The Art Experience Confessional is a performance that amplifies art’s impact in the world,
one piece and one viewer at a time.
“Let’s Talk.” ~Art
Join in the public discussion of artworks and their impacts by following the Art Confession on Instagram: @ArtConfessional
The Art Confessional was created out of an interest in giving people a dedicated space to realize their experiences with art — and their inherent expertise at knowing that experience.
Inside the Art Experience Confessional, Wester sits, invisible to viewers, through-out the performance — presumed to be the Art ‘Authority’ by onlookers. However, when a viewer becomes a participant in the work by entering a hollowed space in the structure, where a sign indicates they should say “hello” a vocal engagement begins.
The term confessional in the title of this work foreshadows the talkative nature of the engagements that Wester crafts, as participants that enter in appeal to the allure of an art authority quickly become aware that the authority is themselves. Wester cannot see them or the work of art in front of the Art Confessional structure. Because she is blind to the art being presented to the participant, they are transformed into the position of authority on the experience of the work as they allow her to experience that art through their eyes via their words.
At the end of the experience, the participant’s proficiency in explaining their experiences with the artwork is elevated when Wester repeats their natural reading of the art back to them, in short form, while asking for confirmation of her understanding. Newly aware of their own abilities to guide a person through work, the participant is then thanked and encourage to share their ability to discuss work with another viewer in the gallery.
After numerous performances of the Art Experience Confessional, the consistent result of each viewer’s participation with this performance is one of excitement, newly found confidence, and new intrigue in future art experiences.
“As the artist of the space in which these discoveries are being made, I am consistently humbled by the depth and breadth of each participants ability to describe and interpret art that they admit to feeling inhibited in or incapable of reading before starting our conversations.”
The Art Experience Confession was first conceived and performed at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Italy by Wester as part of a team working with gallery staff in collaboration with Italia Innovation mentors, Bill Burnett and Laura Miller in July of 2016.
The Art Confessional is a performative piece involving gallery goers, specifically targeting the inexperienced Contemporary Art viewer.
In the first iteration of this project a low-fi ‘confessional’ experience was worn by the ‘art therapist’ (that remained anonymous during the experience) while patrons of the work entered the semi-private speaking ‘room’ one by one (attached) and described the art being observed.
The outcome of this process was a clear expression of one’s impression and experience of a piece of artwork; the impression that otherwise would have remained unrecognized due to internal insecurity about the ability to read art and misconceptions about who can and can’t comment, critique, and understand art in today’s society.
This performance was repeated in and out of the gallery and in multiple sessions across a few days. Commentary included:
“This is what the museum experience needs! This is what I need!”
“This would make me want to go to art museums”
THE ART CONFESSIONAL MAKES A CASE FOR AGENCY IN THE CONTEMPORARY ART VIEWER, OFTEN UNDER APPRECIATED IN ART HISTORY.
This project seeks to give broader insight into the experiences of the ‘viewer’ [of art]. Reliable social impact metrics for the arts would aide in garnishing funding for the arts, dispelling the stigma on arts and art museums that they are elitist or unattainable, and empower people to discuss arts and culture in a more meaningful manner. All of which can benefit and enrich culture through deeper engagements with the community in conversations sparked explicitly by its works of art.
Sharing of ideas and experiences is at the crux of an educated, innovative, and impactful society. Arts have long been a method of communication that can transcend language barriers and literary abilities. Therefore, if there is any media prime to take stage and reinvigorate social and cultural conversation, it is the arts.