“Audience Experiments: Contemporary Art in the Age of Spectacle” Reviewed

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An attempt to intellectualize the institutionalization of interactive performance art, or… how to make a Lincoln log.

Double Play
by Nikki Columbus
June 1, 2010

In April, the Kitchen presented The Juvenal Players by Pablo Helguera, which theatricalized a panel discussion between a curator, a collector, a critic, an artist, and an arts administrator. Helguera, an artist and the Museum of Modern Art's director of adult and academic programs, has written extensively on performance, pedagogy, and art-world etiquette (see The Pablo Helguera Manual of Contemporary Art Style), even once complaining: "In my role as programmer, I have frequently been frustrated by the low or nonexistent public-speaking skills of those who lecture and participate in academic discussions." He clearly relished the chance to create a full cast of panelists speaking eloquently and behaving badly.

It was therefore with some anticipation that I attended a recent forum organized by Helguera, "Audience Experiments: Contemporary Art in the Age of Spectacle," held at MoMA on May 18. The program was structured in three "acts": a presentation by artist Andrea Fraser; a roundtable featuring theater and performance practitioners, curator RoseLee Goldberg, and UC Berkeley professor Shannon Jackson; and a performance by artist David Levine. Would the participants turn on one another and reveal their deepest, darkest secrets? Or this time, given the program's title, would the audience take the lead?

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