the rigorous m

bits and bobs, quotes and catching up

Stewart on audience participation, control over a performance

Posted by rigorousm on January 14, 2015

In these postliterate genres, the time system of the viewer is collapsed into the time system of a machine that has erased its author. No matter how many buttons there seem to be on the television set, there are only two: on and off. The buttons that would be absolutely forbidden to the television would be the buttons Vertov and Chaplin liked to push as authors: the one that speeds up the action and the one that reverses. Once the viewer can manipulate these dimensions, he or she becomes aware of the textuality, the boundaries of the work. Through such manipulations, the viewer can become both reader and authority, in control of the temporality and spatiality of the work, and hence able to reclaim it by the inscription of an interpretation that has the power of interruption and negation. … In the former mode of production, the subject is performer or agent of tradition; in the second… the subject is performed, constituted by the operation of the device or the differentiation of roles determined by the mode of production itself. … We might note that recent revolutionary art movements — street theater and happenings, for example — have attempted a reduction of this differentiation, although of necessity this reduction has been self-conscious and nostalgic in its attempts to replace the mechanical and individual with “the homemade” and the communal.

— Susan Stewart, “On Description and the Book,” On Longing: narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection, On Longing: narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection, pp 12-13.


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