Relational Art as Social Semiotic

By Howard Riley.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article, a revised and extended version of a presentation to the “6th International Conference of the Arts in Society,” Berlin, May 2011, elaborates the dialectical relationship between visual art forms and the social structures in which they are produced, by extending Robert Witkin’s taxonomy first presented in his 1995 book “Art and Social Structure.” Witkin tracked the history of visual art from pre-modern times, for which he invented the label “invocational art,” to the advent of Modernism, described in terms of “evocational” and “provocational art.” The article then extrapolates from Witkin’s model to include post-Modernism, for which the author’s term “revocational art” has been coined, and goes on to discuss Nicolas Bourriaud’s concept of “Altermodernism,” his term for describing the relationship between contemporary art practices and the social conditions of today, for which the author suggests an alternative-”convocational art”-a synonym for Bourriaud’s term “relational art.” The paper then introduces a systemic-functional semiotic model for the analysis of relational art, and concludes with a demonstration of the model as applied to the work of Anton Vidokle.

Keywords: Revocational Art, Convocational Art, Social Semiotics, Relational Art

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp.21-32. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 12.512MB).

Prof. Howard Riley

Head of School of Research, Dynevor Centre for the Arts, Swansea Metropolitan University, Swansea, Wales, UK

Howard Riley studied at the Hammersmith College of Art, Coventry College of Art, and the Royal College of Art. He holds a doctorate of the University of Wales in the practice and pedagogy of drawing. He taught at various art schools in London before taking up a post in the School of Art and Design, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, where he worked with Professor Michael O’Toole, a pioneer of visual semiotics at Murdoch University in Perth. He has published in the areas of visual semiotics, generative art and multi-modality. His drawings have been exhibited in Australia, Malaysia, Finland and the UK. Currently, Riley is Professor of Visual Communication and Head of the School of Research & Postgraduate Studies at the Dynevor Centre for Arts, Design & Media, Swansea Metropolitan University, Wales, UK.


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