Audience as Subject

Audience as Subject, Part 2: Extra Large
February 18-May 27, 2012
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street
San Francisco CA 94103

Gracias a Montse Romaní por el pase.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents Audience as Subject, Part 2: Extra Large, from February 18 through May 27, 2012. Audience as Subject is a two-part exhibition that considers the audience broadly as a living organism of participating viewers of live events. It includes artworks that illuminate audiences as collective bodies as well as the individuals who comprise them. It asks: What is the civic potential implied by different publics? Why focus on the audience of live events rather than the performer, actor, or stage? What can be gleaned about our humanity from artists’ representations of audience behavior? What is satisfying (and frustrating) about being in a crowd during a live event? French philosopher Alain Badiou asks: “Why would a crowd which does not revolt against flagrant injustice actually constitute itself as a collective subject through the grace of a theatrical summoning?” While these works acknowledge the role of media for disseminating images of live events, as well as the widening impact of virtual experiences of these events, this exhibition hopes to reconsider corporeal experience as a primal site of social collectivity, exchange, and potential.

Part 2: Extra Large focuses on three general categories of live events-rock concerts, sports, and political rallies-all of which are sites for large gatherings of people, who in the moment of their collectivity share a common experience as a member of a public. Various publics are depicted through their styles of congregation and behavior, with individuals performing roles such as enthusiast or protester, within a unique and singular crowd. Repeatedly in these images, audience members are interacting directly with each other-psychically and emotionally-as well as engaging spectatorially with the object of their gaze-a band, a soccer match, a political speaker.

For artists Wang Qingsong, Melanie Smith, Rabih Mroué, Andrea Bowers, and Alexey Kallima, the public forums of the conference, street, and stadium frame the actions of the audience in political terms. For photographers Ryan McGinley and Elaine Constantine, the rock concert is a space where normal identities are replaced with exhilarated behaviors by revelers absorbed in the power of music. Andreas Gursky’s hyper-panoramic view of an outdoor crowd retains access to details about individual fans swept up into a collective gesture of adoration. The devotees of the New Wave band Depeche Mode, interviewed in Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams’s video, provide something of a back story to the scenes of fandom on view elsewhere. Stephen Dean, Gonzalo Lebrija, and Paul Pfeiffer’s sports fans conform to the rituals of spectatorship for particular sports-soccer, boxing, or basketball. All these ways of expressing dreams and desires suggest the potential power of the populace-at-large to positively affect political structures and/or coalesce to enjoy together the pleasures of being immersed in the synthetic energy of the crowd.

Audience as Subject is curated by Betti-Sue Hertz, YBCA Director of Visual Arts. Part 1: Medium took place October 30, 2010 to February 6, 2011 and focused on medium-sized audiences and audiences as social citizens and participant viewers of cultural events at theaters, cinemas, TV studios, and plazas. It included works by Gabriel Acevedo Velarde, caraballo-farman, Stefan Constantinescu, Danica Dakić, Adrian Paci, Shizu Saldamando, and Ulla von Brandenburg.

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