The critic Claire Bishop in Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship writes “the audience, previously conceived as a ‘viewer’ or ‘beholder’, is now repositioned as a co-producer or participant” (Bishop, 2012: 2). This statement and the role of the spectatorship, are widely investigated in the publication Getting in on the act (Brown, Novak-Leonard and Gilbride, 2011) by the James Irvine Foundation, in order to define an Audience Involvement Spectrum.
From these few elements we can already understand how important it has become in recent years, the spectators evaluate art projects and redefine them.
IXIA, an English think-tank that creates tools to evaluate public art projects, listed in its Public art a guide to evaluation (Ixia, 2010) the main reasons for conducting evaluation on an public art project:
– provides a framework in which objectives are set in relation to specified targets;
– allows progress towards the achievement of objectives to be monitored;
– gives funders assurance that investment is being put to effective use;
– allows you to reflect upon and improve project delivery;
– helps you modify strategies and policies throughout the lifetime of a project;
– enables you to record the outcome and impacts of a project in a credible way;
– provides feedback for people working on the project.
We can assume that it is definitely beneficial for gallerists and curators to consider the audience’s evaluation in order to plan events and increase the satisfaction of the spectator and, consequently, their attendance. As shown in literature, the conventional studies for audience engagement and marketing quality service are precisely interested in measuring the audience’s satisfaction (Conchar, Zinkhan, Peters and Olavarrieta, 2004; Grayson and Martinec, 2004) but not at all the quality of their experience (Hirschman and Holbrook, 1982; Kotler and Scheff, 1997; Radbourne, 2007; Ragsdale, 2008).
Collettivo AAA is a collective that builds new spaces to experience Art outside market and critics rules. The first project of the collective is 27metricubi, a steel cube of 3m sides, assembled in a public space for 2 days and then disassembled and brought to a different city. Every day it opens for 4 hours and during this period it hosts 12 artists. The artists can participate in the project through an open call, the first 24 artists that apply, exhibit. The call is open only to site specific projects (not finished pieces) and artists that desire to experience collaborative practice and contamination. Even if there is no critics selection, AAA asks for a motivation letter to know if the artists share, or not, the manifest of the collective and the mandate of 27metricubi. AAA invites spectators to express themselves through an assessment questionnaire and, at the same time, close to the cube the following is set up:
– A complaint and advice office about 27metricubi
– A meeting point between artists and audience where the artists receives feedback about the works they exhibit.
Every day at the end of the fourth exhibition, a meeting take place with the audience to discuss the event and modify the rules of the cube for the next city.
The Procedure M-S
The procedure, developed by the artist Alessio Mazzaro with the psychologist Andrea Scarin, is an evaluation and engagement strategy composed by two assessment questionnaire (one for the audience and one for artists) and a public meeting. It aims to investigate the effectiveness of new curatorial practices, to understand how the spectators perceived them and to improve them. The procedure is even a trigger to activate the spectators, a way to bring them to express what they think about the art works.
The IXIA provided a list of the main resistance to evaluation:
– Financial and time constraints: evaluation is seen as an unnecessary expense, and time constraints impel managers onto the next project rather than evaluating past work;
– Bureaucratic barriers: evaluation is perceived as an overly complex activity where outcomes are uncertain or potentially unhelpful to future projects;
– Lead Responsibility: it can be unclear who will benefit from the evaluation and therefore who should take responsibility for driving the process;
– Artistic barriers: artists can perceive evaluation as an attempt to undermine or expose complex creative processes where intention is irrelevant to final outcomes. There are also questions regarding notions of ‘meaning’ and ‘value’ that may be unknowable in empirical terms.
The questionnaire of the Procedure M-S has to be considered as a part of the evaluated project, its engagement strategy. For this reason, it does not have to face artistic or financial barriers. The questionnaire is designed to be really simple and fast to fill out, so it is not perceived as a complex activity by the spectators. The qualitative part is used in a public meeting that takes place as soon as the event closes or at some organised appointments during the exhibition period. In this way the audience can experience, almost immediately, how they can help to improve the project. Consequently, the Procedure M-S is preferable in respect to long term studies relative to audience’s visit frequency and enjoyment, that due to their temporal length and costs, are not carried out by the interested parties.
To measure the audience’s satisfaction the procedure considers quantitative feedbacks concerning needs and preferences, at the same time qualitative feedbacks provide information about expectations and experiences.
The two questionnaires are completely anonymous in order to allow audience and artists to answer frankly.
Part I: Qualitative
After a first introductory page about 27metricubi and the general purpose of the questionnaire, in p.2 of both versions, the same qualitative open-ended questions (PIC.1 e PIC.2) are present. This part is used to explore the respondent’s preferences and to find out, in real-time, more about respondents’ experiences.
Describe with ONE word the whole event.
The questionnaire for the audience includes one more question to let them express preference on their favourite piece and to allow artists to have a direct feedback on their works (PIC 3).
Describe with ONE word your favorite work (please write down the Artist’s name):
Part II: Quantitative
Pages 3 and 4 of the questionnaire include, for both versions, different quantitative closed-ended questions:
– Dichotomous questions (or yes/no questions)
– Rating questions with a six point scale, that ask respondents to express their opinions with a value from 1, “at all” (extremely negative) to 6, “completely” (extremely positive).
In the questionnaire for the audience two more closed-ended questions with a five point scale were used to determine, in the first case, respondents’ proclivity toward art and in the second case the satisfaction about the entire event (PIC 4.).
From the data gained with the procedure, the Collective found confirmation of the changes it needs to make. The data highlights the critical points and virtue of the project. In this way the Collettivo AAA had the possibility to understand how to improve audience experience during the next step of the project. At the same time they could understand how to improve artists’ experience too, the procedure highlights in a clear way the problems to solve. The qualitative data make AAA understand how the audience perceived the whole event and the exhibitions. Thanks to the questionnaire and the public meetings the audience had a leading role in designing the future of the art event.
Alessio Mazzaro & Andrea Scarin
Alessio Mazzaro (1985) is an Italian artist. He graduated from Padova University in Environmental Engineering, studied Fine art at IUAV, and performance in important institutions, such as Biennale College Teatro and ROSAS. He was an assistant of Flaka Haliti at the 56th Biennale d’arte di Venezia and of Petrit Halilaj at the 55th.
Andrea Scarin (1985) is an Italian psychologist. Graduated from Padova University in Social and Communication Psychology, he strongly believes that psychological research can be applied outside its conventional fields to influence culture and education in community life. He earned experience in marketing, market research and event management.
 Collettivo AAA is composed by Daniela Berti, Gianmarco Cugusi, Patrick Gastaldon, Alessio Mazzaro, Valentina Stocco and Marta Vianello
Bishop, C, (2012), Artificial Hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. Verso, London
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Kotler, P. and Scheff, J., (1997), Standing Room Only: Strategies for Marketing the Performing Arts. Harvard Business School Press, Boston
Radbourne, J., (2007), ‘The Quest for Self-Actualisation- Meeting New Consumer Needs in the Cultural Industries’. Paper presented to the ERSC seminar series Creative Futures-Driving the Cultural Industries Marketing Agenda, 6 July, London
Ragsdale, D., (2008) ‘Keynote address on ‘Surviving the Culture Change’ delivered to the Australia Council Arts Marketing Summit’, 3–4 July, Melbourne. http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/news/speeches/speech_items/diane_ragsdale_address_to_australia_council_arts_marketing_summit (accessed 3 November 2008).