What does it mean to be an audience member? Can old definitions accommodate the fluidity and playfulness of modern art?
Last Saturday I attended Comeplay Comply Arraycycle presented by Cyclea at El Rincon Social in Houston. Described as “an hour long surround-sound set of music divided into multiple rooms and transmission stations throughout El Rincon which [were] sonically synced (FRESH Arts on Tap),” this installation flirting with performance art was like a journey through a movie set assembled by the unconscious mind.
Among the televisions, video projectors, visual art, tracks of ambient music and spoken word, I first look for what I am supposed to see. The great honesty and magic of this work is that the artists don’t tell you. How much you get out of it depends on your ability to play and imagine. A group of windowpanes hang suspended, as if to point out that the emphasis is on seeing, not on what you see.
A voice on the tape states “I don’t know who you are”. I drift through the darkened space and think about how we, as audience members, are used to following rules that keep us separated from artists. Be quiet, don’t touch, don’t get too close, let us entertain or provoke you. Here the art and the artists are with you, not demanding your attention, simply happening alongside you: a projection, a dance. The lines between audience, art, and artist blur. Something communicates across the space, distilled into a fusion of fragmented image, sound, and motion.
Listen here to Sleeping Child by Cyclea.
In the center of the building a room is strewn with blankets and contains lit balloons, whimsical visual art (with special fondness for the striped and polka dotted) and books. A television in one corner shows the windowpanes in the next room. There is light here, and tents of fabric that create a quiet place to read if you are so inclined. On one side of this room there is a soft gate-like structure, strung with lights and marked with a sign that reads “ENTER”.
The “gate” does not open. I could squeeze in through the center of it, an open oval, but this requires lifting my legs over the bottom of the gate while ducking my head under the top of it. Not so easy, even for someone as short as I am. I could lay down and roll under it, but I take the easiest option. I ignore the gate and come into the space from the other side, reminded that, on the way to El Rincon, our GPS had directed us to make a left turn into a construction barrier related to the rail-line. Life foreshadowing art? I chuckle.
Walking through this warehouse space in southeast Houston, through dark rooms illuminated by colors, lights and the illusion of texture projected on the walls, I am intrigued as we interact with the setting and soundtrack which these artists have assembled for us. I am free to sit and sleep on the couch in front of the big screens, read, play, or write my own storyline. I can choose to watch or not to watch. How I react depends on who I am and what I am looking for at the moment. Kids grasp the situation without explanation. They play in the dark or roll around on the blankets. We adults take a little longer, but we enjoy it, too. It’s been a while since anyone has asked us for a playdate.
How do you see the role of the audience changing? Are some arts coming to a place where the term is inadequate or meaningless? Do we need new language or an expanded definition?
“Cyclea is a performative audio/visual/dance collaboration between electronic musician/video artist Jonathan Jindra & visual artist/bellydancer Y. E. Torres (YET). The language of each medium contains residual patterns of our sensory appetite which are dissected & translated into a fused syntax (Jonathan Jindra).” Comeplay Comply Arraycycle also incorporates the talents of Sandy Ewen, Brian Traylor, Zubi Puente and Baltazar Canales.
Images and soundclip are included courtesy of Cyclea.