On Saturday, October 6, 2018 and Sunday, October 7, San Antonians can take photos with Artpace resident Clifford Owens as part of his ongoing project, Photographs with an Audience. This series, which Owens has presented seven times before in just as many cities — New York City, Philadelphia, Miami, Chapel Hill, Atlanta, Houston, and Manchester, England — plays with ideas of what we think of as performance and documentation. Drawing on the history of performance art and how it is traditionally talked about and displayed as archival materials, ephemera, and artifacts, Photographs with an Audience is a sort of performance conducted by Owens that results in staged images, in a way that contradicts the traditions of photographic documentation.
Owens’ presentation of the project in Houston was connected to his 2011 solo exhibition, Perspectives 173: Clifford Owens, at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. In the Houston Press, Hank Hancock wrote about the experience of participating in the performance:
“It was a performance about anxiety and fear, and about how cameras organize our lives (and due to the personal nature of the performance and the audience’s participation, no additional photography was allowed). Owens opened by asking who was afraid of flying. With this and subsequent questions, he brought up audience members to enact or confront their fears. Five folks admitting to fear of flying stood up to be posed with their arms out like airplanes. From there, the categories depended on impulse, audience energies, and Owens’ own ideas about Houston, where he had just arrived for the first time.”
And Owens, when talking about the series in a 2012 interview, commented on how the photographs are a sort of controlled documentation of a performance that would be otherwise unknown to outside viewers:
“You really have no context for how they come together, except in the title it will say, for example, Photographs with an Audience (Miami) Lovers. So it’s a conceptual work that really is about the problematic issues of documenting a live performance. And also thinking about, as I always say, how the history of performance art is a history of photography …. So, Photographs with an Audience plays with that history and questions what constitutes documentation of a performance and what constitutes a discrete art object that is the direct result of a performance.”
If you’d like to take photos with Artpace resident Clifford Owens as part of his Photographs with an Audience project, show up at Artpace from 3-4PM on October 6th and 7th. Photos from these dates will be shown in Owens’ upcoming Artpace residency exhibition.