C.O.P.S. Class notes: Audience as wind-up monkey 07/09/11

I'm a blank image because this stupid WP layout is stupid and makes an ugly forced image if I'm not here

I’m taking classes at the Conceptual Oregon Performance School this summer and I’m a huge nerd. Here are my notes from class, links that are related and the best parts of the readings:

Class notes (some reference chunks of reading, numbered in following section):

  • Passageway 1961, Robert Morris. [Minimalism: Art and Polemics in the Sixties, page 50]
  • Actively engaging in civics, spectator v. participant
  • Mostlandia (compare to Borges [1, 2] and Varo [1], creation of “imaginary spaces”)
  • Involvement increases value
  • Vito Acconci
  • Audience & viewer find obligations in a space that encourages interaction
    • Children’s/learning museums
    • Realising, loosening social bounds (drunks interact more)
    • Demand characteristics
  • Spectator as curator, deciding what is art [see readings: Barthes, 3]
    • Flickr’s Galleries, where the user decides what pictures belong, sometimes what you don’t want or expect. [see readings, Ranciere, 2]
    • Spectator determining value: levels to it, starring, commenting, sharing.
  • Can rules guide a viewer in a new perspective, within proscribed bounds, in a way that provides a new base of hypertextuality with their own story? [see readings: Ranciere, 1]
  • Con game as performance art, using a shill to snowball audience’s reaction.
  • Constants and variablesin empirical study:
    • What constants can bound performance . . .
    • but still allow free reign of audience variables?

Readings and sundry notes (emphasis in bold, sidebar in italics):

Barthes, Roland. Death of the Author.

  1. . . . in primitive societies, narrative is never undertaken by a person, but by a mediator, shaman or speaker, whose “performance” may be admired (that is, his mastery of the narrative code), but not his “genius” [the audience is the “reader”]
  2. . . . the true locus of writing is reading.
  3. In this way is revealed the whole being of writing: a text consists of multiple writings, issuing from several cultures and entering into dialogue with each other, into parody, into contestation; but there is one place where this multiplicity is collected, united, and this place is not the author, as we have hitherto said it was, but the reader: the reader is the very space in which are inscribed, without any being lost, all the citations a writing consists of; the unity of a text is not in its origin, it is in its destination; but this destination can no longer be personal: the reader is a man without history, without biography, without psychology; he is only that someone who holds gathered into a single ?eld all the paths of which the text is constituted.

Ranciere, Jacques. The Emancipated Spectator.

  1. It starts when we realize that looking also is an action which confirms or modifies that distribution , and that “interpreting the world” is already a means of transforming it, of reconfiguring it. The spectator is active, as the student or the scientist: he observes, he selects , compares, interprets. He ties up what he observes with many other things that he has observed on other stages, in other kind of spaces. He makes his poem with the poem that is performed in front of him. She participates in the performance if she is able to tell her own story about the story which is in front of her.
  2. [In pedagogy] the master presupposes that what the student learns is the same thing as what he teaches to him. . . The paradox of the ignorant master lies there. The student of the ignorant master learns what his master does not know, since his master commands it to look for and to tell everything that he finds out on the way and verifies that he is actually looking for it. The student learns something as an effect of his master’s mastery. But he does not learn his master’s knowledge.
  3. In that way [theatre] is supposed to provide some unique sense of community, radically different from the situation of the individuals watching on the TV or the spectators of a movie who are in front of mere projected images. . . what does specifically happen between the spectators of a theatre which would not happen elsewhere? Is there something more interactive, more common to them than to the individuals who look at the same time the same show on their TV? [see: interacting online in comparison to interacting in person]
  4. We have to acknowledge that any spectator already is an actor of his own story and that the actor also is the spectator of the same kind of story.
  5. Their activity as propagandists could not be torn apart from their “passivity” as mere strollers and contemplators. The chronic of their leisure meant a reframing of the very relationship between doing, seeing and saying. As they became “spectators”, they overthrew the distribution of the sensible which had it that those who work have no time left to stroll and look at random, that the members of a collective body have no time to be “individuals” . . . Workers’ emancipation was not about acquiring the knowledge of their condition. It was about configuring a time and a space that invalidated the old distribution of the sensible, dooming the workers to do nothing of their night but restoring their forces to work the next day.
  6. Artists, just as researchers, build the stage where the manifestation and the effect of their competences become dubious as they frame the story of a new adventure in a new idiom. The effect of the idiom cannot be anticipated. It calls for spectators who are active as interpreters, who try to invent their own translation in order to appropriate the story for themselves and make their own story out of it. An emancipated community is in fact a community of storytellers and translators.


I think about Fraggle Rock. I didn’t think much about it as a kid, I just enjoyed watching it. But going back and looking at it now, the lessons of that show are amazing. Everyone is free, no one is in charge, things should be given freely, there should be no kings.

What I hope is that we can embrace, promote, and create cultures of sharing and egalitarianism and encourage themes of resistance to oppression. I hope that that can have an impact.

To say that culture is important and activism (or direct resistance) isn’t would be an obvious mistake, but to claim the other way around is bullshit too. There’s a false dichotomy that a lot of people in radical circles promote, that culture doesn’t matter, that you can’t have any influence, that all that matters is the struggle. But we need both.

Margaret Killjoy, interviewed for The Art of Dismantling