Madame Wang issue 2 /
the suit really needs two pairs of hands

The suit I am wearing and the operation I am conducting with it and in it really needs two pairs of hands; one to slip the battery packs in to the specifically made pockets in the waistcoat and the other to site the cameras in the jacket and feed the wires from the battery packs. But as this is a one-person cubicle with a fair few gallery visitors outside it is better for me to this solo. The cameras are pin hole spy cameras with 10m night sights and audio; with some last minute adjustments they will soon be sited and I will be ready to exit and emerge into the gallery. The weight of the battery packs holds me upright and elegant.

The Spectator is much more then a mere member of a momentary group that go to see this thing, then move over there and observe that thing; they are a community. The position and power of the spectator as implied by the work of art has been a central question from the time of Denis Diderot, and has been regularly contested from Roland Barthes essay The Death of the Author to Michael Fried’s call for the passivity of the audience.

Jacques Rancière’s The Emancipated Spectator brings the spectator back into focus once again asking us to re-examine its potential. Rancière’s spectator is one that is developed through ideas raised in his earlier work The Ignorant School Master. This work converges on the theories of the eccentric Joseph Jacotot who believed in the pedagogical structure of intellectual equality. Ranciere concentrates on this to discuss the relationship between the schoolmaster and the pupil. In the Emancipated Spectator, Ranciere uses The Ignorant School Master as a basis to discuss the spectator of an artwork; a position that he always holds in doubt.

The spectator who sits and passively observes an artwork is viewed as an undesirable description of the viewing process for two reasons; firstly the spectator is portrayed as a position of ignorance, unaware of the codes and signs that enable the transmission of knowledge from actor to viewer. Secondly the spectator remains immobile and passive. He is separated both from the action on the stage and from the actions of other spectators. This is an ignorance that needs be countered to re-establish knowledge and action. Theatre needs to activate the spectator by reversing this ignorance’s effect, and restoring what Ranciere calls the “ownership of their consciousness and their activity”.

But Ranciere goes further for he calls for a new spectator, and a new relationship derived from his writings about the ignorant schoolmaster. The schoolmaster’s role is to abolish the distance between ignorance and knowledge, by continuously re-establishing and breaking down this distance. This pedagogical relationship between schoolmaster and pupil is one that can be seen as a parallel to the distance between the artwork and its spectator and may explain what is at stake for the spectator in contemporary art today.

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The Treignac Project Residancy 2010 /
Text by Sam Basu

The appearance of an absent body.

Matthew Stock has developed a system of extended projections that augment the defined boarders of the video experience. Binocular vision, and the wandering gaze of the viewer are absorbed into his video objects at the same time that the right-angled sovereignty of the filmed format is rejected. His video works redouble the instability of the reconstituted movie scene and bring to the fore the possibilities of revealing three-dimensional experience through a two dimensional medium.

Matt Stock fixes multiple cameras onto himself with a specially designed jacket. These cameras range from small low specification wireless cameras, of 320/240 TV lines, to wide-angle DV cameras. The cameras are never handheld, but always set into his suited exoskeleton. With this equipment, he walks circuits through different parts of cities preparing choreographed circles from which he cuts his video loops. The layering, overlapping, and delaying of footage tends to obliterate the bodies and architecture caught in them. Through the jumps and twitches of the inconstant wireless signal, everything is transformed into the looming myopic forms of a frustrated three-dimensional vision.

We follow the spiralling work like a detective novel without crime, motive or opportunity. Here there is an echo of Beckett's minimalism and his fascination with precise but troublesome movement. Throughout Stock's works, despite their intense colour and fluid transparent surfaces, there is the bulging invisible mass of the human body. As in any good crime novel you always need a corps and this one is accompanying us in our search for the body.

Either through the anti-letterbox handling of projectors, or the double presentation of the same scene through different cameras, the act of presenting the work completes the work in the same space as the viewer. The body frames the visual experience; both the artist's and the viewers presence is implicated. The nonalignment of projectors to the building and walls denies and transplants the dominance of architecture. There is an attempt through the 'screening phase' of the film, to accommodate and translate information in the 'shooting phase'. The production flow of a video or film is constantly brought back into the present as it endlessly attempts to map its own inquiry.

The works are also a portrait of the city. Not as layers of architecture and demolition or cultures and memories, but as a conglomeration of transports and flows. Not static buildings, but ways of moving and storing; economies and assets. The absent body is always located between walls by the lenses of Matt Stock's cameras. His work does not reflect our concerted attempt at seeing or experiencing or even knowing the city as an entity but reveals an uneasy difficulty at the heart of any such attempt. Here we have the situation where instead of a community finding ways in which to perceive the city, it is the city that perceives itself through the community that lives within it.
Sam Basu 2010

The Illusion of the Audience / MA Research Paper 2009

The audience's experience of a work of art is, in the most part, dependent on what they bring with them and what they understand about the work. There are, however other factors to consider, for instance, the artist's intentions and how the work has been hung or positioned within the physicality of the museum or gallery. Together these all function as deciphers towards this experience and ultimately some kind of understanding. There exists a distance between the work and the viewer and within this distance the interpretation of the work exists. This distance allows for thought, procrastination, misunderstanding and perhaps hope. Recently though this critical space has begun to be questioned, its boundaries are now being blurred, and it's not just the artists that are instituting this change, I believe the viewers are becoming equally complicit. What has caused this preoccupation with the viewer, the work of art and the space? I believe that it has to do with the term participation.

There is an emerging concern within contemporary art practice with involving the audience in a participatory manner, in other words, to physically engage the audience with the work. In my own work I talk about just this point. What I am proposing with this paper is to understand this new emergence, from the perspective of the audience. Of course, this idea is not a new idea at all, but what is new is the way contemporary art is speaking about the audience. What I will be looking at are a series of artworks, interventions and projects that use, as a fundamental part, the audience. These will also serve to divide the paper into three parts; the audience, the participant and the community.

In part one I shall look at the stance, the gaze and the perception of the audience. In part two, I will focus on participation and the possibility of transference of authorship from the artists to the audience. In the final part I wish to discuss firstly, whether this emergence separates the artist from the audience, and secondly what is meant by the emerging use of community and the gallery's affect on this?

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