For 160 cm Line Tattooed on 4 People 2000, Santiago Sierra paid four sex workers in heroin to have a line tattooed on their back. The women’s economic situation and addiction to the drug prompted them to participate, raising a range of ethical questions. By turning the process of exploitation into a spectacle viewed in a gallery, Sierra makes art institutions that show his work collaborate in the troubling power relations he stages.
If Sierra’s work asks about the artist’s responsibility to his participants, Marina Abramović reverses the question. For the performance of Rhythm 0 1974 she prepared a table of objects in a gallery ranging from lipstick to grapes to a loaded gun. For six hours she allowed visitors to interact with her using the items however they wished. Afterwards she said,
in your own performances you can go very far, but if you leave decisions to the public, you can be killed.
Russian conceptual artist group Collective Actions also invited their audiences to shape their performances. Giving no advance information, the organisers would invite a group of participants to take a train to a location outside Moscow. There they would witness short, often nonsensical, live acts. The ‘collective action’ was not what happened during the performance, but afterwards, when it was interpreted and given meaning ‘through the joint effort of authors and spectators,’ in the words of Andrei Monastyrsky, a founding member of the group.
David Lamelas’s Time 1970 similarly emphasises the collective experience of performance, foregrounding the idea that participants and audience members all share one single time in the present moment.
Curated by Catherine Wood and Valentina Ravaglia