This week I revisited my ongoing collaboration with Lily Mellor. As I outlined here, in evaluating our action 'Counting Babies' (2015) we felt that the work was a little too clean, addressing the questions about unseen performance and cultural impact too directly. Surveying the whole of our interactions over my few weeks at Vane, we picked out the thoughts that had most interested us so far:
- Written correspondence with galleries
- Mystery shopping
- Quantifying engagement
- Gallery assistants
- Private and/or targeted performance
- Quantified self technologies
- Making clearer to gallery visitors that they are counted for funding purposes
We then attempted to develop a new action that would look to bring in as many of these themes as possible. The result was an hour spent in the Laing Art Gallery and some letter writing, recalling the initial letter works we showed to one another.
This manifested itself as 'Engagement Report' (2015). The resulting object can be seen here:
This document was then sent to Laing
Though sadly after a fews days of waiting, the inbox still looked like this:
Using the assessment sheet as a template, we then visited and applied the criteria to other local galleries, though I shan't share the results here.
For this action we positioned ourselves as somewhere between a plain clothes Arts Council assessor and a member of the public attempting to engage with the art, in a quantified way. I think this performing of an Arts Council assessor could be taken much further and could be a very productive and humorous route into institutional and structural critique.
I would add here that I don't really see the letter-object above as the outcome, rather the covert performance we conducted in gathering this data and the targeted performance supplied to the Laing worker who received and read the email are where the interesting things happened.
While we don't see this work as finished either, it has supplied a bit of a blueprint for further investigation in this area. Lily and I will continue discussing these works and see if any more worthwhile actions emerge in this direction.