The Death of the Audience


Conversation between Elisabeth Lebovici and Pierre Bal-Blanc

Elisabeth Lebovici: I would like to begin with the title of the exhibition you curated at the Secession in Vienna in summer 2009, as it was what first enticed me to conduct this conversation with you: “The Death of the Audience.” I sense that such a title is in line with much recent research by artists and theoreticians, for instance Hito Steyerl’s essay in the June 2009 issue of e-flux journal, “Is a Museum a Factory?”1 At the end of her essay, she mentions the viewer’s loss of sovereignty in the cinematic machine of the contemporary museum-as-factory; as if the sovereign gaze of the beholder should also be submitted to the division of labor, losing its unity and mastery:

Cinema inside the museum thus calls for a multiple gaze, which is no longer collective, but common, which is incomplete, but in process, which is distracted and singular, but can be edited into various sequences and combinations. This gaze is no longer the gaze of the individual sovereign master, nor, more precisely, of the self-deluded sovereign.

Would you say that the multiple and unified, absent subject designated in the article is similar to the one implied in “The Death of the Audience”?

Pierre Bal-Blanc: Let’s look at the invitation card for the exhibition, which assumes the character of a funeral invitation: “The Death of the Audience,” with a specific date and time: “2.7.2009. 19 Uhr.” The audience is invited to its own funeral. The card thus participates in a ritual, as redefined by Anna Halprin’s movement patterns (Ceremony of Us, 1969) or Michel Journiac’s Messe pour un corps (1969): it performs the audience. But this wasn’t our original title for the exhibition—it came about through the course of the curatorial process. The original working title for the show was “The Professional Outsider.” By using this paradoxical expression, I wished to allude to such self-defining notions of the artist as the “spy” for Gianni Pettena or the “Incidental Person” for John Latham, who are both featured in the show. These notions echo strategies in recent history that cut into institutional practices, movements, or artistic “parties,” strategies that position the artist through specific cognitive means. These artists stand at a distance, they do not intersect with attempts to define oneself as anti-, alter-, or neo-modern; they relate to the idea of being outside and also in-between. To me, relying on these processes and positions was a way of mirroring the rupture that founded Secession at the turn of the twentieth century, but through a marginal and yet positive notion of another rupture in the last quarter of the twentieth century, as well as to maybe further consider the question of what a rupture could be today . . .

source: e-flux journal #13 – february 2010 – Elisabeth Lebovici, The Death of the Audience. A conversation with Pierre Bal-Blanc.
Link to the full conversation