You, You, and You

Three things that centralize the viewer this week in the arts sphere:

1. Walker on the Green: Artist-Designed Mini Golf

The Walker’s series of miniature golf course installations looks like a fantastic experience that can appeal to the general public in a way museums often strive for through their exhibitions. This year features a focus on “the senses”, which is an intriguing avenue to take something historically kitsch in order to give it a level of substance. In miniature golf, the senses seem to bear a distinct relationship to emotions, as both are felt through competition and, as adults, the nostalgia of childhood popular culture. Minneapolis does seem be a bit under-touristy in comparison to hosting the installations somewhere like Florida, where the audience and their expectations of putt-putt courses would differ significantly. However, I still find the prospect of exploring art through sports an interesting impetus, as both audiences of each of these disciplines frequently consider themselves distinct. Of course, in an ideal work of mini golf art, I would expect there to be an artist-designed set of rules for the hole, linking the piece more intimately to the artistic process through physical exertion.

2. You Complete Me at Western Bridge

You Complete Me considers the role of the viewer through participatory art. While others have already written about the exhibition, one contention I am uncertain about is found in the article “You Complete Me at Western Bridge Invites Visitors to Interact with the Art” by Gayle Clemans in The Seattle Times, which links the works in the show and the Dada movement while faulting the exhibition on the absence of pieces that reflect political and ideological components found in other participatory art works. The Dadaists certainly challenged passivity, but the wording of Clemans’s review suggests a relationship between You Complete Me and precisely what defined the Happenings of the 1960s, particularly those by Allan Kaprow. In Tom McDonough’s analysis of Allan Kaprow–Art as Life in the March 2008 issue of Art in America, he notes,

“Whatever Kaprow’s break with the postwar consensus (and the McCarthyite repression that guaranteed it), this social accord left its mark on Kaprow; there would be no ideology, no ‘politics,’ behind Happenings, and certainly no Marxism, which was to be categorized for its rigidity. Like the New Left he preceded, Kaprow embraced a down-to-earth, participatory, humane worldview that stopped well short of taking up an explicit ideological position.” (130)

While Dada clearly bears some relation to the work Kaprow began in the 60s, the rejection of ideology inherent to Happenings was, in part, what separated performance and participatory artists from their predecessors. This is the aspect of audience involvement I see most prominent in You Complete Me.

3. You, the Living at the Seattle International Film Festival

You, the Living is described on SIFF’s website as “A darkly comic symphony shot in 50 stunning segments devoted to the meaning (or meaninglessness) of daily human existence.” The aspect of the segments I found most interesting was the way the ordinary occurrences they portray only become comical with an audience. In typical daily life, the moments depicted in this film would be experienced by their participants by as frustrations or irritations, but before a living body of people watching, they become strangely, and lyrically, hysterical.