What’s the point in getting organised behind a cause?
Certain medias have appeal. The medium of the film has an aura and calls for a particular type of participation. There is a special moment when stuff happens, when shit gets real. Some people are in it for that, just that. There are professionals whose sole trade is to get real on cue. The medium gives a sublime direction for the event. Same with visual art. It dependents on an opening, on the exhibition. Books need reviews (which serve as proof that a thing has been read, processed as intended). Arts echo causality – Their future is authored by their form. They call for the the audience to perform a ritual of participation to become.
Covid-time has pulled a focus to the bare-bones of this agreement. Art which depends on an audience has been revealed to be a cohabitated worksite: Observing art is a demanding and dangerous labour effort (rewarding too!). Participating in an artwork is honest work. If you are not getting paid – You are the product.
People have been busy surviving.
Art institutions don’t understand what it means to survive. They are stuck on preserving and content in preserving the dead. Art is revealed to be a luxury. This time around, this old revelation showed how much this luxury burdens the living. Imagine: Some museums kept their doors open to show art made by the dead. This is great, don’t you think? Museums are macabre and remain blind to their morbid performance. There is nothing more gruesome than a peppy museum or theatre Instagram post from the Autumn of 2020. They sincerely asked a dying population to appreciate art. There is beauty in this, like there is beauty watching the world burn. In Finland theatres were subsidized by the government for loosing their audiences… And because they didn’t have any production costs, they made profits from the pandemic!
The weight of this luxury has been felt. But there is hope still: There are cultures for culture, which refuse to be defined by a performance. There exists art which does not call for an audience.
We have all become performance artists, because we are bombarded by performances: The pose of the zoom-meeting, mask-or-no masks in public-space show, handwashing on entry and the plethora of other choreographies, which have been authored by the middle-class managerial clergy.
Read more on covid-managerialism: The Middle-Class Leviathan: Corona, the “Fascism” Blackmail, and the Defeat of the Working Class (2020) Elena Lange & Joshua Pickett-Depaolis. And have a listen at Top 5 Fetishes ft. Elena Louisa Lange (2021) Aufhebunga Bunga -podcast.
I think this bombardment of daily performances has shifted the art in performance. It is now focused on something else than an exact moment of execution (or even unfocused).
Performance art was well equipped for this change: Previously durational performance was a method for evading pinned moments. Durational performances represented a way to steer away from the object-like quality of a show – It was about a presence, not the act. Availability of documentation media and affordable media copying tools changed this. A week-long performance became a photo, a year-long show became a video and a career became a book.
But I believe that the non-object hood of the performance is making a comeback. Everyone has had to perform, institutions have been desperate to reach their audiences and now everybody is exhausted. Trying to survive and exhausted! The last thing people need is to get pinned into a moment, to be tasked to make sense of an artwork. The best thing art has to offer is not giving a fuck about the audience. At least, this is the best care I have to offer for you right now.
This is also why radio is so appealing! It exists, there is a broadcast and you can tune in but you are not locked or commissioned to work for it – I won’t even notice that you are here. Performance art is great: I sincerely don’t give a fuck about the audience, yet I’m here.. Doing my shit and you are free to do what the fuck you want. Have a great day!
I will wear fancy headphones to listen to recent ambient releases, which have been shared on a popular music forum. I will serve as a conduit and transmit ambient soundscapes by humming them out loud. Maybe I’ll dance a little, wiggle my hands in the sun. If everything goes well you won’t even notice there is a performance going on. Just noises of someone singing along to what they are listening to.
10.-11.6.2021, 10:00-18:00. Töölönlahti/Oodi, Helsinki