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Pierre Bal-Blanc Curates The Death of the Audience for Vienna's Secession
The Death of the Audience, installation views, Secession, 2009. Photo: Wolfgang Thaler.

VIENNA.- The exhibition The Death of Audience takes place in Vienna in one of the mythical sites that helped launch modernism, a site that is considered the first white cube. In this building, at the eve of the twentieth century, western art history marked a rupture with the past. This artist inspired and the defiant act engendered the conditions for a renewal of art in society by breaking down the boundaries separating the different institutional disciplines. As an artistic revolution it intervened in the developing industrial revolution, redistributing the values associated with the notion of the “Gesamtkunstwerk” (the total work of art) and gave its name to this site: the Secession.

In presenting the work of artists active during a second period of rupture, the period from 1960 to 1980 – and particularly during the 1970s – The Death of the Audience interrogates another decisive moment in our recent history. Numerous points of comparison can be made between these two insurrectional periods, separated, as they are, by the development of modern art and the two world wars. It might be possible to see in the Viennese Jugendstil a form of postmodernism preceding modernism itself. It is also tempting to compare the emancipated status of the Secession artist with those contemporary artists who (despite their own position) have recently been subject to the attempt to define them as anti-, alter- or neo-modern (Altermodernism, Tate Triennial, London, 2009). A comparison might even be made between the décor of the nineteenth century industrial revolution and that of the Society of the Spectacle of the 1970s, which has continued to the present day, in attempting to define a new role for the artist (Making Worlds, the 53rd Venice Biennale, 2009 or The Spectacle of the Everyday, the Lyon Biennale, 2009). In contrast, The Death of the Audience, not unlike other initiatives, such as What Keeps Mankind Alive? (The 2009 Istanbul Biennale), proposes to reveal the radical change that took place between these two periods.

The title of the exhibition testifies to this change in that it breaks with the limiting accent given to the role and mission attributed to the artist. The alternative to emancipation and alienation is certainly one of the principal stakes of these two revolutionary proto- and postmodern periods. In effect, the (heterosexual male) artist is the figure around which everything is focused in the art of the turn of the twentieth century (art for art’s sake, the various artistic manifestos, auto-reflexivity, etc.) On the other hand, it is at the level of the spectator that this question comes to be crystallized from 1968 to the present day (the disappearance of the artist, the question of gender, the notion of participation, the audience, etc). The title, Death of the Audience, with its reference to Roland Barthes’s 1968 essay The Death of the Author, acknowledges the present death of the spectator as a logical consequence. The exhibition responds in two ways to this loss: either the spectator has liberated herself in the sense that art has succeeded in creating an interactive dynamic that reestablishes the status and the name of the protagonists in question (Jacques Rancière); or the spectator has alienated herself in a process of interpassivity which ultimately absorbs her and strips her of her identity (Slavoj Žižek).

The artists who have been brought together for this exhibition share the fact that each in his or her own way became aware, very early on, of the limits of this alternative. In being marginalized, or in allowing themselves to become marginalized from the art market or institution, these artists have each given priority to a form of art as a critical, concrete, and daily practice. Their secession is the one that must now become our own as spectators: the refusal to allow oneself to be confined to a single role.

The exhibition includes works by: Rasheed Araeen, Bernard Bazile, Robert Breer, Carlo Quartucci e Carla Tato, Eduardo Costa, Josef Dabernig, DANS.KIAS/Saskia Hölbling/Odile Duboc, Anna Halprin, Lawrence Halprin, Sanja Iveković, Anna Molska/Grzegorz Kowalski, Jiří Kovanda, Nicola L., David Lamelas, David Medalla, Hans Walter Müller, Gianni Pettena, Walter Pfeiffer, Emilio Prini, Goran Trbuljak, Isidoro Valcárcel Medina, Franz Erhard Walther, Franziska & Lois Weinberger and works by Bernard Aubertin, Cornelius Cardew, André du Colombier, Michel Journiac, Yves Klein, Pierre Klossowski, Július Koller, Edward Krasiński, John Latham, Piero Manzoni, Franz-Xaver Wagenschön

Secession | Rasheed Araeen | Bernard Bazile | Robert Breer | Carlo Quartucci e Carla Tato | Eduardo Costa | Josef Dabernig | DANS.KIAS/Saskia Hölbling/Odile Duboc | Anna Halprin | Lawrence Halprin |

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