The Art of Engagement – A Look at Art Basel 2015


The Art of Engagement – A Look at Art Basel 2015


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The Art of Engagement – A Look at Art Basel 2015

We’re all about engagement when we’re thinking of creative campaigns for our clients. Given that we’re constantly refining the art of engagement, we thought we’d take a look at Art Basel, which just finished this weekend, to see how engagement in art comes to play.


During these few days, the sleepy town livened up with galleries globally flocking to Basel and while most of the artworks were statically placed in the booths, performance art added to the spectacle of Art Basel with a strong presence of artists creating an active engagement with audiences.

Kader Attia, “Arab Spring”. Photo credit: Art Ruby.


In the “Unlimited” section where large-scale projects were shown, Algerian-French artist Kader Attia performed “Arab Spring.” Violently destroying his own installation of empty glass vitrines with bricks, the artist re-created the shock following the destruction of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo during the Arab Spring. The audience was invited to physically feel the horror onsite and through the dissemination of performance photos and videos across social media platforms, this piece was placed in a larger context, recalling the vandalism and iconoclasm that has recently happened in the Middle East.

Julius von Bismarck, “Egocentric System”. Photo credit: Helga Traxler.  

Another piece that attracted a lot of double taps on Instagram was Julius von Bismarck’s “Egocentric System.” Featuring the artist on a rotating paraboloid, he would read at the desk, lie on a bed or walk around the platform. The artist’s vision for the performance was to highlight the sense of displacement one feels while they disconnect from the crowd hence the mere viewing of the performance contributes to his concept. Select viewers were also invited to join him to experience this displacement.

Rirkrit Tiravanija, Nikolaus Hirsch, Michel Müller, Antto Melasniemi, “Do We Dream Under the Same Sky”. Courtesy of Art Basel.  

The installation “Do We Dream under the Same Sky” brought audience engagement to a higher level. A collaboration between conceptual artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, German architects Nikolaus Hirsch/Michel Müller and Finnish chef Antto Melasniemi, this piece consisted of a herbal garden, kitchen and a communal dining and meeting area. Visitors were invited to prepare food, serve themselves or others with a self-determined compensation and wash up their own dishes. The boundary between artist and audience disappeared as visitors became the protagonists of this communal art experience just like the artists. Together they created an artistic utopia, an ecological system of self-sufficiency and self-sustainability.


In recent years, we have seen an increased importance placed on the dialogue between artist and audience similar to how marketing campaigns are placing more emphasis on consumers’ engagement with brands. Moving forward, it would be interesting to see how artists will further interpret this trend. Stay tuned.

Catherine Feliciano-Chon

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