Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Audience horror stories and ‘The Many Headed Monster’ by Joshua Sofaer

written by Mary Paterson

We all have a horror story like this one. It was a Sunday night in Battersea. I was given a lollypop as I entered the room. Someone said, ‘feel free to walk around the space.’ The space was filled with raw chickens hanging from the ceiling like fat, dimply, headless men. I did not feel free to walk around, but, like the rest of the audience, clung to the walls with a growing sense of unease. Artists began to manipulate chickens enthusiastically. They tried to get the audience to ‘participate’ by flinging bits of flesh our way. I left when a piece of fowl landed in my wine.

Audiences, naturally, sit at the centre of any artwork. They’re invited to watch, asked to immerse, encouraged to join in. The relationship between artist and audience is delicate and personal, and the more unusual the artistic method (for example, the further a piece of performance gets from the proscenium arch), the more carefully the artist must consider who and how is her audience.

Joshua Sofaer’s new publication, The Many Headed Monster, published by the Live Art Development Agency, promises to be an indepth look at the relationship between artists and audiences. It is a boxed set containing a lecture, a DVD and image cards. Most importantly, it knows exactly who it’s aimed at. The Live Art Development Agency says:

‘Monster has been specifically conceived and created with higher education in mind as a tool kit that can be used as a resource to undertake personal research, or as an illustrated lecture suitable for students at all levels, or as a template for workshop and seminar programmes, or even as the foundation for an entire teaching module.’

I don’t know why it’s called The Many Headed Monster yet (I’ll be heading to the launch event on 8th April to find out), but I hope it has nothing to do with horror stories. There are two events to mark the launch – one at Tate Modern on the evening of April 8th, and one at Whitechapel Gallery on the afternoon of 7th May. For more information, including the type of audience each event is aimed towards, and how to buy the publication for a special launch price, follow this link to the Live Art Development Agency website.

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