Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
© 2009 Meghan Berliner
My installation, "The Viewers", consists of three life-sized figures and a projected video feed. The figures are placed in and around the gallery space, and the video originates from a hidden camera installed in one of the figures eyes. The first figure that the viewer encounters upon entering the gallery space is hyper-realistic security guard. His position behind the gallery circulation desk, a space which is traditionally assumed not to be an 'art space' allows him to view those entering the gallery while remaining relatively unnoticed. A camera that is installed in his one of his eye sockets and hidden behind sunglasses feeds live images that "he perceives" to another part of the gallery where they are projected. The second figure is a male soldier, positioned covertly on a lighting ledge connected to the ceiling of the gallery. From his high-post, he can clearly view the gallery's occupants through his binoculars, while only being noticeable himself from particular angles. The third figure is a real person dressed as a gorilla. Throughout the evening, he will move through the gallery, viewing and contemplating the artworks and its viewers as well. The purpose of the gorilla is primarily to view the exhibit and the social interaction generated by the gallery setting, but inevitably, viewers will want to interact with him, drawing them into the playful drama of the piece as a whole. Together, and through their individual means of viewing, each figure alludes to the idea of playing a part: the security guard in his fulfillment of the role of a security guard, the soldier in the almost costume-like quality evoked by his camouflage attire, and the gorilla being fairly obviously a performer in costume. That each is in a sense playing a role, and that each has a particular means of viewing the people in the gallery, suggests the additional roles and importance of the fourth element, that of the viewers. My work aims to suggest that the viewers are always playing a part of sorts when viewing an exhibition: the part of the viewer. This references not only the integral nature that the viewer has in defining the meaning of an artwork, but also the role that the viewer agrees to take on – the set of assumptions and mode of viewing the art as ‘art’ – as soon as one enters the gallery space.
Berliner, Meghan, "The Role of the Viewer in the Gallery Space" (2009). Scripps Senior Theses. 12.