The Times Square Alliance presented Performer, an interactive public art work by Adam Frank that was on display from Oct 13 through Nov 22. Performer was located in Anita’s Way, a sidewalk passage at the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park that connects 42nd and 43rd Street.
The focal point of Performer was a bright theater spotlight that projected a large, white oval on the ground of Anita’s Way. When a person walked on to the oval – into the spotlight – a roar of clapping erupted from speakers in the area. The enthusiasm of the virtual crowd increased with the movement of the viewer and with the amount of viewers in the oval. The enthusiasm subsided as the viewer’s movement decreased, and if the viewer was still, the audience eventually went silent except for an occasional cough or clearing of the throat. All audience sound came from layered recordings of a real audience, and every simulated audience response was unique.
Performer flipped the typical relationship between viewer and art piece. Rather than simply being the spectator, the viewer became the spectacle: his or her performance was necessary to activate the work. Performer also playsed on the “Make It or Break It” culture of Broadway and Times Square. For over 100 years, the Crossroads of the World has drawn aspiring artists to its stages, where competition for the spotlight is intense and where acclaim can be fleeting. But with Performer, which Frank described as an “auto-affirmation machine,” every passer-by could live out the fantasy of “making it” without the risk of failure.