|Faust, Gretchen. Arts, "The Projected Audience", February 1992, pp. 83-84.|
4 Walls, an exhibition space located in Brooklyn, sponsors guest-curated shows that only last the few hours of the opening and culminate the same evening in a panel discussion. This show, entitled The Projected Audience (November 17) and curated by Bill Arning, included work by Steven Evans, Marilyn Minter, Robin Kahn, Paula Hayes, Ben Kinmont, and Hunter Reynolds. The title refers to the phenomenon of the artist's conscious, or often unconscious, construction of an ideal viewer or audience in relation to whom artwork is made. In his introduction, Arning preferred his stereotypical prototypes of such ideal figures— "the critical 'inside-circle' artist," "the collector who thinks as well as buys, and has lots of wealthy friends," "the critic who will write the pivotal article." His view emphasizes the perhaps honest, but unfortunate, tendency for the criteria of the young contemporary artist to be based on projected fantasy reactions on the part of an audience developed in direct relation to his or her career. This is alarming in its disregard of the issue of an open-ended personal communication (through an object or arrangement), which all the artists on the panel expressed as their ultimate goal.
Art is made with an intended consideration of the perceptual faculties of an audience, and its meaning is both suggested and discerned by manipulation of spatial and visual cues on the part of the artist. From this can stem work that is more or less, suggestive and specific in its intent toward the object/meaning/subject relationship. Certainly half of the meaning of art, some would argue even a greater percentage, is constructed by the viewer/reader response. Art that seems taylor made to fit, or please, a certain presupposed abstract fantasy audience often remains distant and implausible to an actual one. Except in the work of Reynolds, Kinmont, and Minter, whose work directly addresses issues of audience presentation and participation, Arning's choices seemed odd. One was left wondering what criteria led him to choose these over any number of other artists and artworks.
Reynolds represents his drag persona, Patina du Prey, through photographic documentation and through a "guest" appearance on the panel. Kinmont's work is also time-based and perfomative, and consisted of his drawing circular missives that read alternately, on the front and back of envelopes, I TRUST YOU and I TAKE YOU. These were given to inquiring onlookers, establishing a position in which art literally rewards the curious, questioning public. This is an extension of his larger sculptural project, which uses the phrases to define almost physically the perimeters of the stances the artwork and the audience take in relation to one another. Minter followed an example set by Chris Burden, by using slick commercial means to advertise her one-person show at simon Watson earlier in the year. In a television commercial, full-color visuals mimic the quick editing and action shots of beer and car ads, showing Minter and her assistants in the studio in fast-paced production. The effect is almost subliminal, and by mimicking the "real thing" so closely, enters the consciousness of an unsuspecting television audience in a way that borders on the subversive. The other work in the show did not exhibit any particular characteristics that would imply a vision of a predetermined audience on the part of the artist, and thus seemed ill at ease under the show's contextual umbrella. Kahn's blinking neon sign is the product of the worst sort of simplistic miss-the-point feminism, reading initially WHO COOKED THE LAST SUPPER?, switching alternately to COOK SUPPER. Hayes's closet collage of "girl-y" vs. "man-ly". items seems only to perpetuate the mythology of gendered symbols in its very circumscribed attempt to overthrow them; however, as only a cursory glance was afforded due to the crowded conditions of the gallery, I was perhaps unable to understand the piece as clearly as might have been possible under different circumstances. Evans's frilled shirt, an actual re-creation of a boy's garment advertised in an 1896 Sears' catalogue, is hung on a hanger high up on the wall. Its placement imposes a physical inaccessibility, which, paired with the fact that it has never been worn, vaguely clues the viewer into the myriad subjects and issues of alienation, repression, isolation, and disease around which his work revolves. Because I have written extensively about Evans's work elsewhere, and thus come to it from a privileged position, I can discern this in the work, but am left wondering if a viewer could access its meaning, isolated as it is, within the context of The Projected Audience.