In this thesis, I will apply the aesthetic theories of Nicholas Bourriaud, a French artist, curator, and art critic, to a case study of Remida, a creative recycling center in Trondheim, Norway.
In 1998, Nicolas Bourriaud published a book entitled Esthétique relationnelle in which he introduced a theory relating to certain, very visible trends in contemporary art. Bourriaud suggested that interhuman relationships and artistic processes had become equally important as artistic products (what he called “representational art”). Using financial support from the French government, Bourriaud established a centre for contemporary art (a “laboratory”) in Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Bourriaud developed his ideas further in a 2002 book, Postproduction and was recently appointed director of École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
In the spring of 2009, after years of planning, the Remida center opened in Trondheim, Norway. Remida was inspired by similar centers in Italy which were inspired, in turn, by an educational philosophy known as the Reggio Emilia approach to pedagogy. Evolving in the Italian town of Reggio Emilia after World War II, the Reggio Emilia approach represented a response to the fascist ideology and totalitarian thinking of the previous decades. In the Reggio Emilia approach, education was considered a dynamic, intersubjective process. Dialogue, “free thought,” a sense of community, and mutual respect were considered key. Special attention was paid to developing a child’s aesthetic sense. In the late 1960s, ateliers were introduced into infant-toddler centers and preschools in the town of Reggio Emilia. Later, inspired by these school-ateliers and in collaboration with the town’s environmental organization, the first Remida center opened.
Since the 1990s, a distinct and visible trend in contemporary art has become known as “an educational turn.” “Artists are turning to education, borrowing its techniques, social settings, tools, aims, furniture, characters and so on.”(1) The art of the encounter has become a common aesthetic practice –or even the “main event” at contemporary art exhibitions.
Nicolas Bourriaud´s theories of relational aesthetics are associated here with this “educational turn”, a trend now seen as critical within the field of contemporary aesthetics.
At the same time, pedagogical methods which stress aesthetic values and exploration, methods such as Reggio Emilia pedagogy, are regarded as equally important within the field of education.
In this thesis, I use the theories of Nicholas Bourriaud to place Remida, a creative recycling center in Trondheim, in the context of these current trends. I will explore the ways in which contemporary aesthetics is influenced by educational principles and vice versa: the ways in which educational thinking is influenced by aesthetic values.
(1) Dave Beech, “Weberian lessons: art, pedagogy, managerialism”, in: O’Neill, P. and Wilson, M. (Eds.) Curating and the educational turn, (London: Open Editions/de Appel, 2010): 40.