Am probably going to do some heavy paraphrasing here on an interesting theory by John Searle regarding the construction of social realities.
This does not mean I buy into the idea these realities are indeed constructed, however it seems like he might have a point regarding questions of how social elements live. Or beginnings of interesting questions into these elements.
It seems for me that he is dividing social realities in 2 – which i suspect is not enough because life is rarely binary – but will go with this for now..
The 2 elements are Constitutional and Contextual.
Constitutional meaning the perquisites for something to be what it is. For example if you want to play chess, you have to play with the specific rules of the game and the specific game characters’ roles for it to be chess.. If for example you used the same chess pieces in a backgammon board using the rules of basketball – that will not be chess.
However, if instead of a female queen we had a male queen, and instead of the soldiers we had “dancers”, instead of the castle we had “gallery” or a “night-club” and so on – we could still play chess.
Contextual elements, in this case, are stuff that can be changed without changing the constitutional parts, yet provide perhaps a different flavour/meaning to the social reality. One place its cool to marry anyone you might wish, another only who your parents allow, another might be not very ok with same sex marriage. However, all 3 places are cool with marriage, and roughly, the meaning of marriage as a sort of union between 2 people and an agreement for that by society – is crossing the various contexts..
My personal interest in the context & constitution question is via plausible & possible critique of context based art. Contextual art, from Jari (perhaps arguably), through to Duchamp, Lucas, Bourgeois, as well as relationalism and atemporal practices – broad brash, i know – are some of the hallmarks of recent art developments. Anti-art is essential art.
Indeed, perhaps from the view of constitutional & contextual binary relationship, the contextual language, by focusing on institutional critique, and perceiving meanings and their production as essence of art – has kept the chess game rules rolling, and like in the marriage example, rendered possible radical intentions vert systematically bound?
This isn’t the best way to put it in terms of clarity, nor in terms of the various critical elements that could be involved. However, I hope to continue this somehow.. Currently am thinking that we might also miss a time context critique, because the materials, objects, projects, institutions and situations dominated. (still do..)
Also perhaps needs to be noted is that personally I think contextual art is indeed fascinating and is very exiting indeed. Am placing these emotions aside in a hope to develop new ones..