June 30 2011: Monochrome Photograph Of An Audience (Unknown Date and Location, 1960s)

The turning of our gaze from the performance to the reactions of those watching it can be fascinating, as evidenced by Ian Breakwell’s 1993 film project Auditorium in which a variety of responses to unseen material, edited together from many different kinds of performance and cinema, were edited into a short film. In Breakwell’s version, the effect – as we watch and respond to the film, in which the audience appears to be responding to our implied presence where the stage or screen would usually be – is a complex game of substitutions across the fourth wall. Something similar seems to be going on when we look at this snapshot of an audience applauding an event (of an unknown kind – it might be anything from a wedding speech to a nativity play or a band taking its bow at a holiday camp) though where Breakwell’s audience faces us head on, as though we’re observing its response through a two-way mirror inside the screen, here the angle of the photograph places us as observers, to one side of things, implicitly midway between stage and audience. Even so, the range of responses is comparable, as the various individuals seem to express different degrees of appreciation or comprehension of what has been seen.

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