For Bourriaud, strategies of direct political resistance as employed within canonical modernism repeatedly demonstrated their futility, failing to effectively oppose subjugation and authoritarianism. Bourriaud attributes this failure to the dogmatic metanarratives that drove these practices, as well as their insistence on a position of critical marginality.  They relied, suggests Bourriaud, on a private symbolism that was automatically and reflexively opposed to and independent of society, and yet, paradoxically, was all too readily absorbed by the art market. Bourriaud contends that ‘any stance that is “directly” critical of society is futile, if based on the illusion of a marginality that is nowadays impossible, not to say regressive.'10

Bourriaud states that in contrast, relational art takes as its model ‘the flexible processes governing ordinary life.'11 Following Michel de Certeau’s ideas in The Practice of Everyday Life and Félix Guattari’s on ‘molecular revolution’,12 he champions contemporary art’s engagement with ‘revisited areas of conviviality, crucibles where heterogeneous forms of sociability are worked out’ as a way of ‘modifying and objectivizing social relations.'13 Relational art performs hands-on intervention in the scheme of the everyday, and employs the readily available tools of quotidian existence to carry out such interventions. Basing their work on a ‘random materialism’ that takes the contingency of the present as a point of departure, relational artists are ‘tenants of culture,’ in de Certeau’s terms.14 Imitative strategies and the establishment of micro-utopias that interact with the exterior, non-art world are embraced as a way of initiating genuine social change that is responsive to existing and contingent conditions. Relational art thus represents for Bourriaud a new kind of modernity in a non-teleological guise; in the modern era, ‘[a]rt was intended to prepare and announce a future world: today it is modelling possible universes.'15 This modelling approach stands in contrast to representation: ‘[i]t is not a matter of representing angelic worlds, but of producing the conditions thereof.'16

The issue of form is crucial to Bourriaud’s discussion, and he elaborates at length the new nature of form within a relational aesthetic paradigm. The relational artwork should, according to Bourriaud, be judged by a set of aesthetic criteria that analyse ‘the coherence of its form, and then the symbolic value of the “world” it suggests to us, and of the image of human relations reflected by it.'17 Form, a particularly unstable and diverse concept for Bourriaud, is defined as ‘[a] coherent unit, a structure […] which shows the typical features of a world.'18 It is characterised by as little as the encounter of a number of elements over a duration; and its ‘components form a whole whose sense “holds good” at the moment of their birth, stirring up new “possibilities of life”.’

Relational art has a particular attachment to this sense of duration, since its forms are generally ephemeral, occupying time rather than space and being relatively unconcerned with the production of art objects. Existence within time is crucial for Bourriaud’s understanding of the dynamic nature of the contemporary artwork, which he defines as;

a trajectory evolving through signs, objects, forms, gestures… The contemporary artwork’s form is spreading out from its material form: it is a linking element, a principle of dynamic agglutination. An artwork is a dot on a line.19

Art is thus a constant work-in-progress in which;

the figures of reference of the human relations have now become fully-fledged artistic “forms”. Meetings, encounters, events, various types of collaboration between people, games, festivals, and places of conviviality, in a word all manner of encounter and relational invention thus represent today, aesthetic objects likely to be looked at as such[.]20

Bourriaud suggests that form in contemporary art emerges in the ‘encounter and dynamic relationships enjoyed by an artistic proposition with other formations, artistic or otherwise.'21 In emphasising the contingency and fluidity of such interactions, relational art is able to resist what Bourriaud perceives to be an overdetermined relationship between form and content in modernist aesthetics, and highlight the tactical versatility of relational art.

Form is even seen by Bourriaud to be a restorative force, filling in the ‘cracks in the social bond’: ‘through little gestures art is like an angelic programme, a set of tasks carried out beside or beneath the real economic system, so as to patiently re-stitch the relational fabric.'22 Relational form is to be characterised by a spirit and quality of ‘social transparency’: ‘If a work of art is successful, it will invariably set its sights beyond its mere presence in space: it will be open to dialogue, discussion, and that form of inter-human negotiation that Marcel Duchamp called “the coefficient of art”, which is a temporal process, being played out here and now.'23 Despite the dematerialised nature of contemporary art, relational aesthetics allows Bourriaud to reinstate the often-maligned concept of artistic ‘aura’ in his aesthetic model, relocating it in these collective and contingent formations and dialogues produced by the work. The return of aura is enabled by Bourriaud’s transformation of the idea to encapsulate the sense of ‘free association’ that is at the heart of his claim for the efficacy of relational art.

Bourriaud’s argument has led to criticism by some – notably Claire Bishop and Tom McDonough, in an issue of the influential art journal October devoted to discussion of Bourriaud’s theory24 – of the way in which relational artworks allegedly fail to exceed their art world context and effectively engage with the fabric of the everyday. For Bishop in particular, Bourriaud fails to call into question the ‘quality’ of the particular relational experience, so that many relational artworks merely seem to reproduce, rather than oppose or transform, existing power structures. For Bourriaud, argues Bishop;

all relations that permit “dialogue” are automatically assumed to be democratic and therefore good. But what does “democracy” really mean in this context? If relational art produces human relations, then the next logical question to ask is what types of relations are being produced, for whom, and why?25

Bishop and others argue that the restricted art world context within which the majority of relational art occurs, and the fact that its participants tend to be relatively wealthy and educated, renders it more an elite entertainment than a genuine force for change.

While Bishop’s argument oversimplifies Bourriaud’s ideas to some extent, some of the implications of this chord of criticism are played out in a work (or body of works) by Bill Wasik, recently revisited in his essay ‘My Crowd’. Wasik, not an artist as such but rather an editor at Harper’s Magazine, was the inventor of the ‘flash mob’, a minor international sensation in 2003 in which large groups of people were induced to gather in public and semi-public spaces, where they would take part in purposeless acts lasting for less than ten minutes.26 In one (Mob #2), a group of some 200 people converged on the carpet section in Macy’s department store, informing the bemused sales clerks that they were looking for a ‘love rug’ for their fictitious Long Island commune. The next (Mob #3), took place in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt hotel, milling around in the lobby until an appointed time, when;

all at once, we rode the elevators and escalators up to the mezzanine and wordlessly lined the banister […]. The handful of hotel guests were still there, alone again, except now they were confronted with a hundreds-strong armada of hipsters overhead, arrayed shoulder to shoulder, staring silently down. But intimidation was not the point; we were staring down at where we had just been, and also across at one another, two hundred artist-spectators commandeering an atrium on Forty-Second Street as a coliseum-style theater of self-regard. After five minutes of staring, the ring erupted into precisely fifteen seconds of tumultuous applause— for itself—after which it scattered back downstairs and out the door, just as the police cruisers were rolling up, flashers on.27

Wasik, who masterminded the project, anonymously forwarded emails announcing the details of each mob to large numbers of people who in turn forwarded them on to their own contacts, and so on. The emails were sent to people Wasik identified as 'hipsters';

grad students, publishing functionaries, cultured technologists, comedy writers, aspiring poets, musicians, actors, novelists, their ages ranging from the early twenties to the middle thirties. They were, that is to say, a fairly representative cross-section of hipsters, and these were people who did not easily let themselves get left out.28

Wasik’s artwork-experiment was based on the observation of a mentality of unanimous group instincts within ‘an “alternative” culture more unanimous than the mainstream it ostensibly opposes.'29 The emails contained a crucial inducement, or perhaps caveat, embedded in a 'frequently asked questions' section: 'Q. Why would I want to join an inexplicable mob? A. Tons of other people are doing it.'30

'The basic hypothesis behind the Mob Project', explains Wasik,

was as follows: seeing how all culture in New York was demonstrably commingled with scenesterism, the appeal of concerts and plays and readings and gallery shows deriving less from the work itself than from the social opportunities the work might engender, it should theoretically be possible to create an art project consisting of pure scene—meaning the scene would be the entire point of the work, and indeed would itself constitute the work.'31

In 'My Crowd', Wasik sketches a history of the flash mob, from its beginnings as an unknown, word-of-mouth event in New York; through increasing levels of interest in the United States and internationally32; widespread media coverage, including an apparently inevitable and foreseen media backlash; and ultimately, its co-optation by the corporate world as a marketing exercise. Each element of this process was, according to Wasik, accounted for in his hypothesis of the experiment. ‘Not only was the flash mob a vacuous fad’, declares Bourriaud, ‘it was, in its very form (pointless aggregation and then dispersal), intended as a metaphor for the hollow hipster culture that spawned it.'33

Though Wasik’s flash mob project has many parallels with Bourriaud’s definition of relational aesthetics, it is not necessarily apt to define the flash mob as a relational artwork (however perverse) in itself. The mob project, for instance, goes directly against Bourriaud’s injunction that;

the audience concept must not be mythicized – the idea of a unified ‘mass’ has more to do with a Fascist aesthetic than with these momentary experiences, where everyone has to hang on to his/her identity. It is a matter of pre-defined cording and restricted to a contract, and not a matter of a social binding hardening around totems of identity.34 

It does seem, however, that the convergences and parallels between the two aesthetic programmes generate a certain degree of critical friction that can elucidate some otherwise occluded aspects of each of them. Although the mob project did not exist specifically within the art world, hipsters as a cohort are roughly analogous and closely allied to Bishop’s definition of the art world. Wasik refers to the ‘culture industry’ as a whole, in which the art world, and Wasik himself, is imbricated.

It is significant that the rhetoric of relational aesthetics – a theory aimed at promoting free association and social dynamism – was so easily used to publicise an authoritarian experiment. Arguably, this can be traced back to the earlier-mentioned notion of aura. Where Bourriaud tries to confine aura only to liberating acts of free association, it is just as often in its reception attached simply to the act of relating itself. What Bourriaud attaches to transparency becomes instead associated with its opposite, which he describes as the sacred; a state of opaque resistance to interrogation and debate. Sacredness, however evanescent, is a perfectly apt state for hipster culture, predicated as it is on cult value.

Central to the tension between Bourriaud’s relational aesthetics and Wasik’s flash mob project is their attitude to technological mediatisation and its role in the construction of group dynamics. Bourriaud’s thesis is marked by its attempt to resist the influence of the media and communication technologies on contemporary life, which he emphatically opposes to the sociability enabled by relational art. Technologised communication is anathema to Bourriaud’s idea of the convivial. For Bourriaud;

the emergence of new technologies, like the internet and multimedia systems, points to a collective desire to create new areas of conviviality and introduce new types of transaction with regard to the cultural object. The “society of the spectacle” is thus followed by the society of extras, where everyone finds the illusion of an interactive democracy in more or less truncated channels of communication.35

He sees relational art as a tool to unbuckle the ‘straitjacket of mass communications’, a tool that pits ‘the group […] against the mass, neighbourliness against propaganda, low tech against high tech, and the tactile against the visual'.36 He is highly critical of the emergence of visual culture as a paradigm for society, and sees communication technologies acting as tools for subjugation as much as improvement in daily life. In contrast, Wasik’s attitude is highly ambivalent, able both to acknowledge the central and increasing role of communication technologies in contemporary society while at the same time maintaining a large degree of circumspection about their modes of representation and dissemination.

It is important to note in terms of this discussion the considerable number of changes in the realm of communication technology between the time of Bourriaud’s writing and the initiation of the flash mob project. Bourriaud’s book was written prior to 1997, at which point mobile telephones, email and aspects of the internet such as blogs were far less pervasive than in 2003. The emergence of such technologies and their specific exploitation in Wasik’s mobs makes it difficult to determine, in Bourriaud’s terms, quite where ‘group’ differs from ‘mass’. Wasik’s imposition of a third term, ‘network’ may even be seen as their synthesis. Wasik’s insistence that flash mobs be publicised by acquaintance networks only, particularly the forwarding of emails and publication on blogs, suggests that the broadened sphere of acquaintanceship in a networked society renders Bourriaud’s distinctions almost obsolete. Wasik’s network model of course has aesthetic predecessors, but the rapid advance in communication technology in recent years can easily be seen to leave theory lagging. Wasik redirects and destabilises a guiding statement of Bourriaud’s in relation to art and technology:

art’s function consists in appropriating perceptual and behavioural habits brought on by the technical-industrial complex to turn them into life possibilities, to borrow Nietzsche’s term. Otherwise put, reversing the authority of technology in order to make ways of thinking, living and seeing creative.37

Wasik’s network model of dissemination for an art project that might initially seem to enable such ‘life possibilities’ – but ultimately emerges, in his analysis, as hollow and even politically disabling – compromises Bourriaud’s thesis.

Wasik is ambiguous in his description the role communication technology played in the publicisation of the mob project. On the one hand, he claims (perhaps somewhat disingenuously) that technology only played a minor role: that the publicising of the mobs, achieved through a system of email forwarding, might just as well have been achieved by people handing out flyers on the street.  ‘What the project harnessed’, Wasik emphasizes, ‘was the joining urge, a drive toward deindividuation easily discernible in the New York hipster population.'38 Yet this joining urge seems to have been enabled by the networks of association, acquaintanceship, and to some degree trust, that can only be rapidly mobilised through new media forms of dissemination. Broadcast media, posters and flyers work within a paradigm of publicity that has quite different implications (than network dissemination) for the ‘joining urge’ that Wasik describes. The nature of new media dissemination had a distinct impact on the nature and success of the mobs;

I had thought word of the mobs would spread through forwarded emails alone, so that the mobs themselves would be cross-sections of an unbroken network of acquaintanceship—i.e., any mob attendee would sit at the end of an email chain that stretched back directly, if distantly, to myself. […] Each person who forwarded the email was, in my view, taking on the project as their own; in enlisting his or her own social network each was as responsible for the mob, earned as much praise or blame for it, as I.39

In many ways, of course, the hipster culture that Wasik identifies can be seen to be a product of developments in communication technology and its models of dissemination: ‘the Internet can propagate any flashy notion, whether it be a style of eyewear or a presidential candidacy, with such instantaneity that a convergence on the “hip” tends now to happen unself-consciously, as a simple matter of course.'40 The degree of unanimity of taste that for Wasik characterises hipster culture is in large part enabled by the rapidity and precision of marketing to a particular demographic through new media conduits.

Another crucial point of interaction between Bourriaud and Wasik’s ideas centres on issues of subjectivity, individuality and identity. Bourriaud concludes Relational Aesthetics with an excursus on subjectivity and inter-subjectivity and its denaturalisation, as outlined by Félix Guattari. Guattari’s thesis is crucial for Bourriaud because it argues that ‘[w]hat matters is our capacity to create new arrangements and agencies within the system of collective facilities formed by the ideologies and categories of thought, a creation that shows many similarities with artistic activity.'41 Wasik’s essay, on the other hand, commences with a discussion of the (for him, regrettably) outmoded psychological concept of ‘deindividuation’, defined as ‘“a state of affairs in a group where members do not pay attention to other individuals qua individuals”; when in a crowd or pack, the theory ran, each man sees he doesn't stand out and so his inhibitions melt away.'42 This theory of deindividuation and consequent disinhibition stood as a way of explaining why people would act in ways that they would otherwise consider unacceptable in a normal social context.

A quality of the relational aesthetics programme taken in literal terms by Wasik is the experimental nature of relational art. In justifying the elision of ‘sociological experiment’ and ‘artwork’ in his mob project, Wasik cites social psychologist Stanley Milgram – notorious in the 1960s and 1970s for conducting authority experiments in which he induced ordinary Americans to deliver what appeared to be fatal electric shocks to strangers – as a key influence. Wasik argues that Milgram should be seen not so much as a scientist as an artist;43 in so doing, he inverts Bourriaud’s proposition that the art context should be seen as a laboratory. Milgram’s experimental ‘artworks’, in contrast to Bourriaud’s micro-utopias of free association, elaborate miniature dystopias of unchecked human pliability and obedience. Wasik suggests that the

Milgramite tradition in art would be defined, I think, by the following premise: that man, whom we now know to respond predictably to social forces, is therefore himself the ultimate artistic medium. This is certainly the primary force of Milgram's authority experiments: others had done research on conformism and authority, but what set Milgram's apart was the vertiginousness of the narrative he made out of men.44 

The key issue at stake in the question of social change is a focus of both Relational Aesthetics and ‘My Crowd’. It is the problem of appropriation and, ultimately, reification. Tom McDonough has argued that Bourriaud’s reliance on de Certeau’s tools of appropriation as a basis for relational art’s political utility is inherently flawed.45 He criticises Bourriaud’s promotion of a culture of use as a site of inherent political resistance, arguing that at the heart of this belief rests a disavowal of the logic of reification that animates capitalism:

Both [de Certeau and Bourriaud] share a vision of what I have been calling a “utopia of use” that resists the logic of reification only by recourse to a kind of petit-bourgeois fantasy of consumption as realm of personal autonomy. Ultimately, however, it is less a question of resisting reification than of simply denying its very existence.46

For de Certeau, appropriation constituted a ‘“tireless but quiet activity” that resists the logic of reification from within.'47 Wasik’s mob experiment, however, suggests that the logic of appropriation might be seen as a part of the same process as reification. Appropriation in Wasik’s experiment appears in two guises: the first, the absorption and diversion of the rhetoric of relational aesthetics as already outlined; and the second, the co-optation of the flash mob by the corporate sphere. This latter was anticipated by Wasik as a phase of his experiment. The flash mob phenomenon culminated for Wasik in the appropriation of the mob in a series of ‘Fusion Flash Concerts’ that Ford Motor Company devised while ‘looking for cool ways to connect with their target audience, at both a “price point” and […] a “cool point”’, in one Ford representative’s words.48 This co-optation, which Wasik deflates as based on corporate desperation to reach a market, had for Wasik ‘managed to take my fad, an empty meditation on emptiness, and to render it even more vacuous.'49

Despite this vacuity, Wasik does see some potential for political utility in the flash mob form. Doubtless, participants’ reasons for participating in the mobs were multiple, ranging from the simple desire for inclusion to political beliefs regarding public reclamation of increasingly corporatised space. While he scorns the idea that flash mobs might be effective as a form of demonstration that could convey direct political messages, Wasik notes the impact of claiming of semi- and pseudo-public space as a location for non-commercial activity; it was;

a vague and dark thing, a purely chaotic impulse that (surprisingly enough, for a fad born of the internet) was tinged almost with Luddism. It could best be seen at the very moment that a mob came together: a sort of fundamental joy at seeing society overtaken, order stymied; at silently infiltrating this pseudo-public space, this corporate space, these chain stores and shopping malls, and then rising at once to overrun them.50

In the context of increasingly draconian ‘anti-terror’ laws that prohibit public gatherings, such as the U.S. Patriot Act, such interventions may indeed have real, if limited, political consequences.

Wasik, however, is more inspired by an example he draws from his antecedent of choice, Stanley Milgram. Milgram, who was dogged for much of his later life by accusations that his authority experiments had irreparably harmed the psyche of his subjects, was consoled by the example of a subject who chose to become a conscientious objector rather than fight in an unjust war in Vietnam. The young man apparently attributed this decision to the way in which the experiment ‘deepened his understanding of the moral problems of submitting to malevolent authority’,51 an experience apparently common amongst Milgram’s subjects. For Milgram;

‘The obedience experiment is not a study in which the subject is treated as a passive object, acted upon without any possibility of controlling his own experience. Indeed the entire experimental situation has been created to allow the subject to exercise a human choice, and thus express his nature as a person.'

While this notion of individualism expressed by Milgram departs radically from Bourriaud’s conception of subjectivity as partial and contingent, the sentiment nonetheless chimes quite closely to the sense of social activation that Bourriaud hoped to achieve. ‘Was this not’, asks Wasik, ‘what flash mobs could have done, in some purer and more ideal form? I had meant them as an authority experiment, in the Milgramite style, but was not their promise instead to have been the mirror image—an anti-authority experiment, a play at revolution, an acting-out of the human choice to thwart order?'52

Wasik had certainly (if indirectly) picked up on many of the same ideas as Bourriaud. The tools and rhetoric of relational aesthetics in a broad sense were well absorbed into sectors of the public consciousness by the time flash mob project was initiated. Wasik’s flash mobs appropriated the rhetoric of inclusivity instated by Bourriaud while maintaining a more or less closed structure of authority. Wasik’s experiment does not invalidate the relational aesthetic project, by any means; but it does suggest a large degree of scepticism is necessary towards the assumption that relational art will necessarily create transparent and beneficent social relations. In a sense, the success of Wasik’s project is a perverse vindication of a number of Bourriaud’s central arguments. For the employment of relational aesthetics within a flash mob model of conviviality that ultimately dispenses with the former’s political aims ultimately endorses Bourriaud’s argument that ‘form produces and shapes sense, steers it, and passes it on into day-to-day life’, as well as his belief in the power of appropriation to transform existing discourses. As Bourriaud approvingly paraphrases Guattari, ‘the aesthetic paradigm is called upon to contaminate every chord of discourse, and inoculate the venom of every chord of uncertainty and outrageous invention in every field of knowledge.'53 This is quite a precise description of the effect that Wasik’s project has upon Bourriaud’s aesthetics: flash mobs do not so much challenge relational aesthetics as they do contaminate and destabilise it, polluting the stream of its discourse.

Both Bourriaud and Wasik ultimately propose that their ideas offer opportunities for sociopolitical change. Analysis of their work seems to lead, however, to recognition of the mutability and appropriability of their ideas, of their ability to be absorbed into the flows of a dominant globalised society. This is not to say though, that their work can have no political impact, but rather that the political and critical qualities of the work will always be due as much critical sensitivity and insight as they will be native to the work. The necessity to be actively sensitive to the tensions, conflicts and preordained positions associated with being-in-society – a sensitivity that is proper to the viewer/participant as much as it is to the artist – is central to the creation of politically challenging art regardless of its materiality or otherwise. As Wasik notes, those ‘who would make Milgramite art must keep vigilant: in resisting simple story lines and embracing, instead, the ambiguities in our data.'54 This willingness to be open to and to interrogate the ambiguities and contradictions of political content must always be a principal concern for those producing or participating in political art; it is only in maintaining an at once receptive and critical attitude that such ideas can be effectively and sensitively related to the non-art world.

  1. Nicholas Bourriaud Relational Aesthetics (trans. Simon Pleasance and Fronza Woods), Dijon: Les Presses du Réel, 2002, p.74
  2. Bill Wasik, ‘My Crowd: Or, Phase 5: A report from the inventor of the flash mob’, Harper’s Magazine, March 2006, p.57
  3. Bourriaud, p.122
  4. Ibid., p.45.
  5. Ibid., p.13, italics Bourriaud’s.
  6. Ibid., p.9
  7. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle, Detroit: Black and Red, 1983. 
  8. Bourriaud, p.9.
  9. Ibid., p.46.
  10. Ibid., p.31.
  11. Ibid., p.47.
  12. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (trans. Steven Rendall), Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984; and Félix Guattari, Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics (trans. Rosemary Sheed), Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984.
  13. Ibid.,, pp.31, 34.
  14. Ibid., p.14.
  15. Ibid., p.13.
  16. Ibid., p.83.
  17. Ibid., p.18.
  18. Ibid., p.19.
  19. Ibid., p.20-1; ‘possibilities of life’ is Friedrich Nietzsche’s phrase.
  20. Ibid., p.28.
  21. Ibid., p.21
  22. Ibid., p.36.
  23. Ibid., p.41.
  24. Claire Bishop, ‘Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics’, October 110, Fall 2004, 51-7; Tom McDonough, ‘No Ghost’, October 110, Fall 2004, 107-130.
  25. Bishop, p.65.
  26. Wasik, ‘My Crowd’.
  27. Ibid., p.58.
  28. Ibid., p.57.
  29. Ibid., p.56.
  30. Ibid., p.57.
  31. Ibid., p.58.
  32. Flash mobs rapidly took place on every continent barring Antarctica, without Wasik’s participation or endorsement; Ibid., p.57. 
  33. Ibid.
  34. Bourriaud, p.61.
  35. Ibid., p.26.
  36. Ibid., pp.44, 47.
  37. Ibid., p.69.
  38. Wasik, p.58.
  39. Ibid., pp.63-4.
  40. Ibid., p.62.
  41. Bourriaud, pp.88-9.
  42. Wasik, p.56.
  43. Ibid., p.60; Milgram also carried out experiments involving mail, crowds and mental maps, with numerous correspondences to contemporary art practice.
  44. Ibid.
  45. McDonough, pp.116-7; McDonough discussion relates to Bourriaud’s later book Postproduction, but many of his arguments are equally relevant to Relational Aesthetics as the argument of one follows from the other. 
  46. McDonough, p.121.
  47. Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, (trans. Steven Rendall), Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984, p.31; quoted Ibid., p.119.
  48. Wasik, p.61.
  49. Ibid., p.66.
  50. Ibid., p.65.
  51. Stanley Milgram, quoted Wasik, p.66.
  52. Ibid.
  53. Bourriaud, p.96.
  54. Ibid., p.61.