Lily Mellor visited the studio a couple of times in the last week, over which time we got deeper into questions about unaware viewership and ways of accounting and assessing engagement.
These discussions were initially spurred on by comparing respective works by the two of us that bore some similarity to one another. These were Lily's 'Invited' (2014), a series of unsolicited letters to art galleries inviting an unsolicited invitation, and my own '[Potential Spam]', an as yet unfinished and unrealised idea involving the re-editing of 419 scams into art proposals and sending them to commercial galleries.
What we looked at here was who is the primary audience of these works? Is it those that see the documentation, like you now, or is the true affect of the work only realised in the true context; is the only real viewer the gallery intern that reads and deletes the message? This kind of extremely targeted, and unsolicited, art experience is something that very much appeals to me.
We then thought about other instances were unaware viewership may be experienced. Working from my recent practice we speculated at different types of unflagged impersonation that could be productive for the both of us in a collaborative context. Lily suggested mystery shoppers as a category of undercover surveillance worker that I had not considered before (despite having myself been one before), and we started to move towards the impersonation of a specific mystery shopper, an Arts Council assessor at a gallery, as maybe being a productive performance we could perform for a small, specific audience, the gallery FoH.
Staying with the Arts Council theme, this led us to considering the quantification of engagement where a performance may be covert and secret, but still visible, albeit unregistered, to the viewer. I showed Lily my most recent GFTA engagement report:
for my Michael Green work, and described some of the issues I was having with counting people who had engaged with the work at face value as being an 'audience' of the work. I discuss this in more detail here.
Working together at BATLIC, we have seen that arts institutions count every visitor to the building as audience, whether they've engaged with the artwork or not. This counting even extends to babies! So this notion of performing work to a baby became our other strand of exploration. Lily will be visiting again this week and we will look to collaborate on bringing these thoughts into some kind of coherent productive art-action.