According to Bourriaud (2002:44) “Relational art is not the revival of any movement, not is it the comeback of any style.It arises from an observation of the present and from a line of thinking about the fate of artistic activity. Its basic claim – the sphere of human relations as artwork venue – has no prior example in art history, even if it appears after the fact, as the obvious backdrop of all aesthetic praxis, and as a modernist theme to cap all modernist themes…The space where the works are displayed is altogether the space of interaction, the space of openness that ushers in all dialogue…”
With this in mind, I had planned my own little piece of relational art, in the form of a novelty “pop-up” cocktail bar (Poison Ivy’s Cocktail Bar) which would facilitate audience engagement by inviting them to sample some of the materials which had been used to create the artworks, e.g. foodstuffs and beverages made from bramble, nettle, dandelion etc. Tasting, and hence smelling the food, would give them a multi-sensory experience, an experience which is being increasingly exploited by artists and galleries throughout the world. One example of this is Jennifer Chung’s Popsy Room in Hong Kong (see the link below)
I had created a sign in a typically 1950s style, as this fitted in with the era of the exotic plant collector Alexander Cross living in the grounds, and was an era I had already referenced in my installation ‘The Exotic Seed Company’.
I had ordered Nettle, Rosehip and Brambles wines, and also purchased Dandelion, Nettle and Nettle and Bramble teas for those not wishing to consume alcohol.
The ‘bar’ opened at 12 noon on Friday 14th November. A steady trickle of guests came into the foyer and lingered around the artwork, taking time to look at all of the pieces. Some came over to the bar, and were offered drinks, which led to discussions about the artwork. Others seemed a bit more shy, in which case I approached them and offered them a drink. It was definitely a great way to break the ice, and also to talk about art and plants, and make a few new acquaintances.
‘Invasion of the Body Scratchers’ fanzines were given out to the viewers, as a souvenir of the exhibition. These also acted as a promotional tool as they had details of my blog and Facebook page on them.
The verbal feedback for my work was very positive, and I think they enjoyed the experience of tasting the plants too. I made apple and bramble crumble (using brambles from the same plant which I had picked the thorns) and this went down very well indeed.
Written feedback was also encouraged via a comments box, and I was pleased to see that it was all very positive, with some suggestions of other venues where I might exhibit in future, and email addresses left to contact those who wanted information of my future exhibitions.
The experience of creating work, putting together an exhibition and engaging with the audience was challenging, exciting and informative.The site-responsive element enriched my work, giving it deeper meaning and purpose when it was placed within the location. It is definitely a consideration I will make when I create work in future.
I feel that I have gained confidence to approach similar environmental organisations with a view to exhibiting or collaborating, and has given me a fresh portfolio of work which I can use as self promotion.