Summary and Critical Reading
In Baudrillard’s chapter, we can see that the notion of art in relation to its surroundings and the way in which it is experienced is the main focus of the author. Essentially, he suggests that the source of presentation is key in contemporary art and design. He suggests that contemporary presentation has lost its tradition, history and lineage that it was formerly placed within so that when it is presented it is done so through a purely sensual plane. That is to say, that the artefact is simply an image that has no source of identification. From this he suggests that our relationship with art is not one of object and observer, but one of subject and consumer (Baudrillard, 1976). However, this consumption is not simply the purchase of a product, but an ongoing relationship with an image. That is to say, that the consumer of the artefact forms an interactive and interchangeable relationship with the image. Due to this, the way in which art is presented, or the environment into which it is presented, is part of the artefact and the relationship. When considering the nature of interactive art through mediums such as the internet or temporary constructs and displays we can see that this has much basis in reality. Essentially, such traditional notions as the frame, the critique and the environment, such as the gallery, that houses these forms of art are lost to this context. Furthermore, in terms of design and consumption we can see that certain forms are displaced and merged across the range of the internet. For example, one is not limited to the stores that sell traditional designs or specific styles and so the consumer becomes exposed to an almost limitless number of design images and various different genres. When considering the vast amount of reproduced images we can see this given further rationale. In terms of buying into a design, we can see that a relationship is bought rather than merely a product.
Contrastingly, in Zizek’s chapter we can see that the relationship is somewhat different. Approaching the same subject, Zizek states as Baudrillard does that art has lost its tradition, history and lineage and that a relationship between the artefact and observer is significant. However, unlike Baudrillard, he suggests that it is not simply a sensual plane in which a relationship develops, but through the observer’s knowledge of a tradition, history and lineage that a relationship dies. Essentially, through the presence of the object in an unknown environment, the observer is confronted by a cultural alienation of sorts that confronts their structure of order (Zizek, 2002). Although they both agree that it is in this relationship in which art is experienced and meaning is produced, Baudrillard suggests that this image is the starting place of a person’s unique identity, whereas Zizek suggests that it is representative of a challenge to a person’s cultural or social order. Although we can see evidence for Baudrillard’s case in such things as the internet wherein the observer is exposed to an individual interaction with a fractured and random series of artefacts, we can also see some evidence for Zizek’s claims. For instance, when considering the image of David set in a modern high level building such as that depicted in the film Children of Men, we find that its meaning becomes altogether superficial. Essentially, it is presented in a manner that does not constitute the significance of European or western civilisation and so we find that it is completely exposed through its surroundings (Cuaron, 2006). However, rather than creating a new meaning, it destroys the context of the image. Furthermore, when we look at the backdrop, or environment, of this film we see an end to civilisation, which highlights the meaning to the art that is intrinsically cultural and social. Ultimately, the environment is one depicting the end of ordered civilisation and tradition, which is representative of the artefact of David being placed within a superficial domain. It is from this that we can see that the end to the history, tradition and lineage of art and design that is indicative of the fracture and displacement of culture and social order.
It is interesting that both of these critics of art and culture highlight the modern, or perhaps post-modern, relationship between the artefact and the consumer. Both give great attention as to the contemporary way in which art and design is constructed and how and what it represents. Clearly, the implications of these critiques are vast when considering the future of art and design. However, both address this relationship in different ways and offer entirely different reasons as to the meaning of art and design.