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spectating (the act of) > Gewaarworden [English/Dutch]

One could define a spectator as an observer of an event or a person viewing something. An observer is a person who becomes aware (of things or events) through the senses. This awareness is something that should be emphasized in the definition of the spectator of a theatrical performance. Awareness implies an active spectator. Spectating is not just the passive viewing of the performance, it is the active experiencing of the performance, which is an ongoing process. These actions are not necessarily physical actions; they are actions of the mind. One’s senses are also essential in experiencing a theatrical performance. After recording the sensorial impulses, this information becomes highly diversified as it is subjected to the individual mind. Personal beliefs, assumptions, inferences, and inner mental representations are involved in this process. This is where viewing turns into spectating.

This process is especially present in New Zealand artist Kate McIntosh’s piece “Worktable”. The spectators enter a performance/installation and are given instructions to dismantle an object of their choice. These instructions are the same for every individual. Nonetheless, they produce a diverse range of actions. One might smash an object to pieces while another carefully deconstructs it. The message is interpreted in different ways, since specific kinds of information are differently experienced in the mind of each spectator. In this performance a fixed component leads to different reactions. 

The act of spectating creates the possibility for one artistic thought to unfold into a variety of theatrical works. Although the eyes of every spectator encounter the same information, the individual actions of each spectator allow this one thought to have multiple outcomes or meanings.

Author and translator: Amber Barelds