There are many names for it – relational aesthetics, context art, social aesthetics. It is a way of making art that involves peoples and communities in concrete situations and dialogues taking place inside or outside the walls of the art museum. Real social situations are the material of social-aesthetic art.
Ahead of its timeThe Model is a good example of social aesthetics. When it opened with a splash at Stockholm’s Moderna Museet in 1968, it was way ahead of its time. It was pioneering because it invited children into the museum space on their own terms. In turn, it triggered a lot of debate in the media about children and children’s rights, while pushing the boundaries of what can be shown in an art museum.
The Model later dropped out of art history. Perhaps the world was not ready to include in the history books a work that was at once a real playground for children and a symbolic space to reflect on values, norms and ways of being together.
In the 1990s, The Model got a second look. Now, young artists were making thrift stores (Christine Hill), developing biogas plants for developing countries (Superflex) and putting up socio-critical billboards in cities (Barbara Kruger). Art was once again using real life as its material. Nielsen’s visionary experiment today stands as a model for that practice.