YOU ARE BORING!
Vika Kirchenbauer, 3D video installation, 2015
video still from YOU ARE BORING!

YOU ARE BORING! discusses the troublesome nature of “looking” and “being looked at” in larger contexts including labour within the new economy, performer/spectator relations, participatory culture, contemporary art display and queer representational politics.

Over the last decade, labour within the new economy has become increasingly shaped under the proclaimed next economical step after the emergence of the service industry: the Experience Economy.

With the slogan of “Work is Theatre & Every Business a Stage” the theory suggests that goods will be used as props and services as a stage to create experiences that engage customers – or: guests – in an inherently personal way. The organisation of labour divides into “off-stage” and “on-stage” work.

"No matter what position you have in the company or what your coworkers do, you are a performer. Your work is theatre. Now you must act accordingly" - Pine/Gilmore (The Experience Economy)

In order to orchestrate experiences beyond entertainment, to instead immerse and engage the customers, the workers “on stage” (salespeople, waiters, cooks in open kitchens, receptionists, etc.) are under constant observation by their audience – customers, coworkers, etc. – while never supposed to drop out of their role.

"Competition for the retail dollar demands that we create a rich detail theatre that turns products into experiences… The history of economic progress consists of charging a fee for what once was free." - Pine/Gilmore (The Experience Economy)

excerpt from YOU ARE BORING!

The functioning of museums as well as developments in art display and performance art already embraces the visitor’s experience as their main value and currency. An eventisation of art takes place as artists in addition to museum and gallery personnel become actors and providers of experiences. After the production of goods (unique objects like paintings, etc.) and the offering of services (site-specific installations, performances, i.e.), we are now entering an era where artists again mirror economic developments regarding the forms their art takes. After commodified images, objects and actions, we now have commodified experiences.

“Can theatre finally come down to the irreducible fact that one group of people is looking at another group of people?” - Yvonne Rainer

The habit of viewing and the spectator’s objectifying gaze bring us to some of the core questions of not only performance art, but also representational media like video and photography. Modes of observation and reception cannot be discussed separately from commercialised culture, while on a psychoanalytical level we might recognise that the gaze unmet by the observed is lastly directed inwards with self-satisfactory fulfillment. The body as offered to the viewer’s eye mostly leaves the spectator in a position of relative security. This condition, combined with the spectator’s disposition and demand to be engaged and actively included to the highest extent, means that in a broader culture, immersion and active participation have become less of an option but an expectation.

The body and its display remain a question of concern especially when considering the relatively recent success of queer and transgender art within a larger, more professionalised and institutionalised field. The pressure to perform and the state of being constantly watched surface once more in this context as an experience many queer people and people who otherwise defy what is considered “normalcy” face in daily life. To be visibly queer in this society is to never be “off guard”, to never be “off stage”, if you will.

What economic value or value of interest do these images create for a general public’s eye and why are they now fashionable? YOU ARE BORING! suggests that the value is created by an immersive presentation of a subculture outside its original context: providing safe positions and access ports for exoticising gazes, while at the same time offering the experience and closeness to something that is understood and presented almost as a secret society.

"Here you can experience, here you can be part of us. Without the inconveniences of being spat upon in the street or the unpleasant smells of darkroom." – ‘YOU ARE BORING!’ (text excerpt)

excerpt from YOU ARE BORING!

Appropriation of culture produced outside the field of professionalised art – but not outside of its reach – does not come without complications. When images are transferred from one context to another, a shift of meaning occurs along the shifting pairs of eyes that consume those images. What first appears a generous inclusion within an accepted hierarchy, upon further examination constitutes a simultaneous marginalisation and incorporation: incorporation meaning the privilege for some to produce value for the enrichment of others and in the interest of their own professional careers; marginalisation meaning the state of those bodies that have not been extracted from their habitat and considered worthy the public eye. The transference of subculture into high-brow culture is complicated when particular subcultures originally emerged in reaction to socio-cultural oppression. While it is regressive to advocate for an essentialist definition of any “right” context, this does not render the necessity for reflection obsolete when economic and structural contradictions surface within an all-assimilating field in which any niche knowledge or biographical fact is turned into resource material for competitive distinction.

“However, the appropriation of subculture within the field of art does not only function to subvert the essentialism of traditional aesthetic taste. It also functions to defend the legitimacy of an equally rarefied contemporary taste by maintaining its distance from “vulgar commercialism” of middle-brow culture and the economic criteria it supposedly reflects.” – Andrea Fraser

What does it mean when formerly “illegitimate culture” or “non-culture” is now elevated to public culture and even bourgeois domestic culture? Is the representation of a certain minority really favourable when it fails to critically engage with the given set of conditions and circumstances of its own production and circulation? Representational politics have little bearing on the structure, function and effects of legitimate cultural production itself… we must not forget that museums exist foremost with an educational mission to teach taste, for people to learn how to distinguish between the cultivated and cultured and those who are not – in short: to learn how to discriminate.

To exercise a particular type of artistic competence as a form of culture that merely reproduces a social group, and the creator’s very own legitimacy as a producer, does nothing to re-discuss and re-imagine the ways in which the field produces notions of cultural legitimacy and the institutions’ educational goals of beauty and betterment. To the contrary, it tends to further solidify those conditions.

“In our interests in maintaining and improving our relative position, invested even in our struggle against the dominant, we also tend to reproduce the conditions of domination – our own and that of others.” - Pierre Bourdieu (Distinction)

excerpt from YOU ARE BORING!

"Because we are working for our own satisfaction, our labor is supposed to be its own compensation. It often seems to me that our professional relations are organized as if the entire art apparatus - including cultural institutions and galleries - was established to generously provide us with the opportunity to fulfill our exhibitionistic desires in a public display. It isn't difficult to see what kind of labor market we provide with ideological justification by investing in such a representation." – Andrea Fraser

As stated above, the notion of an “exhibitionistic desire” is no longer restricted to artists’ labour practice or the frivolousness of queer identities, but has become a basic expectation placed upon every employee in the new economy. In fact nobody seems to longer be allowed to ever really be “off stage” anymore:

"The very notion of aligning behavior with stated values presupposes an audience. While customers certainly are the primary audience for the on-stage work of business, sometimes the only audience is a vendor, a peer, or a supervisor. This internal viewing, without the presence of a customer, is no less theatre and no less important. Indeed, "off-stage" work affects the connections formed with customers because internal performance influences external relationships." – Pine/Gilmore (The Experience Economy)

YOU ARE BORING! formulates from this web of thoughts a 3D video installation focusing on five performers’ bodies as sites-of-speech free from any physical context. Through strategies that overload the capacities of affective multitasking and the self-consuming illusion of total subjectivity, the spectator is personally addressed and promised exactly what he or she needs.

“Fundamentally, customers do not want choice; they just want exactly what they want." – Pine/Gilmore (The Experience Economy)

"Who you are may be my fantasy, but nothing I imagine. I know you. And you know that… you are cultured but stiff, “sexually liberated” yet somewhat deeply ashamed. So let me help you…" – ‘YOU ARE BORING!’ (text excerpt)