what sort of viewer does the art work want?

         In this essay I will be looking at two pieces of art work by two different artists in relation to the question ‘what sort of viewer does the art work want’? Contemplating how they both relate and differ in what they expect from the viewer, taking into consideration how the exhibitions have tried and or failed to take into account the viewer either in terms of physical embodiment, socioeconomic identity, ethnicity and sexuality or whether the word ‘viewer’ simply best describes the involvement the work requires.

The two pieces of art work that I am investigating are Pipilotte Rist’s ‘Worry Will Vanish’ exhibited at Hauser & Wirth and James Richards ‘Rosebud’ exhibited at the Tate Britain. I selected these two pieces of art work not just because they are both audio-visual pieces but because they are so different in relation to the way in which they are installed and experienced and also the impact the work has. I was particularly keen on looking into audio-visual art in relation to the question as I find this particular form of art personally to be quite demanding towards the spectator. It is not merely enough to just stand and stare at the art work but you have to commit and become a participant to the art work. I find both Rist’s ‘Worry will vanish’ and Richards ‘Rosebud’ relate in the sense that they both share in their expectation of something from the viewer, whether that be participation and commitment or merely submission to the work, they both require something! But what?

From experiencing both pieces of work for myself I found that the art works encourage an act which could certainly be deemed as unconscious, such as the act of lying down or sitting down. You are unknowingly forced into an act which you succumb to at will of the piece of art. So in relation to the question at this point the art works want not so much a viewer but a subliminal participant in this case. So the term ‘viewer’ is not particularly best suited to this aspect of the art work. The word ‘Spectator’ however seems to bring, in this instance, more to the role required, viewer seems far too tame and passive. Whereas ‘Spectator seems to imply a role.

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Pipilotte Rist’s ‘Worry Will Vanish’ exhibited at Hauser & Wirth


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James Richards ‘Rosebud’ exhibited at the Tate Britain


 “The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.” (Title: “The Writing of Marcel Duchamp”  By Marcel Duchamp, published online 2015 by “GoodReads” Inc http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/25418.Marcel_Duchamp)

The quote above seems justify the role of the viewer as much more than simply viewing but by being a spectator, intern contributes to the artists efforts and the work its self. Although these contributions as previously mentioned above, could be of a subliminally unconscious act such as laying and sitting down, none the less are still essentially contributions.

All art works along with all mediums play to most if not all the senses in some way or another, visually, audio wise and kinaesthetically. Both ‘Worry will vanish’ and ‘Rosebud’ are very optic and haptic in the way in which they are experienced, this is merely one of the ways in which they become interactive towards the viewer . For me ‘Worry will vanish’ came across far more haptic as I found that I was not merely looking at the surface in which the audio-visual piece was being projected, but found myself fully immersed within the projection, I didn’t just watch it I experienced it. This I feel has predominately to do with the sheer overwhelming immensity of the piece which completely floods and drowns the entire space in which it consumes. Whereas ‘Rosebud’ was more optic due to James Richards ‘Rosebud’ being displayed on a screen/ monitor I think this somewhat restricts the possibility of haptic viewing although it does not rule it out, though I found I experienced the work in an overall optic sense than haptic.

 “In contrast to the optic, the haptic sense, or sense of touch, has a ‘closeness’ and immediacy which seems to escape technological meditation and evokes a more interior sense. The sense of touch is usually subordinated to the visual, which is identified with the conceiving mind over the perceiving body also proprioceptive(www.christianhubert.com/writing/haptic_optic.html)

The way in which a piece of art work is displayed or housed greatly alters the way in which it is to be received; this can either support or hinder the work by relating it to the context of the work and its situe. Pipillotti’s “Worry Will Vanish” is a prime example of a piece of art work connecting with its situe and context. With her installation relying on sensory encounters and the freedom from social inhibitions, the vast exhibiting space in which the work is housed works with every one of those aspects; from the removal of shoes to the makeshift denim walls, to the newly installed texture specific carpets, to the mounds of plump quilts and cushions. All of which are contributing factors reliant and working with the artists subliminal concept.  Although the majority of her work has been shown in site specific architectural installations, for this piece in particular her work has focused far more on the internal architectural structure.

In comparison to this there is James Richards “Rosebud” whose work was exhibited in a far smaller scale, I don’t like to think that the piece being displayed on a small monitor diminished its impact, but the juxtaposition between the spaces in which “Rosebud” was housed against Pipillotti’s “Worry Will Vanish” it is hard not to make comparisons. Unlike the suggestive aesthetics within “Worry Will Vanish” that somewhat imply the artists intentions and concept; “Rosebud” does not seem to have much if any indicative aesthetics to encourage the viewer, other than a bench like seating area in front of the screen which can only implied to be sat on. However this may be an intentional act of the artist to encourage subliminal thought, feelings or emotions within the viewer in and unconscious manner.

With two very different installations being housed in two extremely different architectural structures, the reaction from the viewers will in turn be significantly varied; but is this indefinitely down to the artist and their installation of the art work, the extents they go to in which to communicate their concepts? Or does this expectation lie somewhere else, such as within the viewer?

The idea of the situe of a piece of art work and its extent to embellish the exhibition space with tantalising audio, visual and kinaesthetic stimulates is all very well, but there is only so much that can be thrust upon the viewer before there subliminal role is taken away.  They have to be allowed to see for themselves and take what they will from the experience, the art work merely has to allow them.

“The process of seeing paintings, or seeing anything else is less spontaneous and natural than we intend to believe, a large part of seeing depends upon habit and convention. There are many ways in which the viewer can react to the work; each reaction is however forged on the premise of the individual’s experiences intern altering the way in which everyone sees.”  (Title: “John Burges: Ways of seeing”, Published in 1972 by Penguin Books: 27 Wrights Lane, London W8 5TZ, England)

The text above I fell captures the essence of what both “Worry Will Vanish” & “Rosebud” try to enable the viewer to do, which is merely view but it is in that instant that the viewer is now not just a viewer but a participant. A participant who is subliminally connecting their experiences, memories, emotions, thoughts and now themselves to that piece of artwork.

Looking at the idea of it being the individuals way of life and convention both of which forge their experiences altering the way in which they see, being the predominant factor in the way in which they receive and therefore view the work. This inter determines weather or not the viewer feels as though the exhibition has or has not failed to take into account  their socioeconomic identity, gender, ethnicity or sexuality. This also being said that with both artworks being audio-visual, and not actually demonstrating any use of text or spoken words within their pieces, they very much appeal to a universal language.

 “There is an expectation that is created very much with the viewer in mind, thinking about the viewer as a procreator of the piece, working with the premise that the piece would be incomplete without the viewer…” (Title: “The Viewer as the Artist” by Maria Velasco a Professor of Visual Arts, Published online on May 6th 2011, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_J-MUvPPVHQ)

The quote above really does endorse the premise that by merely being a viewer of a work makes you a participant; which in spite of everything is the all the artist and the artwork ever required…

a willing viewer.

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