Captive Audience is a final project by Rita Cheng. This was a continuation of the Emotional Readymade assignment; the idea was to create an object that expresses gratitude towards anybody who speaks into it. In summary, it’s a clapping machine.
There were many motivations behind this project. It was inspired by the nascent presidency of Donald Trump; he bragged about his standing ovations from the FBI and other audiences, seemingly unaware that the applause was coerced or otherwise forced. If the president could express such pride for what was ultimately an empty gesture, why shouldn’t you or I feel this great? Consequentially, I created this machine.
But pride like this isn’t exclusively the territory of the president; motivational speakers, athletes, and other speakers likely get similar treatment. It’s not a political piece necessarily, but rather it speaks to the human capacity to imagine reasons behind arbitrary events. The hands are not clapping for anything you’ve really done, but it feels like they are. It also speaks to the human capacity to personify objects– these hands have no feelings. But you still feel like they’re appreciating you.
They are not.