Making the Audience the Performer

Since deciding to explore the idea of an audio piece, I have been looking at Blast Theory’s A Machine to See With. The idea is for a participant to receive a phone call and be given directions through the city centre where they become part of a ‘heist movie’.  Their website states ‘Blast Theory is renowned internationally as one of the most adventurous artists’ groups using interactive media, creating ground-breaking new forms of performance and interactive art that mixes audiences across the internet, live performance and digital broadcasting.’1


As I am interested in working with media for my final performance, I have looked at a number of their past performances for inspiration. A Machine to See With particularly interested me due to their use of audio to virtually manipulate people to do tasks they would normally not dare.


Another aspect of the majority of Blast Theory’s work is that the line between performer and audience becomes blurred, if it existed in the first place. In Site-Specific Performance,  Mike Pearson writes ‘Audience need not be categorized, or even consider themselves, as ‘audience’, as a collective with common attributes. All three sets of relationship, performer/performer, performer/spectator, spectator/spectator, become part of an active matrix of interaction and available for negotiation: momentary and durable, individual and collective.’2 Stating that an ‘audience member’ at a site specific performance shouldn’t consider themselves a bystander or observer, but as an active member of the production team.


I also looked to Marina Abramovic for inspiration in making the audience the performers. Abramovic has always produced work in which the audience members play a vital role in the piece, from The Artist is Present, in which she sat silent and motionless on a chair in the middle of a circle of light, seven hours a day for three months, with the ‘audience’ joining her to sit in the circle and stare silently into her eyes, to Rhythm 0, where she lay motionless on a wooden table and invited ‘audience’ members to use instruments on the table next to her on her body. The entire performance depended on which items the audience decided on use on her, and the extent to which they took their damage. In an interview for the Guardian, Abramovic states ‘I also take the energy from the audience and transform it. It goes back to them in a different way. This is why people in the audience often cry or become angry or whatever. A powerful performance will transform everyone in the room.’3 Explaining the power that the audience hold in a site specific performance.


I am interested of taking this idea, that the audience and the performers can be one and the same, and incorporating it into my work. Having previously stated that I am interested in showcasing the lack of ‘personality’ in the library, it makes sense that my primary audience have this idea shown to them through their own actions. In this way they are learning about the notion by ‘teaching’ it to themselves. They will also be able to fully engage with the performance through their own actions.

  1. Blast Theory (unknown) About Blast Theory Online: (accessed 26 March 2013) []
  2. Pearson, Mike (2010) Site Specific Performace New York: Palgrave macmillan. P. 175 []
  3. O’Hagan, Sean (2010) Interview: Marina Abramovic Online: (accessed 26 March 2013) []
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