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15 May 2016
By Lee Walton
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Experiential Declarations, 2012

The First Annual Experiential Festival, RAYGUN LAB, Toowoomba, Australia


In response to an invitation to create a solo-exhibition at RAYGUN LAB, an exhibition space in Tawoomba, Austria, I created Experiential Declarations: The First Annual Experiential Festival, a participatory work that continues my exploration of art as a direct, non-mediated aesthetic experience.


Experiential Declarations involved 23 participants from distant regions from around the world. It was important to organize a decentered, dislocated, and geographically distanced group of people as a way to examine how a community can be formalized purely through media and communication. Additionally, I was also confronting the limitations of my own location in North Carolina and the totally mediated connection to Raygun Lab in Tawoomba, Australia, a place that for me is abstract and mediated through the screen of my laptop.


Once organized, the 23 participants were instructed to declare an experience that they will have on a specific day in the future, namely November 1st, 2012. Each participant created a short description of the experience they would be having on this day. To accompany the description, participants created one single photograph. The names, short biographical information, declarations and images were compiled into a set of 23 postcards. An edition of this packet of postcards was published and exhibited at the RAYGUN LAB a month prior to November 1st, 2012. The packet of declarations was also shared with virtual audiences via the web and social media.


On November 1st, 2012, each participant, following their own scripted experiential declaration, performed (or lived) their experience. Each participant performing these scripts in different parts of the world, disconnected physically, yet connected conceptually through the organization and commitment to the group project.


Conceptually important to work, there was no documentation or mediation of these lived experiences. The performance of these declarations was perfunctory. The declarations, shared via printed postcards, social media, and the web, remains the only record of the work. This predicament is a further extension of my research that questions the power of documentation as a purely conceptual aid to disseminate ideas before, simultaneously, or after the event. How does the image become a document of an event that hasn’t even happened or maybe never does? Yet still, this image becomes a reality, perhaps because we trust it’s source, purely as an idea constructed in our heads and existing only in our imagination that affects and shapes our understanding of the world.


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