_Michael Y

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Gender MALE
Location Pittsburgh
Introduction (5). Witnesses. Imagine this: Shot in the arm at close range by a friend and rushed from a gallery in Venice, California to hospitial for his 1971 performance Shoot, the artist Chris Burden described those watching him that night not as an audience or as spectators, but as wintesses. It’s a distinction I come back to again and again and one which contemporary performance dwells on endlessly because to witness an event is to be present at it in some fundamentally ethical way, to feel the weight of thigns and one’s own place in them, even if that place is simply, for the moment, as an onlooker. Twenty-six years after Shoot the audience/witness distinction remains vital and provocative since it reminds us to ask again the questions about where art matters and where it leaves its mark — in the real world or in some fictional one — and on whom it leaves its burden. The art-work that turns us into witnesses leaves us, above all, unable to stop thinking, talking and reporting what we’ve seen. We’re left, like the people in Brecht’s poem who’ve witnessed a road accident, still stood on the street corner discussing what happened, borne on by our resposibility to events.