Ruth Nygard's Main Artery - artist - fine arts and commercial arts

This page Includes; Bio, news clips, followed by a CV with a selected list of accomplishments


Ruth Nygard is a Canadian artist. Her current paintings are a celebration of the present meeting the past under the dark depths of the mysterious guise of nightlife. To create dynamic images that engage the viewer  she often draws from several different art forms. Interesting results often occur when she merges painting techniques, and push the boundaries of light against shadow, or bend the rules of perspective.

Merging different genres of art styles together such as realism and impressionism enhances the images’ emotional qualities. Exaggerating light against shadows for depth and contrast produces dark mysterious attributes, as in “The Man of Song” painting.

Nygard's manipulation of linear and atmospheric perspective not only intensifies depth but also increases continuity and interest in a painting, thereby significantly transforming a static image into a dynamic work.For example, in “The Band” painting, the light grid motifs in and around the musicians provides more depth and balance throughout the painting, however, the new perspective also gives the musicians a mystical transparency which raises the question, are they existing or are they possibly apparitions from memory?

Nygard's work reflects her belief that the past is relevant in today’s cultural discourse; therefore she often combine the elements of the present and past which the “Big Blue Buick at the Towne” painting demonstrates. Like the vintage 1953 Buick, the old Vernon Towne Theater in the background is not only a signifier of the past, it is also a valued and functioning cinema today; furthermore, the theater’s preserved style of aesthetically pleasing antiquity complements the current cityscape. She often represent the past in the darker film noir stylized nightlife because  she feels recalling the past is usually full of nostalgic fantasies, and dramatic connotations.

A few artists from the past and present have influenced Nygard's art style. The French painter Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894) blends realism with impressionism and also his use of perspective in paintings such as, “Un balcon” (1880) invites the viewer into the scene. Another artist she admire for his dark film noir paintings is Edward Hopper, the painter of “Nighthawks” who Nygard says best sums up why she paints in his quote, “If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” (Hopper).

Nygard's life experiences have also influenced her current creative style and interests. She  had developed an interest in visual arts early in her life, and displayed potential abilities of becoming an artist throughout my school years. That, and graduating with honors, has been beneficial in my development as an artist and in my present academic challenge as a Bachelor of Fine Arts student at the University of British Colombia. She gained experience as a co-collaborator of public art events and gallery administrative duties by volunteering at the Vernon Public Art Gallery. A solo exhibition and several group presentations have resulted in local exposure. She operated a small business where she created anything from business cards to large murals. She also had the honour of being commissioned to paint several paintings for the first Africa Days that are held in Calgary each summer. She was also commissioned to complete several murals for the hundredth centennial of Vernon B.C. Spending a summer visiting art museums, architecture, and sculptures around Paris, Geneva, and The Hague, in her youth, was a great experience as it exposed me to many original art works, and like the previously mentioned experiences, it influenced my artistic interests.

 Nygard along with many others are incorporating their diversity, as well as merging the present with the past that draws from the positive and negative experiences made in history. The mixing of these mythologies are essential to the collective vision of the present and future.


I feel art images serve as windows looking into, or out to, someone or something that provokes a feeling or meaning to the viewer that is their own interpretation. I have my ideas when I paint, but I hope my paintings attain an openness so others' can experience their own interpretations. It has been my experience that in their physical environment paintings open up the walls they occupy, and in doing so lead the viewer to many other worlds and possibilities. Using spatial perspective not only adds depth to a painting, but it also opens up the space around them. To make it a bit more interesting I become playful with perspective as I think if we stick to the rules paintings would be boring.


(An except from The Vernon Morning Star in October 2011) 

Ruth Nygard is a Canadian artist. Art has always been an important part of her life. Ruth's mother  and mentor (Ruth Gracey) is a very talented artist and Ruth believes her talent was passed down from her. 'I owe all my talent to the creative genes in our family.' the artist explains. From her paternal side her uncle was a gifted photographer Harry Nygard. Also Ruth has a daughter who is a successful animation artist who works in the feature film industry. 

Ruth's talent was recognized as soon as she first picked up a pencil. All Ruth needed was a pencil and paper which amused the child for hours so it is fair to say she has studies art since a toddler. Her first commission was when she was 10 years old. 


          What I have been focusing on in the last few years is our more natural character not the idealized image. I agree with many other artists that it is time for us to recognize the importance of our past and making references to it in art.  It was necessary for the art movements of the modernity period in the last century to eliminate the past in their practices as they needed to wipe the slate clean; in order to progress and discovering new ideas; but now many artists are embracing the past again. The past can contribute to the context of today's contemporary art if we wish to truly be authentic and more importantly we can learn from our past. 

A piece of good advise was given to me.,that although an artist maybe gifted with a talent they still have to work hard at it if they are to become successful. The gift can continue and keeps developing as long as we keep exploring and also keep say yes to tasks This idea for me has proven to be a very challenging learning experiences for me.

Although I have been painting in acrylics on canvas for years I am expanding into other fields by learning and using other mediums such as photography, digital media, compute graphics, sculpture, and welding. 

 I have chosen acrylic over oils because although it is much more difficult to master the blending, once an artist does master it the gifts are worth the trouble. Plus the acrylics have improved over the years so the artist can now produce the rich vibrancy that only oils in the past could produce. This is not to say I am not interested in oils and other mediums. 

          CV: A few of my accomplishments as an artist and student

  1. I was hired by the organization that introduced the very first Calgary Afrikadays to create 3 paintings of Kenyan women  preforming the rituals of the coming of age for their pavilion. I am happy to say they were very pleased with end results.
  2. The Royal Knight restaurant in Vernon commissioned me to complete 7 very large murals for the 100 centennial in Vernon B.C.
  3. I was given a grant that was based on my artistic abilities which enabled me to own and operated a company I called Studio Graphics .  I served my clients by designed logos, business cards, posters, and built signs. I also created a line of t-shirts that had my designs and art images such as wildlife on them, I often set up in places like malls or farmers markets where I worked on t-shirt art which usually drew a crowd. Having an audience was a great experience for me.
  4. Volunteered time and work at the Vernon public art gallery. Plus I continue to donate my art to their fund raising events such as midsummer’s eve and display art in the gallery's group exhibitions.
  5. I have taught different aspects of art practices at an introductory level.
  6. I am currently enrolled at UBC and taking my BFA.
  7. Throughout my school years I was an A student in all art courses. I graduated with a straight A standing in all my courses and won several scholarship and bursary awards.
  8. I have had one solo show where I sold a total of six paintings in 2011. I am very surprised and thankful that this amount of paintings sold at one show. I have entered several pieces into group shows over the years.
  9. I love photography as well and it works well with my art and I have a good Rebel canon camera and is teaching me a lot.
  10. My interest in computer media skills have kept me up to day with digital media. This interest in computer programs not only aids in my art skills but helps with the business end as well as I am experienced in excel formulas and all other Microsoft office skills on PC and Mac.
  11. I work with editing software and do quite a bit of editing in Photoshop.
  12. I was a layout artist and assistant editor for TV World magazine.



Nicolas Bourriaud
Relational Aesthetics
Translated by Simon Pleasance & Fronza Woods with the participation of Mathieu Copeland

Where do the misunderstandings surrounding 1990s’ art come from, if not a theoretical discourse complete with shortcomings? An overwhelming majority of critics and philosophers are reluctant to come to grips with contemporary practices. So these remain essentially unreadable, as their originality and their relevance cannot be perceived by analysing them on the basis of problems either solved or unresolved by previous generations. The oh-so-painful fact has to be accepted that certain issues are no longer being raised, and it is, by extension, important to identify those that are being raised these days by artists. What are the real challenges of contemporary art? What are its links with society, history, and culture? The critic's primary task is to recreate the complex set of problems that arise in a particular period or age, and take a close look at the various answers given. Too often, people are happy drawing up an inventory of yesterday's concerns, the better to lament the fact of not getting any answers. But the very first question, as far as these new approaches are concerned, obviously has to do with the material form of these works. How are these apparently elusive works to be decoded, be they process-related or behavioral by ceasing to take shelter behind the sixties art history?
Let us quote several examples of these activities. Rirkrit Tiravanija organises a dinner in a collector's home, and leaves him all the ingredients required to make a Thai: soup. Philippe Parreno invites a few people to pursue their favorite hobbies on May Day, on a factory assembly line. Vanessa Beecroft dresses some twenty women in the same way, complete with a red wig, and the visitor merely gets a glimpse of them through the doorway. Maurizio Cattelan feeds rats on "Bel paese" cheese and sells them as multiples, or exhibits recently robbed safes. In a Copenhagen square, Jes Brinch and Henrik Plenge Jacobsen install an upturned bus that causes a rival riot in the city. Christine Hill works as a check-out assistant in a supermarket, organizes a weekly gym workshop in a gallery. Carsten Holler recreates the chemical formula of molecules secreted by the human brain when in love, builds an inflatable plastic yacht, and breeds chaffinches with the aim of teaching them a new song. Noritoshi Hirakawa puts a small ad in a newspaper to find a girl to take part in his show. Pierre Huyghe summons people to a casting session, makes a TV transmitter available to the public, and puts a photograph of laborers at work on view just a few yards from the building site. One could add many other names and works to such a list. Anyhow, the liveliest factor that is played out on the chessboard of art has to do with interactive, user-friendly and relational concepts.
These days, communications are plunging human contacts into monitored areas that divide the social bond up into (quite) different products. Artistic activity, for its part, strives to achieve modest connections, open up (One or two) obstructed passages, and connect levels of reality kept apart from one another. The much vaunted "communication superhighways", with their toll plazas and picnic areas, threaten to become the only possible thoroughfare from a point to another in the human world. The superhighway may well actually help us to travel faster and more efficiently, yet it has the drawback of turning its users into consumers of miles and their by-products. We feel meagre and helpless when faced with the electronic media, theme parks, user-friendly places, and the spread of compatible forms of sociability, like the laboratory rat doomed to an inexorable itinerary in its cage, littered with chunks of cheese.
The ideal subject of the society of extras is thus reduced to the condition of a consumer of time and space.
For anything that cannot be marketed will inevitably vanish. Before long, it will  not be possible  to maintain  relationships between  people  outside  these  trading  areas.  So here we are summonsed to talk about things around a duly priced drink, as a symbolic form of contemporary   human relations.  You are looking for shared warmth, and the comforting feeling of well-being for two? So try our coffee ... The space of current relations is thus the space most severely affected by general reification. The relationship between people, as symbolized by goods or replaced by  them,  and  signposted  by  logos,  has  to  take  on extreme and clandestine forms, if it is to dodge the empire of predictability.  The social bond has turned into a standardized artifact. In a world governed by the division of labor and ultra­ specialization, mechanization and the  law  of  profitability,  it behoves the powers that human relations should be channeled towards  accordingly  planned  outlets, and that they  should be pursued on the basis of one or two simple principles, which can be both monitored and repeated. The supreme "separation", the separation that affects relational channels, represents the final stage in the transformation to the "Society of the Spectacle" as described by Guy  Debord.  This is  a  society  where  human relations  are  no  longer  "directly  experienced",  but  start  to become blurred in their "spectacular" representation. Herein lies the most burning issue to do with art today: is it still possible to generate relationships with the world, in a practical field art­ history   traditionally   earmarked   for   their   "representation"? Contrary to what Debord thought, for all he saw in the art world was  a  reservoir  of  examples  of  what  had  to  be  tangibly "achieved" in day-to-day life, artistic praxis appears these days to be  a rich  loam for social experiments,  like a space partly protected from the uniformity of behavioral patterns. The works we shall be discussing here outline so many hands-on utopias.
Some  of  the  following  essays  were  originally  published  in magazines  -for  the  most  part  in  Documents   sur   l'art,  and exhibition catalogues 1but have been considerably reworked,  not to say re-ordered, here.  Others are previously unpublished. This collection of essays is also rounded off by a glossary, which readers may refer to whenever a problematic concept  rears its head. To make the book that much easier to come to grips with,  may we suggest to tum right away to the definition of the word "Art".
Relational form

Artistic activity is a game, whose forms, patterns and functions develop and evolve according to periods and social contexts; it is not an immutable essence. It is the critic's task to study this activity in the present. A certain aspect of the programme of modernity has been fairly and squarely wound up (and not, let us hasten to emphasise in these bourgeois times, the spirit informing it). This completion has drained the criteria of aesthetic judgement we are heir to of their substance, but we go on applying them to present-day artistic practices. The new is no longer a criterion, except among latter-day detractors of modem art who, where the much-execrated present is concerned, cling solely to the things that their traditionalist culture has taught them to loathe in yesterday's art. In order to invent more effective·tools and more valid viewpoints, it behoves us to understand the changes nowadays occurring in the social arena, and grasp what has already changed and what is still changing. How are we to understand the types of artistic behaviour shown in exhibitions held in the 1990s, and the lines of thinking behind them, if we do not start out from the same situation as the artists?

Contemporary artistic practice and its cultural plan

The modern political era, which came into being with the Enlightenment, was used on the desire to emancipate individuals and people.  The advances of  technologies  and  freedoms,  the decline of ignorance, and improved working conditions were all billed to free humankind and help to usher in a better society. There are several versions of modernity, however. The 20th century was thus the arena for a struggle between two visions of the world: a modest, rationalist conception, hailing from the 18th century, and a philosophy of spontaneity and liberation through the irrational (Dada, Surrealism, the Situationists), both of which were opposed to authoritarian and utilitarian forces eager to gauge human relations and subjugate people. Instead of culminating in hoped-for emancipation, the advances of technologies and "Reason" made it that much easier to exploit the South of planet earth, blindly replace human labour by machines, and set up more and more sophisticated subjugation techniques, all through a general rationalisation of the production process. So the modem emancipation plan has been substituted by countless forms of melancholy.

   Twentieth century avant-garde, from Dadaism to the Situationist International, fell  within  the  tradition  of  this  modem  project (changing  culture,  attitudes  and  mentalities,  and  individual  and social living conditions), but it is as well to bear in mind that this project was already there before them, differing from their plan in many  ways.  For modernity  cannot  be  reduced  to  a  rationalist teleology,  any  more  than  it  can  to  political  messianism.  Is it possible to disparage the desire to improve living and working conditions, on the pretext of the bankruptcy of tangible attempts to do as much-shored up by totalitarian ideologies and naïve visions of history? What used to be called the avant-garde has, needless to say, developed from the ideological swing of things offered by modem rationalism; but it is now re-formed on the basis of quite different philosophical, cultural and social presuppositions.  It is evident that today's art is carrying on this fight, by coming up with perceptive, experimental, critical and participatory models, veering in   the   direction   indicated   by   Enlightenment    philosophers, Proudhon, Marx, the Dadaists and Mondrian. If opinion is striving to acknowledge the legitimacy and interest of these experiments this is because they are no longer presented like the precursory phenomena of an inevitable historical evolution. Quite to the contrary, they appear fragmentary and isolated, like orphans of an overall view of the world bolstering them with the clout of an ideology.
It is not modernity that is dead, but its idealistic and teleological version.
Today's fight for modernity is being waged in the same terms as yesterday's, barring the fact that the avant-garde has stopped patrolling like some scout, the troop having come to a cautious standstill around a  bivouac of certainties. Art was intended to prepare and announce a future world: today it is modelling possible universes.
The ambition of artists who include their practice within the slipstream of historical modernity is to repeat neither its forms nor its claims, and even less assign to art the same functions as it. Their task is akin to the one that Jean-Francois Lyotard allocated to post­ modern architecture,  which  "is condemned  to create a series of minor modifications  in a space  whose modernity  it inherits, and abandon  an  overall  reconstruction  of  the  space  inhabited  by humankind 1 " . What is more, Lyotard  seems to half-bemoan  this state  of  affairs:  he  defines  it  negatively,   by  using  the  term "condemned". And what, on the other hand, if this "condemnation" represented the historical chance whereby most of the art worlds known to us managed to spread their wings, over the past ten years or so? This chance" can be summed up in just a few words: learning to inhabit the world in a better way, instead of trying to construct it based on a preconceived idea of historical evolution. Otherwise put, the role of artworks is no longer to form imaginary and utopian realties, but to actually be ways of living and models of action within the existing real, whatever the scale chosen by the artist. Althusser said that one always catches the world's train on the move; Deleuze, that "grass grows from the middle" and not from the bottom or the top. The artist dwells in the circumstances the present offers him, so as to tum the setting of his life (his links with the physical and conceptual world) into a lasting world. He catches the world on the move: he is a tenant of culture, to borrow Michel de Certeau's expression2 • Nowadays, modernity extends into the practices of cultural do-it-yourself and recycling, into the invention of the everyday and the development of time lived, which are not objects less deserving of attention and examination than Messianistic utopias and the formal "novelties" that typified modernity yesterday. There is nothing more absurd either than the assertion that contemporary art does not involve any political project, or than the claim that its subversive aspects are not based on any theoretical terrain. Its plan, which has just as much to do with working conditions and the conditions in which cultural objects are produced, as with the changing forms of social life, may nevertheless seem dull to minds formed in the mould of cultural Darwinism. Here, then, is the time of the "dolce utopia", to use Maurizio Cattelan's phrase ...
Artwork as social interstice:
The possibility of a relational art (an art taking as its theoretical horizon the realm of human interactions and its social context, rather than the assertion of an independent and private symbolic space), points to a radical upheaval of the aesthetic, cultural and political goals introduced by modem art. To sketch a sociology of this, this evolution stems essentially from the birth of a world-wide urban culture, and from the extension of this city model to more or less all cultural phenomena. The general growth of towns and cities, which took off at the end of the Second World War, gave rise not only to an extraordinary upsurge of social exchanges, but also to much _greater individual mobility (through the development of networks and roads, and telecommunications, and the gradual freeing-up of isolated places, going with the opening-up of attitudes). Because of the crampedness of dwelling spaces in this urban world, there was, in tandem, a scaling-down of furniture and objects, now emphasising a greater manoeuvrability. If, for a long period of time, the artwork has managed to come across as a luxury, lordly item in this urban setting (the dimensions of the work, as well as those of the apartment, helping to distinguish between their owner and the crowd), the development of the function of artworks and the way they are shown attest to a growing urbanisation of the artistic experiment.  What  is collapsing  before  our  very  eyes  is nothing  other  than  this  falsely  aristocratic  conception  of  the arrangement  of  works  of  art,  associated  with  the  feeling  of territorial acquisition. In other words, it is no longer possible to regard the contemporary work as a space to be walked through (the "owner's tour" is akin to the collector's). It is henceforth presented as a period of time to be lived through, like an opening to unlimited discussion.  The  city  has  ushered  in  and  spread  the  hands-on experience: it is the tangible symbol and historical setting of the state of society,  that  "state  of encounter  imposed  on people" , to use Althusser's expression3, contrasting with that dense and "trouble-free" jungle which the natural state once was, according to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a jungle hampering any lasting encounter. Once raised to the  power  of  an  absolute  rule  of  civilisation,  this  system  of intensive   encounters  has   ended  up  producing   linked   artistic practices:  an  art  form  where  the  substrate  is  formed  by  inter­ subjectivity, and which takes being-together as a central theme, the "encounter"  between  beholder  and  picture,  and  the  collective elaboration of meaning. Let us leave the matter of the historicity of this phenomenon on one side: art has always been relational in varying degrees, i.e. a factor of sociability and a founding principle of dialogue. One of the virtual properties of the image is its power of linkage (Fr. reliance), to borrow Michel Maffesoli's term: flags, logos,  icons,  signs,  all  produce  empathy  and  sharing,  and  all generate   bond4 •     Art   (practices   stemming   from   painting   and sculpture which come across in the form of an exhibition) turns out to be particularly suitable when it comes to expressing this hands­ on civilisation, because it tightens the space of relations, unlike TVand literature which refer each individual person to his or her space of private consumption, and also unlike theatre and cinema which bring small groups together before specific, unmistakable images. Actually, there is no live comment made about what is seen (the discussion time is put off until after the show). At an exhibition, on the other hand, even when inert forms are involved, there is the possibility of an immediate discussion, in both senses of the term. I see and perceive, I comment, and I evolve in a unique space and time. Art is the place that produces a specific sociability. It remains to be seen what the status of this is in the set of "states of encounter" proposed by the City. How is an art focused on the production of such forms of conviviality capable of re-launching the modem emancipation plan, by complementing it? How does it permit the development of new political and cultural designs?
Before giving concrete examples, it is well worth reconsidering the place of artworks in the overall economic system, be it symbolic or material, which governs contemporary society. Over and above its mercantile nature and its semantic value, the work of art represents a social interstice. This interstice term was used by Karl Marx to describe trading communities that elude the capitalist economic context   by   being   removed   from   the   law   of   profit:   barter, merchandising, autarkic types of production, etc. The interstice is a space in human relations which fits more or less harmoniously and openly   into   the   overall   system,   but   suggests   other   trading possibilities than those in effect within this system. This is the precise nature of the contemporary art exhibition in the arena of representational commerce:  it creates free areas, and time spans whose rhythm contrasts with those structuring everyday life, and it encourages   an   inter-human   commerce   that   differs   from   the "communication zones" that are imposed upon us. The present-day social context restricts the possibilities of inter-human relations all the more because it creates spaces planned to this end. Automatic public toilets were invented to keep streets clean. The same spirit underpins the development of communication tools, while city streets are swept clean of all manners of relational dross, and neighbourhood relationships fizzle. The general mechanisation of social functions gradually reduces the relational space. Just a few years ago, the telephone wake-up call service employed human beings, but now we are woken up by a synthesised voice ... The automatic cash machine has become the transit model for the most elementary of social functions, and professional behaviour patterns are modelled on the efficiency of the machines replacing them, these machines carrying out tasks which once represented so many opportunities for exchanges, pleasure and squabbling. Contemporary art is definitely developing a political project when it endeavours to move into the relational realm by turning it into an issue.
When Gabriel Orozco puts  an orange on the stalls of a deserted Brazilian market ( Crazy Tourist, 1991), or slings a hammock in the MoMA garden  in  New  York  (Hamoc  en  la  moma,  1993), he  is operating at the hub of "social infra-thinness" (l'inframince social), that minute space of daily gestures determined by the superstructure  made up of  "big"  exchanges, and defined by it. Without any wording, Orozco’s photographs are a documentary record of tiny revolutions in the common urban and semi-urban life (a sleeping bag on the grass, an empty shoebox, etc.). They record this silent, still life nowadays formed by relationships with the other.  When Jens  Haaning  broadcasts  funny  stories  in  Turkish through  a  loudspeaker  in  a  Copenhagen  square  (Turkish  Jokes, 1994), he produces  in that  split second a micro-community,  one made  up  of  immigrants  brought  together  by  collective  laughter which upsets their exile situation, formed in relation to the work and in it. The exhibition is the special place where such momentary groupings may occur, governed as they are by differing principles. And depending on the degree of participation required of the onlooker by the artist, along with the nature of the works and the models of sociability proposed and represented, an exhibition will give rise to a specific "arena of exchange". And this "arena of exchange", must be judged on the basis of aesthetic criteria, in other words, by analysing 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. Within this social interstice, the artist must assume the symbolic models he shows. All representation (though contemporary art models more than it represents, and fits into the social fabric more than it draws inspiration therefrom) refers to values that can be transposed into society. As a human activity based on commerce, art is at once the object and the subject of an ethic. And this is because, unlike other activities, its sole function is to be exposed to this commerce. 

 Art is a state of encounter.
Relational aesthetics and random materialism:
Relational aesthetics is part of a materialistic tradition. Being "materialistic" does not mean sticking to the triteness of facts, nor does it imply that sort of narrow-mindedness that consists in reading works in purely economic terms. The philosophical tradition that underpins this relational aesthetics was defined in a noteworthy way by Louis Althusser, in one of his last writings, as a "materialism of encounter", or random materialism. This particular materialism takes as its point of departure the world contingency, which has no pre-existing origin or sense, nor Reason, which might allot it a purpose. So the essence of humankind is purely trans-individual, made up of bonds that link individuals together in social forms which are invariably historical (Marx: the human essence is the set of social relations). There is no such thing as any possible "end of history" or "end of art", because the game is being forever re-enacted, in relation to its function, in other words, in relation to the players and the system which they construct and criticise. Hubert Damisch saw in the "end of art" theories the outcome of an irksome muddle between the "end of the game" and the "end of play". A new game is announced as soon as the social setting radically changes, without the meaning of the game itself being challenged5• This inter-human game which forms our object (Duchamp:  "Art  is a game  between all people  of all periods" ) nevertheless goes beyond the context of what is called tp "art" by commodity. So the "constructed situations" advocated by the Situationist International belong in their own right to this "game", in spite of Guy Debord who, in the final analysis, denied them any artistic character. For in them, quite to the contrary, he saw "art being exceeded" by a revolution in day-to-day life. Relational aesthetics does not represent a theory of art, this would imply the statement of an origin and a destination, but a theory of form.
          What do we mean by form?    A coherent unit, a structure (independent entity of inner dependencies) which shows the typical features of a world. The artwork does not have an exclusive hold on it, it is merely a subset in the overall series of existing forms. In the materialistic philosophical tradition ushered in by Epicurus and Lucretius, atoms fall in parallel formations into the void, following a slightly diagonal course. If one of these atoms swerves off course, it "causes an encounter with the next atom and from encounter to encounter a pile-up, and the birth of the world" ... This is how forms come into being, from the "deviation" and random encounter between two hitherto parallel elements. In order to create a world, this encounter must be a lasting one: the elements forming it must be joined together in a form, in other words, there must have been "a setting of elements on one another (the way ice 'sets')”. "Form can be defined as a lasting encounter".  Lasting encounters, lines and colors inscribed on the surface of  a Delacroix  painting,  the scrap objects that litter Schwitters' "Merz pictures", Chris Burden's performances: over and above the quality of the page layout or the spatial layout, they tum out to be lasting  from the moment  when their  components form a whole whose sense "holds  good"  at the moment of their birth, stirring up new "possibilities of life". All works, down to the most critical and challenging of projects, passes through this viable world state, because they get elements held apart to meet: for example, death and the media in Andy Warhol. Deleuze and Guattari were not saying anything different when they defined the work of art as a "block of affects and percepts".  Art keeps together moments of subjectivity associated with singular experiences, be it Cezanne's apples or Buren's striped structures. The composition of this bonding agent, whereby encountering atoms manage to form  a word, is, needless  to  say, dependent on the historical context.  What today’s informed public understands by "keeping together” is not the same thing that this public imagined back in the 19th century. Today, the "glue” is less obvious, as our visual experience has become more complex, enriched by a century of photographic images, then cinematography (introduction of the sequence shot as a new dynamic unity), enabling us to recognise as a "world" a collection of disparate element (installation, for instance) that no unifying matter, no bronze, links.  Other technologies may allow the human spirit to recognise other types of "world-forms" still unknown:  for example, computer science put forward the notion of program that inflects the approach of some artist's way of working. An artist's artwork thus acquires the status of an ensemble of units to be re-activated by the beholder-manipulator.  I want to insist on the instability and the diversity of the concept of “form", notion whose outspread can be witnessed in injunction by the founder of sociology, Emile Durckheim, considering the "social fact" as a "thing" ... As the artistic "thing" sometime offers itself as a "fact" or an ensemble of facts that happens in the time or space, and whose unity (making it a form, a world) cannot be questioned. The setting is widening; after the isolated object, it now can embrace the whole scene: the form of Gordon Matta-Clark or Dan Graham's work cannot be reduced to the "things" those two artist  "produce"; it is not the simple secondary effects of  a composition,  as the formalistic aesthetic  would  like to advance,  but  the principle  acting  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.
Form and others' gaze
          If, as Serge Daney writes, "all form is a face looking at us" , what does a form become when it is plunged into the dimension of dialogue? What is a form that is essentially relational? It seems worthwhile to discuss this question by taking Daney's formula as a point of reference, precisely because of its ambivalence: as forms are looking at us, how are we to look at them?
          Form is most often defined as an outline contrasting with content. But modernist aesthetics talks about "formal beauty" by referring to a sort of (con) fusion between style and content, and an inventive compatibility of the former with the latter. We judge a work through its plastic or visual form. The most common criticism to do with new artistic practices consists, moreover, in denying them any "formal effectiveness", or in singling out their shortcomings in the "formal resolution". In observing contemporary artistic practices, we ought to talk of "formations" rather than "forms". Unlike an object that is closed in on itself by the intervention of a style and a signature, present-day art shows that form only exists in the encounter and in the dynamic relationship enjoyed by an artistic proposition with other formations, artistic or otherwise.
          There are no forms in nature, in the wild state, as it is our gaze that  <:;;
creates these, by cutting them out in the depth of the visible. Forms are developed, one from another. What was yesterday regarded as formless or "informal" is no longer these things today. When the aesthetic discussion evolves, the status of form evolves along with it, and through it.
          In the novels of polish writer Witold Gombrowicz,  we see how each individual generates his own form through his behaviour, his way of coming across, and the way he addresses others. This form comes about in the borderline area where the individual struggles with the Other, so as, to subject him to what he deems to be his "being". So, for Gombrowicz, our "form" is merely a relational property, linking us with those who reify us by the way they see us, to borrow a Sartrian terminology. When the individual thinks he is casting an objective eye upon himself, he is, in the final analysis, contemplating nothing other than the result of perpetual transactions with the subjectivity of others.
The artistic form, for some, side-steps this inevitability, for it is publicised by a work. Our persuasion, conversely, is that form only assumes its texture (and only acquires a real existence) when it introduces human interactions. The form of an artwork issues from a negotiation with the intelligible, which is bequeathed to us. Through it, the artist embarks upon a dialogue. The artistic practice thus resides in the invention of relations between consciousnesses. Each particular artwork is a proposal to live in a shared world, and the work of every artist is a bundle  of relations  with the world, giving rise to other relations, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum. Here we are at the opposite end of this authoritarian version of art which we discover in the essays of Thierry de Duve6, for whom any work is nothing other than a "sum of judgements",  both historical and aesthetic, stated by the artist in the act of its production. To paint  is  to  become  part  of  history  through  plastic  and  visual choices. We are in the presence of a prosecutor's aesthetics, here, for which the artist confronts the history of art in the autarky of his own persuasions. It is an aesthetics that reduces artistic practice to the   level   of   a   pettifogging         historical    criticism.    Practical "judgement", thus aimed, is peremptory and final in each instance, hence  the  negation   of  dialogue,  which,  alone,  grants  form  a productive   status:  the  status  of  an  "encounter".  As part of  a "relationist" theory of art, inter-subjectivity does not only represent the   social   setting   for   the   reception   of   art, which is its "environment", its "field" (Bourdieu), but also becomes the quintessence of artistic practice.

           As Daney suggested, form becomes "face" through the effect of this invention of relations. This formula, needless to add, calls to mind the one acting as the pedestal for Emmanuel Levinas' thinking, for whom the face represents the sign of the ethical taboo. The face, Levinas asserts, is "what orders me to serve another" , "what forbids me to kill" 7• Any "inter-subjective relation" proceeds by way of the form of the face, which symbolises the responsibility we have towards others: "the bond with others is only made as responsibility" , he writes, but don't ethics have a horizon other than this humanism which reduces inter-subjectivity to a kind of inter­ servility? Is the image, which, for Daney, is a metaphor of the face, only therefore suitable for producing taboos and proscriptions, through the burden of "responsibility"? When Daney explains that "allform is a face looking at us" , he does not merely mean that we are responsible for this. To be persuaded of as much, suffice it to revert to the profound significance of the image for Daney. For him, the image is not "immoral" when it puts us "in the place where we were not"8, when it "takes the place of another". What is involved here, for Daney, is not solely a reference to the aesthetics of Bazin and Rossellini, claiming the "ontological realism" of the cinematographic art, which even if it does lie at the origin of Daney's thought, does not sum it up. He maintains that form, in an image, is nothing other than the representation of desire. Producing a form is to invent possible encounters; receiving a form is to create the conditions for an exchange, the way you return a service in a game of tennis. If we nudge Daney's reasoning a bit further, form is the representative of desire in the image. It is the horizon, based on which the image may have a meaning, by pointing to a desired world, which the beholder thus becomes capable of discussing, and based on which his own desire can rebound. This exchange can be summed up by a binomial: someone shows something to someone who returns it as he sees fit. The work tries to catch my gaze, the way the new-born child "asks for" its mother's gaze. In La Vze commune, Tzvetan   Todorov   has   shown   how   the   essence   of sociability is the need for acknowledgement, much more than competition and violence9 • When an artist shows us something, he uses a transitive ethic which places his work between the "look-at-me" and the "look-at-that". Daney's most recent writings lament the end of this "Show/See" pairing, which represented the essence of a democracy of the image in favour of another pairing, this one TV-related and authoritarian, "Promote/receive", marking the advent of the "Visual". In Daney's thinking, "all form is a face looking at me" , because it is summoning me to dialogue with it. Form is a dynamic that is included both, or tum by tum, in time and space. Form can only come about from a meeting between two levels of reality. For homogeneity does not produce images: it produces the visual, otherwise put, "looped information".