09.13.08 at PNCA
Philippe Quesne/Vivarium Studio / Enchantillons
2008 Time-Based Art Festival, PICA
Photo by Kenneth Aaron
All Rights Reserved, PICA
Posted by Dusty Hoesly
Échantillons is a quirky and delightful performance art piece by Philippe Quesne/Vivarium Studio. Viewers control the performance by pushing on a button, giving commands to the actors. Anyone can push the button, though the specific commands are randomized. Here, art is in the hands of the audience, who eagerly anticipate the next message and sometimes quickly cut off the poses of messages they don’t like. The piece both invites and forces audience participation, as audience members need to push the button for the action. People gather on the sidewalk, anticipating and laughing and communicating with one another to push the button, working together to enjoy the play of the actors and actions.

The three performers act out commands delivered to them when audience members push a button on an iMac mouse. The mouse is located on a glass storefront window, and the actors stand behind the glass, inside, between the window and a whitewashed wood screen. When the mouse is clicked, a text message displays on the wood screen so the audience can see it as they stand on the sidewalk and spill into the street. The message is simultaneously sent to a computer screen behind the wood wall so the actors can see it and determine how many of them need to pose for the given command.
Example commands include “Looking up,” “Looking down,” “Lying down,” “Looking up while someone else is looking down,” “Looking up while someone else is looking down and someone else is looking at the audience.” Several of the actions look identical, such as the poses for “Allowing an idea to germinate” and “Allowing an idea to mature” and “Not having an idea.” The duration of the pose is irrelevant and dependent upon the audience’s interest in seeing that image. And as they push the button in the center of the storefront window, viewers come to the center of the stage, so to speak, and momentarily star in the show. Échantillons is simple, elegant, and joyful.
Posted by Dusty Hoesly