VIEWER BETWEEN CONTROL AND CONTINGENCY
Place of Art questionnaire
Has the viewer’s role changed due to the pandemic?
I find it difficult to answer.
From my point of view, yes. The competition over the viewers and the desire to actively involve them in online interaction have increased. Meanwhile, the audience has not adjusted to this quickly and is not rushing to change cultural habits.
It's hard for me to say whether the role of the viewer has changed, but this situation has altered the viewer's and other perceptions.
To some extent, the very concept of a viewer has changed, since an online viewer is considered not only the one who watches the live broadcasts (minority), but also the one who watches the recordings (majority). And this is a completely different work with the audience.
If we move away from the problem of shifting visual practices, the position of the body in space, situations of communication, as well as accessibility ... Depending on the institutional reaction, what kind of viewer does a particular institution “build” and attract? Even before the pandemic, the viewer was assigned an inert, guided role that was reducing the spectator’s function to the amount of mass when they were buying a ticket. In a pandemic, such institutions nurtured a pliable, comfortable viewer who plays the role of a buyer, in this case, a subscriber who presses the “like” button on social networks and spends time watching. This role of respect or disrespect for the "viewer" did not change in the context of changing parameters.
Of course, it has changed a lot because the viewer became passive and stopped communicating with art that exists only in the material world, due to the lack of possibility of physical presence. Now communication is being built (until museums have opened, people do not dare to go to exhibitions due to the continuing increase in the incidence of the virus in the country) online: discussions, virtual exhibitions, and other formats. Accordingly, we can talk about new (old) forms of communication between the viewer and contemporary art, some of which will remain after the pandemic.
Now there are a few more opportunities to give feedback: online formats support it (comment mode everywhere, etc.).
Probably, the role of the viewer has changed over these months, and more and more museums make virtual tours, virtual screenings of exhibitions, and come up with projects that involve viewers online. It seems to me that the viewer is a little tired of this, but in the first months everyone was excited: so much content became available on the Internet. I do not mean just visual arts, but also theater plays, music concerts.
An incomprehensible question: what does "role" mean? The viewer ceased to be physically present in museums and exhibitions but retained the right and the ability to judge art and voice these judgments through various networks.
Has your viewing experience changed when art events moved online? Did you take part in such events (online openings, virtual tours, discussions, performances, etc.) or refused them in principle?
It has not changed, I had no information on any online openings, virtual tours, etc.
I do not take part in online events. For me, offline interaction with art has always been more valuable, since it allows a greater temporal and spatial variability (walking around the exhibition at your pace, etc.), and, last but not least, communication (I always go to events with others, to discuss my impressions). Online erases these moments a little.
I have not become a more active viewer of online events. I watch as many events online as I used to before, but I feel that the events on the Internet have changed. I noticed more intimate events organized by familiar artists in Russia and beyond. Online excursions have not captured me yet. In many ways, going to the exhibition was a “going” in itself: a physical movement to another space. Now these visits are replaced by street walks.
My viewing experience hasn't changed. I didn't participate, I didn't watch anything. This is not a principled position, but I simply did not care about all this.
In April, when the online events boom began, I tried to watch many online formats: excursions, plays, various types of concerts, Zoom discussions, round tables, and even games. I even took part in some events. I quickly realized that it was not my thing. The atmosphere and the authenticity of museum and theater means a lot to me. For various interactive practices, where there is no video plot but only the faces of the speakers, the podcast format is more comfortable and interesting.
Yes, it has changed. I didn't have to see the many ugly exhibition projects in Moscow in person. So, there was no need to think over the routes of walks before and after exhibitions. As for the online events, priority was given to foreign projects due to the quality of the content. I would like to take advantage of the information and opportunities that have opened up during the quarantine because it is quite interesting, I do not refuse it.
The only interesting online format for me is lectures and discussions. In my opinion, the amount of online content is off charts not only in the artistic field. There is no opportunity and sense to watch everything and participate in all events. For me, the question is how necessary is the transition online of those events, the essence of which is the participation of a physical viewer's experience, such as exhibitions, excursions, performances? Is this kind of adaptation of cultural institutions essential or does it confuse the spectator? If not, what forms would be the most up-to-date and relevant?
During the quarantine there was no time or energy left for the viewing experience. All the work and most of the personal time was taken by the preparation of online events as organizer or participant.
I watch virtual tours, listen to discussions and reports on exhibitions both in museums in New York (where I live) and in museums and art spaces in other countries (including Moscow).
I don’t refuse anything in principle. We will feel an online presence for a long time, and even if we go offline, the convenience of online will manifest itself in some way and people's lifestyles will change. Together with Alexey Isaev, I was one of the first persons engaged in the Internet art. This space for the artist has already died, the Internet has become commercialized and, in my opinion, is not very interesting. Therefore, everything is fine in the first months, when it is artistic, open, hospitable to the viewer. But we know that all of this cannot be free-of-charge for a long time and museums, theaters and music companies commercialize things quickly.
I liked going offline and watching everything in person, especially since so many things are not made for online. The other is the net art, when artists make a special project that can’t exist in the museum space. Now many things that can exist offline are easily invented. In general, the viewer will still wait for a reunion with art, music, theater.
Yes, there is an opportunity to travel online to various spaces. I didn't like the format of online openings, as the empty halls looked sad, but excursions and discussions seem to be a promising format. Yes, I take part in them.
I don't keep an eye on it, I don't know.
This is a very interesting question, and the listed examples are very interesting and deserve a separate study. However, I doubt whether it would be productive to look at them not as part of the art world, but primarily as the social practices of communication and new ways of rethinking everyday life. They tell us more about the position of the artist / practitioner rather than about the position of the viewer. Actually, as far as I can tell, the way viewers interact with this content is the same as before with the other artistic content on social media: like, praise, condemnation from a moral point of view. But it is interesting that these practices find their way to everyday life precisely as practices of active joint action. Firstly, it is extremely interesting to discuss this and share with friends. Secondly, some of my friends thought about making a scene for Isoisolation, but in the end they did not do it or did it, but didn’t publish it. We are not dealing with the visual and visible for the viewer, but with the imaginary, i.e. with the expansion of the possibilities of everyday imagination and experience: experiencing something positive and inspiring against the backdrop of a non-positive and uninspiring pandemic.
It's hard for me to say something about this, since the flash mob format has never attracted my attention.
What is the viewer's position? Who is this? It is probably necessary to conduct polls, take a selection, count the "votes".
Someone recreates paintings, someone repeats dances on TikTok, someone participates in mini-auctions, someone draws window views and uploads them to the district group. As always, all this is about the involvement that many people need, the desire for praise, this is about building a community, about carnival and play.
Isoisolation is a wonderful flash mob that reveals painting and the spectator to each other as something relevant and visible.
The Ball and the Cross is something between the bottom and the stairwell. Although the stairwells in the Russian province do not differ at all from the bottom with their lattice-like floor.
In my opinion, in flash mobs, the positions of the viewer and the actor are made equal and mixed; two active components set the movement, turning into some independent action with all its mass character and recognizability. The border of what is acceptable ceases to be clear, and this is a huge potential, communication and freedom.
Whereas communities pursuing more selfish goals face bigger problems. For example, in the field of art, the problem is not only in finding a distribution channel for buying and selling, but including a bunch of issues of quality, relevance, purchasing power, etc.
In rare cases, such projects have really helped artists, as their work has been bought or published, thus providing financial support. On the other hand, such communities as The Ball and the Cross further erode the already vague concepts of "contemporary art", "collector", "Russian art market". Thus, artists who had nothing to do with contemporary art emerged and took advantage of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the curator of the Garage Museum Andrey Misiano actively promoted the project for unknown reasons.
I think these practices are essential and therapeutic for unity and mutual help. It is difficult to single out a separate position of the viewer, since everyone participates in one way or another.
I am most familiar with Isoisolation, an initiative taken by the Russians from the Getty Museum . It is interesting that this initiative gained wide scope precisely in Russia, where traditionally reverence for art is instilled and the distance between the ordinary viewer and the creator is emphasized to a much greater extent than in the West. Perhaps it was the chance to overcome this distance that prompted Russians to massively create imitations of artworks. Even more interesting was a Twitter flash mob of British non-art museums directed at curators, it was a sort of competition for the creepiest item in their collection. Also, indicative (albeit not very successful) was that British museums gave viewers the opportunity to curate their exhibitions from objects from museum collections . Thousands of exhibitions have been posted online with a specially designed program. I think there is a great future behind this initiative.
Thanks to Isoisolation, people started to see artworks more clearly. After all, to recreate a picture, you need to take a closer look at the colors, poses. This contemplation takes time of being with the artwork.
The Ball and the Cross saved many artists as they sold more of their work than in normal times. Especially considering that our government did not give all freelancers five thousand euros the next day, as they did in Berlin, but gave nothing. It's very unfair to do this with creative people. The artists offered us their works for free but did not get any support with the position “share, entertain the public, we will take everything from you for free”.
I like that The Ball and the Cross closed on time, so it doesn’t become a commercial toy, so that later no one could say that you took profit from the quarantine. I have bought 20 works by Luda Belova, Gor Chahal, Ira Zatulovskaya. When I arrived at Ira's workshop after the quarantine, she told me: "Max Boxer charged us with endless work: we woke up every day and did something". The main thing is that we began to learn more about regional art, not only the one we get on a silver platter.
The Ball and the Cross is a unique project, an example of how a personal initiative aimed primarily at supporting friends has grown to a grandiose scale. There are “collectors” of contemporary art, recklessly buying works even in our department. The Ball and the Cross has helped and still helps artists and others to make money for a living.
Isoisolation is a nationwide project, wonderful, since a huge number of people were involved in art, got acquainted with the works that they parodied.
1. Isoisolation is a flash mob gained popularity on Russian social media in spring 2020 during the quarantine. For the flash mob, participants reproduced famous paintings and sculptures from everyday’s material.
2. The Ball and the Cross is a private Facebook group created in April 2020 by collector Maxim Boxer that soon became a platform for art sales. Due to the low prices, the group engaged many people to buy and sell artworks. According to the organizers, thousands of works worth millions of rubles were sold through the group.
3. More about the project: https://www.designboom.com/art/getty-museum-self-isolation-recreate-famous-artworks-03-30-2020/
4. More about the project: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/weirdest-art-yorkshire-museum-1839984