Never have I found myself dancing in a crowd—or at any event for that matter—looking around and dividing the people that surround me into categories and percentages: 20% native speakers, 15% students, 35% non-binary, 48% parents, 50% smokers, 79% drunk, 12% fun …
Talk about a mood kill!
But imagine, if only for the sake of conversation, it was in your interest to undertake such a task. How could you even begin to categorise and quantify the community around you? Who makes up that community? How do you reach out to them? With full understanding of the delusional validation the data of your answers might provide, rest assured that these exact questions will rear their head when writing funding applications—an unavoidable reality in the cultural field. And, while jumping through hoops and trying to stay true to the audience that you already serve (hoping to grant them the dignity of not becoming a stereotype) as well as those “potentially untapped” audiences you’re gently puppeteered toward by the political desires embedded in each application, what comes to mind above all is: what makes you stick to us? Or is it the other way around, as current events have provoked me to ask—have we, unknowingly but ever so gratefully, been sticking to you?
To better understand this conundrum we decided, at the start of 2020, to devote the fifth issue of our in-house magazine Ginger&Piss to this, aptly titled “Audience”. In no way imaginable could we have foreseen then how important its preliminary online format would become, now that one country after another has gone into lockdown, the whole apparatus of society has started to slow down, institutions across the world are hosting exhibitions that will never be physically visited, and many of us are haphazardly putting together an “online equivalent,” legitimising our efforts (and our paychecks) despite the absence of, well, you.
This issue of Ginger&Piss—part confession booth, part audience survey in disguise—serves two aims: first, it seeks to provide unfabricated answers to questions about who our audience is (or is not) and to qualify their engagement with us, and second, it attempts to bring to the surface the many factors that can complicate statistical reasoning. We, who are in the business of creative license after all, are strikingly aware that questions can be shaped to receive answers that shine a favourable light on this or that. A multiple choice question can be formalised in a way that no matter which option you select it will return the predicted outcome, an outcome that is often geared towards placating funding partners. Hard data that spells out a whiny “you see!”
While this strategy is our main reason for going against the usual practice of rendering a survey authorless by acknowledging our guest editors Isabelle Sully and Reinier Klok as its architects, you will also find a number of contributions dotted throughout the survey written under the guise of a pseudonym (offering our authors the—somewhat cowardly—liberty to speak to their own experiences with data politics and audience profiling in the artistic field without having to fear backlash). It goes without saying that the answers you provide, making you both a subject of and an accomplice to this issue of Ginger&Piss, enjoy the same anonymity.
It will only take, as the vague invocation goes, a minute of your time…