This essay examines how audiences are pulled to participate in performances that prioritize their self-consumption as a primary mode of engagement. It proposes that this consumptive engagement produces a narcissistic spectatorship—a mode of reception that fully engrosses a spectator into a performance in a way that highlights her own singular relationship to the event. It studies how this experiential reception is constructed in large-scale immersive theatre productions, such as Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, and small-scale one-on-one pieces, such as artist Zeesy Powers’s I Will Tell You Exactly What I Think of You. The essay discusses how spectators at Punchdrunk were driven by a competitive instinct to accumulate a oneof-a-kind experience for themselves at the site and then compare their experiences on social-media networks. Relative to this self-managed spectatorship, the participants in I Will Tell You were made into objects of artistic attention by Powers, who baldly assessed them though also spun elaborate fictions about who they might be. Whether it was Powers’s naked gaze or the Punchdrunk audiences’ consumptive glance, both modes of attention were symptomatic of a “presumptive intimacy” or self-entitlement to performance through material and multisensory encounters.


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pp. 405-425
Launched on MUSE
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