AUDIENCING, 2020


“THE CONCEPT WITH THIS ONE WAS TO CREATE AN EXPERIENCE AS RELENTLESS AND ADDICTIVE AS POSSIBLE” – Celeste 


“I LISTEN TO RECORDS IN THE FULL KNOWLEDGE THAT WHAT I HEAR IS SOMETHING THAT NEVER EXISTED, THAT NEVER COULD EXIST, AS A 'PERFORMANCE,' SOMETHING HAPPENING IN A SINGLE TIME AND SPACE; NEVERTHELESS, IT IS NOW HAPPENING, IN A SINGLE TIME AND SPACE: IT IS THUS A PERFORMANCE AND I HEAR IT AS ONE.” – Simon Frith 


AUDIENCING takes the formal language of spectacle found in live music performance and political speech to examine the role of audience as a site and as an instable social arena in which identities are forged through the circulation and repression of desires and anxieties. 

AUDIENCING riffs on the structure of the PS1 dome which offers up an opportunity to think about similar domed structures and their relationship to narratives of spectatorship and survival, a prominent example being the Mercedes Benz SuperDome in New Orleans and its role as a site of retreat and survival for the victims of Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago. 

In Rhythm and Rock: An Aesthetics of Rock music philosopher Theodore Gracyk reminds us that “[t]he vast majority of the time, the audience … listens to speakers delivering recordings.” So the sound system as well as the site housing it becomes a kind of technical performer, producing an experience for a live audience and giving additional meaning to the commonly invoked term “system performance.” AUDIENCING comprises a programmed and automated sound and lighting system, turning the dome into a kind of multidimensional playback device. 

Taking cues from a wide range of audio genres (pop anthems, political speeches, commercial voice over, experimental noise), Nikita Gale has composed a meditation on the limits of the body and the pain and exhaustion of performance and visibility. It explores ideas around consent as it relates to the dynamic between a performer and their audience and questions how technological innovations have opened up limitless potential for the kinds of expressions that can be quantified and consumed by audiences. It also addresses the ways in which the technological extension of identities (via recording and other technologies of distribution) can create unattainable physical and affective demands on the biological body within the medium of performance with sometimes dire consequences (see: Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Prince). 

Responding to the inherent aestheticization of labor one encounters (and as a witness, authorizes to some degree) in live performance, there are no live performers in this work. 

AUDIENCING reworks the spatial relationship between the stage (as the frame for performance) and the audience through a process of inversion. The audience is placed beneath a vaulted stage in a seating arrangement that refuses any unified point of view or perspective. The position of the stage above the audience undermines the stage’s function as a frame for performance and recasts the stage as a framing device for the audience, underscoring the reality that audiences are systems of individuals navigating the boundaries between amusement, implication, and complicity.

Credits:

Audio Engineer (mixing, mastering): Juliette Amoroso

Audio Engineer (live programming): Daniel Neumann

Lighting Designer: Jason Sinopoli

Curator: Taja Cheek

Producer: Alexandra Rosenberg

Production Coordinator: Chris Masullo


Bibliography:

Whitney Houston "I Wanna Dance with Somebody"

Britney Spears "Work Bitch"

Kate Lacey Listening Publics

Audio Description of Beyonce's "Homecoming" Coachella performance

Lizzo "Truth Hurts"

"When a Mars Simulation Goes Wrong" by Marina Koren for The Atlantic

Bach "Contrapunctus 1"

Tamia "So Into You"

Michael Jackson studio sessions

Rihanna feat. SZA "Consideration"

"Still Processing: We Care for Ourselves and Others in Trump’s America" (with Matthew Steinfeld)

Harold Pinter 2005 Nobel Peace Prize Speech


Presented as part of VW Sunday Sessions on February 21, 22, & 23, 2020 at MoMA PS1. Images courtesy MoMA PS1. Photos by Maria Baranova.

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