The Wishing Wall: Authorship and the question of artistic autonomy in spectator-orientated artwork

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The Wishing Wall is a spectator-orientated artwork that was staged by Landi Raubenheimer and Paul Cooper in February 2010, as part of the ‘Infecting the City’ performance art festival. The purpose of this article is to investigate the artwork in terms of authorship. The artwork consisted of an installation in Adderley Street in Cape Town, and as a public artwork involved spectators as voluntary participants in its creation. The question of authorship which arises, is to what extent the artists' role is authorial, and to what extent the participants play this role. Nicholas Bourriaud's theory of relational aesthetics is used as a point of departure from which to understand the relational aspects of the wall in which the author's autonomy is subverted. Miwon Kwon's writings on site-specific art are also referred to, as she contextualises the facilitating roles she envisions artists playing in such artworks. In a sense the notion of the artist as romantic genius is brought into question by artworks that displace and reinterpret the role of the artist as author, while at the same time this distinction remains necessary for the artwork to maintain its criticality. John Roberts argues that if this does not take place, the artwork runs the risk of being subsumed into the realm of social production, and it ceases to be art.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalDe Arte
Issue number83
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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