Great start to The Emancipated Spectator reading group!

Thank you to the willing readers and discussants who came to the kick-off for one of our summer reading groups – The Emancipated Spectator. Over the summer, I will be leading casual discussions around readings that inform or were inspired by our current exhibition The Talent Show. Check out what we’ll be talking about in July.

For the first session we took a look at two essays by Claire Bishop, the go-to scholar on artistic practices that incorporate participation. Her introduction to the volume “Participation” — “Viewers as Producers” — offers a concise trace of these practices since the early 20th century. Some of our group’s discussion focused on the “politics of participation” as Bishop outlines, how we saw that evidenced by works in The Talent Show and how such considerations bump up against practices not covered by the exhibition, in particular the realm of art and social practice.

The second essay — “Outsourcing Authenticity?: Delegated Performance in Contemporary Art” — was equally thought provoking, Here, Bishop ranges far in addressing notions of authorship and authenticity, objectivity and subjectivity, and the ethics involved when artists hire or otherwise request (or even cajole) others to be surrogates, props, or “actors” in performance-oriented work. I thought this would be an interesting read because the The Talent Show has had me thinking deeply about the ethics of participation, of being “on stage,” whether willingly or unwittingly. What results when an artist puts another person on stage vs. when the artist himself or herself takes the stage? What happens when we are “on stage” and we don’t even know it?

These two selections acted as a launch pad for a great group discussion that ventured through the exhibition and its ideas. But, even better, we found ourselves sharing thoughts on more artists and more essays to consider in light of the topics they brought up. I appreciate the opportunity for exchange! And I hope you will consider joining us at our next session July 21.


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