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Variations on an Audience1

Pablo Helguera / 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen:
Audiences are endangered species. They are slowly vanishing in this world showered with limelight, where fifteen minutes of fame is now a cacophony of 24/7 programming. We all speak at the same time, and no one listens. When everyone is an artist, no one can be in the audience. We only sit off stage because we are waiting for our turn at the lectern.
What we call an audience today, like the one here tonight, is nothing more than a collection of highly individualized minds. You all are authors, we all produce things: you take pictures, you write blogs, you all own creative real estate. You all here tonight are so different from each other. How can I, or anyone, talk to you in a comprehensive manner, so that you all feel engaged?
Unfortunately, most people who lecture have failed to recognize this simple fact. They still speak to audiences as if they existed as one whole, as if this hypothetical and amorphous mass was a homogenous group of listeners, not a heterogeneous entity of speakers. They talk to this hypothetical audience as if it thought and felt exactly like them.
Let’s take, for instance, Slavoj Zˇizˇek. Slavoj Zˇizˇek talks to everyone as if we all were Slavoj Zˇizˇek. A scholar assumes we all are scholars interested in long bibliographies and in the reference to that 1974 book where the footnote of the footnote clarifies what the footnote of the footnote of the 1973 version didn’t clarify.
Artists, when they are invited to speak, usually think that their audience wants them to act as if they don’t care about them, but of course artists care, and their audiences – well, their audiences usually are other artists who are respectful enough, but what they really want is not to be in the audience but to be the artist who is speaking.
So it is very painful for me to say this, but the truth is that in this post-postmodern world, we all are confused about when to speak and when to listen. As a result of this, we are both unprofessional speakers and unprofessional audiences.
This spells slight doom, the temporary boredom we all have to live through every time we attend a lecture. We don’t even know why we do it. But it shouldn’t be that way.
Lectures could be like sex. They could be like the seduction of love, like the erotic dance or the magic act or the psychic séance or the hypnotic session. All it takes is for the speaker to find a way to talk to each one of the persons in the room as if it were a one-to-one conversation – an audience whisperer.
So by all means, then, let’s do variations on an audience, or rather, on this non-audience. I will talk not to all of you, but to each of you. For this exercise I will assume that, among the group here there is at least one person of the following sort:
1. Theorists. That is public intellectuals, poststructuralist scholars, downtown East Village, readers of October magazine.
2. Chelseaspeakers. Uber-professional art speakers, curators, consultants, critics.
3. Grant-writers and administrators. Working for nonprofit organizations and the U.S. government and the Department of Education or School Board.
4. “Show-me-the-money“ speakers. No-nonsense, uncomplicated, like when we talk about art late at an after party after a few drinks.
Now that we have established the four sets of individuals that I will be addressing, I will now repeat my introduction in these four ways, starting with the Speaker version 1 style:
The construct of the spectator as redefined today by post-technological networks reunites a number of given implications that, upon close examination, reveal society – and its involutionary transformation – as a product of a demystified late-capitalist model without centers and reformulated contents.
The involution of cultural communication into a system of seemingly original producers of knowledge, as opposed to receivers, creates a different activity universe that contrasts with the deflection of speech, a seemingly anti-political task of horizontal results. Where one searches for the hidden receiver finds instead the manifested materialization of parallel mimetic producers. It is the fabrication of the plot of the content, the substance of normative principles of inclusion of concepts, that varies only in stylistic practices of scientific postmodernity, usually not self-identified as such but actively embracing a regiment of exclusionary concept definitions within a well-founded domain of references visible only to reduced agents of the operation.

Speech Version 2:
The notion of audience has been redefined today by posttechnological networks. Cultural producers today produce works that critique Western notions of collective spectatorship and propose new critical models.
Notions of performance are incorporated in this new critique, resulting in innovative explorations that operate in the realm of conceptual art in various formats. The viewer becomes an active participant in the work, which explores notions of viewers becoming active participants.
The work becomes an active participant in the viewer, which is an exploration of notions of viewers. These works are conceptual narratives that question a variety of concepts, including the way in which spectators receive information in a postmodern world. These practices thus become explorations of conceptual information of notions of participants that participate in notions of information of conceptual explorations.

In other words, Speech Version 3:
Audiences in our global world today face the challenges and the opportunities that come along with the emerging forms of expression. In this multicultural and multidisciplinary society, there are multiple voices that reflect our diverse culture and that are important to support. In some cases, these voices will challenge the viewer to reflect on important issues we all face, but they all reflect the feelings and thoughts of others and are representative of the diversity of original community voices that we all should strive to support. We only face, as a society, the challenge to expand our long-term partnerships and advisory support to those who have an important message to convey to their constituents, building enduring foundations for community partnerships with real solutions. By acting together, we can overcome the obstacles that for too long have prevented real change on the critical issues that audiences face in art and in life, fulfilling the long objective of change, creativity, and achievement for the generations to come.

Speech Version 4:
I mean it’s like sometimes because you are online so much and you get to like get to do all this like blogs and apps and movies and stuff it’s like today everything is so easy to do so why do we need anyone else doing it but us, like today things maybe have become retarded or something when you really think about it it’s really amazing like everything can mean anything because anyone can do whatever. I mean like today the world and like culture has become a place where we all talk about ourselves and then it like makes everything look the same because no one seems to be listening or something. I mean that’s cool, but it’s like if I am talking and you are talking and he is talking and then if we just talk in different ways that doesn’t mean we are saying different things if you know what I am saying. It’s like that is how it’s done today when we just say what we have to say and we know why we say it and we know what you are going to say so what’s the point of even saying it, but the point that there is no point is maybe like the point.
And now, to merge these styles, we will patch together the choir of art world voices. You can call it an audience fugue:
The construct of the spectator as redefined today by post-technological networks reunites a number of given implications that, upon close examination, I mean it’s like sometimes because you are online so much and you get to like get to do all this like, audiences in our global world today face the challenges and the opportunities that come along with the emerging forms of expression. The notion of audience has been redefined today by post-technological networks – and its involutionary transformation – as a product of a demystified late-capitalist model without centers and reformulated contents. The involution of cultural communication into a system of seemingly original producers of knowledge it’s like today everything is so easy to do so why do we need anyone else doing it but us, In this multicultural and multidisciplinary society Cultural producers today produce works that critique western notions of collective spectatorship as opposed to receivers creates a different activity universe that contrasts with the deflection of speech, blogs and apps and movies and stuff, like there are multiple voices that reflect our diverse culture and that are important to support, today things maybe have become retarded or something when you really think about it it’s really amazing like a seemingly anti-political task of horizontal results.
In some cases, these voices will challenge the viewer to reflect on important issues we all face, where one searches for the hidden receiver finds instead the manifested materialization of parallel mimetic producers but they all reflect the feelings and thoughts of others and are representative of the diversity of original community voices that we all should strive to support, I mean everything can mean anything because anyone can do, like, whatever. It is the fabrication of the plot of the content, I mean like today the world and like, the substance of normative principles of inclusion of concepts, that we only face as a society the challenge to expand our long-term partnerships and advisory support to those who have an important message to convey to their constituents, These works are conceptual narratives that question a variety of concepts, where we all talk about ourselves and then it like makes everything look the same because no one seems to be listening or something. By acting together, we can overcome the obstacles that for too long have prevented real change on the critical issues that audiences face in art and life, only in stylistic practices of scientific postmodernity, I mean that’s cool, but it’s like if I am talking and you are talking and he is talking and then if we just talk in different ways that doesn’t mean we are saying different things, like These practices thus become explorations of conceptual information of notions of participants, building enduring foundations for community partnerships with real solutions, usually not self-identified as such but actively embracing a regiment of exclusionary definitions that participate in notions of information of conceptual explorations, if you know what I am saying, including the way in which spectators receive information in a postmodern world, and we know why we say it and we know what you are going to say so what’s the point of even saying it, within a well-founded domain of references visible only to a reduced agents of the operation, fulfilling the long objective of change, creativity, and achievement for the generations to come, an exploration of notions of viewers, Its like that is how its done today when we just say what we have to say but the point that there is no point is maybe, like, the point.

Wiederabdruck
Dieser Text erschien zuerst in: Helguera, Pablo: Art Scenes: The Social Scripts of the Art World, edited by Rebecca Roberts, Jorge Pinto Books Inc., 2012.

1.) This performance lecture, designed to be performed only once with no documentation other than this written script, was presented at the Bruce High Quality Foundation University in New York on October 13, 2009.

[Dieser Text findet sich im Reader Nr. 1 auf S. 245.]

[Es sind keine weiteren Materialien zu diesem Beitrag hinterlegt.]

Pablo Helguera

(*1971) is a New York based artist working with installation, sculpture, photography, drawing, socially engaged art and performance. His work as an educator frequently intersects with his interests as an artist, producing work that reflects on issues of interpretation, dialogue, and the role of contemporary culture in a global reality. Since 2007, Helguera has been Director of Adult and Academic programs at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Prior to that, he was Head of Public Programs in the Education department of the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1998–2005). He has organized close to 1000 public events in conjunction with nearly 100 exhibitions. He is represented by Kent Fine Art in New York and Enrique Guerrero Gallery in Mexico City.

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