Structuring Interactivity; Space and Time in Relational Art

Smith, Craig. 2006. Structuring Interactivity; Space and Time in Relational Art. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis describes the concepts of space, time and interactivity in
Relational Art. Relational Art is an interdisciplinary art practice described
by the art critic and curator Nicolas Bourriaud in his book Relational
Aesthetics (1998/2002). For Bourriaud, Relational Art consists of a
location (space) in which viewers endure a physical encounter with the
artist and artworks exhibited (time). Bourriaud describes this encounter as
`interactivity; ' a term borrowed from digital aesthetics and 20'h Century
performance art to describe `viewer-participation' with artworks. This thesis
tests the capacity of Bourriaud's Relational Aesthetics to provide a theory
of `interactivity. '
The thesis is divided into three parts. Part One includes a critical reading
of Bourriaud's Relational Aesthetics and the concept of space in Relational
Art practices. In Part One, Bourriaud's `space of encounter' is compared to
the `Literalist' artwork described in Michael Fried's "Art and Objecthood"
(1968) as well as James Meyer's concept of the 'Mobile Site' (2000). Both
Fried and Meyer depict the use of `location' in contemporary artworks. Part
Two of this thesis is a demonstration of Bourriaud's concept of time in
Relational Aesthetics. Bourriaud describes `time' as that which is `lived
through' by the artist, artwork and viewer. The thesis demonstrates this
concept of time through the design and performance of an artwork
produced specifically for this thesis. Entitled: PartnerWork, this
performance artwork consists of two persons continuously exercising in a
hotel gymnasium for an `endured' period of nine hours. In Part Three, the
thesis proposes a set of criteria for recognizing 'interactivity' in Relational
Art practices, including the example of PartnerWork. Interactivity is
determined to be 'structured' through successive stages of participation,
and is described as having the capacity to alter the formal structure of an

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


Bourriaud', Relational Aesthetics, Relational Art, interactivity;

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Dec 2014 13:44

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 09:05


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