Relating to People, Connecting to Networks. Connecting to People, Relating to Networks.
The concept of going on dates as means of making an artwork reflects a practice that can be loosely described as ‘relational’. ‘Relating’ is probably a good word to describe what people are doing on dates because it implies a degree of shared understanding and experience of empathy. But it is not really the word we use in day-to-day conversation. We tend to speak of ‘connecting’, or 'making connections'. If you watch a lot of reality TV dating shows, you will be familiar with the phrase ‘making great connections’, or even 'making amazing connections' if the date was especially enchanting and therefore successful.
In Liquid Love, Zygmunt Bauman distinguishes 'relating' from 'connecting' in that the former refers to something one experiences while the latter refer to something one does. And something one can undo at any moment by pressing unmatch/unfriend/delete/block. Connecting has the model of 'the network' as the central metaphor for human relationships.
Making a relational artwork in a time of smartphones and omnipresent social media is very different to doing so in 1990. The way we relate has changed. Our transitions between public and private are non-distinct, fluid and frequent occurrences. Multitudes of personal and professional communications, along with their various cognitive and emotional spheres of existence overlap in time and space. Passing through the old school ‘cyberspace’ versus ‘meat space’ vortex feels less like entering a futuristic portal and more like the unremarkable gesture of swaying side to side during a daily commute. What does this have to do with the difference between connecting and relating? Do technologies like Internet dating go some way towards explaining why we favour the word 'connecting' to describe both the actions of social engagement and the experience of interpersonal affinity? Perhaps the term 'connective aesthetics' will supersede 'relational aesthetics' in art criticism. Or maybe 'amazing connective aesthetics' if the artwork is especially enchanting and therefore successful.