Dear Artist, Love Audience: A provocation by Helen Cole

Since hearing Helen Cole present her provocation setting out a utopian partnership between artists and audiences at the British Council showcase in Edinburgh this summer, I have been searching for a freely available transcript of the text of this brilliant bit of thinking to no avail. (It is published in full in the Live Art Almanac).
So I’ve done the job myself, transcribing from the video record of Helen’s contribution to the British Council’s panel discussion on The Art of Programming here (Helen’s provocation for those who’d like to hear her deliver it in person is on the second speaker video and begins at 10’20” approx).

Here is the text in full:

Dear Artist,

When I come to see a show by you, I want to be shown things I would not have the opportunity to see anywhere else. I want to discover new possibilities that I could not find without you. I want you to be a seer and a doer, a magician, an explorer. I want you to effect change, be that large or small. I want you to understand why you have invited me here: to be aware of my presence and what I’m offering in return. I want you to be curious and fearless, humble and questioning. I want you to be a bit impressive, strange and special, clever and full of charm. I want your imagination to work all the time, overtime even in your sleep. I want you to create beauty, disorientation, newness and dreams. I want you to play and think and make a difference whilst you touch and shock and amuse. I want you to be alive to risk and difficulty, incongruity, intrigue and doubt. I want you to hold a magnifying glass to uncertainty, contradiction, ambiguity; to be mobile, nomadic, dynamic. To disrupt and unshape.  I want you to possess good timing, humour, skill and humility. I want you to be ordinary, real and unreal, familiar and wild. I want you to open up the doors between worlds and navigate the gaps in between. I know this is impossible but I want you to be all of this.

In return, I will be attentive in the dark and make you aware I’m here. I will react to anything you throw at me with interest, compassion and belief. I will be awake to possibility, especially the untested and untried. I will not always seek beauty but will look for the restless and the truth. I will allow my subconscious to be free and my senses to be alive. I will be active, open-minded, questioning and fierce. I will be brave and loyal, challenging and intrigued. I will consider your suggestions and meet your curiosity with interest and understanding. I will question you but my mind can always change. I will bring knowledge and experience, excitement and hope. I will be appreciative, supportive, critical, honest and clear. I will put my bum on the seat and if there’s no seat I will not complain. I will follow you and match the risks you take with risks of my own. I will be generous, intelligent, responsive and pleased. I will give a standing ovation, come back again and bring others too. If you meet your part of the bargain, I promise to fulfil mine.

Love, Audience.

This should be how it should be.

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One Response to “Dear Artist, Love Audience: A provocation by Helen Cole”

  1. unit11studios Says:

    this makes me think in a different way about making. it is a reminder to keep my mind open and explore the extremities, not the decisions i have already made. and the thought that an audience might be doing the same in return is joyous. it is clearly utopian but still echos the possibilities of the interaction. thanks for the transcribe – i will be passing it on.

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