work > Audience Engagement

A project developed as part of The House of Dust exhibition in Paris through the Art by Translation program at the CNEAI.
This exhibition involved several works by other artists that required activation by audience members. These works, and the entire exhibition, were premised on the reinterpretation of a formative work, The House of Dust, by Fluxus artist Alison Knowles, for whom the active participation of the public held a utopian promise that this 'active' mode of engagement might carry forth from the art context into everyday life.
My project departed from the observation that this notion of audience activation has remained an aspect of contemporary artistic practice, without acknowledging the ways that the same expectation has been absorbed into everyday life, to the extent that we are expected to 'participate' in constructing our own furniture, or completing our own check-in at the airport. In fact, what we in art call audience participation, has become a particular expression of neo-liberal cost-cutting measures that 'save' the customer the labour costs of a finished product. Translated back into art, the public is performing the free labour of completing the work for the artist, which conditions people to 'enjoy' generating free labour in everyday life.
My project employed a work-force of 'activators' who were paid a minimum wage to visit the exhibition each day and to 'activate' the works of the other artists, transforming the concept of activation from one of naïve engagement, to waged labour.