“It’s You Plus It’s … Art”: The #Artselfie Debate From Douglas Coupland to Tolstoy


  • Elena Siemens University of Alberta


"This article considers a number of diverse takes on the often tangled interaction between art and the viewer. In addition to the #Artselfie contributors, I discuss Johan Idema’s How to Visit an Art Museum, which proposes a range of productive strategies designed to help the viewer conduct a more meaningful dialogue with art. My case studies include Alex Prager’s short film La Grande Sortie (2015), as well as Prager’s photographs associated with it, both addressing the complexity of this exchange between art and the viewer - especially the consequences of breaking the fourth wall separating performers and audience. Martin Parr’s set of photographs Playing
to the Gallery, shot for Vogue (2019), also raises some tough questions regarding the museum and/or theatre environment. The article further refers to Tolstoy’s classic War and Peace, particularly the chapter set at the Opera Theatre in Moscow, where, to the narrator’s indignation, the stage and the auditorium are found at complete odds. In contrast to Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov refrains from judging the characters in his play The Seagull or his story “The Lady with the Dog.” The article is illustrated with a selection of my images portraying viewers interacting with art at two prominent locations in Vancouver."