Socially (Sub)Conscious: Effects of the Performance Artist in Public Places

Festivals: M:ST 2 Biennial | April 2 - 17, 2003.

According to a functional model, artists’ activities are best understood as a relationship involving artist, artwork, and audience, the emphasis being on the latter’s role in completing the meaning of the work. Several MST performers are operating in public places, often integrating with their surroundings and consciously seeking to stimulate amused confusion. In such situations, meaning is as unstable as audiences are heterogeneous. Varying backgrounds, belief systems, and levels of contextual awareness all play a part in creating multiple and conflicting discourses concerning the significance of artists’ actions.

In many cases, it is a calculated gap between the artist’s performative persona and the expectations of the audience that furnishes performance with its most poignant meanings. Productive conflict may result not only from discrepancies in imagined functions for art, but also from deliberate attempts to elicit and reveal overlooked, but widely held beliefs, attitudes and values in society. The framing of performances – the publicizing or downplaying of their status as artistic events, for instance—will also affect the conditions of their reception.

This panel will focus on the meanings created by the dynamics between artist and audience, strategies artists use to manage conflict, issues surrounding the control of context, and the role of the institution within these paradigms.

John Dummett (London, UK)
Jean Francois Prost (Montreal, QC)
Stefan St. Laurent (Ottawa, ON)
Tammy McGrath (Regina, SK)

Moderator: Shelley Ouellet (Calgary, AB)