Some theoretical issues that ‘The BAR’ Touches on are the following; the proletariat (working class), labour, honesty, deceit, placebo affect, and Kaprows’ theories on the blurring of art and life and the elimination of the audience. I will discuss some of these issues further.
Elimination of the audience:
By eliminating the audience Kaprow states (p.103), “that the last element of theatrical convention disappears”. When an audience is asked to participate in a production they often do so half-heartedly. When they are unaware that their actions are the most important part of the experiment they relax and react as they would in any other part of life. When our participants relaxed we were able to gauge their reactions to the non-alcoholic beer they consumed very well. Kaprow also states (p.103), “those who are in a happening should be willing participants”. This too was achieved as we handed out beverages to thirsty, alcohol-seeking individuals who were told that we were monitoring their reactions. This was an exchange of goods. They get free beer and we get to monitor them. Everyone is happy.
Kaprow, A., Assemblages, Environments and Happenings, (New York: Harry N Abrams, 1966) 187-8, 195-8. Reprinted in Participation ed. Bishop, C. 2006, Whitechapel Ventures LTD.
We became the working class or ‘proletariat’ whilst working the bar at the gallery. The New oxford American Dictionary 2012, defines the proletariat as:
Workers or working-class people, regarded collectively (often used with reference to Marxism): the growth of the industrial proletariat.
• the lowest class of citizens in ancient Rome.
*ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Latin proletarius (from proles ‘offspring’), denoting a person having no wealth in property, who only served the state by producing offspring.
We enjoyed work we did whilst tending ‘The Bar’. We were able to socialise and get amongst our customers and felt engaged on a deeper level with the evening. Instead of isolating us from our classmates it brought us together by creating a service based connection, which resulted in some good conversations. This dual aspect of the proletariat; of working whilst, still connecting with reality is analysed by Henry Lefebvre who states:
“On the one hand it tends to overwhelm and crush the (individual) proletarian under the weight of the toil, the institutions and the ideas which are indeed intended to crush him. But in the same time… his everyday contact with the real and through nature with work, the proletarian is endowed with fundamental health and a sense of reality which other social groups lose, in so far as they become detached from practical creativity. The petty bourgeois and the bourgeois …they all degenerate decay and wither.” (p.149)
We were not ‘overwhelmed’ by our toil. Instead the work gave us a disguised platform for further engagement with our customers. This enabled us to conduct our experiment comfortably under the facade of bar attendants. We were engaging in a manner where by we could divulge the prime face of our experiment whilst maintain our secret. Whilst we were engaging on the ground level, on an even level with everyone else, our project evolved. The more alcohol we consumed the more we relaxed we became and the creativity began to flow. We began to hold on the spot interviews an aspect of our project that we never intended on doing. The project evolved organically, directed only by the amount of alcohol we consumed.
Placebo effect, also called nonspecific effect, psychological or psychophysiological improvement attributed to therapy with an inert substance or a simulated (sham) procedure…Research has indicated that the effect may be caused by the person’s expectations about the treatment rather than being a direct effect of the treatment itself.
The placebo effect was the driving force of our project. We hoped that people would feel some placebo alcohol effect whilst consuming the beer. The fact that alcohol is always served on opening nights and comes from a bar people were fooled into the fact that they were getting drunk. The bar met their expectations of what to expect on a galleries opening. Beer is also associated with getting drunk and we played on that expectation to be served alcohol as well.In order to gauge these effects we asked the drinkers some questions like; how’s your night going? How’s the beer? How many have you had to drink? Will you participate in the drunken test?
Psycho-geography a term coined by Guy Debord from the Situationists International, it too played a part in the expectations. They stepped off the street into a night-space bar/gallery, that has connections with alcoholic drinks, and immediately they were transformed by their surroundings, which helped to alter their expectations. The fact that we too were drinking beer and getting relaxed I think encouraged the consumption from non-audience as well.