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[ Backstage ]


Yun-Ling Chen, Not Really Really(SS-20-03), 2020,
Pear, apples and acyclic paint, ,11 x 32 x 9 cm

Art, therefore, was asked to educate French subjects and give them a moral sensibility, as the monarch and his/her divine right (which was connected to the church) no longer represented power and punishment. The Republic presented these museums as secular places of worship in which to cultivate the self and to encourage their society to self-discipline.

In contrast, the Not Really Really series crosses the line of this sacred presentation of secular icons. This act could be interpreted as taboo for it not only exposes the unfinished artwork to the audience but travels across (pollutes) the private, as well as public space, demystifying the closed system by plugging it into an outside (the everyday administration of the office for example). The exhibition of the Not Really Really series enables the audience to not fully acknowledge the maintenance process, as they might not encounter the replacing of the egg yolk. This series is not stable, as it stages flows of power between the artist and the artwork, with a continuous change between master and servant. In breaking down the implied rules of the space and the relationship between artist and artwork, the work resists a stable identity. This suggests that new configurations and knowledge systems can arise out of this process. 

Audiences are used to receiving didactic, authoritative, and unidirectional interpretations of art often introduced to this method via museums and this puts pressure on other art world institutions to follow this model (well used path). In the previous chapter, Naming, I proposed that an artwork's textual label, which provides the language for framing the artwork, has the power to direct the audience's path through the exhibition. As a result, the title and blurb about the artwork has become to matter more than the artwork itself.

In contemporary society, neo-liberal and technological mechanisms have separated processes from end-products. This is in part due to convoluted supply chains, so that no one company oversees the whole of the process and, therefore, is also not responsible for it. This obfuscated process is similar to the technological black box, in which we do not know how the systems we use operate. This internal process or system is often deemed too complex to understand and we are in the habit of ignoring them. In response, my practice aims to reveal some of the processes in the black box of the art gallery (white box) to the public. In my practice, the process and end-product are both in a supplementive relation and my practice highlights the overlooked process that is simultaneously present within the end-product.

Part of the way in which the artworld system remains a white box, is due to the narratives and structures that it deploys. For example, the architecture and educational systems that are used in museums (such as the Louvre referred to above) are very similar to the Panopticon model described by Foucault. Therefore, museums may present themselves as aiding the public by providing them with access to art but they also cultivate and influence audiences through instigating their behaviour, knowledge systems and aspirations. Therefore, many of the operations that museums use actually produce subjects and their engagement as much as it supports them.

The term Panopticon, initially described an architecture in which prisoners were housed in single cells that surrounded a central tower. However, the prisoners were not able to discern whether they were being watched or not because the tower was there all the time but the guards could not be seen. Therefore, the prisoners behaved as if they were being watched all the time. This in turn meant that the prisoners started to discipline themselves and performed to the central tower so that they would not be punished. This changed the penal system, from one of punishment from the guards to that of self-discipline from the prisoners.

Foucault goes on to describe how the Panopticon model is adopted by many social institutions such as schools and companies because of the ways in which these institutions educate their users to be useful to society. The aim of this Panopticon principle is to produce a society of people that is self-disciplined. The museum and gallery have also taken on this educational model. Many galleries provide the audience with a well-used path with which to access the knowledge that will deem them socially responsible individuals. Therefore, exhibition models largely encourage the audience to behave in a passive way (consuming rather than producing knowledge); to follow the forms of self-discipline that are being distributed through the exhibitionary complex. Any educational model that deploys this method will limit the user’s ability and make them reliant on the system.

In contrast, the Not Really Really series aims to decentralize disciplinary models and de-link from the institutional system to reveal glitches in staging and interpreting art practice. This also asserts the power of the audience’s own experience and their interpretation of it, as opposed to ingesting someone else’s interpretation. These interpretations may cause glitches, or cause the audience members to observe the glitches in their everyday surroundings. Then from these glitches some may propose alternative paths, so that we have multiple routes in society and not just one.

I am particularly concerned with the predominant method of presenting the artwork through text in museum practice, as this produces a singular and authoritative route for interpreting art practice. In response to this, I explore a particular process of making visible that occurs in galleries but is not often drawn to the fore in making art public. Through this process, I attempt to engage the audience in questioning the ways in which our relationships to artworks and exhibitions are mediated. It is also an attempt to engage the audience with a more experience-oriented interpretation of the artwork and exhibition.

The more we rely on the well-used path, the more we want an art that is easy to understand. An artwork which we understand and have gained knowledge of, but often we have understood a particular type of knowledge system. A system in which the artwork is often over-interpreted by the text. The over-interpretation of information provides us with a supposed universal language, and this creates a general text to provide general care to the audience. Audiences are initiated into the system of consuming art through text and must fit themselves into the system first, to be qualified in the use of general care. However, with this general care, many audiences cannot access the knowledge and this universal system of staging art writes over the top of a plural system of multiple voices. I aim to advocate the importance of a situated care, as general care cannot include all people and will only produce one path.

To conclude, both my practice and thesis aim to not over-determine the information or path to be used by the audience. In treating the audience as co-interpreter of the artwork, their experience is additive and not subtractive; they can be active subjects that produce new paths rather than passive subjects that consume one path. I define this practice as a form of situated care, as each audience member can produce a positive glitch in the exhibition as an actor-network based on their own lived experience. This acts in contrast to the educational exhibition models that try to provide a general experience for all, which produces a universal or singular narrative for interpreting art practice.

By giving the power of situated-interpretation back to the audience/reader, my research and practice is dependent on your readings as supplementary to the work. No one interpretation is privileged over the other. Therefore, my practice facilitates participants in producing multiple readings and potential beginnings of paths to discover their own situated ‘use of use’.


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