BIENNALE WORKSHOP GROUP 2: The gaze/observer and observed/ seeing and seen

Roos Cornelissen
Charlotte Churchill
Magdalena Melon
Julia Ting Mok
Goce Tikvaroski


“The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.”

Marcel Duchamp

An Exhibition exists only with the interaction between the object and the viewer. The user is viewing the object and the object in turn is watching the user. This interaction becomes an infinite play, each one in turn affecting the other.
In the Las Meninas painting by Velazquez, Foucault describes a similar phenomenon. In the painting the relationship between the spectator and the gaze is reversed. The spectator himself becomes the subject of the painting. The observer and the observed thus take part in an endless exchange. The interplay between the two gazes blurs the boundaries between the role of the spectator and the object and it becomes difficult to determine who is staring at who. The spectator is captured and drawn into the piece. In this way the art acts as a controlling medium which objectifies us and affects our behavior. This extends to the realm of surveillance as the gaze becomes the controlling element in the piece, and a shift in the behavior of the participant.
There is a crossover between art and reality. A very literal example of this is The Void by Rintala Eggertsson in the Nordic pavilion, where the object exhibited is nothing but space, it is a void. A table is hanging upside down in the corner of the room, thus creating a space underneath, formed by the two walls, the ground and the table. It is the viewer of the object that has to engage with the object to see the exhibited. In this way the boundary between the work of art and the experience of the spectator blurs.

In Darcy Thompsons Growth and Form this is expressed as a field whereby a single change does not just affect one element, but it has a causal effect on the whole. This is depicted as a series of images of transformations of fish. The outlines of the animals are taken and drawn against a background of a Cartesian grid. The grid is then subject to transformation and is distorted so that its squares become rhombuses. The comparison with the original image reveals that the outline corresponds closely to the shape of another related animal.

This experiment as part of the workshop explores the dynamics of movement and this causal effect in the exhibitions at the biennale. In one series, the participants are shown moving through the space sensing sound and gravitating towards the perimeter. In contrast, in the other series, people are shown to be moving away from the strong sounds and images and gravitating to the central light. In this case the field of relations provoke a different pattern of behavior.
The space acts as a field whereby a singular movement reconfigures the relation between the object and the subject, similar to the Las Meninas painting where the subject engages with the painting. In the 3D exhibition space the same affect is achieved and this is perhaps even stronger.

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